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My Experience with Turkey Farming. Was it worth it?

I thought I was ready to start turkey farming and raking in some good money from it but I was so wrong. Nothing went as planned.

I know I’ve only been in Nigeria for 2 years, but looking back at my time so far, I have gotten into too many ventures head first. These years have been the embodiment of “if you’re going to fail, fail fast”. Failing fast has definitely given me the knowledge, experience, and ability to move on quickly and better.

Why Turkey Farming?

If you’ve read my previous post about my first failed business, you’ll come to understand that I choose things on a whim. Yes, it’s a horrible habit I’m trying to break out of ☹. I’ve always had an interest in farming (still do) and felt that some form of poultry would be the most cost-effective way to get into the business. On that point, I was right. The start-up costs for a small-scale poultry farm are not as much as for some other ventures. E.g. you can build the coops in your backyard if you have space. I chose turkeys over chickens because I felt like the chicken market was over-saturated. Looking back now, I would have just gone with chicken farming instead

How It Started: Finding Partners

Since this would be my first time venturing into the farming business, I knew I wanted to start small, with as little capital as I could get away with. I was more in it for the experience than cashing in on the process. If it worked out on a small scale, I could more comfortably expand the business. What’s the best way of gaining capital without you shelling out a tonne of cash? Partnering up with people. I had discussed the idea with J (my partner) and he had a friend in Ogun state that had space in his backyard for use to build the turkey coops. The friend also had a friend that was staying with him, so four of us agreed to venture into the business together.

How Much Did It Cost?

We had an ajo system in which we each contributed ₦1,000/week to be able to handle all the expenses that came our way. Initially, though, I think we contributed ₦30,000 each as starting capital. A total of ₦120,000. That took us a long way, keeping in mind that we didn’t have to worry about land, water or electricity fees.

The most expensive purchase was building the coop. We got a local handyman to build it, so the workmanship was lacking, but it was good enough for what we wanted. The handyman collected ₦6,000 for labour and the total cost of materials was about ₦38,240.

The next big expense was the birds themselves. We started with 16 4-weeks old turkey chicks at ₦1,800 each for a total of ₦28,800. We went for 12 females and 4 males so that there would be 1 male for every 3 females. Turkey males are very aggressive towards each other, so we wanted to make sure there was only 1 male per cage.

We then had to purchase things like water troughs, feeders etc. which came up to ₦9,200. Then there were things like getting them vaccinated, vet consultation and multivitamins which were approximately ₦10,000. That’s about ₦92,000 so far leaving us with ₦28,000 from the capital. That, plus the monthly ₦16,000 we were contributing was able to cover the feeding and extra costs that arose. For reference, one ₦2,900-bag of feed would last us a week.

At this point everything made sense, we had our chicks, our coop, and our vet. All we had to do was wait.

What Was the Plan?

The plan was actually to sell turkey eggs and hatchlings because we heard there was a high demand for it. That was such a crucial mistake, using word of mouth to base our decision. We didn’t have an incubator so we were going to use the one at a huge commercial farm. Needless to say, we never got to that point.

What Happened?

There as so many things that went wrong. I’ll try and list the highlights:

We weren’t well equipped to deal with 4-week old chicks: We knew it was going to be tough keeping them alive, but it was worse than anticipated. A couple of them got sick. We were able to save some but I think we lost about two or three.

This one is probably the funniest (and most annoying): You know how I said that we got 12 females and 4 males? Yea, that’s what we thought. By the time they had reached an age of maturity, it became clear that we had way more males than anticipated. I think we had a total of 6 or 8 males. We don’t even know if the 3 that died were all male as well. It was such a devastating discovery. The guy that sold them to us did not check them and we were none the wiser. What this meant was that the turkeys were constantly fighting. I mean CONSTANTLY. We tried to separate them as much as we could but they would still fight through the nets separating their coops. It got so bad that they successfully tore through all the nets. The females were terribly outnumbered.

We initially did not have anyone to look after them properly: J and I were based in Lagos, so we were visiting the farm every other weekend. The plan was that the other 2 members will be looking after the farm. But the thing is that none of us knew how to take care of the coop, so it quickly deteriorated. By the time we got someone to take care of it for us, it was honestly too late.

Turkeys aren’t so easy to sell: Since we had so few females, our egg production was extremely low. We had planned to sell off most of the males and use the money to buy more females, but that’s when reality struck. Turkeys are hard to sell at a good price, especially outside of the festive seasons. People tend to buy turkeys only for special occasions, so it wasn’t easy to offload the ones we wanted without losing money. In the end, we had to sell them off at a loss because it wasn’t worth it anymore.

Any Profit?

LOL. We were just fortunate that the loss was not too much. We started with ₦120,000 and a total contribution of ₦88,500 (this is actually from 3 people, one person only contributed for 1 week…), that’s ₦208,500 from basically four people.

Final Thoughts

Honestly, it wasn’t a bad experience at all. I definitely would venture into it again sometime in the future, but with more preparation and foresight. It takes a lot of work to set it up properly, so I would do it at a time when I know I can be fully dedicated to it.

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