Poultry farming groups in Kirinyaga County have seen significant success in their egg hatchery venture, earning over Sh1 million in just a few months.

The initiative was driven by the increased number of chicken farmers and demand for white meat, which led the farmers to venture into egg hatching business with the support of Governor Anne Waiguru's Wash Kirinyaga Empowerment program.

Nineteen farmer groups namely; Muki Vision (Mutira ward), Decent Haso (Thiba ward) and Kandongu Mukathi (Mutithi ward) have hatched and sold over 10,000 chicks worth over Sh1 million, and they are leading the initiative.

As at February this year, the three groups had hatched 2,056, 1,640 and 1,365 chicks respectively. Group members said the incubators project has opened new revenue streams for their families.

"We used to take a lot of time to hatch enough chicks to distribute because we only relied on layers to produce chicks. As a group we had no financial capacity to buy the incubators but the county government helped us and we are now reaping the fruits of this investment," said Benard Njeru, an official of Trailblazers Youth group from Baragwi ward.

Waiguru provided 19 egg incubators and generators for power backup to help the groups kick-start their egg hatchery projects. Each incubator has the capacity to hatch 1,050 chicks at a time.

The project is part of the Wezesha Kirinyaga Empowerment program, which aims to increase agricultural activities and translate them into better incomes and improved livelihoods for the county residents.

County Executive Committee Member for Agriculture and Livestock Development, John Gachara, said that the egg hatching initiative has helped in the sustainability of the poultry keeping project.

The groups are the ones selling chicks to other farmers involved in rearing, which creates a ready supply and market for the chicks.

Gachara said each of the group was also given 1000 fertilized eggs to start off the initiative.

“In the next phase, we are planning to expand so as to get more people into the venture. We will issue an additional two incubators per ward,” said Gachara.

The poultry keeping industry in the county has seen positive trends in demand for artificially hatched chicks and eggs, leading to appreciable growth.

Increased health consciousness among Kenyan meat consumers has boosted the consumption of white meat, such as chicken, which is more affordable than beef or pork.

“Going forward, the industry will continue to enjoy appreciable growth and chicken farmers will keep smiling to the bank,” he added.

Governor Waiguru introduced the supply of free feeds for the poultry for the first six months and later subsidized feed prices to help farmers maximize profit.

“The subsidized input prices have enabled chicken farmers to increase production volumes; on the other hand, many of the farmers have consolidated to gain the benefits of economies of scale."

The county government also trained farmers on how to undertake egg hatching business as explained by one beneficiary known as Miriam Wakuthii of Cera Kimandi Self Help Group.

“We are very grateful to governor Waiguru for holding our hand. We have started making profit from this venture. We have increased hatching success rate to 90 percent, which means we have broken even,” said Wakuthii.

Another group of farmers known as Kandongu Mukathi, that have benefitted from the project have hatched 1,356 chicks which were sold to members and other individual clients.

One of the group’s officials, Lydia Njeri, said the first batch of chicks sold to group members is already laying eggs.

“Our project is successful, we sell a day-old chick at Sh100, we shared dividends from the sales of chicks in December,” said Njeri.

The success of the Wezesha Kirinyaga project has become a benchmarking initiative for other counties, helping farmers not only feed their families but also become part of the solution to bridging the global food and nutrition security gap while boosting local economies and providing a platform for educating farmers.