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Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Quest for juicy meat led to farm innovation

By Bett Kipsang’
 When Rahab Githumbi first saw a Turkey 13 years ago, it was a fatty bird, whose meat whets an appetite. She decided to buy some and keep in her farm.  ‘‘The seller told me that the flesh on the neck of a Turkey was full of juicy fat’’ she said.  She bought 2, 3 months’ old Turkeys and started rearing them alongside her chicken. Rahab was amazed at the way the two bird species got along well with each other. ‘‘After a few months, the female turkey started laying eggs in a nearby shrub’’ said Rahab.
Rahab feared that wild animals may eat the eggs of her nice birds. She devised an innovative management strategy; taking the eggs to the house in the evening and returning it back to the nest in the morning before the bird realized that her egg was missing. As the eggs accumulated, she started keeping the rest of the eggs in the house and taking only one to the nest for the bird to see and continue inhabiting that next. The farmer observed that Turkeys are sensitive birds. ‘‘If they notice that somebody is following them to the nest, they turn back from that direction until they are sure nobody is keen on them’’ she said.
‘‘When the bird started staying long in the nest, I realized maybe it was time for it to become broody and sit on the eggs, I observed it for two days and latter gave it all the eggs to sit on’’ she said.  Her experiments continued as she thought of an idea after the other. ‘‘What if I gave it chicken eggs to sit on as well?’’ was the question on Rahab’s mind. She later learned that Turkey eggs took 28 days to hatch, while those of hens took only 21days.
To make sure that eggs from the two sets of poultry hatched simultaneously; she delays chicken eggs by seven days after the Turkey has started sitting on its eggs.
‘‘Turkeys have large surface area, produces more heat and can sit on the eggs more seriously than chicken’’ she said.
Young turkeys are very susceptible to diseases and needs to be fed well. Once the eggs hatch into chicken and turkey chicks called Poults, she then isolates them from the Turkey and uses a hen to take care of the young Turkey and chicken chicks until they are three months old and ready for selling! In her experience, the hens are more cautious in taking care of the chicks and offer better protection at the tender age than the turkeys which often step on the young chicks and does not bother feeding them!
Young turkeys are fed to milk and other poultry feed, they are also fed to the locally available stuff like vegetable, food leftovers, onions and carrots. 
  Apart from the delicacy which was the original intention of the farmer, turkey rearing has come with a multiple benefits. A turkey fetches higher profits per kilogram than chicken's, turkeys are also much heavier. One turkey can sit on up to 20 chicken eggs alongside its own and hatch them successfully. Two Turkeys in a homestead serves the same purpose as brooder.
Within a household of 9 members, one mature turkey can provide meat for four (4) days. One turkey on average weighs up to 17 Kgs when mature. Turkeys provide lean meat and eggs.
  Turkeys on the other hand are used for additional security at the homestead as they respond to strangers by making noise. ‘‘They make a lot of noise whenever a stranger enters the compound, thus alerting me even when I am far in the farm’’ Rahab said. 
The turkeys produce about four times more manure than chicken, which is used to enhance farm fertility and growing vegetables. Rahab observed that unlike chicken, Turkeys are heavy feeders and their droppings accumulate very fast. She added that it is important to feed the birds and maintain good hygiene in the poultry house.

 Given the ready market, Rahab concentrates on production of 3 month old chicks which she sells. One turkey chick is sold at between Ksh. 300 to 500/= depending on the factors such as business patronage and quality of the bird. One turkey egg is sold for Ksh. 30 to 40/=. Most buyers visit to buy directly from her homestead as word spreads about her ventures.
 The chicken are left to mature then are sold to the local Sipili market. Occasionally she sells mature turkeys that fetch over Ksh. 2500/= locally.

 This innovation has raised Mama Rahabs’ social status in the village and she’s much respected as an expert on turkeys and chicken production. From her home to Sipili market is about 4.5 Kms, though she acknowledges that this distance does not deter visitors from making their way to her farm. She gets many different visitors including farmers, diverse professionals, scholars and leaders. This has made her become eminent as a ‘turkey champion’ in Laikipia! 

 The demand for the turkeys is growing and sometimes she’s unable to meet it! Rahab has produced and sold over 1700 turkeys over the years in different parts of Kenya including Isiolo, Mombasa, Nairobi, Siaya, Kyuso, Muranga etc. She uses the income from the sales to pay school fees for her children and to diversify her farm activities. 

 Rahab plans to expand and improve her poultry production in future to meet the ever increasing demand for turkeys in Kenya. Her dream is to get some financial support and scale up her enterprise by starting the first ever mixed turkey and chicken hatchery on her farm! 

 She’s aware of the potential for value addition by recycling the bird’s feathers. These ventures will help create local employment to youths and strengthen community resilient to climate change and make a significant contribution towards the fight against poverty and hunger in Kenya and beyond.
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