How Isiolo farmer is making a kill from ornamental birds
Japhet Mwenda rears d ifferent varieties of the landscaping animals for commercial purposes, a venture that earns him up to Sh100,000 a month.
It is a hot sunny afternoon when I arrive at the home of Japhet Mwenda Ichaba at Kulamawe, in the outskirts of Isiolo town, Isiolo county.
Not even the scorching sun can stop his efforts as I find him busy tending to his birds, which are well kept in their cubicles.
A father of two, Ichaba is the proprietor of Smart Link Farm situated in the county, which he founded 10 years ago and has mainly specialised in chicken and ornamental bird farming.
“I decided to venture into this type of farming because the birds only occupy a small space and are easy to feed and take care of.
They also do not require a lot of feeds and can be fed on chicken feeds,” says Ichaba.
The variety of birds kept at his farm, include chicken mainly the silkish bantam, sultan bantam and satin bantam varieties, a variety of exotic ducks, which include pekin, muscovy, Indian runner and black Swedish, geese, guinea fowl (guinea hen) and quails.
At the farm, Ichaba currently has more than 300 bird species.
“Sometimes the number is higher than that. In fact, I just sold some recently.
Many people have come to love them, not only for their eggs and meat, but also because they beautify the landscape,” Ichaba says.
He has built a large poultry house, which he has partitioned into various cubicles and keeps each variety of birds in their own cubicle.
“It’s better to keep them according to their types and sizes since there are birds that feed more than others.
I started off with only 50 birds, a pair for each variety, and today they have increased in number,” he says.
To ensure that the birds thrive well, Ichaba keeps the poultry house clean, feeds and water are placed in clean containers and he makes sure they are vaccinated accordingly as they grow to ensure longevity.
“In the first week after they are hatched, we give them the vaccine, but before they are vaccinated we give them multivitamins to help them become strong and develop well.
We vaccinate them again after 14 days and 21 days, and after one month they are usually strong enough to fight against any disease that may affect them, such as Newcastle, Fowl Pox and other bacterial infections.
The birds are fed on chick mash when they are still young and as they grow, they are introduced to layers mash.
Ichaba says keeping ornamental birds is quite profitable.
“In a good month, I get a profit of between Sh50,000 and Sh100,000 from the sale of the birds.
One egg of the exotic ducks is equivalent to two eggs of the ordinary chicken and costs between Sh200 and Sh250.
For the quails, one egg costs Sh30 while for the guinea fowls, each egg costs Sh100.
He sources the birds from different counties, such as Mombasa, Nairobi and Kisumu.
“For a variety of birds, we source them from Mombasa since they are imported from foreign counties, hence they have to go through the port.
For the Rouen ducks, we source them from farms in Nairobi and Kisumu,” Ichaba says.
According to him, the supply of the birds is lower than the demand since there is a growing demand for ornamental birds in Kenya, which has opened up more business opportunities for poultry farmers.
“Besides the local markets or referrals from friends, I also sell the birds through online platforms.
The secret for me is feeding them well and observing high hygiene standards, which have enabled me to get more buyers,” he explains.
Ichaba says the journey has, however, not been without its challenges.
“Sometimes a disease may strike affecting some birds, which may end up dying. Diseases that may affect the birds, especially chicken are normally unpredictable.
You can exercise all precautions, but before you vaccinate them you notice that they are already sick.
But since I started the venture and as the years went by and I gained more skills, I learnt how to keep diseases at bay by noticing any symptoms before the chicks actually get sick.
The second challenge has been the high price of feeds forcing farmers to look for other alternatives.
On the other hand, when he started the venture, the birds were being stolen or eaten by cats or other animals so I had to invest in dogs for the security of the farm.”
He has involved his family in his farming venture such that when he is not around, the birds are well taken care of.
Besides farming of ornamental birds, Ichaba also grows vegetables on another piece of land, which besides being sold in the local markets, are also used as feeds for the birds. He also feeds them on millet, sorghum and wheat.
He points out that ornamental birds are expensive hence if one wants to venture into this type of farming, they can start off with other birds, such as chicken and progress to the ornamental varieties.