Brenda Wandera is a jack of all trades; she juggles her pastoral duties and poultry keeping with amazing ease.
Apart from being a bishop at the Anglican Church of Kenya Mumias Diocese, Wandera is also the proprietor of Dakasi Poultry Farm at Shitukhumi village in Mumias West constituency, Kakamega County.
“I have a wonderful team that helps me perform my church duties and this affords me some time to run my chicken project most evenings. I have also employed qualified farmhands who monitor things when I am engaged with church work,” she tells The Smart Harvest and Technology team.
According to the bishop, she decided to rear chicken after suffering losses from sugarcane farming.
“In this region, many families depended on sugarcane farming but the collapse of Mumias Sugar Company was devastating. It left many farmers struggling to make ends meet. We had to think of plan B,” says Wandera.
After counting her losses, she settled on chicken business after confirming that indeed a market existed. In 2018, she started the project with 100 improved kienyeji chicks which cost her Sh10,000. To avoid needless chick deaths, she was keen to buy chicks that had been vaccinated against common diseases like Fowl Pox.
“The mistake that many farmers make is that they buy chicks from dealers who do not vaccinate their young birds. The effect is that these chicks will die before they clock three months. My advice to budding farmers is to buy day-olds from suppliers who have a track record of vaccinating their chicks,” the bishop offers.
Within four months, the chicks grew into mature birds, and later on multiplied to 900 chicken. She sold 600 and was left with 300 chickens, for project continuity.
To expand the business, she ploughed back the profits into the business and bought one automatic incubator and a hatchery machine with a capacity of 1,056 eggs and each costing Sh90,000.
Plough back profits
“Thanks to the dedication and effort I put in, the business picked significantly well. After seeing that the venture was doing great I bought the incubator and another 100 roosters to fertilise the eggs,” says Wandera.
The 300 birds multiplied and gave her another 930 birds. She set aside 500 hens for expansion purposes and 200 roosters for fertilisation of eggs. She sold the rest.
Now she has 3,200 chicks ranging from day-old to two-week-old which have already been booked plus 2,000 grown birds.
Looking back she says her poultry business has seen her get ten times more profit compared to sugarcane proceeds.
From her two-acre farm, she used to get a profit of Sh100,000 from sugarcane after 18 months but with hatching of chicks, she makes Sh30,000 profit in 21 days from one incubator.
Rising Demand for chicks
With demand for day-olds rising, the mother of three later added more incubators with the same capacity of 1,056 eggs. So far, she has three incubators and one hatchery.
“I noticed that the demand for chicks was going up daily forcing me to venture into hatching business full time. I specialise in hatching improved kienyeji birds,” she shares.
She gets most of her customers within and outside the county and through referrals.
“Currently, I hatch almost 4,000 chicks every 30 days. I sell day-old chicks at Sh100 and a two-week-old at Sh150,” says Wandera.
Are there bad days?
“Oh yes! At one point I had travelled for some mission and there was no qualified person to take care of my chicks. I just engaged a volunteer from around. Upon my return after a few days, I found that 1,500 chicks had died due to poor management. It was a painful lesson,” she says.
Having learnt the hard way, now she only entrusts the project in the hands of qualified farm hands even if it means paying an extra cost. Buying feeds is also a big challenge.
To sort that, apart from buying quality feeds from certified companies, she also produces her own.
Hatching like a pro
For those interested, she says the process of hatching chicks is intense and requires a keen and patient farmer.
“First you start with the selection of eggs. For quality chicks, select medium size eggs- not big nor small, then inspect whether they are fertilised. You can do this using a spotlight; when you see an embryo, it is fertilised when it is clear it is not.
“If you have fertilised eggs, put them in an incubator for 18 days and after a week use a spotlight to check whether they are developing into chicks. If you spot some blood vessels in the egg, then it is developing into a chick and when you see dark spot, the embryo died. Dispose it,” she explains.
For success, she ensures that the eggs are rotating in the incubator after three hours to ensure an embryo gets enough temperature on all sides. After 18 days, transfer the eggs to the hatchery for three days upon which chicks will be hatched.
“You then take the chicks to the brooder. A brooder is a place of safety where baby chicks are kept warm, fed, watered and cared for until they are able to care for themselves. Here, you practice strict biosecurity measures which basically means high hygiene standards. They need enough light to keep them warm and to grow faster. At week one, feed them with chick starter for glucose and minerals. Add them liquid paraffin for digestion.”
“At day one vaccinate them against Mareks, day six Newcastle, day 14 give Gumboro dose 1, at day 21 repeat Newcastle and day 28 Gumboro. At six weeks give them Fowl pox and at two months vaccinate them against Fowl typhoid. Later on deworm. Always ensure the ground is dry to keep away diseases.”
With her vast experience in poultry keeping, the 41-year-old also teaches local poultry farmers about hatching and rearing of chicks.
“I love this job because it enables me to give back to the community. It also gives me inner peace,” says Wandera who is also married to a fellow bishop.