For years, proprietors of Mitoto Poultry Farm in Sango village, Trans County used to keep improved kienyeji chicken. The birds had a ready market.
The 15-acre poultry unit run by two doctors was home to thousands of improved chicken breeds but is now dotted with ornamental birds.
“We used to have more than 1,000 improved kienyeji breeds but we sold them. The venture was not making economic sense then.
“It’s all a matter of math and what makes economic sense in these difficult times,” says Fredrick Ouko, a veterinary surgeon. He co-owns the farm with Brian Okumu who is a physician.
According to Ouko, ornamental birds have a high production rate of eggs, have tastier meat and mature faster compared to indigenous breeds.
Ouko says running expenses (feeds and vaccines) are lower (a quarter) than the indigenous and improved kienyeji birds and one does not need a large flock to break even.
“The pure breed dual-purpose chicken can lay well in excess of 200 eggs a year, which is far more than kienyeji will lay, but less than what the commercial or hybrids will lay and attains maturity in five to six months and weighs at least 2.5 kilos,” he points out.
The veterinary surgeon says the demand for the birds is more than the supply at the moment.
Some of the breeds at Mitoto Ornamental Poultry Farm include the Light Sussex hen, the Rhode Island Red, Old English Game, Mayoka, Araucana, frizzle bantam, white bantam and White Leghorns. The farm has over 35 species of ornamental birds.
According to Benson Wasike, the farm manager, the birds are sold in a pair (male and female) at a between Sh7,000 and Sh11,000 after attaining the age of three months. The eggs cost between Sh40 and Sh250 depending on the species.
“This is a timely investment especially now that there is a glut in poultry market following record numbers of people taking up this project having lost their jobs due to corona virus,” Okumu said.
Okumu added that the housing structure of ornamental should be a replica of the nature they normally grow to give them room to express their natural behaviour.
“The booted varieties (Pekins, Silkies, Brahamas, Cochins) should have restricted access to early morning grass dew and wet grown while the long tailed varieties (Onagodori, Yokohama, Sumatra) should have perches to rest. Access to sand baths and sunshine is crucial for all breeds,” Okumu said.
Okumu says with two hens and a cockerel, one is good to go. “The vaccination regime for pure breed chicken is like that of the commercial variety or improved Kienyeji. They suffer from the same diseases such as Newcastle, Infectious bronchitis and Gumboro.”