When Joseph Waswa ventured into poultry keeping early last year with 10,000 birds, he was not sure if there was a market. But he took the plunge anyway and the decision has paid off.
"We have ready market within Bungoma for our eggs that we sell in schools, shops, homes, hospitals and other institutions at between Sh270 and Sh330 per crate," he says.
He would spend initial capital on house structure, chicks, feeds, medicine and farm equipment.
The poultry farmer from Tete area in Webuye East constituency is rearing more than 13,000 birds, mostly layers. His two-acre farm known as Melpa poultry farm located in Webuye, Bungoma County boosts of both Lohmann brown and in-brow type of birds (no exotic birds). The farm has birds that are 12 months, 11 months, 10 months and 3 months old.
“Starting this journey wasn't easy despite the challenges we faced, but we were able to expand,” he says.
The farmer explains that main markets are mainly in Kakamega, Webuye and Bungoma towns. Currently, the birds lay about one hundred crates daily.
“The price fluctuate once in a while in an year depending on the market demand and the supplies,” he says. At this farm, he makes feeds to cut on the cost of production. He decided to get his own machine that churns out the feeds to save on costs.
Mr Waswa says that sometimes he sources the feeds from Mbale, Iginga and Tororo in neighbouring Uganda.
"Most of the time we get our feeds from Uganda where it is cheaper than here in Kenya. But we decided to buy our own machine to help us make our own feeds," he explains.
In Kenya, he notes that, the cost of chicken feeds per kilo is Sh45 compared to Uganda which goes for Sh40. The savings for his farm that consumes 172,000kgs (172 tones) monthly, he says are huge.
To make own feeds, some of the ingredients he uses include maize germ, calcium grit, concentrate, broken maize and wheat bran, which are sourced from the local market such, wheat bran, which he gets from Thika and concentrate that is imported from Belgium while calcium grit comes from Uganda.
While the layers from the agrovet costs Sh2,400 per 50 kg bag, his feeds cost Sh2,000 for the same quantity, saving him Sh8 per kg which translates to Sh400 per bag.
“All birds just lay a single egg per day, the difference comes in when we talk about laying in a month. In a good month we make about Sh1.8 million and in a bad month we make up to Sh1.5 million,” he explains.
Some of the challenges in the business include stiff competition from the neighbouring market in Uganda which supplies eggs at a very low price, forcing him to his price. There are also diseases which affect these birds such as Newcastle disease, and respiratory disease such as, infectious bronchitis, field strain.
Waswa says that birds are very sensitive and need lots of care hence he has employed over ten workers who feed, clean and medicate the birds regularly. The chicken are first fed with starter mash then given growers mash before being fed on layers mash.
“The best way to prevent this kind of disease is to improve on your biosecurity. Just make sure you put measures in your farm to protect you birds,” says Waswa.
He notes that hens require clean water every time, enough food, warmth and comfort away from stress to lay more eggs.
He explains that the venture is highly profitable and rewarding when one does it the right way with patience, determination and consistency.
“My future plans is to expand and have over 100,000 birds and be the biggest supplier in all my neighbouring markets,” observes the farmer.