A dove is mostly referred to as a sign of peace by Christians worldwide but Dennis Chege; a former Information Technology employee of St Andrew’s School, Turi in Molo-Nakuru has turned that belief to a business venture.
Chege, 30, bought a pair of doves, a male and female for Sh100 from her mother as a young boy in 1998 to keep them as pets but later in 2008, he started to commercialize them as a side hustle business at his farm in Meru.
With a bird laying two eggs, it takes only 18 days to hatch into squabs. Within three months, they are mature to start laying eggs and the life cycle continues.
Chege has since increased his stock to 1,000 birds and he is not able to meet the demand, which he says keeps rising daily.
“I decided to quit my job last year to look after my birds due to high demand and ready market considering I had no assistant and my wife was overwhelmed selling wares on a general shop we co-own,” said Chege.
Chege rears various breeds of pigeon such Fantails’ doves and the parrot beak doves which are kept as pets.
He sells a pair of doves at Sh1000 to Churches especially the Catholic, wedding planners, individuals as ornamental among other interested customers.
“I sell between fifty to sixty pairs of the birds in month to make an average of Sh50,000 depending with the available order,” said Chege.
He considers this type of agribusiness as less demanding than chicken since he always releases the birds in the morning to search for their own food before they come back in the evening.
“Doves work requires less space. You can even rear them in a rental house where you live in. Small boxes are enough to start with but I keep them in open and closed cages.
Dennis Chege feeding ornamental birds at his farm in Meru. Farmbiz Africa
He also feeds them on grass, remains of wheat, grit and pulses which are readily available in his farm. But he also spends Sh7,500 on grade II flour, which he cooks into ugali maize meal for the birds.
“They birds are free with me in a way that I can hand pick them without struggle and closely observe the state of their health,” said Chege.
He vaccinates them against Newcastle disease, one of the most dangerous infections with a 100 per cent mortality rate in birds once in a year.
Aside from doves, he also keeps bantams, ornamental birds with feathers on their feet and eyes.
“My main challenge is the high cost of feeds in the Kenyan market compared to Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda in addition to taxes on imports of ornamental bird breeds,” said Chege.
He gets his inspiration to become a renowned farmer in Africa from the former Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo Ota Farm whereby the farming is grossing 172.5m Naira (Sh48.2m) a week from an analysis by Kunle Sowunmi – a New York based writer.
His plan is to increase from 1000 doves to 5 million with a mixture of other ornamental birds.
He advises people not to solely rely on employment in the urban centers but to also invest in their rural homes.
“Some of my friends who could not believe me when I told them that I was going back to my rural home to do farming get shocked when they visit my business. People should refrain from saying this is a small boy thing but should acknowledge as any other business potential that can sustain a living,” said Chege.
Chege can be reached on +254725012098.