Antonio Mudong’i dips his feet in a shallow footbath at the entrance of his poultry house made of wood and iron sheets in Kitengela, Kajiado County, before getting in to attend to hundreds of chickens roaming inside.
The chickens wander cheerily in the pen pecking at feeds from several aluminium feeding troughs hanged across the room.
“They are not bothering me because we fed them in the morning,” he offers.
Mudong’i, 24, works on the farm that hosts about 600 Kuroiler and Kari Kienyeji birds with his one worker.
“I leased this land and bought the chickens and their houses in December last year from someone who was leaving the country, spending about Sh250,000.
There were 200 eight-month-old birds that were laying (each was going at Sh600), and 121 three-month old chicks each at Sh450. There were also a water tank and a food store,” says Mudong’i, who took over the leasehold of the 20m by 100m land for which he pays Sh40,000 per month in rent.
But that is not where he started as his initial business was to hatch eggs and sell chicks.
“I got into the poultry business last October with an incubator that I had bought at Sh280,000. I bought 600 Kuroiler eggs at Sh30 each and incubated them. 520 hatched taking my business off,” reminisces Mudong’i, who studied Agribusiness Economics and Food Industrial Management at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture Technology and graduated in 2015.
He acquired the farm last December to expand his business. “I begin my day by checking the incubator, which I have installed in my house after which I go to the poultry farm, and visit farmers to deliver chicks. I also look for new markets online.”
He collects seven trays of eggs a day and incubates 2,000 a month, getting at least 1,900 chicks.
Selling chicks, however, is his main focus. He runs the hatchery from his house in Kitengela using his 2,000 egg-capacity incubator to hatch the chicks.
“Once the eggs hatch, I vaccinate the day-old chicks against Mareks and sell them at Sh100 for Kuroiler and Kienyeji at Sh90. The former cost more because they are in high demand and sometimes I have to get their eggs from Uganda.”
Besides selling the fertilised eggs at Sh30 for Kuroiler and Sh20 for Kienyeji, Mudong’i further sells boiled eggs in Kitengela town.
“I have contracted two people who supply the eggs in Kitengela town on trolleys. We boil those that we cannot incubate and sell others to shopkeepers.”
A look at his birds shows that all are not the normal chicken. In their midst are the Frizzled-feathered and Naked neck birds, which he terms as money-makers.
These are birds that some farmers would not touch because of cultural beliefs, but Mudong’i has found wealth in them.
“I have 120 of the birds, which I bought with the farm. I sell mature ones mainly to farmers in Tanzania where they are in high demand. They cost up to three times as much as the other varieties,” says the farmer, who currently has 15 Naked neck cockerels to increase chances of increasing the breed.
He has separated the cockerels to increase chances of multiplying the birds.
He sells, through his NeoTech Kenya Agribusiness trading name, a mature Kienyeji chicken at Sh800 while the Naked neck and the Frizzle-feathered birds go for at least Sh2,000 in Arusha and Makumira markets in Tanzania.
The birds are preferred in the country because people use them in ceremonies. Besides, they have special attributes that include good mothering abilities and resistance to diseases.
He owes his foray into Tanzania market to social media, which he heavily relies on to expand his clientele.
“I got clients from Tanzania through Facebook groups. When I posted my product, one farmer from the country contacted me and placed her order of 150 chickens, which I delivered.
From there I got other orders through my client’s referrals,” says Mudong’i, who transports the birds to Tanzania using passenger buses. He does not sell Naked neck or Frizzle-feathered chicks.
NEED MOVEMENT PERMIT
However, one doesn’t just wake up one morning and head with the birds to Tanzania.
“You need movement permits from the Ministry of Agriculture showing your flock is in good health. Before taking the birds to the Namanga border market, I go to the county vet officer who inspects their health after which I’m given movement permit to transport them to Tanzania.
Once I arrive at the Namanga border, a vet from the Tanzania side also inspects the flock. This is done at a fee of Sh200,” explains Mudong’i, who sells at least 150 birds in a month.
Dr Victor Yamo, a scientist at the World Animal Protection, an international non-profit organisation, advises farmers who wish to export livestock to work closely with certified vet officers.
“One needs health certificates showing the chickens are healthy and vaccinated. You will also get clearance from the country receiving the animals.”
Transporting poultry especially over long distances, according to the expert, requires that the birds be carried in standard boxes, which can guarantee them adequate space and ventilation.
“There are cartons designed to transport chicks. The ordinary boxes are designed to carry 102 chicks while cartons for international exports carry about 80 chicks. Mature birds are, however, transported in special crates that carry between 10 to 15 birds, depending on the size.”
Mudong’i says he has always nurtured the passion for poultry business since childhood.
SELLERS OF FAKE FERTILISED EGGS
“While in my final year in campus, I secured a job to design and manage a poultry farm in Somalia for a Kenyan who was in the US. This was about July 2015 and I got the work through a friend,” recounts Mudong’i.
He stayed in Somalia for a month, came back to complete his exams before returning to supervise the poultry project. He came back after completing the work last September.
Back in the country, Mudong’i, who had leased his father’s 12 acres in Kitale to plant maize, turned to the crop to seek capital.
“I needed about Sh300,000 to set up the poultry business. I harvested 201 bags of maize, sold part of the produce at Sh2,000 each and added the money to part of my savings from the Somalia job to buy the incubator and start hatching chicks,” says the farmer, who adds the business broke even about a month ago, enabling him to hire the office in Kitengela town.
To cut costs, Mudong’i makes his own poultry feeds from maize germ, sunflower seeds and essential micro-nutrients such as premix. “I have the knowledge so this was not difficult for me,” says the alumnus of Friends School, Kamusinga, who used to spend Sh32,000 buying 14 bags of feeds to last a month. It now costs him Sh17,200 to feed the flock a month.
The biggest challenge to his business are the people who sell fake fertilised eggs and chicks or take money from farmers and fail to deliver the chicks.
“These people are making it tough for genuine farmers like us because people don’t trust when you assure them you will honour their order,” says Mudong’i, whose dream is to become a major poultry dealer.
Naked neck hens
While other indigenous hens lay an average of four eggs in a week, Naked Neck layers give up to six eggs over the same period.
Farmers are assured that the hen will safely bring up to 99 per cent of her chicks and take care of them for an average of two months.
The chicken has higher resistance to diseases.