Quail farming has become popular with some farmers owning more than 10, 000 birds, but the future of this lucrative is uncertain. Kenyans get lured easily into growing new crops or rearing animals without guidance on market sustainability. There was the case of pig farming, where production surpassed market needs, thus forcing farmers to sell the swines at throwaway prices. The sole pig buyer, Farmers Choice, could not cope with the high production.
Brokers and dishonest traders took advantage of the situation and vanished, before paying farmers for the pigs. In Nyeri county home the catch word is quail rearing. A few months ago, quail farming pioneer farmers behaved like semi-gods. One had to pay consultancy fee of up to Sh2, 000 for a session with them. Still, others could only be reached through brokers who earned Sh100 for introduction to the breeder and Sh50 for each bird bought.
With growing competition, some breeders are willing to sell a quail’s chick at Sh350. Though the price of a quail is still high, the breeders now treat their customers with respect. While some focus on breeding, investing heavily in incubators, others are doing both breeding and marketing of the chicks.
The breeders wait for customers with quails eggs, and just do the hatching. “At one time the breeders felt that business was good. I was earning Sh100 for each farmer I introduced to the breeders and Sh50 for each chick bought, “ says Samuel Ng’ahu, a former quail broker. Ng’ahu says now there is stiff competition and breeders are unwilling to pay brokers. “I have now opted to rear my own birds,” he says.
Ng’ahu is optimistic that in six months’ time, the price per bird will be less than Sh100, while an egg will retail at less than Sh20. Currently, the profit are so enticing that some farmers are selling domestic animals and assets to invest in the small but beautiful birds. Some are abandoning traditional poultry farming practices.
Everything around quail business is a puzzle. For example, the cost of production per bird is less than 70 per cent of a chicken, yet, the cost of a quail’s chick is four times higher than that of a normal chick, while the price of its egg is up to 7 times higher to that kuku kienyeji, and more than six times higher than a layer’s egg. The price of a week-old quail’s chick sells at between Sh400 to Sh500, compared to that of layers that retail at around Sh100 each.
A quail’s egg is retailing between Sh70 to Sh80, while that of Kuku Kienyeji and layers retail at Sh15 and 12 respectively. Mzee Peter Ndung’u has invested in the quails, but does not know what to do with the birds or their eggs when they flood the market. “I am not aware of any specific market but for now, I am content as I am reaping maximum profit. Quails chicks and eggs are in high demand. I will have made good money by the time the market is flooded.
But I also appeal to the government to help us get markets outside the country,” says Ndung’u. Ndung’u says he has recovered the initial capital of Sh220,000 he invested in the project. He says he used Sh40 ,0000 to buy the first batch of 100 birds, Sh120, 000 on second purchase, Sh50, 000 on cages construction, while the balance went to buying feeding and water cans. “I have used the profit to expand the business.
I have put up structures worth Sh350, 000, bought an incubator, besides meeting my daily needs. I am putting up more cages in my rural Kieni home. I have also cleared loans I owed banks and other institutions,” says Ndung’u. He says that the birds can lay up to 300 eggs per year. The eggs also need to be handled with care, so as to protect the upper coat. A shop owner, Cecilia Wanjiku says she can barely meet her customer’s demand.
“My supplier brings two crates each day but the number of customers is increasing by day. All the eggs are booked with some customers paying in advance. The biggest problem is that the farmers are retaining the eggs for breeding purposes,” says Wanjiku. She says the eggs are in high demand due to their nutritional and medicinal value. They are said to control diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes. She recalls that a few months ago, she was buying an egg at Sh100 and sold at Sh120, but currently, she buys at between Sh65 and sells at Sh70.
“The number of quail farmers is growing and there is a big market for the chicks. My fear is that due to the high demand, criminals may start stealing from us,” says Wanjiku. The law requires that a farmer intending to venture into quail farming should be trained and licensed by Kenya Wildlife Service, which must also provide a plan for a the cages. A KWS license costs Sh5, 000.
“A farmer can even start with ten birds then grow. I spent Sh50, 000 on my first cage, which can handle more than a hundred birds. The birds are not labour intensive and Ndung’u says, he only feeds them once daily, giving them 8kg of layers and water. A 70kg sack of layers mash is retailing atSh2, 500. “They are cheap to maintain unlike layers and broilers which eat a lot and require attention,” he says.