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Diary of a Poultry Farmer: To get the best chicks, have a parent stock

Saturday September 10 2016

A poultry farmer feeds her flock in her farm in Kapita, Homa Bay.

A poultry farmer feeds her flock in her farm in Kapita, Homa Bay. PHOTO | BARACK ODUOR | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

SUBIRI OBWOGO
By SUBIRI OBWOGO
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I was just about to call it a day when I received a call from an unknown number. For sure, such calls have become common ever since I started penning this diary.

I have learnt not to ignore them unless it is after 8pm.
“I am Njoroge from Githurai. We communicated sometime back through email,” he said.

I could not remember him. On average, I receive about 30 emails every week from readers. For those who call me, I always make sure to save their phone numbers.

That way, I am able to respond better to callers’ needs.

“What can I do for you Njoroge?” I enquired.

“I wish to start hatching chicks as a business and I need your opinion, whether you think this is a good idea?” he posed.

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Now, this is a common question I get from readers and if truth be told, hatching and selling day-old chicks to other farmers is arguably the most profitable venture in the value chain because of the low-risk and high-profit margin.

It is only second to formulating feeds and selling to farmers.

I paused for a while because deep down, I knew this was a loaded question, which required an elaborate answer. It reminded me about the egg and the chicken fable, which came first.

The first thing that came to my mind was whether he had considered where to source a reliable incubator.

RELIABLE BREEDER

Many farmers, including myself, have had problems with the machines. In my case, the 500-egg incubator I bought for Sh64,000 went caput after four months.

For sure, many readers call me to ask for advice where to source for reliable machines and I am always at a loss.

Always, my answer is; “Ask the dealer to refer you to three customers he has sold his machines to.

If you find that the machines have remained in good working condition for at least one year and have a reliable hatch rate above 70 per cent, then buy from him. If he refuses to divulge references, take a walk.”

Now, I was relieved when Njoroge said he could source for a reliable machine. I then enquired where he intended to source fertile eggs from.

“I plan to source from other farmers,” he said confidently. Immediately, this raised a red flag in my head.

I told him categorically that buying eggs to hatch or mature birds when you are not sure of the source is risky, particularly when you intend to specialise in hatching day-old chicks to sell.

Besides the fact that you can’t be sure that the eggs you are buying are less than 10 days old, the quality of the parent stock matters a lot. In fact, the many experts I have consulted agree on this.

“Uncontrolled crossbreeding between various lines of breeds of unknown genetic composition results in low stock productivity,” one told me.

At this point, I put myself in Njoroge’s shoes and gave an answer deep from my heart.

“If I were you, I would instead buy day-old chicks from a reliable breeder and use that as my source for fertile eggs to hatch chicks to sell to producers (farmers who buy day-old chicks to rear to maturity for sell as meat and eggs).

ENSURE QUALITY AND CREATE TRUST

In fact, one question that prospective buyers of day-old chicks ask me is, “Is your parent stock from the first generation?”

For a fact, only research institutions like Kalro, universities and top breeders keep such parent stocks.

This means that reliable multipliers (those who hatch day-old chicks for sell to other farmers) should secure their source of eggs for hatching by rearing their own hens because the market is poorly regulated.

Hatching day-old chicks to sell to other farmers is a good business if only you can build a reliable clientele and ensure quality products.

I had more to share with Njoroge during our 10-minute or so telephone conversation. Unless you are an established multiplier like Kalro or Kenchick with access to ready buyers, hatching chicks to sell should not be an end in itself.

Consider rearing your own birds to maturity for sell of eggs and meat and also use the eggs as a source for hatching chicks for sell to others.

In simple terms, diversify. Ensure quality and create trust among producers because the hatching and sell of day-old chicks as a business, being in its infancy stages requires nurturing.