I’ve used the stones that life has thrown at me to build a house- Amon Karanja
By Brenda Wambui
Chicken farming is a common practice in the country because of its good returns as well as the nutritional value of the birds’ eggs and meat . While some farmers specialize on rearing chickens for meat only (broilers), others focus on eggs’ production (layers). In the same breath, others specialize in rearing ‘kienyeji’ (indigenous) chicken.
Hailing from Banana in Kiambu county, 25 year old of Amon Karanja runs a thriving farm of six hundred chicken. He also operates an outside catering business which brings him supplementary income. Growing up, he had always felt that his true calling was farming. He worked in the hotel industry for three years and saved enough money that enabled him to venture into poultry farming. He later quit his lucrative hotel job to concentrate on farming full-time. “The journey has not been smooth sailing. A few months after I started farming, all my chicks died. This hit me hard because I went back to square one with no money and no chicks. Years of hard work went down the drain just like that.” A distraught Karanja had to look for alternative means to be able to make a comeback.
Inspiration behind poultry farming
Karanja hails from a family of farmers. He hilariously remarks that poultry farming runs is in his blood. His late father was an established poultry farmer of great repute in Banana. After the demise of his father, Karanja felt the need to keep his memory alive through poultry farming.
After losing all his chicks, he decided to seek formal employment again in order to raise more capital to bring him back on his feet. He saved enough money to get him started again. He doubled the initial number of chicks to four hundred. “The disappointment I got the first time taught me a very valuable lesson. It fuelled my hunger to succeed because I wanted to make my late father proud from wherever he is.” He researched deeply about poultry farming and armed himself with all the knowledge he lacked during his first trial.
He fondly refers to his chicks as the “breathing goldmine”. This is because he has continued to reap massive success from his hard work and the dedication he has for farming. The profit he has made from poultry farming has enabled him to establish a catering business and even purchase the necessary equipment. He uses manure from the chicks to grow fruits and vegetables in his family’s farm. He terms himself as an all-round farmer who isn’t afraid to try a different venture.
He has one employee who helps him with the chicks. He plans on employing at least 5 more when the number of chicks grows. His end goal is to grow the number of chicks to 1200 in a few years time. With plans of expansion in sight, he is trying to raise as much capital as possible. His catering business is doing quite well and he is excited that he vision is finally piecing in together.
His largest customer base is in Kiambu and Nairobi counties. However, he has his eyes set on penetrating markets outside these 2 counties. He expounds: “I have already approached clients in Mombasa and Kisumu counties. We are still in the negotiation stage but things are looking great. I know this may seem like a pipe dream, but my quest is to build poultry empire.”
He sells an average of 250 chickens per day. One chicken goes for between Kshs.400 and 450. He is in the process of constructing a chicken coop that will accommodate 1000 chickens. He makes sure that his chickens are fed with high quality feeds. He has established a fixed feeding routine to ensure consistency in produce. He cleans the coop daily and vaccinates his chickens regularly to keep their immunity high. “My chickens are like my babies. I treat them with utmost care and dedicate most of my time with them because they are not only my source of livelihood but also a part of me,” he says.
Before individuals enter the coop, they have to dip their feet in a basin full of disinfectant to rid themselves of any bacteria that can be deadly to the bird. To succeed in poultry farming, Karanja advises that one needs to abide by the rules of spacing as congested birds are always stressed.
One of the challenges that he has faced in the poultry farming business is substandard feeds. According to him, quality feeds mean that the birds will produce quality chicks which are big in size. These are the kind of chicks that fetch a good price in the market. The other major challenge has been lack of readily available market. As a new farmer, penetrating the market and establishing a lasting relationship with customers is very difficult.
The market is flooded with farmers who are willing to undervalue their chicks hence affecting other farmers. “I decided to be creative and go digital. A lot of business nowadays is being transacted online. I created my website where clients can visit and look at my portfolio. I have also secured a large social media following hence more market for my products,” he notes.
God given gold
Karanja shares a quote from Wendell Berry that goes: “The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it, we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.” He encourages more young people to get their hands dirty by venturing into farming. In the past, people, especially the youth have shied away from farming considering it “old fashioned”. This notion however is outdated as more young people are slowly embracing the lucrative venture. He concludes by saying: “Everything begins and ends from the soil. Let’s make the best of this God given gold.”