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    Kajiado farmer slashes poultry production cost through homemade hydroponic meal

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    By George Munene

    Through hy­dro­ponic farm­ing, Peter Muiruri, a poultry farmer at Kiten­gela has been able to cut his feed­ing costs by over 40 per cent. 

    While it costs other farm­ers Sh700 to feed 100 chicken each con­sum­ing 140 grams in a day, Peter spends nearly half of this, Sh400 by sub­sti­tut­ing nearly 60 per cent of store-bought feeds with his own homegrown hy­dro­ponic fod­der. This en­sures he keeps his cost mar­gins low and reaps hand­some re­turns from his poultry ven­ture.

    Due to its high pro­tein con­tent, in the two and a half years he has em­ployed hy­dro­ponics, Peter who sup­plies su­per­mar­kets with kienyeji eggs says he has seen tre­mend­ous im­prove­ment in the im­munity of his flock. He points out that he rarely has any cause to use any an­ti­bi­ot­ics for his chicken. “The growth rate of my birds far sur­passes what I archived while feed­ing them on com­mer­cial feeds. Hy­dro­ponic fod­der coupled with the greens I grow to feed my birds has also en­sured I pro­duce au­then­tic­ally kienyeji eggs without re­sort­ing to using any ad­dit­ives,” he ex­plains. 

    Hy­dro­ponic farm­ing refers to the grow­ing of plants without soil but rather the use of wa­ter-based nu­tri­ent-rich solu­tions fed to plants with water en­sures the speed at which they ger­min­ate is in­creased greatly. 

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    The main im­ple­ments you will need to set up a hy­dro­ponic sys­tem of your own are trays, seeds (plant­ing ma­ter­ial), and water.

    With the cost of feeds hav­ing gone up by nearly 38 per­cent over the last four months, from Sh1850 to Sh2550. This has seen many poultry farm­ers wave good­bye to their poultry for­tunes with pro­duc­tion cost being un­man­age­able for most small-scale farm­ers. More than ever, al­tern­at­ive sources of poultry feed such as hy­dro­ponics are vital to en­sure chicken rear­ing re­mains prof­it­able.

    Eight to 10 kilo­grams of hy­dro­ponic fod­der can be pro­duced in six to seven days at a cost of just Sh12.5 a kilo­gram. For Muiruri, three trays; 30-24-kilo­gram worth of fod­der, is a suf­fi­cient daily feed sup­ple­ment for his 800 birds, mak­ing hy­dro­ponics a low-cost source of high-qual­ity nu­tri­ents. 

    For a stand­ard daily chicken ra­tion in­take of 140 grams, 70 per cent of this can be re­placed with hy­dro­ponic fod­der in kienyeji chicken and 30 per cent for broiler and layer chicken. 

    “Farm­ers should however be ad­vised to pro­gress­ively in­crease the amount of hy­dro­ponic fod­der sub­sti­tuted for com­mer­cial feeds, gradu­ally ob­serving their bird's pro­duc­tion levels and settle at the point where they achieve max­imum pro­duc­tion,” Peter coun­sels.

    Hy­dro­ponic fod­der should also be in­tro­duced to chicks while they are young, i.e., at two months for them to be used to these feeds and avoid shocks caused by a sud­den change in diet.

    The seeds can be those of bar­ley, wheat, oat, maize, sorghum amongst other cer­eals. The se­lec­ted seeds should not have over­growths and be chem­ical-free. Wheat and bar­ley have over 20 per cent pro­tein con­tent, the stand­ard re­quired by chicken, mak­ing them the more prefer­able op­tions.

    To pre­pare his seeds he soaks them in jik for 30 minutes to two hours. They are then washed and rinsed to re­move any jik residue. Seeds are fur­ther soaked for between four to 12 hours be­fore being drained and in­cub­ated in a bucket for two days after which their roots will have sprouted and they will be ready for plant­ing.

    Plant­ing is done by spread­ing the ger­min­ated seeds on the plastic trays--this can be store-bought or homemade. A 40cm by 1M tray will nor­mally hold about two kilo­grams of plant­ing ma­ter­ial which in a week's time will give you 8 to 10 kilo­grams of fod­der.

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    Wa­ter­ing should then be done every four or three hours until seven/six in the even­ing, this will be dic­tated by the cli­mate which af­fects the rate of evap­or­a­tion. The seeds and plant­lets are watered for six to seven days de­pend­ing on the fod­der’s even­tual use. Trays must have holes to allow for the drain­ing of ex­cess water which if left stag­nant on the trays will rot the seeds.

    Fod­der har­ves­ted from the third to fourth day can be used to feed month-old chicks while ma­ture chicken should be fed on fod­der that is at least six days old. 

    Hy­dro­ponic fod­der can also be fed to pigs, cows, goats or sheep.

    For more les­sons from Muiruri on hy­dro­ponics and other tips and tricks on cost-ef­fect­ive poultry-keep­ing check out his You­tube chan­nel;Farm­ers Point

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