Around three decades ago, when HadisUllah from Kutorikona village of Netrokona was jobless and struggling to make a living, he thought of setting up a duck farm – just to try his luck.
But neither he found healthy ducklings nor did he have enough ducks to hatch eggs naturally. Then, after a lot of toing and froing, he stumbled upon the husk-and-hurricane method for hatching duck eggs. And it eventually proved to be a success.
Fast forward to 2021, hatching ducklings with hurricane lamp heat has revolutionised the poultry sector in the region with at least 200 families now engaged in the commercial production of ducklings.
In the small village of Kutorikona in Madanupazila, there are currently 130 hatcheries where ducklings are hatched using the husk-hurricane method.
The collective production stands at more than 6.5 lakh ducklings every month, with a market size estimated at more than Tk2 crore.
The villagers are now self-sufficient as each family involved in the business earns Tk50,000 to Tk1,50,000 per month.
Outside of the village, the hatchery business has now spread to Sutiar Par, Balali, MadanSadar, and Changaon, among other villages where there are currently more than 70 hatcheries.
In Madanupazila, there are currently more than 700 people directly and indirectly involved with the hatchery sector, which has significantly improved their economic standing.
How fortune smiled on Hadis
In 1990, the technique Hadis adopted to hatch ducklings was not a success from the get-go.
When he first tried the method, very few eggs actually hatched. But he was not to be easily discouraged. He tried again next time with added enthusiasm and success steadily followed.
Hadis observed that he could hatch ducklings in a much cheaper way through the husk and hurricane method, and the growing demand for ducklings in the haor (wetland) area encouraged him further.
In the beginning, it was a one-man show. Later, his family got involved in it. When the business grew, local livestock officials came forward to help and provided Hadis and his family with training and technical advice. The rest of the village soon followed Hadis' footsteps.
In 2016, HadisUllah died but his legacy lived on to revolutionise the poultry sector not only in Kutorikona but also in the nearby villages.
How does the production work?
To understand more about how the hatching process works, The Business Standard talked to a few individuals, including HadisUllah's wife ShahenaAkter, his brother Yasin Mia, and another hatchery owner Ainul Mia, who are involved in the business.
They said ducklings are popularly hatched either naturally or using incubators. But incubators cost a lot and are not convenient in load-shedding prone areas. That is where the husk and hurricane method comes in as it is both cost-effective and scientific.
The hatchery owners said the first thing they need to hatch ducklings is a suitable space. According to them, to hatch 2,000 eggs, it requires seven to eight cubic centimetres of wood, 12 sacks of husk, four baskets made of bamboo, six kilograms of cotton, eight hurricanes, 10 litres of kerosene, one kerosene container, some 100 pieces of black clothing, four blankets, 14-gauze thick cloth, ten eggs and an egg container, and one thermometer.
Shahena, Yasin, and Ainul said most of the products used in the hatching process can be reused, so it is quite sustainable. The next part involves choosing the eggs.
"We first collect fertile eggs weighing 60 to 70 grams each. Then, the eggs are washed in lukewarm water mixed with disinfectant. The eggs are then dried under the sun," said Shahena.
Some 35 to 40 eggs are then placed on a black cotton cloth and they are placed onto the bamboo baskets already filled with husks. After that, hurricanes are placed under the baskets to warm the eggs. The eggs are sometimes switched between the baskets. After 18 days, the eggs are taken out of the baskets and placed in wooden cache boxes covered in a thick layer of husk. The eggs are covered in blankets. In 28 to 30 days, the eggs finally hatch.
"The ducklings are often sold right after they hatch. Our hatcheries generally produce Khaki Campbell, Indian Runner, Jinding ducklings as they are in high demand in the market. Each male duckling is sold at Tk25 and each female one is sold at Tk35," said Yasin.
The way forward
What Hadis started in 1990 now dictates the life and livelihood of an entire generation.
MonoronjonDhar, district livestock officer of Netrokona, said, "There are currently 1,856 duck farms in the 10 upazilas of Netrokona, which have benefitted greatly from the hatchery sector in Madanupazila."
As the sector grew, it received more attention, both from home and abroad. But the sector-insiders agree that there is a lot more room for improvement.
Livestock officer at the MadanupazilaMasud Karim Siddiqui said the department provides regular support to those involved in the sector. "We offer training, medicines, vaccines to the hatchery owners and also help them receive government incentives," he added.
However, the hatchery owners said many owners are currently trapped in high-interest loans they have to take from non-governmental organisations. "If banks could provide us loans on easy terms, we could have expanded our business further," Yasin said.
According to the hatchery owners, ducklings have a huge demand abroad. Currently, with the help of agents, ducklings are exported to Meghalaya, Kolkata, Tripura, and Agartala in India on a small scale, which can be improved with some government help.
There is also a huge scope for the sector insiders to get recognition by sharing their knowledge abroad. Yasin Mia said he went to India in 2014 at the invitation of India's Meghalaya Basin Development Authority and provided training in different states.
"I shared my knowledge about the husk and hurricane technique with around 500 hatchery owners in India," Yasin added. He has recently received invitations to go to Nepal and South Korea as well.