Engineer drops chickens for big life in small birdsMonday November 18 2013
When Isaac Kariuki, a water engineer from Nakuru, heard about the benefits of quail farming he decided to try his hand in the venture.
His decision was informed by the relatively low cost of inputs and high profit margins.
“I heard about quails on radio. They need space that is much less than that taken up by chickens. They also feed much less, and yet their market value is much higher,” said the farmer.
By then, he was rearing chicken, an undertaking that had resulted in untold losses.
“I had kept a few hundred broiler chicken for sale, in these cages,” he says as he motions towards the wood and wire-mesh structures that now hold 2,000 quails.
The commercial chicken project did not bring much to his pocket as the birds would eat several bags of feed and he found out they were sensitive to diseases and cold weather.
He suffered losses in the thousands of shillings when a disease outbreak kiled many of his chicken. However, he still keeps some kienyeji chicken and guinea fowls alongside the quails.
Mr Kariuki started off by applying for a licence from the Kenya Wildlife Service to keep the wild birds. The licence that today costs Sh1,500 gives a farmer the opportunity to keep birds that are otherwise regarded wild.
He then bought some 60 quail chicks from a farmer in Nakuru.
“This farmer opened my eyes to the business opportunities present in the quail market. He was already taking orders from several supermarkets and the demand was too high for him to meet satisfactorily.”
Quail, he says, need a higher supply of vitamins and proteins, along with enough water and ventilation. However, they do not use up a lot of food supplies, with the current stock consuming about 100 litres of water a week.
One bird eats 20 grammes of food per day, thus a hundred birds can use up a 60 kilo bag of feed in a month.
Being wild birds, quail hardly require medication because they rarely fall ill. Nonetheless he recommends deworming every three months. For best results with quail, Mr Kariuki advises that a farmer keep an equal number of male and female birds.
This, he says, ensures the quality of eggs is high.
The birds start hatching after two and half months, but they can also be sold off for meat when they reach five weeks.
He sells the five-week-olds at Sh300. An egg is currently retailing at Sh80 to Sh100 and is said to have several health boosting properties.
“I have had some customers who were on medication for ailments such as diabetes and hypertension and have testified that their health is consistently improving,” says the farmer.
A mature quail should lay some 200 eggs every year, and a birdl has a lifespan of about two years.
The quail eggs are also said to improve men’s sexual health.
Mr Kariuki’s work includes educating communities on appropriate technologies that can be applied in their homes and he has used that opportunity to educate farmers on quail farming and how to make money from them.
Once when the quail started to multiply, Mr Kariuki’s excitement to tell someone else about it cost him.
“I went to educate some women groups in Wanyororo area and I carried the eggs and some quail in my pick-up van. Unfortunately one flew away, and off flew about Sh6,000 which it could have fetched if sold.”
The consultant also offers farmers support to start quail businesses, such as skills to handle the bird, how to differentiate males from females, and how to fill out the application requirements for a licence.