By Odeo Sirari
(This post first appeared on Digital Farmers Kenya, a Facebook group)
Today, I woke up to a post by an evidently disappointed and frustrated farmer who for days, has been unable to find market for his chickens.
Let me give you my personal experience. Some 3 years ago, there was this craze about raring improved kienyeji chicken( partly promoted by Caleb Karuga, the former K24 journalist).
He made it sound so lucrative to many: a fully grown jogoo would fetch you 2000/-, the motivational speaker would say… same argument you will hear in these streets ‘’ Ati mimi I started raring my chicken by purchasing a feather’ now I am a millionaire! Heeeee. My friend, things on the ground are different.
And by the way as an experienced farmer, I stopped watching those TV documentaries on successful farming because it is easier said on TV and in the newspapers than done on the farm.
Most of those stuff you see on TV are meant to advertise breeders & producers who want to make their cut halafu waachie mkulima mzigo , apambane na hali yake.
Back to my story about rearing those improved kienyeji chicken 3 years ago.. si nimenunua vifaranga 300 , they had a fancy name description for the particular breed -Rainbow Rooster.
I ordered them from a hutchery in Eldoret and they were delivered in Webuye where I picked them to the farm. At 110/- a chick , day old. 33k is what I paid through Mpesa to get them delivered.
Mimi na mahesabu zangu kwa kichwa baada ya kuona Caleb kwa TV na YouTube, the thought that I would be making a cool 300k in just five months was exciting…. wueeh!
So with my previous experience with layers I started very well by feeding chick mash, kwanza ile ya Unga limited ndio zikuwe haraka eti. Nikanunua makaa for keeping them warm and everything that was required.
Vaccination program yote nilikuwa nayo including poultry equipment and house from my previous experience keeping layers. 3 months down the line, these things had consumed almost 50k in feeds and still they looked so small I wondered if i was doing the right thing.
By the 5th month, 100k gone, Bado. Kuku ukiuliza bei unaambiwa pengine 250/- by those hawkers in the village. We call them wachurusi.
Now I am there stuck with three hundred + chickens mostly hens with a few cockerels with no market and they are still consuming. I decided to ask the extension officer from the hutchery to see if he could help find a market.
He gave me a contact of a certain mama in Kakamega. Nikaambiwa yeye ndio Mama yao wa kununua kuku western yote. Ati he supplies all the supermarkets with kienyeji chicken.
So she asked me to slaughter one and send as a parcel on matatus plying the Kitale Kakamega route so she could see a sample and decide whether the meat was the right quality. Tena?????
Hellooo. Hii kuku yako ni 1.5 kg umelisha vizuri,lLakini ulikosea mahali.Nini tena woyee; asked my sorry self.
Kumbe the chicken meat needs to be yellowish for it to be convincingly kienyeji for customers. she told me.
Now how would I make the meat look yellowish after slaughtering? Do I buy yellow paint ? No.
The chicken need to be free ranged to achieve that particular meat quality, she said.
When you rear the chicken in an enclosure feeding them commercial feeds, they are just the same as broilers, she added. It will not taste kienyeji chicken.
Finally, to end the long conversation she offered to pay me 350/- for the sample I send transport cost not included and advised me to have them on free range for several months and she will come to buy at 250/- a kg.
But the meat must be real kienyeji. Yellowish!!! By then my chikens would be over 6months and we haven’t discussed the cost of feeding them .
Doing quick maths with her offer of 250/- a kg that would probably give me a maximum of 500/- a chicken ( feed conversion in most improved kienyeji chicken is so poor by the way, a cockerel will rarely weigh over 1.5kg after 6 months, a hen, you call them mwera – will hardly manage 1kg after 6 months , na hiyo chakula yote imekuliwa ??? not even enough for your capital. Forget about return on investment.
Frustrated and confused by the turn of events, I decided to free the chickens so they can roam around the compound and give me the precious yellowish meat,,, or perhaps I save on feeds, wooi those things were many for effective free range.. the threats were so many for the chicken on free range someone had to watch over them all the time .
Within 3 days my compound was dusty.
The lush green grass was all cleared. Food waste from the kitchen couldn’t be enough. Shambani kuna maharagwe huezi achilia.. Kwa jirani zikienda ni kelele. My shamba boy mr. Nicholas Lisutsa ametega mchwa kwa masagari hadi amechoka, mchwa yenyewe haipatikani.
I said no way! Took my jalopy, Nissan Advan, nikaangusha kiti ya nyuma. Loaded the kukus one by one. 100 kwa boot .. mimi huyo with Mr. Lisutsa, destination : Misikhu market on a Sunday… we sat almost 1 hour no buyer .
I had already paid 100/- local government market fee yet I had not sold a chicken.
The wachurusi who were hovering around waited for the right time. They knew I would be frustrated and and would sell at a throw away price. They were right.
Working from their experience One came and offered to take a big cockerel at 400/- a hen at 300/- tired and given up, that is how the market price was set and ended up loosing all 100 chickens to the laws of supply and demand.
Back at home dejected, I counted the cash realized I had only managed to collect 13k and a dirty looking 50 shillings note. For all the 100 kienyeji chicken.
I decided that is how I am going to dispose all of them. I stopped counting my losses and all I wanted was to get rid of them. Next market day was in Webuye town.
Another 100 sold at throwaway price.
Next was Kimilili town for this I decided to take only 50 because someone had suggested if I took the chicken to Nairobi using my Advan it would fetch a better price. Nikaleta 30 nairobi and left about 20 with Lisutsa.
Nairobi, was another hell, now with the 7 months hens only one had started laying, the best offer I could get in a hotel was 600/- cockerel maybe 800/-.
I decided to eat most of them with my family and sold just a few.
Back in the village Lisutsa decided to disappear with 15 , the other 5 or so which were on now fully free range I was told were eaten by a mongoose.
Now you farming motivational speakers on television, newspapers and social media,
TELL ME WHERE I WENT WRONG with my kienyeji chicken?