Ghana: Farmer boosts income by hatching keets in incubator

| January 20, 2020

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When Suraya Bawa, from Northern region, Ghana, started rearing guinea fowl, all she had were 20 eggs that she purchased and placed under her chickens to help hatch the keets. Now, she hatches up to 2,000 guinea fowl eggs per week in an incubator. She works hard to get it right, keeping the incubator between 35 and 37 degrees and removing cracked or spoilt eggs. She also pays attention to the keets after they hatch, sometimes calling a veterinarian to help. She sells keets at about $0.50 US each and can make more than $2,000 US a year.

It’s a hot and sunny Thursday afternoon and Suraya Bawa is dressed in work clothes, her baby strapped behind her back. The 30-year-old mother works in an old building she converted into a poultry house for rearing guinea fowl chicks. Mrs. Bawa smiles while she feeds the chicks, commonly called keets, that hatched only a few days ago in a locally-made incubator.

She says, “I currently hatch up to 2,000 eggs each week—and that is because I work very hard to get it right.”

Mrs. Bawa comes from Tishiegu, a suburb of Tamale in the Northern region of Ghana. Rearing keets has been a male-dominated activity, but Mrs. Bawa has broken the barrier. She has been hatching keets commercially for 18 years.

She started to love rearing poultry while she was growing up. After she got married, she began rearing her own guinea fowl with just 20 eggs. Mrs. Bawa says she concentrated on hatching keets because of the ready market.

She says that hatching keets is not rocket science for farmers who are rearing other kinds of poultry. All a farmer needs to start is eggs.

Mrs. Bawa recalls: “I bought 20 guinea fowl eggs. And when my chickens started laying eggs, I removed the chicken eggs and replaced them with guinea fowl eggs so that the chickens could help hatching [the] keets.”

She wasn’t very successful at first. She didn’t get the temperature in the incubator right, paid little attention to feeding the keets or keeping them warm, and didn’t remove cracked or spoilt eggs from the incubator.

When her husband saw that his wife was struggling, he decided to support her by learning how to make incubators.

Mrs. Bawa says incubators make it easier to keep eggs at the right temperature, which is critical for hatching keets.

Because of the incubator, the number of keets started to increase. She explains, “When people saw plenty of keets in my house, they asked if they could bring their eggs for me to hatch. And that is how I went into commercial hatching.”

Her incubator can hold up to 1,000 eggs, but on average hatches between 500 and 700 keets. Mrs. Bawa says that when people bring eggs to her, she selects the good ones, making sure they have no cracks and don’t look old. She places them in the incubator and maintains the temperature between 35 and 37 degrees. For each egg that hatches a keet, the original owner of the egg pays her one Ghana cedi ($0.18 US).

After a week in the incubator, Mrs. Bawa uses candle light to look inside the eggs. Those that look clear are infertile, while those with a dark spot are fertile and are kept in the incubator.

She keeps the eggs warm in the incubator until they begin to hatch in 28 to 30 days. Then she takes the keets to a separate room where she cares for them while waiting for buyers. She sells that keets for three Ghanaian cedi ($0.53 US) apiece.

Mrs. Bawa says she has no formal training and, because the keets are delicate, she seeks help from the veterinarian when she needs assistance.

Sintaro Mahama is the Chief Executive Officer of TIZAA Farms in Ghana. He says women should be encouraged to rear guinea fowl and hatch keets commercially. Mr. Mahama adds that managing keets requires time and attention and women appear to pay more attention than men—watching over the birds when they go out, protecting them from the rain, and ensuring they that they get enough feed. He says hatching keets is a good source of income for women and can help them cover domestic expenses.

Mrs. Bawa wants to teach interested young women how to hatch and rear keets. She says it’s rewarding and has helped her support her family.

She makes about 12,000 Ghanaian cedi ($2,110 US) a year from hatching keets and is able to pay her children’s school fees if her husband doesn’t have enough money. Mrs. Bawa says she also supports her parents and siblings when they need help. She adds, “That makes me responsible.”

This project was implemented by Farm Radio International Ghana through Uniterra, a program of WUSC and CECI. Uniterra is funded by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada,

Photo by Jesse Winter