Five critical questions for poultry beginners

Dear Dr Messo, I am interested i putting up a layers project in Kilifi County but I don’t know where to start. How much capital do I need and as a beginner how many chicks should I start with?

Rachel,

Dear Rachel,

Thank you for raising an issue that is most probably bothering most up-coming farmers in Kenya today. As I have said so many times in this column, agribusiness is the most promising venture for most young graduates looking for an occupation in farming industry today. Poultry farming will globally remain major source of protein in the diets to feed the ever-growing population cheaply and readily for many years to come.

To come to your issues today, there are five questions, you need to ask yourself deeply.

1. What? Describe in detail what kind of product or service you want to offer. I am glad that you have already settled on egg production as your main area. Are you certain? Sixty per cent conviction is good for me.

2. Why? You should also at this stage explain in detail why you have settled on eggs and why you think there is need to supply this commodity in your target markets. Luckily, egg is generally popular and its consumption cuts across a wide divide.

3. Who? Please describe who your customer is. Many times this question is never asked and people think that once you have a great product, customers will start queing up for your product or services. You should identify who is likely to buy from you. Know your customers and what matters to them, most customers prefer delicious and enjoyable products.

4. When? Put a time line on when you want to venture into this business, farming needs your presence, if you travel a lot, you may need to wait much longer until you have time for 100 per cent engagement.

5. Where? Is Kilifi the right place for this business? Is it in your own compound or leases land? Do you have access to the market all year around, do you have a readily available water source?

After going through these self-interrogations, the first thing you want to agree on is how many birds you want to start with in the first year and how many you want to have by the third year. To raise 1,0000-layer chicks to point of lay at 19 weeks of age, you will spend about Sh450 per bird. Each bird will produce approximately 320 eggs per year of production, selling one egg at Sh9, your yearly revenue will be Sh2.88 million. If you remove direct cost of feeding these birds is Sh 960,000 and at the end of production cycle you will sell off the spent hens and use the proceeds to order for replacement stock.

There are six critical areas that you must know.

1. Finance

You will need seed capital to start a layer poultry farm, assuming you want to start with 1,000 birds, you will need approximately Sh450,000 to raise these birds to point of lay after which you will use proceeds from sale of eggs to cover the production cycle and save gross profits.

2. Expertise knowledge

Continuously seek to learn about poultry production through training and reading, associate with seasoned farmers in your neiggbourhood or experts in the industry.

3. Housing system

There are two common systems, deep litter and cages. Deep litter is cheap and most commonly preferred. Ensure the housing unit has enough ventilation, wild birdproof and constructed in East-West orientation, 1,000 birds wall occupy 25ft wide x 80ft long and 7ft high.

4. Blo-security

Ensure that you keep your birds protected aganaist intruders, wild birds, rodents and infections. Vaccinate the birds as per the veterinary programme around your locality.

5. Water

Your birds need clean portable water all the time, treat your water with chlorine twice per week. Ensure you have ready source of this commodity.

6. Feed or nutrition

Buy well-balanced feed that will give you high perfomance in terms of growth and egg production. Have the right feeding equipment that will not waste your feed, break trim your birds to reduce feed spillage and minimise flock cannibalism.

7. Marketing

Consider selling eggs to your friends, relatives, workmates or colleagues, groceries, shops, supermarkets, etc, reach them bt networking, use of leaflets, posters, barazas and local radio stations.

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