Farming poultry in Kenya: three years ago, Simon Kisulu, a mechanic in Nairobi ventured into poultry farming just to test the waters. Armed with 200 broilers, Kisulu stepped into a farm whose owner, had abandoned it. Eight months later, Kisulu was doing so well that the farm owner kicked him out of his land. This did not dampen his resolve.

And now, in the perched Oloorsirkon in Ongata Rongai, situated 17 kilometres south of the capital lies his admirable poultry farm. Today, Kisulu, 37, is on the forefront of mechanising the venture by using automated cages in place of a sawdust-covered floor that many farmers still rely on.

Farming poultry in Kenya: structures

Set on an acre iron-fenced piece of land, the farm is complete with two iron structures which house chicken sorted out in terms of their age-groups. The first structure houses 1,080 birds that are the latest entrants, having laid for only five months.

Adjacent to the structure is a similar construction which houses 1,030 birds that have laid for more than a year. Kisulu says in no time, the older layers will be fed and sold off as ex-layers since they will have stopped laying eggs. Layers don’t lay eggs when they are more than two years old.

“I have to isolate these. One of them is eating my feeds and not giving me eggs,” he says. He says each of the layers gives him a maximum two eggs every day, which are picked every morning. On average, he collects 35 trays of eggs which he sells to individuals and institutions. He sells a tray at Sh. 300. This means that in a month, he makes Sh. 300,000 from selling eggs.

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But when he consistently picks fewer eggs from a particular cage, he isolates the four birds in a separate structure partitioned into four separate cages where each bird is monitored. In this way, a victim is nabbed and subjected to extra care. If it fails to oblige and lay eggs, it is sold off as meat. It is from what he makes from the eggs that he pays off Sh. 40,000 rent and water expenses, his one farm hand and also buys chicken feed that is sold at Sh140 a kilo.

Farming poultry in Kenya: feeds

In a day, the chicken consume an average of 70 kilos of feed. “Taking records is what brings me here. I also come here every morning to ensure the chicken are fed properly and given clean drinking water,” Kisulu, who works as a Mechanical engineer at an animal feed processing factory situated two kilometres from his poultry farm says. So what inspired him into poultry keeping?

“I developed interest in rearing chicken from working at the farm and making feed deliveries to farmers. I noticed the farmers were doing so well. They had thriving farms and were making quick cash,” Kisulu says.

When he was starting off, he didn’t have enough money and accepted to rent an old farmhouse. The farm owner would later ask him to vacate the premises, after it started doing well. Kisulu later rented another place and decided to try layers, plunging in the similar fear he had before he was kicked out of a previous farm.

“I am never quite settled. I always wonder, what if the owner of this place wakes up one day and tells me to leave? Where will I take my chicken after this?” For this reason, Kisulu sought the help of a bank and secured a plot of land in Kitui where he plans to expand the project. Meanwhile, he is enjoying rearing the chicken in Ongata Rongai, considered one of the best places to rear layers which thrive in quiet environments. He says noise subjects birds to shock, which in turn affects production.

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Farming poultry in Kenya: cages

“In addition, layers don’t like very cold places as this lowers their consumption of feed and water, which decreases their egg production,” Kisulu says. Kisulu also bought modern cages for the layers after a sawdust-covered floor proved futile. He says in the sawdust, the chicken would lay about three eggs and instinctively lie on them in attempt to hatch them. “They would also hide the eggs beneath the sawdust and on trying to collect them, I would step on them and smash them.”

“In addition, eggs picked from the floor are always dirty since they come into contact with the chicken droppings,” Kisulu says, adding that chicken also have a tendency to eat eggs when they are allowed contact with them. Fitted with water tanks, food trays and an egg collector at its rear end, the cage that coast Sh. 45,000 a piece can hold a maximum 130 chicken.

Each cage is fitted with pipes that connect smaller tanks to a major tank outside the structure. In turn, each small water tank has a valve that controls the flow of water to a nipple that chicken peck to allow flow of water. The tanks also have floaters that prevent out-flow of water from the tanks. Kisulu warns against buying cheaper, mostly improvised cages sold at Sh20,000.

He says fake cages are not galvanised and they rust when they come into contact with water. Added with the weight of the chicken, that of the full water tanks and feed trays, the corroded cages sag in the middle and can cause accidents. Kisulu’s journey in poultry keeping has also been marked with rich lessons. He recalls feeding chicken on poisoned feed. “The chicken turned into cannibals and in a matter of a days, I had lost over 100 chicken,” he recalls. “My greatest blunder was completely switching from the feed I had trusted for ages to a new one instead of testing it on a few chicken first.”

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Another challenge presented itself when he moved the chicken from the ground to cages. He says the shocked birds stopped laying eggs for a week. Kisulu who mentors young upcoming poultry farmers is now a master of the game. “I tell farmers to move them at night when they are asleep so that they quickly adjust to their surrounding when they wake up. Layers only sleep when there is total darkness, otherwise they eat continuously,” he adds.

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