The tiny birds coo as they compete for food inside the structures made of timber, wiremesh and iron sheets on the farm in Diani, Kwale County.
Mustafa Adamjee, the owner of the pigeons, adds more feeds in the troughs as the birds gobble them up in no time.
The 19-year-old keeps a variety of ornamental birds with a bias for pigeons, of which he has a variety that include the Trumpeter (6), Frillback (3), Chinese owl (7), Archangel (2), Giant Homer 92), King Pigeon (4) and Capuchine (4).
Their coos and bewitching beauty light up his farm, which has become a major attraction in Diani.
“I love ornamental birds particularly the pigeons. Each time I see them or hear their coos, my face brightens because besides their beauty, they fetch up to Sh40,000 a pair.”
Mallard ducks, lovebirds and parrots are among other ornamental birds that strut on his farm.
“Pigeons take between three to five months to mature depending on the species. They lay two eggs twice for up to five times a year depending on the variety and hatch them in 19 days,” says Adamjee, adding he loves the birds because they are beautiful and easy to sell.
The young farmer has been keeping the about 100 ornamental birds of different species for the past seven years after falling in love with them while still a little boy.
“I started with 10 pigeons which I bought at Sh2,000 from a farmer in Mombasa. I initially kept them as pets. I later bought three one-month-old bantam chicks, one male and two female.”
After about six months, the bantams started to lay eggs, offering 15, 10 of which hatched.
“I sold one-month-old chicks to neighbours at Sh1,000. Then it was a pricey amount that made me take great interest in ornamental birds. The good money is what made me take up the agribusiness.”
PERMIT FROM KENYA WILDLIFE SERVICES
His turning point, however, came in 2014 when he travelled to Dubai after completing his ‘O level’ education at the Mombasa-based MSB Educational Institute, which offers the British curriculum.
“My father, Adam Adamjee, a businessman, took me there for holidays in September. During my stay I was able to attend a birds’ exhibition where I saw different pigeon and bantam varieties as the owners competed for top honours. I saw the business opportunity in the birds and decided to seize it.”
With the help of his father, he bought 20 pairs of various varieties of pigeons at a cost of Sh550,000, money that included shipment fees to Mombasa. Further, the farmer bought three pairs of lovebirds at Sh30,000.
Later in December the same year, while on a visit to India, young Adamjee bought six parrots at Sh150,000, two males and four females, increasing his brood.
He also bought 20 nests from the country made from rice grass at Sh10,000, which the lovebirds use to breed.
The parrots, however, couldn’t breed forcing him to sell four of them to bird enthusiasts while two died.
Before importing birds, one must get a permit from the Kenya Wildlife Service.
“You must explain from where you are importing the birds, the species, mode of transport and whether they were vaccinated against diseases. You must get the licence before you import the birds,” he offers.
Adamjee further imported 15 bantams from London in June 2015 and mallards from South Africa.
“Keeping the birds is not a tough task as many believe as they feed on wheat and millet while for the ducks I offer them duck mash twice a day,” says Adamjee, who sells month-old bantam chicks at Sh1,500 each and ducks go for Sh1,000 each.
He sells a pair of king pigeon at Sh40,000, trumpeters at Sh35,000 and a capuchine at Sh30,000 while their chicks go for Sh1,500.
While one cannot eat the pigeons, bantams and mallards ducks can be consumed.
“This is a profitable business because so far this year, the birds have offered me close to Sh500,000. I get buyers mainly through referrals from Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret, Nairobi and Diani,” says the young farmer.
He participated in the recent five-day Mombasa International Show where he got 25 orders from bird lovers that he is working hard to deliver.
“I never miss the shows because they offer me a good opportunity to market my agribusiness as well as encourage people to take up ornamental birds farming.”
However, things are not all rosy as the business has several challenges which include diseases and predators.
“I recently lost 25 pigeons to Newcastle disease while the chicks sometimes fall prey to fowl pox attacks. I have worked with veterinary officers and learnt that through vaccination, I will be able to contain diseases like fowl pox.”
His plan is to expand the business by establishing an ornamental birds’ park.
“I am planning to import at least 70 birds of different species from India for the park. I will also stock local bird species while the park will as well act as a sanctuary for rescued and injured birds,” says the farmer, adding his aim is to attract local and international tourists.
According to him, the birds need special cages that have enough ventilation, a place for keeping food and water.
“The cages must be stronger to keep predators such as mongooses and wildcats at bay. Each bird species must have a separate cage,” he says, noting that with the help of his father, he had spent a fortune making the houses.
To get into the business, he advises that one should start with birds like local pigeons and bantams to get experience.
“The birds need good shelter, clean water and quality feeds, and they must be vaccinated to curb diseases. Newcomers must also know that they will be in business for between two and three years before they can break even.”
CARE OF ORNAMENTAL BIRDS
Mombasa County veterinary officer, Dr Jones Mwita, says ornamental birds like any other poultry face danger from viral, bacterial and parasitic diseases.
“Common diseases include Newcastle, fowl pox, fowl typhoid and salmonellosis. Then there are parasites like roundworms, tapeworms and gapeworms.”
Dr Mwita advises that the birds must be kept in well-ventilated houses and be given clean water and food.
“Then they must be vaccinated against Newcastle disease after every three months. Other common diseases which they need to be vaccinated against are fowl typhoid and fowl pox.
Ornamental birds need extra care,” he says, adding they must be protected from extreme weather conditions like heavy winds and rain, and that they should not be mixed with chicken to curb spread of diseases.
Acquiring wild birds
- Farmers interested in rearing wild birds such as guinea fowl, cranes, mallards and peacocks should send application to the Kenya Wildlife Service through respective area warden, and the application should be supported by a management or a business plan.
- To domesticate wild birds profitably, acquire them from credible sources especially from approved farmers who have KWS licence.
- There are instances where KWS allows collection from wild sources. This should be done with their approval.
- The criteria for selecting species for farming include ease of capture, adaptability to domestic conditions, and ability to produce marketable meat and/or other desired products within reasonable time.
- You also need a licence to import them from abroad.