Ian Mutwiri quit his job and ventured into poultry farming which he now says is the best decision he has ever made
“If you are not enjoying your job, then you are in the wrong profession,” opens Ian Mutwiri, chief executive officer at Homerange Poultry Kenya.
Mutwiri, who is a lawyer by profession, has never practised law. After graduating, he secured a job in the banking sector but later realized that he was not happy. He therefore decided to quit in 2010. “Although the job was economically fulfilling, I was not emotionally satisfied. I wanted to invest in something that I like.” By then, he was just 25 years.
After trying his hand in a few business enterprises including branding and real estate companies, Mutwiri eventually decided to venture into farming. He did intensive research on rabbit and pig farming, but the issues of space, where he could buy piglets, market as well as profitability were major challenges. Ultimately, he settled on poultry farming where he considered rearing layers and broilers. However, he was put off by the costs and risks involved. Besides, he did not want to rear exotic chicken.
Luckily, while he was still doing his research, he came across the just launched improved kienyeji chicken by Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI). “The product was new in the market thus there was little information on the internet. “I therefore decided to go to KARI offices to learn more about the breed,” recalls Mutwiri. That same day he ordered 200 chicks (which were to be delivered a month later), bearing in mind that he had no space or chicken coops where he could keep them.
“I leased a small piece of land in Ruaka and started to construct structures. The lease cost me Kshs. 5,000 per month,” he explains.
Today, Mutwiri owns Homerange Poultry Kenya that purely specializes in the sale of KARI improved kienyeji chicken. He has over 5,000 kienyenji chicken. He says he earns a tidy sum from the sale of the birds. His Ruaka farm has over 2,000 chicken, while another farm in Syokimau has over 3,000.
Homerange was established in 2013 and has continued to provide farmers with quality chicks besides building their capacities through training and support to enable them achieve success in their poultry farming ventures.
Even though the kienyeji chicken take longer to mature, Mutwiri chose this breed since it is cheaper to feed compared with other exotric breeds. The chicks are also resistant to diseases unlike other breeds such as layers, broilers and the ordinary kienyeji chicken. “I sell a one day old chick at Kshs. 120, a month old at Kshs. 300, while a mature chicken costs Kshs. 800.” When you do your maths well, you realize that the Kienyeji chicken is more lucrative,” he quips.
Quite techno-savvy, Mutwiri has exploited digital platforms to learn tips on poultry farming. In fact, he has written a comprehensive rearing guide on kienyeji chicken farming that sells at Kshs. 850.
“The market is there. In fact, you cannot satisfy demand for Kienyeji chicken in Kenya. “As a matter of fact, the orders I have for day- and month –old KARI improved kienyeji chicken is overwhelming.” Besides, the practices applied on this breed makes it healthier and of high quality. Currently, people who are more health conscious have resulted to consuming kienyeji chicken meat.
What is KARI improved kienyeji chicken?
Rearing of kienyeji chicken in Kenya is a widespread type of poultry farming that is mainly practiced in rural and semi rural areas. It is mostly free-range where farmers keep as few as two birds receiving minimal input and are left to scavenge for their own food.
However, the introduction of improved kienyeji chicken by KARI in 2012 has given a new face to poultry farming in the country. “It is a cross breed of the best indigenous kienyeji chicken,” avers Mutwiri. They have not been cross bred with any exotic breed.
The benefits of the breed are many. To start with, it has a higher resistance to common poultry diseases. However, proper disease management by maintaining appropriate hygiene standards and vaccination are required.
Secondly, improved kienyeji chicken are able to make use of locally available feeds including waste from kitchen, local plants, insects and worms.
“The cost of producing a kienyeji chicken from day old to five months is about Kshs. 350.”
Furthermore, hens start laying eggs at 4.5 months, produce more eggs compared to ordinary kienyeji (24 to 26 eggs every month), grow relatively fast and weigh more in terms of kilos on maturity.
Generally, through the application of various best practices such as proper housing, feeding, disease management and incubation, hatching and breeding, farmers are guaranteed of high returns.
Homerange provides training to individuals, organizations and groups among other social gatherings on best practices which should be applied in poultry farming in order to maximize production. “In the past three years, our training has benefited more than 5,000 individuals who have engaged in poultry farming or are planning to venture into it.”
The training is offered at least once a month and covers both theory and practical. Practical in the sense that participants get an opportunity to visit one of the Homerange’s poultry farms in order to conceptualize and learn the application of the various best practices. Participants are drawn from the members of the public who are interested in poultry farming.
Furthermore, Homerange conducts off-site training. It involves training a group of at least 30 people at their locality rather than travelling into Homerange farms. This cuts down on costs.
Mutwiri says that through mutually beneficial partnerships with both private and public institutions, the company ensures that poultry farmers access vital information on chicken rearing. “In September 2015, we partnered with the Nation Media Group, Egerton University and Wambugu Farm Agricultural Training Center which took to Nyeri the first ever seeds of gold poultry farmers’ clinic. Over 2,700 farmers attended the event.” During such forums, participants are encouraged to interact with experts on poultry matters while making enquiries on areas they are facing challenges.
Keeping complete and accurate records of daily egg production, feed intake and hatching is paramount. Vaccination and medication records are also important in case of a disease situation as it guides to know the probable source of the problem and the best management protocol. Through this, famers are able to determine the level of profit or loss made by the venture therefore are able to make informed decisions.
Recently, Homerange launched M-kuku. It is an SMS based platform that provides essential poultry farming information. They include kienyeji farming tips, incubation and hatching, agrovets shops nearby, feeding, diseases and market among others. “The essence is to reach as many farmers as possible especially those in rural areas who have no access to internet,” observes Mutwiri. Farmers can use their normal phones to get the information at low cost.
To make the service free, Mutwiri is in contact with various companies that are going to advertise on the platform. Farmers will only pay normal SMS rates. “The aim is to revolutionize poultry farming in the country.”
Mutwiri is looking forward to set up a support center that will employ trained officers who will be responsible for offering free services to farmers. These will include responding to queries concerning poultry farming.
According to the CEO, his poultry firm has achieved major milestones. The youthful entrepreneur has been able to avail over 250,000 kienyeji chicks to farmers, created employment, has 50 distribution networks across the country, besides growing the number of chicken from 200 to over 5,000.
“In five years time, there is nothing else that will be consumed in this country except kienyeji chicken. It will be affordable and accessible. To achieve that we will introduce more farmers to chicken rearing and create a market for them.”