The narrow pathway to his home donned with grown trees on either side may cheat a visitor that there is no much activity in the homestead ahead.
Not even the healthy napier grass on a square plot next to his house will make you think that nearby is a poultry rearing zone.
The entrance to Jacob Oboiko’s compound is a simple wooden gate, but the fence is tight with a barbed wire.
On a closer look to the fence, a grown chick will struggle to enter through because every gap is sealed to ensure safety of the birds.
The compound is moderately silent with twenty hens on free range but just behind the main house, close to five hundred birds feed fast.
Welcome to Mjomba farm, a dream farm in Botondo village, Boochi, Bomachoge Chache in Kisii County that is nine years old and still counting.
The name is christened from the owner, who is commonly referred to as Mjomba by his peers and former colleagues. He loves speaking the Swahili language hence the reference.
From Ogembo town to the farm, approximately five kilometers away, there are many feeder roads you will have to connect before you reach there. The feeder roads are in a moderate shape, at least people are not complaining.
“I ventured into poultry rearing while in class six, not as a business then but as a hobby, mainly learning from my father who was a renowned poultry farmer.
My happy moments were usually when I would be sent to collect eggs from the laying trough. Put differently, I perfected my father’s dream,” says Mjomba.
In 2019, after a thorough research of what poultry farming needs, he fully ventured into the business with a mature hen and five chicks that he bought from his farther.
“I remember one chick was killed, the others survived. Those that made it are the reason this farm thrives till now,” he said.
In the farm, there are three poultry structures with each capable of holding two hundred birds. One of them is currently empty, Mjomba having sold the birds that were there until recently. One other structure currently has one hundred layers of grade breed that have laid eggs for one year now.
“These layers have been ‘faithful’ in laying. Their production has already peaked. They are currently laying at seventy percent, still a good collection considering their age. I already broke even from what I invested on them,” notes Mjomba.
The birds feed on a fifty kilogram sack of layers mash for five days. A sack of the food retails for Ksh.2600 at Ogembo town.
In the other structure, there are two hundred six weeks –old grade chicks. Mjomba says that they are heavy feeders, something he ensures they feed ad-lib (to satisfaction).
“Already these six weeks old chicks have consumed four fifty kilogram sacks of feed and still counting,” says Mjomba adding that the more you feed, the higher the chances are that they will start laying early enough,
He currently buys a 50kg sack at Ksh.3000 from Ogembo town. He hopes that he will soon start collecting eggs from them.
He says that poultry rearing needs dedication.
“You have to be there full time checking water, cleaning the cages, adding feeds and monitoring that there are no disturbances,” he says.
Younger birds need more care, he says.
“I purchase day old chicks which I start rearing. Between one day and four weeks old, I dedicate my time to them, lighting up a warmer for them, constantly feeding them so that they grow faster.
During this time, I laterally don’t sleep because the young chicks may heap themselves and weak ones may die hence the need for closer monitoring,” says Mjomba.
He says his wife and young son support him so much in the farm. Usually, he has causal workers who come in handy to make work move.
“I have also invested heavily on solar powered energy which has served me well to date. It lights up the compound at and the chicken houses at night when they are feeding. I also use the light for other domestic activities,” said Mjomba, adding much as he invested lots of finances in the solar power, the benefits are rewarding.
With a stable power supply, he is in the final stages of acquiring an incubator so that he would hatch for his farm and for other farmers within the region.
From media to poultry full time; what a shift!
Mjomba is a trained journalist. He has his passion on radio. He has worked at some radio stations in the past, has taught media courses at middle level colleges and even taught Kiswahili, his favorite language at secondary schools but has never loved being employed.
“I wanted to be my own boss at some stage. In the media you usually get instructions from your boss or if you are on air, there are several quarters in and outside the station that are listening and monitoring you to ensure you tore the line. Any slight mistake on air can attract punishment,” he says.
“That is one among many reasons that made me quit the search for employment and venture into farming full time,” he said.
He added quickly that in the future he would want to start his own radio station and only monitor operations.
“That is the only way I will be my own boss,” he said.
Daily cash to meet demands
He says eggs are always on demand.
“People come to but from me in bulk. Locals also buy is small quantities,” he said.
“Other people also buy the grown hens for slaughter while others buy grown ones to go and keep. The poultry business has one advantage; if you are not selling this you are selling the other, hence daily cash inflow,” notes the farmer.
At his farm, no iota of dirt would be seen lying anywhere.
Even the chicken droppings are allowed to settle and cool underneath the raised feeders.
“Chicken will only thrive in a clean environment. Period!” he said.
He said that immediately you relax on maintaining cleanliness, you open room for diseases that are associated with dirt, and the place will be smelly even to the neighbors, unattractive and a disturbance to the birds.
He adds that the neighborhood should also be neat to keep away any would-be predators
“These chicken droppings are valuable to the farms. I make an extra coin by selling it to farmers. A ninety kilogram sack of the droppings fetches me Ksh.450.
This money helps me to buy feeds for the hens and I use some for other expenses here at home. I have also contracted some parcels of land within the neighbouhood where I have planted nappier grass for sale. I use some of it to upgrade the quality of the grass for a better sale,” said the farmer.
Mjomba says that in three weeks he can collect up to seven – 90kg bags of the droppings.
“Diseases worry me so much. Having been in this business for years now, I have learnt the art of prevention. At every stage, I treat, vaccinate them, of common diseases like Newcastle, fowl box among others,” he says.
The danger with disease is that if one hen gets sick, with the way they are together, be sure many of them will be affected.
“So I spend much on medication but prevention through cleanliness and vaccination is key,” he said.
He advices any person who wishes to venture into poultry farming be ready to learn from experienced farmers and be patient with the birds. Profits may delay to start trickling hence the need to be patient.
“Poultry farming needs patience. There would be setbacks like young chicks dying naturally. I have never given up because this is my venture, my life. I literally cry when any one bird dies or is sick,” laments the farmer adding that sleeping less and committing more time to the birds yields.
“I would love to do this for generations so much so that when the history of poultry rearing is written, I would at least get footnotes,” highlights Mjomba.