by Bedah Mengo

Sometimes back, Nancy Wekesa, a resident of Kakameg country in Western Kenya, would keep chickens at her home for “prestige”.

The many the chickens, the happier she was as she would slaughter them for her visitors.
“There is a time I had about 80 mature free-range indigenous birds and several chicks. I would feel great when I saw them roaming in my half-acre, but some died of diseases while others I slaughtered them for visitors,” recounted Wekesa on Monday.

But that was then, today Wekesa who keeps 150 chickens no longer rears them for “prestige” as she has embraced commercial poultry farming.

For many years, most families in western Kenya have been keeping the birds for the sake of it. In fact, chicken in many families is still not counted as wealth as many do not see the economic value in them.
A family would have as much as 100 birds but it would not sell any to make money because they saw them as part of the “decorations” at home.

However, this practice is changing and families are embracing commercial poultry farming as they adopt new breeds and methods of rearing.
“I learnt in our women group how we can make money from our chickens and this changed my view about the birds,” said Wekesa.

According to her, the group invited an officer from an NGO dealing with farmers who educated them on chicken rearing.

“During the meeting, the officer was surprised that each of the 25 members of the group was keeping at least 15 chickens, but not for commercial purposes,” said Wekesa.

The officer helped them calculate how much they can earn from each chicken by selling eggs at 0.15 U.S. dollars each or hatching them and selling the chicks at 1.5 dollars each and mature birds for at least 7.9 dollars.

“None of us in the meeting could believe that we had wealth at homes yet we were sitting on it not generating any income,” said Wekesa.

The meeting was the turning point that Wekesa and her fellow group members needed. She now keeps Kenbrow birds, which are an improved breed, for sale.

“Out of the 150 birds, 15 are cockerels. I started the business after taking a loan of 200 dollars from our group, which enabled me to buy 60 chicks, construct pens and feed them. The birds have multiplied to the current number,” said Nekesa, who now sells eggs, has a small incubator for hatching chicks and she occasionally sells the cockerels to avoid inbreeding.

In a good month, she makes a profit of about 200 dollars, money that she would not get if she was rearing chickens for prestige.

George Oundoh, a resident of Busia, in western Kenya, said chicken farming is becoming a serious venture in western Kenya.

“Demand is high particularly from eateries, hotels and schools. This is due to county governments which have employed many people and boosted businesses,” said the primary school teacher who rears 300 chickens for eggs and meat.

Bernard Moina, an agricultural officer in western Kenya, noted that not only are families shedding off the notion that chickens should be kept for prestige, men are also embracing the trade.

“For a long time, chickens in this region and many parts of Kenya were only kept by women; I believe the reason why they were seen as not having any economic value. But men are now keeping them. I have several male farmers I am working with who are keeping chickens, but they are not many,” he said.

He added that the new breeds like Kenbrow, Kari Improved and Kuroilers, which are hardy and yield more have helped boost commercial chicken farming in the region where the birds are a major delicacy. Enditem


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