For those who think poultry farming is only about keeping chicken either for domestic or commercial purposes, well a farmer in Tharaka Nithi County has something in store for you.
Kariuki Kamunde has taken his poultry farming a notch higher where he practices his own type of mixed farming that includes cultivation of crops, rearing of various livestock and fish keeping besides keeping a variety of bird species to maximize the return on his small piece of land.
Kamunde a farmer from Chogoria ward, Maara Sub-county has been practicing mixed farming where he keeps pigs, goats, dairy cattle, grows coffee and tea besides a variety of food crops.
He later ventured into and more recently diversified his poultry keeping to include very rare species of domestic birds after visiting another farmer in Muthambi ward in the same Sub-county.
Being a first-born in a family of five, Kariuki says that he faced a myriad of challenges as he grew up in a humble background.
He lost his father at the tender age of fourteen and was left as the sole helper to his mother to raise his four younger siblings. Three years later his mother passed on too.
Due to financial constraints he did not get a chance to get an education that would qualify him to seek the white collar jobs that are the darling of many in the society.
After struggling to complete secondary education, Kariuki decided to venture into farming to make ends meet.
When KNA visited him this week, Kariuki disclosed that he got his knowledge on how to practice good farming from his late mother who was a very hard-working woman till she died in the year 2007 at the age of 27.
He inherited some tea bushes and coffee plants from his late parents. To avoid purchasing foodstuffs out of his meagre earnings from his two cash crops started planting food crops that included maize, beans and arrowroots.
But what caught the eye of KNA in his farming is his type of poultry farm. The 29-year-old father of two keeps very rare species of domestic birds such as ducks, pigeons, turkeys and guinea fouls along with chicken.
He says that he got the idea to keep these birds while he was visiting a relative one day in Marima location, where he found a farmer with some very rare birds that he claimed were very expensive when buying and very rare to find.
Back home Kariuki researched about the birds and disovered that he would make a lot of money from keeping them for commercial purposes.
He once again visited the farmer in Marima where he bought two of each bird species and some eggs which he was guided on how to hatch them. To his delight the eggs hatched into one of each species and this is when he constructed a wooden pen with partitions to start his unique poultry farm. Luckily he had both male and female fouls and as the grown up chicks multiplied he built more houses to shelter the birds.
Some of these birds he keeps are, the silky chicken which is known for its beautiful feathers that look silky, the Batum chicken which is known for its weird and fierce look, and it’s large size when fully grown than the normal chicken which are both from Mexico and Brazil respectively. Leun and Pekim ducks that are from India specially known for their beauty and large eggs which cost a fortune, the fantail pigeon from Jerusalem which are known for their meat, eggs and beauty.
He also keeps a variety of rare rabbit species known for their meat and others for both meat and fur and the guinea pigs that he mainly sells to schools and hospitals that use them in labs for research purposes.
Kariuki says that although he mainly keeps the birds for commercial purposes, he at times enjoys the eggs and meat with his family especially during festivities like the forthcoming Christmas and New Year day.
“At first I thought the business would fail since not many people were interested in buying the rare birds which were relatively expensive. But after a few months of marketing, buyers begun streaming into my home all with the intention of buying the birds,” says Kariuki with a contented smile.
He said he sold the first batum chicken at Sh.5, 000. As more came to know of the rare bird species he could sell four in one good day making about Sh.20, 000. This has empowered him economically enabling him to educate some of his siblings and put bread on the table for his family. He hopes to educate his children to university level with proceeds from the venture.
But like with any other economic venture Kariuki too has his share of challenges. With the increased buyers, he needs to expand his pen to accommodate more fouls.
“I have to be careful to avoid exhausting my stock. The good selling price is very tempting,” he disclosed.
The other challenge is expensive chemicals to control flees besides the demanding nature of the birds that cannot allow him to be far from home even a single day.
“The birds need close care and I cannot entrust the task with my family members who have no training on how to handle them,” Kariuki further disclosed but was quick to add that the venture is worthwhile.
He also has to be alert to guard against theft.
Kariuki has this advice for the disadvantaged youth.
“One does not necessarily have to be employed to make good money. Self-employment is quite rewarding and even with the risks involved the sky is the limit,” he advises the youth,
He further advises them not to ever be discouraged to the point of giving up in life however the circumstances.
“Many challenges that people face at times turn out to be blessings in disguise if one does not accept failure and turn to drugs or alcoholism that some young men have fallen prey to,” explained Kariuki.
By Charity Kibaara/David Mutwiri