The Maasai community is synonymous with livestock keeping where residents keep huge number of livestock for economic gains.
However, things have been changing in the recent past as some community members are turning to poultry farming as an alternative means to earn a livelihood.
This is probably because of the few months it takes for one to start earning income from poultry or because of the land limitations, which has drawn the residents to the farming practice.
Jackline Nasieku, a teacher by profession, keeps hundreds of layers in her 50 metres by 100 metres plot in Narok town. Nasieku says she began keeping chicken three years ago after getting an initial capital of Sh50, 000 from table banking.
With the income she gets from the birds, Nasieku has built four rental houses in the same plot. The middle aged woman who was brought up in Narok says she realized the need of farming chicken when she saw the high demand of eggs with fewer suppliers in the growing population.
She collects a minimum of three crates per day which she sells to traders at Sh300 each, who in turn sell a crate at Sh450. “The eggs are never enough, in fact one has to book a week earlier in order to get their share,” she adds.
She works closely with the veterinary department who advices her on the feeding programme and how to manage the chicken in a bid to get maximum profit.
“I bought one day old chicks from Kenchic at a price of Sh100 each, they later educated me on how to take care of the chicks and also kept a close eye on me until the birds were one month old,” she says.
When the chicks were eight weeks old, Nasieku stopped feeding them with chicken mash and introduced growers mash until when she saw the first egg, and then she introduced layers mash.
Since August this year when she began collecting eggs, she says her yields have been growing gradually as she collects over 90 eggs daily. “Though I have 106 chickens, I cannot get a 106 collection because some chicken could be barren and others take more than 24 hours to lay,” she says.
Nasieku begins her day at 4am when she cleans the poultry house and all the equipment there in before feeding and giving water to the chicken.
After attending her hens for two hours, she prepares to go to Masikonde primary school where she teaches. She returns at 3pm after school to attend to her poultry again.
“I give eight kilograms in the morning and four kilograms in the midday. I also give 20 litres of water on a daily basis,” she explains.
She notes overfeeding the birds could led to overweight hence reduce production. If your hens range over pasture and get plenty of exercise, you are very unlikely to have fat hens but if confined to the coop, obesity can become a problem.
“It is necessary to ensure the chicken maintains between one and two kilograms because when they grow too big, the rate of laying goes down,” she says.
The farmer continues to say, a poultry house ought to have enough air circulation to avoid pests and diseases that thrive in stuffy areas.
Jackline attends to her birds
In addition, Nasieku says has to check on the poultry droppings every day to confirm the birds are in good health as when the droppings are watery, there could be a likelihood of an infection.
Most common diseases
The most common diseases in chicken include fowl cholera which is a bacteria disease that can be contracted from contaminated food and water.
But the downside to a chicken developing this disease is there is no treatment and if it survives by chance it will always be a carrier of the disease hence better to put them down and destroy their carcasses so it will not be passed.
She emphasizes on proper record keeping, saying one needs to take an account on a weekly basis the expenses on feeds, water and heat for the chicks and compare with the profit one gets in the same period.
Some farmers will keep poultry for the production of eggs while others will keep them for meat. In her case, she rears leghorn chicken which lay more eggs than a white horn leg chicken.
Narok Livestock officer Jamin Ruto encourages locals who are mainly pastoralists to rear poultry in large scale in a bid to diversify their agricultural practices.
He asks them to take up the opportunity presented by the many hotels in the county in need of chicken products to be the main suppliers.
Hotels in Narok
“Hotels in Narok County order chicken and eggs from other counties as far as Kisii, Bomet and even from Central Kenya, yet we have people here who can engage in poultry farming,” observes Ruto.
He adds there is need to diversify into other agricultural practices as pastoralism is becoming outdated with land demarcation and ownership taking shape among the pastoral communities.
“The population has increased and the land is becoming smaller, therefore we cannot keep many animals like before as there is not enough pastures, space and the need to conserve the environment from over stocking effects,” he adds.
Moreover, those interested in poultry farming should avail themselves for training by divisional livestock officers to ensure that they rip maximum benefits from the activity.
The chicken droppings at Nasieku’s poultry house do not go into waste. She has established a kitchen garden in the same piece of land where she plants kales, spinach, beetroots, pepino fruits, tomatoes and carrots.
The vegetables in her small farm are used to supplement her poultry diet apart from selling the vegetables to the neighbouring community.
I sell one kilo of kales at Sh20, every day I sell an average of five kilos,” she says.
She uses only half a litre of water per plant every day. Since she harvests water, this makes her get a constant supply of vegetables throughout the year regardless of the season.
According to Nasieku, the amount of land that one owns does not influence the productivity of the land, what matters is the will of the person.
By Ann Salaton and Angela Nampaso