Crossing the Likoni channel to the south of Mombasa Island is usually a daunting task, but on this Saturday, traffic is moving smoothly.
Later, the 35km drive to Green Gate Farm in Magutu village in Ukunda is incident-free.
Farmer Valerine Achieng Opondo is ready to receive us when we arrive on the 1.5 acre farm where she keeps ornamental birds’ and grows a variety of fruits, including mangoes.
From the gate, one can hear the geese honking, the turkeys yelping and the ducks clucking.
“I started this farm as a hobby but I am now in the process of turning it into a business. I want to domesticate any bird one can think of,” she says.
Our first stop is at a hatchery where Valerine shows us a 352-egg incubator where she hatches eggs.
“After collecting the eggs from the brooders, I first enter the information for each breed of bird on a chart to monitor the production. It also helps me in knowing the number of eggs produced by each breed,” she says, adding she keeps the birds separately to curb diseases.
Other birds she keeps are Brahma (15), Araucana (6), Australorp (7), Chabo (Japanese bantam) (2), Serema (Malaysian bantam) (3), Speckle Sussex (which lays about 300 eggs annually) (11), Wyandotte, Rhode Island red, Kuchi, Pekin bantam, Dutch bantam, polish bantam, guinea fowl, Rowen, guinea fowl, turkeys, ducks and a variety of Kienyeji chickens.
The cages are fitted with hanging drinking water bottles with improvised nipples, an innovation Valerine says she came up with after realising the conventional drinkers exposed the birds to diseases.
FEEDS CONTAINING MEDICINAL VALUES
“I have also improvised feeders from water pipes. I feed the birds a mixture of kienyeji mash, moringa, natural herbs, aloe vera, pepper, green chilli, onions and garlic, which I place in the feeders,” she says.
Valerine notes the feeds have medicinal value, for example garlic has sulphur that helps kill parasites and prevents worms and boosts intestinal functions.
“Moringa is rich in Vitamin C, and has lots of amino acids and plant proteins.”
Though she cages the birds, she allows them to free-range every day, releasing at intervals to avoid interbreeding.
“I spend about Sh15,000 on feeds every month to feed the 229 birds but this would have been higher if they were not free-ranging. They walk around and feed on insects like grasshoppers.”
The former accountant at a beach hotel says she started the farm in 2012, buying a mature guinea fowl and her 22 keets after the owner decided to dispose them.
“This was my first stock, but unfortunately I lost the keets and remained with their mother. After sometime, I got a male partner for it. “
She later in 2013 introduced several birds including Serema and silkie bantams.
In 2014, she secured Sh750,000 loan from Agricultural Finance Corporation to construct a perimeter wall round the farm and dug a borehole for water supply.
“Then I was doing it out of passion and did not mind the risks but fortunately it has started to pay off,” says Valerine, who markets her birds on social media platforms and free ad online sites, getting buyers from as far as Nanyuki, Kiambu and Nairobi.
She sells the ornamental birds in pairs, with the Brahma going for Sh10,000, Araucana Sh6,000, Chabo Sh8,000, Serema Sh8,000, Speckle Sussex Sh5,000 and Wyandotte Sh5,000.
RECORD DAILY TRANSACTIONS
The rest of the birds go for between Sh800 for each Kienyeji chicken to Sh10,000 for a pair of Polish bantams.
She says she targets customers who are passionate bird lovers. “I advise them that ornamental birds require patience for one to succeed.”
To take her business to another level, the farmer quit her job last year to farm full-time.
“I have two workers. I now want to do this as a business. Initially, we sold the birds for up to Sh20,000 a pair but we never kept records.”
Valerine has kicked off various programmes to generate income, besides the cash from sales.
“Our sales so far have been good and the farm runs itself. For visitors, we charge Sh500 and give a waiver once one buys our birds or eggs,” she says.
Ibrahim Mohamed, a financial specialist at Ibrahim and Company in Mombasa, says for transition from a hobby to business, one must develop a business plan that acts as a road map to guide one to achieve maximum profit.
“One should also engage a qualified book keeper to record the daily transactions and monitor profits or losses. The monitoring should be on
Other pricey ornamental birds worth keeping
- Budgies and Australian cockatiel are another interesting ornamental birds that fetch good money.
- These birds change colour whenever they lay eggs. The Australian cockatiel hatches after every 14 days. During this period, they change to blue, yellow or green.
- The budgies retail at Sh15,000 currently in the market.
- Ornamental birds are loved by people who want to beautify their homes.