Swiftlet farmers need patience, tons of money

Lapau's wife cleans the swiftlet nests.

GEDONG: Swiftlet farming is easier than keeping cats, said swiftlet farmer Lapau Tagok.

“You have to feed the cats but not the swiftlets. But swiftlet farmers must be very patient as we are not sure whether the birds will return to our farms or not,” he said.

In addition to that, the start-up capital involved tens of thousands of ringgit.

According to the 40-year-old, he initially built a swiftlet house to fill his free time as he was not doing any work on his oil palm plantation.

“I almost gave up because there was no sign that the swiftlets would stop by at my bird’s house.

“I then tried to lure them by installing an electronic sound device that produced high-pitched and sharp swiftlet chirping.

“Thanks to patience, a group of swiftlets finally appeared and made the house a stopover every night,” he explained, adding that he was surprised to find swiftlet bird’s nests inside the house when he inspected it a few months later.

Elaborating further, Lapau, who has been farming swiftlet bird’s nests in Kampung Kepayang, Ulu Simunjan for the past six years, said he sold cleaned bird’s nests for between RM3,400 and RM4,800 per kilogramme, depending on the grade of the nests.

Although the number of bird’s nests produced varied according to the seasons and conditions, it did not dampen Lapau’s spirit to remain active in the business.

He has, so far, built five more swiftlet houses in the same area.

Four of his six swiftlet houses have bird’s nests while two more are still under construction.

“The construction of these two houses was disrupted due to the implementation of the movement control order which caused the contractor to postpone the construction work.

“Usually, a swiftlet house can produce one to two kilogrammes of nests in a month or so,” he said.

When asked about the cost of building a swiftlet house, he said the construction cost depended on the size of the house as well as parameters such as temperature, humidity, light intensity and smell.

He said he usually spent around RM30,000 on a swiftlet house.

Speaking on the challenges he faced, Lapau said pests such as lizards, ants and owls often damaged his swiftlet bird’s nests.

“Sometimes, I can only collect 300g of bird’s nests at a time.

“Currently, I do not plan to hire outsiders because my wife (Mini Empaha) and four children also help me manage and collect these swiftlet bird’s nests,” he said.

In the past, swiftlet bird’s nests were famous as soups for the aristocracy because of their high nutrients.

However, nowadays, anyone can enjoy the benefits of swiftlet bird’s nests which have been made into soft drinks that are widely sold in supermarkets.

One of Lapau’s swiftlet houses.