Poultry farmers have found a new way of making huge profits as quail farming has turned into a goldmine due to increase in demand for the bird and its eggs.
Most poultry farmers are now replacing chicken with quails or rearing the two birds concurrently as expected huge returns lure many others to join the trade.
The craze for quail and its eggs is growing fast in the country and can only be compared to a fad for brewed coffee that swept Kenyans some years ago.
"Quail farming is the in-thing. The market for the birds is growing fast both as a source of meat and chicks for rearing. The eggs are also in great demand," noted poultry farmer George Andanje.
For three years, Mr Andanje has been rearing exotic and indigenous chicken for meat but last month, he added quails to his business.
"I decided to try my hand on quails after realising that they had great potential due to high prices its products fetch," recounted Mr Andanje, who runs his business in Kayole on the east of the capital, Nairobi.
The farmer bought 10 birds from a hatchery in Thika, a district on the outskirts of Nairobi, as he ventured into what he believed was a money-minting scheme.
"I was buying each a week old chick at Sh370, which is a lot of money. The high prices could not allow me to buy as many chicks as I wanted," he noted.
Since then, Mr Andanje has been keeping the birds, which are doing well.
"I am hopeful that soon they will start laying eggs and thereafter hatch them so that my brood increases. I know it will take time but I am in it for long because the profits are rewarding," he said.
Quails start laying eggs after about six weeks and they produce fertile eggs from eight weeks once they begin mating.
"I have read and learned a lot about quails as I prepare to succeed in the business. Once the bird starts laying eggs, it is good to leave the male and female together for a week or so before you take the eggs for incubation," noted Mr Andanje as he displayed his new acquired knowledge on quails.
Found way to supermarkets
Quail eggs have found way into Kenyan supermarkets where they are mainly sold to the middle and upper income earners. An egg in a retail outlet is going for an average of Sh70.
However, farmers and middlemen are selling the eggs at between Sh50 and Sh100. This cannot be compared to chicken eggs that go for about Sh10 for exotic ones and Sh15 for indigenous ones.
On the other hand, quail chicks go for between Sh300 and Sh500 depending on the age, while laying quails are being sold at Sh1,000.
With each quail birds laying over 250 eggs a year, the returns for farmers are unimaginable.
Farmers have flooded newspapers and cyberspace with adverts on quail to increase demand for their products.
"Quail chicks available; one day, one week and two weeks. Fertilized eggs also available," said an advert in a Kenyan daily.
"Quail chicks of all ages. No booking. Pay and carry and start making money," noted another on a website.
Also on high demand is quail incubator trays. Some farmers are even offering seminars and trainings on quail rearing.
"Quail seminar on Saturday. Topic: How to find market and make good money from quails," read an advertisement targeting potential quail farmers.
MFarm, an online agribusiness firm, noted that many farmers in Kenya are turning to quail keeping.
"Quail birds and their eggs are getting an undivided attention from the upper class. This class frequents five-star hotels and that's where the demand for the wild eggs is being traced," observed the company as it explained the sudden rise in quail trading.
The firm noted the eggs are nutritious, with protein levels being at 14 per cent compared to 11 per cent in chicken eggs.
"When it comes to the vitamin B1 levels, quail eggs are the best. They contain 140 per cent Vitamin B1 as compared to chickens' 50 per cent. The list of benefits is endless making the quail egg nutritionally better than that of chicken."
But MFarm noted reliance on the upper market is unsustainable.
"Farmers should make Kenyans, especially the middle class to incorporate quail eggs into their diets because very few consume the eggs. This will push up demand."
The craze for quail rearing, however, has not hit other parts of Kenya, especially western Kenya, where the bird is a delicacy.
"People have not embraced quail farming. They still consider quail a wild bird as they have done before, which they hunt and eat occasionally," said Bernard Moina, an agricultural extension officer.