Ornamental birds farmer, Lucy Ngugi, inspects duck and guinea fowl eggs being incubated by a turkey at farm in Kiambu County on January 28, 2017. She uses turkeys to hatch guinea fowl eggs. PHOTO BY LABAN ROBERT.
An ornamental poultry farmer, who lost more than 50 per cent of eggs to artificial incubators, has realised more than 90 per cent hatching success of guinea fowl turkey using a turkey bird.
Out of 60 guinea fowl eggs that Lucy Ngugi lets a turkey incubate, at least 55 keets are hatched. This is a 91 per cent success.
Guinea fowls and turkeys hatch fertilised eggs after 28 days. But domesticated guinea fowls rarely incubate eggs and if they do, their hatching percentage is dismal.
Ms Ngugi, who hatches and sells months old keets and other ornamental birds, realised that a well fed turkey can incubate eggs for more than one season if the young ones are progressively taken away as they hatch.
More eggs are introduced in the process.
“Artificial incubators are said to be 85 per cent to 95 per cent efficient. That has never worked for me, however. I lost almost half of the eggs wherever I used one. But the turkeys have change the game for me,” the Kiambu County farmer said.
Ms Ngugi, who has 23 guinea fowls and more than 100 keets at different ages, said the bird matures quickly and it is less susceptible to poultry diseases like chickens.
“It is expensive to rear chickens. One needs more than 100 of them to make a marginal profit. A change of diet or any other kind of stress leads to a drop in egg production in chicken. Guinea fowl laying season in marked with consistency. For the more than two years I have been rearing these birds, I have never seen them sick,” she said.
The nest of the turkey is made of a plane and saw dust waste filled in a car tyre. Unlike a chicken, turkey can handle more than 50 eggs, from different poultry birds because of its well built body.
In minimizing the movement of the birds from the nests, Ms Ngugi places sufficient food and water to these ‘giant’ natural incubators.
Whilst a month old chicken chick can cost between Sh250 and Sh300, -depending on the breed- a keet of the same age fetches Sh1,000. This is over three times more than chicks.
Ms Ngugi sells a two months old keet at Sh1,500.
A mature bird of about six months earns the Ruiru’s Membley Estate farmers Sh2,500.
The benefits are even better in egg selling where she can make between Sh100 and Sh200 depending on the season and demand.
Guinea fowls do not lay eggs well during the dry spell.
“Out of 10 females, one can get eight to nine eggs during the rainy season, which is unlikely when it is dry. Laying pattern determines the cost of the eggs from time to time,” she said.
The farmer brought 20 eggs at Sh50 each from her brother in 2014. After hatching the 12 first keets, she turned the venture from ornamental birds into an agribusiness after seeing the opportunity.
“People started asking me to sell the guinea fowl. I could not refuse because if am getting something out of it. Indeed the demand has been growing and sometimes I cannot satisfy it. That is why I want to set up a bigger ornamental farm in Limuru (a region within Kiambu County) soon,” the farmer said.
Apart from feeding the mature birds on commercial feeds, she boots their feed and minerals content with dagaa fish, famously called omena and kitchen remains like vegetable leaves.
The fowls make noise when an intruder or visitor comes into the compound. They are, therefore, good security alert 'bells'.
Ms Ngugi can be reached on +254717019511