About a kilometre from Sabatia Eye Clinic along the Chavakali-Kapsabet Road in Vihiga County, there sits the Paradise Farm.
From the name, one conjures up images of an expansive crop farm with several trees and beautiful sites akin to the Garden of Eden.
Owner Victor Obimbo, however, keeps poultry and runs a hatchery specialising in day-old chicks.
He rears over 700 Kari Improved Kienyeji chicken in a 60 by 45 feet coop.
“Right now I have 580 hens and the rest are cockerels. There were over 1,000 of them but over Christmas, I sold 500 cockerels to three community based organisations in Siaya County for breeding purposes at Sh1,200 each. This also helped me reduce their number.”
Obimbo started the agribusiness in December 2014 after attending a series of trainings offered by officers from Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro), Kakamega.
“One of the things I learned from Kalro was how to operate the incubator and set the temperature. For the first 18 days, I set temperature and humidity at 37.8 degrees Celsius and 60-65 respectively. From this day onwards, I set the former and the latter at 37.5 degrees Celsius and 70-75 respectively,” says Obimbo, adding that for one to run a hatchery, you must have a licence from the Kenya Veterinary Board, which is renewed annually.
Thereafter, he bought 1,000 Kari Improved chicks from Naivasha at Sh100 each.
“I used over Sh500,000 from my savings to build the housing unit, buy feeds, drinkers and other equipment.”
In March last year, he added another 1,000 chicks to increase the parent stock and achieve his dream of running a hatchery after he had acquired six incubators.
“My incubators have an egg capacity of 2,160 each. My hatching rate is 1,700 chicks out of the 2,100 eggs I incubate each week,” says 48-year-old, adding he collects about 400 eggs every day.
The best hen to cockerel ratio in poultry breeding is 1:7, according to him.
“Most farmers overwork their cockerels and this lowers the quality of chicks,” says Obimbo, who also farms maize and wheat in large-scale in Kitale and Narok counties.
In a month, he spends approximately Sh37,000 on commercial poultry feeds, what the farmer says is his biggest expense.
“I buy about 10kg bags of layers mash and five bags of growers mash in a month, with each going for Sh2,400 and for Sh2,500 respectively. I am yet to learn how to make my own feeds but that is the route I want to take to cut costs.”
From day-old to about eight weeks, the farmer feeds them on chick mash, which is very essential in growth of feathers.
At eight to 19 weeks, the chicks are fed on growers mash and finally the layers mash completes the meal.
“Before I sell the chicks, I give them Mareks vaccine and follow a vaccination programme for diseases such as newcastle, gumboro and fowl pox.”
Each day, the father of two wakes up at 5am to check on his birds with the help of his two workers.
“I cannot take chances with diseases and the general welfare of my birds after losing 300 chicks some months ago to coccidiosis. I later lost 50 layers to cloacal prolapse, which makes the uterine area irritated, causing straining which results in expulsion of the cloaca.”
Amos Amenya, an agronomist at the Lake Basin Development Authority, says coccidiosis is among the top diseases that farmers who hatch chicks should guard against, with the symptoms including the chickens producing blood-stained droppings.
“Coccidia is found on contaminated ground, birds can be exposed to the parasite through dirty drinkers as well. The farmer should use anti-coccidial drugs mixed in the feeds besides offering the chicks medicated starter feeds for up to four months and vaccinating day-old chicks.”
Other measures to keep chicks safe include vaccinating against Newcastle disease, fowl typhoid, gumboro and mareks disease, keeping pens clean and dry, avoiding overcrowding, raising chicks on wire-floored brooders and keeping them warm.
For cloacal prolapse, Amenya advises farmers to buy a drug called DCP from the agrovets and mix 250g with 70kg of feeds.
He says the cloacal disorder is called by lack of nutrients which lack in some the commercial feeds.