Some of the chickens on the farm in Thika, Makongeni, have perched on wooden rails; others are busy at the feeding troughs while the rest are strolling inside the coop.
Standing inside the chicken house looking keenly at each of the birds is Bildad Muguai Gakingo, the owner of the farm.
The first year student at the Jomo Kenyatta of University of Agriculture and Technology keeps 500 Kienyeji birds.
“This is my dream, my baby and I am determined to nurture it,” says Gakingo, who divides his time between school and the farm.
He went into poultry keeping by chance, he says, noting that he started by helping take care of his mother’s birds.
“My mother is a high school teacher and she had 15 birds. So after finishing high school, she asked me to help take care of them since she didn't have time. As I did it, I saw the business sense in chicken rearing and decided to take it to the next level,” he offers.
He picked some lessons from his mother and did further research online including on farmers’ sites like Mkulima Young
Youtube and Facebook groups
to ensure he was armed with the right information.
His parents saw his passion and commitment in chicken farming and decided to give him a boost.
“They bought me 50 three weeks old chicks each costing Sh350. We also had to prepare new chicken coops which cost Sh5,000, with the money going on buying materials like wire mesh and timber and labour.”
However, as the number of the birds grew, Gakingo faced a new challenge – there was little space for his birds at home because his aim was to expand his brood.
“I talked to my father to give me one of the vacant rooms in an apartment that he is still building,” Gakingo tells Mkulima Young.
He agreed to the request and gave him a room on the third floor. “That floor is high up that the squawks from the birds or any smell from the coops cannot reach the tenants. But I ensure I maintain high standards of hygiene so that the coops remain clean to keep away intestinal and respiratory infections,” he says.
The infections, according to him, are prevented by regular washing of drinkers and feeding troughs using disinfectants, proper aeration of the coops and isolation of any birds that appear sick.
“I have two workers who help me take care of the birds and collect eggs since I am always away in campus. I visit the farm every weekend or once in a while during the week,” he says.
Gakingo says he does things like administering vaccines himself to cut costs but he does not hesitate to consult a veterinary specialist in case of a problem.
“I also keep records of the number of eggs collected per day, the number of trays sold and the bags of feed bought. This gives me a clear picture of where the business is going,” he says.
“This is a long- term investment, which requires patience and perseverance and you must get it right,” he offers.
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