Chickens: Round 1
As most of you many know, my gardener, Zinabu, built a chicken coop for us some months ago. Through the basic setbacks of Ethiopian living, we ended up waiting quite a while before getting everything together to be truly prepared chicken owners.
About a month ago we decided the time was right and went to a barn to pick out five beautiful chickens that would benefit our bellies along with combating the rampant protein deficiency among our patients at clinic.
It was quite the process of getting the chicken feed, food and water containers, saw dust for the floor and the chickens packed in to a tiny bajaj and taken all the way to our home. Along the way two chickens escaped, one got terrible diarrhea and a good part of the sawdust flew up in a tornado style funnel, covering the bajaj and us. Lots of laughter and screams filled the air as we found our way across the bumpy path to our home.
We finally got the chickens (two white and three brown) settled in their new home and ready to lay some delicious eggs. We went about our daily living and came back later that night to host supper for some friends.
Around 9pm, following a delicious supper, we were all sitting around playing cards and enjoying the cool of the night. All of a sudden we heard some serious racket outside and paused for a moment. Silence followed, so we continued on with our game. About five minutes later, we hear a loud, rapid knock on our window and I quickly hurry outside.
I opened the door to see my guard motioning me over to the coop, flashing the light at chicken run, and shouting, ‘it was like a small tiger.’ I peered in to the coop to find feathers everywhere, the two white chickens scurrying around and all three brown chickens lying dead on the ground.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’m not sure if it was merely coincidence or a racial attack, but all of the brown chickens, which, of course, are the ones that lay the most and best eggs (according to the chicken dealer) were attacked and killed in a rather ferocious way. After much research and conversations, we decided that the small tiger was most likely a civet cat and he got in via one of the twelve entry points we found on the coop.
We have, since then, restructured the coop, patched the holes and every night, lock the chickens in the inner room to spare their precious little lives. We were a little nervous that the remaining chickens were not going to lay eggs for a while, but to our surprise, the next day we had two beautiful eggs.
Since then, we have named one of the survivors Tyson (both a fighter and a productive enterprise) and the other we just call Stupid because she gets stuck in tiny boxes and can’t get out. She can’t help it.
Chickens: Round 2
About three weeks following the massacre, we decided to replenish our tiny chicken colony and try once again. We purchased another white one, a brown one and a small mix baby. Turns out they don’t like each other and have become cannibals. According to ‘Chickens In Your Backyard,’ if there are too many chickens in one pen they will start pecking each other to death and one of our chickens has been pecked to the point of bleeding. The only solution is to give a chicken away, so we gave the one that is bleeding with no butt feathers to Daweet, the boy taking care of our other chickens. He was so happy he strutted home with chicken under his arm before his workday was even finished. Daweet is a 13 yr old, very hard working boy that is supporting his sister and grandmother, so the addition of eggs to their diets will benefit them tremendously.
Although it has been quite the beginning process, the chickens are doing well and are a huge joy to all of our workers and us. We have (hopefully) worked out a majority of the kinks and if all goes well we will be getting around 24 eggs a week, which will go to help our patients.
Each clinic day we bring about two dozen eggs and hand them out to the pregnant mothers, children that are clearly malnourished and sick, wound patients and the elderly that are without access to protein on a daily basis. They get protein about twice a year, maybe a little more if they are lucky.
The most common diets in this community are Ethiopian sweet potatoes (they look like our sweet potatoes, but are white inside and contain no vitamins or nutrients whatsoever), corn, false banana (looks like a banana plant, but they eat the root and plant itself, which contains 100% starch), occasional lentils and beans, bananas, very occasional mango, avocado, papaya, and anything else green, leafy or full of nutrients. The access to meat of any kind is almost non-existent and comes mainly around holidays.
Long story short, there is little to no protein in their diet, which is needed for many body functions and is especially important in wound healing, baby production and strengthened immune systems. There are other things we do along with handing out eggs that increase the health of these patients, but it is a simple addition that is of little trouble to us and vital importance to them.
Along with benefiting these patients, we have found the chickens to bring great joy to our hearts. They are truly interesting to watch and, at times, very hilarious in their stupidity. I take great joy in letting them out of their cage to roam the yard in the evening while I enjoy a cup of tea. The other day we were standing outside and Daweet came to us and said, ‘I really love chickens.’ We all agreed.
It is funny to catch yourself, after a few too many minutes, just standing by the coop, watching and laughing at the chickens. I have also seen all of our workers doing the same thing and love the fact that such crazy things can bring so much joy and blessing to so many people. Good job, little chickens, good job!