A cacophony of birds’ sounds greet me as I enter Paul Wanjohi parent’s half-acre farm in Karindundu village, Mathira, in Nyeri County.
Turkeys gobble from one side of the farm, while guinea fowls yell, pigeons coo and Rouen ducks quack from the other. “I keep several ornamental birds and the normal ones, from chickens to a variety of ducks and turkeys, bantams and pigeons,” he offers.
The farmer, 25, has done the business for about four years and currently his stock consists of 50 mature birds and 20 chicks, which earn him some good money every month from sale of young birds and eggs.
Wanjohi, who solely work on his farm, keeps the birds under free-range system to cut costs. They free-range in an enclosure he has made.
“This type of farming reduces feed expenses since the birds roam around the farm in search of food though I offer them commercial rations and greens, mainly cabbages and sukuma wiki,” explains the farmer, who started the project in 2017 while still a student at Chuka University.
At the university, he was studying Bachelor of Education (Arts), majoring in Kiswahili and history.
“My inspiration came from the landlord of the hostel where I was staying who kept a variety of ornamental birds. I used my Higher Education Loans Board money to purchase four turkeys worth Sh13,000, which I took home for my mother to keep.”
After graduating in 2019, he decided to fully venture into ornamental birds farming.
“I sourced the other ornamental birds from a farm in Chuka and later bought some from Nairobi. The number has kept on rising since then,” says Wanjohi, who sells the birds to their neighbours, Facebook and WhatsApp groups.
Prices of the mature ornamental birds range from Sh7,000 to Sh10,000 a pair while chicks average Sh2,000. Fantail pigeons go for 5,000 each while eggs average Sh200 each.
According to Wanjohi, one requires a Kenya Wildlife Service licence to keep birds like guinea fowls. “If you want to breed more than 10, you will have to get the licence that goes for Sh1,500 annually,” says Wanjohi, who identifies diseases like Newcastle and blackhead as one of his biggest challenges, and expensive feeds, though he is considering making his own.
He offers training and guidance to farmers who want to get into the business and he is planning on starting a YouTube channel on ornamental birds.
Alvine Ochiel, a livestock specialist from the Department of Animal Science at the Egerton University, says making own feeds is advantageous as it allows one to be assured of quality.
“But the quality of feeds is a good as the quality of raw materials used, which sometimes is not guaranteed, as most smallholder farmers struggle to meet cost for analysis in government and university laboratories.
”One must have technical knowledge in nutritional composition of the raw materials before making the feeds, he adds.
“If you’re eyeing this business, you should consider looking at start-up cost versus the return in investment. You also must do market survey to know where you will sale.
”According to Ochiel, most wild birds like guinea fowls do not breed in captivity, so multiplying the numbers faster for efficient production can be a challenge.
“For such an enterprise, produce small and grow with the supply and demand dictated by the market.”