As market for poultry and poultry products soars in the country, a group of farmers are now cashing in on the growing demand for chicks and chicken through hatching eggs. With an initial investment of as low as Sh15,000 in purchase of an egg incubator, the returns in an year totals to Sh250,000 or more in sale of day old chicks and chicken as data show demand for poultry and poultry related products currently stands at an impressive 40 percent. The business of egg hatching has created poultry billionaires including the late billionaire Nelson Muguku of Muguku Poultry farm whose business is now worth more than Sh3billion.
The poultry farm is one of the largest hatcheries in the country with a capacity to hatch some 200,000 chicks per day. Dr. Thuo Mathenge is the chairman and proprietor of Brade Gate Poultry Industries a multi billion enterprise which hatches over 60,000 chicks in a week.
Their common denominator however is that they started small, with just a single incubator expanding with the rise in demand for the chicks and the chicken. Dr. Mathenge is in the process of buying a helicopter to export the chicks to Africa and Carribean where the demand has soared.
So how does the egg incubation and chicken hatchery work?An incubator imitates a hen by providing an environment for eggs to hatch into chicks. It keeps the eggs uniformly moist and warm, for a period of about 21 days. Different sources of heat can be used to warm the eggs, the most common being electricity, solar energy or fuel such as charcoal, paraffin or gas. Various types of incubators have likewise emerged on the basis of these sources of heat.
Incubation producers however advice anyone going into egg incubation to get fully acquainted with how the incubators work. For example farmers should test the functioning of an empty incubator first, to become familiar with regulating of the temperature and the humidity, the two essential conditions for the proper working of an incubator. Before loading eggs into the incubator, they should let it run for at least one week so that they can understand how it works.
Farmers need to also control properly the quality of the eggs during setting, either with a candling light or a torch while also turning the eggs regularly if they have not bought an incubator with an automatic egg turning system to avoid frying of the eggs.
While egg incubation is a lucrative business since farmers can earn from selling chicks, incubated eggs also come with its fair share of responsibility. The success of any hatching of eggs depends first on the quality and fertility of the eggs the farmer incubate, and the care and management of the incubator. Incubator producers say efficient use of incubators is achieved when 80 to 90 per cent of the eggs manage to hatch.
Some of the common incubators in the country and their operations are listed below.
Surehatch model 270 incubator is a fully automatic incubator with a capacity of 180 in setter trays and 90 eggs in the hatcher. It costs Sh120,000. It has an accurate incubation temperature and an automatic egg turning system meaning the eggs dont fry for staying in one position for long without being changed.
Petreshah incubators are small sized carrying 48 – 60 eggs. The 60 egg model is manual whereby farmers have to turn eggs and costs Sh16,000. The 48 egg model turns the eggs automatically and cost Sh25,000. Both models are popular with local farmers due to afford ability and occupying limited space. Petreshah’s incubators are economical because they consume minimum electricity, and are clean. Both models have a hatchery at the bottom part where farmers have to transfer eggs so that they can hatch.
Petreshah the company that sells the Petreshah incubators offer training and backup services to farmers. Their incubators come with a free egg candling light and a chart which shows the different characteristics in eggs.
Out of 300 eggs he manages to get at least 150 to 180 to hatch. Such an incubator can be improved, for example if a thermometer is used to monitor the temperature; humidity can also be regulated by placing some water next to the incubating eggs. Farmers interested in making an oven incubator can get further advice from Nyagaka. He can be reached on 0720063399.
Dr Matu in Nanyuki sells various types of egg incubators - both electrical and kerosene operated and in various sizes. He can be contacted on 0722229364.
There are also specialized companies and individuals who repair broken incubators.
KingChick Incubators is one such company located in Embassy House on Harambee house and can be reached on 0727101828/0739836735/0738508230
Engineer Robert is involved in repairing incubators of any kind and can also be reached on 0722429330