This week our columnist Gerald Kitabu interviewed Deus Mshahara, a second-year student at Laela Agriculture Centre on poultry farming: Excerpts:
QUESTION: Why did you specialise in poultry farming?
ANSWER: I am studying both agriculture and livestock keeping. However, in the course of my studies, I developed interest in raising young animals such as cows, pigs and chickens.
Since I joined the college on Sept 1, 2009, I have gained much knowledge on raising animals. I’ve two years experience in poultry farming. If I go back home, I’ll be an example in my village for teaching people to become better farmers.
Many farmers in my village do not know that poultry keeping can be a good source of income and food. Poultry farming requires small land and resources which every serious farmer can afford. Youths and women who have been competing in food vending and opening shops, can try also in poultry farming and make a difference in their lives.
Q: What challenges do you face in raising chickens?
A: There are many challenges, the main one being diseases. If you are not very careful, a single disease can kill all the chickens. To avoid diseases a farmer must ensure that the environment under which the chickens live is clean. However, if the chickens do not get required nutritious food and water, they may die or develop disability.
For the case of rural areas, farmers are faced with many challenges, which include lack of education on the project, lack of capital to buy medicines, lack of basic infrastructure and fluctuating price in the market. That is why some of them give up very easily when they get loss, although poultry could be a good business in villages than in urban areas due to abundant food supply.
Q: How many chickens are you raising at the moment?
A: Since I joined the college in 2009, I have raised many animals such as cows. At the moment, I am raising about 200 chickens. When I started the project in July 3, 2011, I had 202 but two of them have died.
Q: How long does it take before they are sold?
A: It depends; for traditional chickens, it may take one year before they are ready for sale. But other farmers would need less than that to sell them provided the chickens are raised in a good environment. However, with the introduction of modern technology, nowadays, chickens are raised for only four weeks before they are sold. A good thing with poultry farming is that many people eat chicken meat and eggs, which means the market is readily available everywhere you.
Q: What things do chickens need to grow fast and healthy?
A: Fast growing chickens need close care and nutritious foods. You must have a clean compound. Preparation for poultry farming begins with cleaning the compound and displaying disinfectants. Then you wait for 14 days.
The chickens need sufficient glucose mixed in water and enough food to give them energy.
Q: Other types of food?
A: There are many types of food such as chicken mash, boiler mash and so forth. A farmer can prepare such foods himself or he may decide to buy from shops or markets. The food prepared at home is better and cheap than that from shops. A farmer prepares chicken mash by mixing different materials such as crushed maize, chickens minerals, small fish, beans, and so forth.
Q: At what time do they need to be vaccinated?
A: As I said earlier, chickens need to be vaccinated every time to protect them from diseases. Chickens need medicines to improve on their health status. However, it depends on one’s farming methods, but in most cases a farmer would need to vaccinate his chickens during the first week followed by second vaccination in the second week. This helps protect them against diseases.
Q: What advice would you give farmers?
A: Many people are not aware that chickens could be a very good source of income than any other business. Many youths, for example, are competing in opening shops and buying modern vehicles, forgetting that chickens could generate self-employment among them.
Those who have managed to invest in poultry farming have excelled in life and no longer need employment elsewhere. For rural farmers, poultry farming has added advantage as it helps to generate manure as fertilizer.