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El­doret farmer banks on previously pet birds

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Dove By Laban Robert.JPG

While other people look at doves and pi­geons as lad’s pets, a Rift Val­ley farmer is tap­ping into the grow­ing mar­ket for the flowery birds to make tens of thou­sands per month close to 20 years after start­ing small.

Den­nis Chege makes between Sh90,000 and Sh120,000 a month from his two farms in El­doret and Na­k­uru, with the churches being some of his mains cus­tom­ers buy­ing pairs of doves for vari­ous func­tion like wed­dings.

Whilst other farm­ers sell a pair of doves at more than Sh1,000, Chege asks for Sh600 for every pair.

“Many people look down upon these birds and dis­miss them as boy­ish busi­ness. I also des­pised them at the start, in 1998. But the call or­ders I have been re­ceiv­ing in the past years have shown that this is not a boy­ish ven­ture, but a cool ag­ribusi­ness that maybe bet­ter than other poultry like chick­ens,” he said.

 And he says des­pite rear­ing more than 1,000 birds, he is not able to meet the de­mand, which he says keeps rising day by day. They are or­na­mental birds too in the homes.

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When Jesus was being bap­tised by John the Baptist at River Jordan, the Bible says, a dove came down from heaven.  The dove landed on Jesus.

Dur­ing sac­ri­fices in the Old Test­a­ment, the doves were also used as part of the items re­quired for the of­fer­ing to be ac­cep­ted. For in­stance in the case of Ab­ra­ham’s sac­ri­fices, the birds were not cut into halves as other an­im­als.

They were to be wit­nesses of the cov­en­ant between God and Ab­ra­ham. This is part of the his­tory that makes the dove to be an out­stand­ing bird in the Chris­tian wor­ship.

He added that that the hu­mil­ity, in­no­cence, peace, and beauty the birds con­note is driv­ing the use of the birds in wed­dings and other re­lated func­tions. Be­sides churches, chil­dren and eld­erly homes too are also cli­ents.

“Cath­olic Church wed­dings and other so­cial events are graced by these humble birds. Some­times am asked to sup­ply up to 400 birds, but I do not have the ca­pa­city to do so. In such cases, I call on my farm­ing net­works to help. The mar­ket is rich, the sup­ply is poor,” he said.

He con­siders this ag­ribusi­ness less de­mand­ing and cheap in the long run when com­pared to chicken.

With a bird lay­ing two eggs, it takes only 18 days to hatch squabs. Within five and half months, the squabs are ma­ture to lay eggs again. After one week, the fe­male again lays eggs, and the cycle con­tin­ues.

He reg­u­larly vac­cin­ates them against New­castle dis­ease, which he says, is one of the most dan­ger­ous in­fec­tion that can quickly wipe the cote.

Chege, who also works as a closed cir­cuit tele­vi­sion op­er­ator in El­doret, says kit­chen re­mains form part of the meals for the birds.

But he also spends Sh7,500 on grade II flour, which he cooks into ugali for the birds in a month.

Wheat and rice and other small sup­ple­ment­ary feeds keep his brood full for a month.

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“I feed them in the morn­ing and early af­ter­noon. I also water them and that com­pletes a day,” Chege says.

Al­though meat from the birds is not com­mon, he says few other ag­ribusi­ness people are show­ing in­terest in pop­ular­ising this product.

What one needs to start this busi­ness is just a small cage and feed. For small starters, the birds can be fed on kit­chen re­mains and hunt down in­sects when left free, he says.

Pi­geons cost the same but their de­mand for re­li­gious func­tion re­mains lim­ited as the dove re­mains a dis­tinct one.

Photo by Laban Robert.

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