August 19, 2013
An unprecedented surge in demand for quail products in recent months has compelled entrepreneurs across Kenya to venture into the relatively new business of quail farming.
Kiambu resident Andrew Githinji told Sabahi that quail farming is inexpensive to run and brings in good returns.
"It does not require large space. Unlike chickens that require huge space, [quail] cages can be kept on balconies," Githinji said.
He said he first got interested in such a venture after perusing a menu at a five-star hotel in Nairobi back in January 2012.
He came across an item that was unfamiliar to him: grilled quail. "I thought quail was some form of sea food but, out of curiosity, I asked the waiter and he said it was a bird," the 33-year-old Githinji said.
Githinji, who also keeps rabbits, started doing research on quail and found that people farmed the bird.
"I did not know that this bird, which is common in my village, could be domesticated," he said.
He bought his first 20 birds at 250 shillings a head ($2.85), Githinji said, adding that he now has 520 quails.
"The only regret is that I discovered this business venture late," Githinji said. "But I will catch up and in two years time I will have my own incubator to help in the hatching of the chicks."
Mombasa resident Alex Mureithi, 39, said he became inspired to go into quail farming after a visit to a general store in July 2012.
He spotted a dozen "queer-looking" eggs on a shelf that he mistook for soapstone carvings and noticed that they were selling for 650 shillings ($7.43) compared with a crate of 30 eggs next to it priced at 400 shillings ($4.57).
Mureithi then spoke with the store's manager who told him that quail farmers could not meet the market's demands, even though quail hens lay eggs almost daily.
"I realised it was a profitable venture so I bought 10 birds. Now I have 900," Mureithi told Sabahi. "I do not know what the future holds in the quail keeping [industry] but currently [I] am reaping maximum profit."
He sells to four hotels in Mombasa and Nairobi, which have monthly orders for the farmer's quail eggs and meat, he said.
He prices his eggs for up to 60 shillings ($0.68) each and a whole quail for up to 800 shillings ($9.14).
Mureithi also trains and takes aspiring quail farmers on tours of his farm, charging them at least 3,000 shillings ($34.3), he said.
The demand for quail eggs and meat is driven by reports that consuming quail has medicinal value.
Yunuke Nyanchama, a 67-year-old resident of Kisii, told Sabahi that she has been eating quail eggs for the past two years. She had been diagnosed with diabetes in 2004 and had used an array of drugs without any positive change.
During a routine check-up in May 2011, however, her doctor recommended that she try quail eggs. "I was astounded by that prescription, but after consuming the eggs and the bird's meat, there is massive change," she said.
Vincent Juma, a doctor at Mbagathi District Hospital, told Sabahi that while there were no studies on the medical benefits of quail eggs and meat, many people had testified to feeling better after consuming them.
"Among the patients who have recorded [a] positive recovery [are] those suffering from tuberculosis and ulcers. A cancer patient also said that the pains she suffered subsided after consuming the eggs," Juma said.
Because quail is considered a wild animal, quail farmers first need to apply for a permit from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the organisation's spokesman Paul Udoto told Sabahi.
Before the service can issue a licence, KWS officials must inspect the farm to ensure that it meets requirements for raising quail, Udoto said.
An annual fee for maintaining a licence costs up to 2,000 shillings ($22.9), he said, adding that the permit can be renewed annually subject to meeting certain conditions, including hygiene.
The KWS conducts periodic monitoring and inspections of farms, and will withdraw licenses from farmers who violate the conditions, Udoto said.
The service has a stack of permit applications from individual and groups that want to go into quail farming, he said.
The government is encouraging the regulated business as a way to create jobs and provide Kenyans with alternative food sources, Udoto said, adding that the quail business has taken root in the coast, eastern and central regions as well as Nairobi County.
KWS also licences the keeping of other wildlife animals like crocodiles to help in conservation efforts, he said.
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