Diary of a Poultry Farmer: The other day I had chickens, today only feathers thanks to my loyal dog - Daily Nation

Diary of a Poultry Farmer: The other day I had chickens, today only feathers thanks to my loyal dog

Saturday November 18 2017

Dr Subiri Obwogo of Kienyeji Kenya Limited in the chicken house in his farm in Njiru.

Dr Subiri Obwogo of Kienyeji Kenya Limited in the chicken house in his farm in Njiru. His German Shepherds kept to beef up security on his farm turned predators mauling 130 out of his 180 hens just when they had started hatching. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By SUBIRI OBWOGO
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Last week I celebrated two years since I started penning this diary and shared what readers should expect in the coming months.

One of the things I mentioned was that I’d started stocking Kienyeji chickens with distinct features, although I’d been warned by some people that the birds possessed some supernatural powers.

I also mentioned that my hens (about 200) had just started laying eggs and I was going to start hatching them into day-old chicks to re-stock and to sell to other farmers.

Now, all that is water under the bridge, but first, some background.
I wrote sometime back about the importance of beefing up security on the farm to reduce theft, especially during the festive season when demand for chicken meat is high.

I’d narrated the story of Jennifer Wangechi Mwangi of Kieni South Constituency in Nyeri County who’d been robbed, not once, but twice (Seeds of Gold, October 8, 2016). She lost 180 Kienyeji chickens and the last time I checked on her, she’d never recovered.

For my case, I decided to bring on board Jane and Jack, two vicious German Shepherds to beef up security on my farm.

Later, when I heard more thefts in the neighbourhood, I added two more dogs. Sometime this year, Jane gave birth to six bouncing puppies.

Now, what I wasn’t sure about was whether the dogs could co-exist with the chickens.

When I consulted a dog trainer sometime back, she told me something interesting. “It all depends on the breed and training to make it overcome its natural instincts.”

Although the dogs had managed to keep thieves at bay, I had never bothered to test whether they had predatory tendencies.

A week ago, my worst fears were confirmed. I’d just returned to the farm with my manager after a trip from an agrovet. And as he alighted, I remained in the car to listen to an interesting programme on radio.

A few minutes later, Caleb the farm manager, came running towards the car in panic. “All the chickens are dead,” he said.

I quickly dashed to the pen on the left where we’d isolated the cocks. I didn’t notice any signs of trouble.

QUANTIFY LOSSES

Caleb then pointed me to the right where the hens had been kept. As I dashed in, what I saw was like a scene from a horror movie. Dozens of chicken lay lifeless in the coop. Others were limping.

Jane, the dog, had broken into the pen and was having a field day. Despite our presence, it continued to pounce on hens, nailing one to the ground before going for another.

I chased the canine out of the chicken house before I started to assess the damage.

In my estimate, the carnage could’ve gone on for about 45 minutes. Later, I did the head count of the dead birds, it came to 124, but six more have since died as 50 survived.

One interesting bit was that there were no blood stains, meaning that she wasn’t interested in eating the birds, she was ‘just having fun’ that cost me over Sh191,000, money that I had spent on feeds only.

After putting a chain round her neck, I went round the coop and noticed that she’d broken through the wire mesh, wood and metal sheet that separated the kennel from the chicken pen.

Later as I got a mason to do the repairs, a lot went through my mind. It just occurred to me that two days before, I’d added some chicken with distinctive features to my stock.

This was certainly against the firm advice of some elders in Busia, where I come from. 

“These birds are only kept by sorcerers,” one told me before adding that “they could bring a bad omen if you aren’t one.”

At first, I dismissed the advice but after this catastrophe, I’m having second thoughts about keeping the birds.

To me, having chicken with frizzled feathers (curled plumage), feathered feet or five toes instead of four, was some beauty to behold. In fact, I was looking forward to penning stories about the ornamental creatures.

Another thing I am doing is to quantify my losses. If you recall, I brought in the batch 20 weeks ago as day-old chicks.

As you can imagine, besides labour, I’ve spent a fortune on feeds, lighting and brooding, sawdust and vaccines in the last five months.

In the next few weeks, I’ll need to make a decision on whether to continue my poultry venture, change the approach or shut down the business, albeit temporarily.