Monday, January 9, 2012

A Grand Chicken Adventure

Well the New Year has brought a whole new experience for Emily and me. That is raising a flock of chickens. By flock I mean six which every Ugandan feels is quite insignificant, and thinks we should have 200 to make it worth our while. We had wanted to get chickens in St. Paul before we left, but knew it not wise since we would be moving so soon. We didn’t think it fair to leave chickens with are renters, or send a bunch of chickens and a dog to Sioux Falls with Emily’s parents. But one day near the end of the term we just thought why don’t we give it a shot in Ugandan, where everyone knows (or thinks they know) how to raise chickens. So we asked our neighbor, “Is it easy to raise chickens?” His reply was, “It is basically the easiest thing in the world.” Well if it is the easiest thing in the world I guess we have to do it!

In early December before we left for Camp Build I went to Menards to buy all the lumber. Oh wait that wasn’t Menards that was a forest. It was quite a different experience purchasing lumber here. I basically chose the tree that my wood would come from, and then they cut the wood by hand. Then I had to find a way to transport my wood from the forest, and in a couple short days my lumber was cut and ready.

Now one of the predominant beliefs it seems about White people in Uganda is that we can not do anything by hand. Every time we garden, dig, slash grass, light a charcoal stove, or basically anything else they thank us for what we are doing and comment that they didn’t think we could. Where we have always found that in general a middle class Ugandan does much fewer things for themselves then the families we grew up in, in middle class America. So of course building a chicken house they had the same belief. We had many offers of people who would build the house for us, and we just kept saying that we would build it ourselves. After Camp Build we did just that!

We built the chicken house in mid-December after acquiring the absolute necessary supplies and tools to complete the task. Overall the house went up pretty well. The tools we had consisted of a level, hammer, saw, post hole-digger/spear, and a machete. All the tools served some purpose, especially the machete. Emily said later while I was building us a compost bin from the left over chicken wire, “I think you just like the excuse to be able to cut things with a machete, instead of a saw.” I am not going to lie it is quite fun, and it is Uganda so exactness is not necessary.

Now that the house was built the next task was finding chickens. There is much debate here between local breeds of chickens (which roam around free range and are less prone to disease) or exotic/English/hybrid chickens (which must stay indoors but lay more chickens). Everyone was sure to give us their opinion, which it seemed like people’s opinions would change every other day. But eventually we decided on local chicken so we wouldn’t have to feed them if we didn’t want too. Then we had to find where to buy the chickens. When we asked where you buy the local chickens the response was always unequivocally the same, “the village.” The village is Ugandans catch all term for any place more then 1 km off the main road and not in a large city. So we just had to start spreading the word that we were looking for chickens, and then hurry up and wait.

Wait we did. We must have waited for about four months…oh wait it was more like a week but it felt like forever. But then all at once everyone in about two days found us chickens. So in the end we have ended up with a flock of six, where I think we are stopping. As any good white person in Uganda (that didn’t grow on a farm) does we named them all, so I will introduce them to you:

Chickpea/Garbanzo - They are our youngest chickens at about a month to a month and half, and we got them first. Garbanzo likes us quite a bit, but Chickpea still is the most leery of us. They need to stay in the chicken house most of the time so predatory birds don’t take them.

Thelma/Louise – They are about a month older then C & G. They are the last two chickens that we got.

Voldemort – Her name originated due to her mean nature towards C & G at first. We were going to change her name in time, but it has stuck. She likes us the most and we often hold her.

Pinto – She spends most of her time walking the campus with the principal’s roosters. She is not a big fan of us yet though, but we will win her over in time.

Well those are our chickens. We have been enjoying them quite a bit, and we will tell you more updates on this adventure in the future. Hope you are all doing well back in the US. For those in the Midwest I hope preparing your gardens this spring is going well. :-)



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