At Home With Chickens

An early March Easter saw us in Moshi saying a sad goodbye to Bibi (Judy) and Babu (Ross), after a wonderful visit.For a photo album of their visit click here or go to:

When saying good bye, the children, Lachlanespecially, were craving eggs, but not of the chocolate variety.REAL ones!!Why?To understand why, click here or go to: or read on…

Our tale of two chickens begins some weeks ago: intrepid Lockie harnessed all his energy for a hike to Lasso village to help install solar lights but did not know then what it would lead to.Accompanying a team of eager Rotarians, local Home Based Care workers and his mother, he was reminded to be tough, helpful and stoic. No complaints. He suffered in silence the treacherous ride down the ravine and up the other side to Lasso, noting only that the road was more like a dry river bed and was as cheerful as his mother was pale and perspiring.Over the course of the day he marched along red clay paths up and down, carrying boxes, learning the intricacies of solar lights, greeting the elders with a “Shikamoo”.  No complaints. He chatted with Leocadia, a stalwart Home Based Care worker who climbs around her district checking on vulnerable families and children and who guided us to each of the orphan homes, some in deep ravines, some on hilltops. She was so impressed by Lockie’s fortitude that day, especially when he hurled himself up slopes that winded the rest of us, she promised, “I’m going to bring you a gift; chickens. A boy should raise his own chickens.”

A few weeks later, echoing the calls of local children for various presents, Lockie called to Leocadia, “Where’s my chickens?” The next day she arrived with a box closed tightly with a string. Scratching could be heard and as Lockie peered inside he let out a squeal that transmitted to all children present. A young male chicken leaped out and I helped the hen (who had quite sweaty underwings) and with all the flapping and noise from children, the chickens hustled for various corners of the house leaving an abundance of droppings in a very short time. Lockie’s bed was quickly affected followed by the sitting room and the kitchen where we caved in and left them overnight, lacking a ready chicken house outside. Leocadia gave us a brief orientation to chickens saying these were four months old and if we didn’t lose them we might produce chicks by six months and that chickens like rice, corn and table scraps.We interviewed everyone, including the chief of medical staff, Dr. Massawe, on care of chickens. He reflected with a smile, “Oh, yes my children were quite busy with chickens…..”

Next morning we were under instructions from Father John. Get the chickens out of the kitchen and into a cardboard box, give them frequent outings for water but contain them so they don’t run away because these chickens are too young to know where they wander and will get lost easily until they learn where the food is.Once let out of the box, the rooster hopped the railing and was gone happily into the bug saturated garden, followed by the hen.We watched them,  on the loose, rapidly losing faith that we might have chicks for Easter or an income generation project in the future. Hollering, Lockie set off joined by Eva and other recruits to flush them back toward the house but in their zeal the kids only frightened them into hiding.Regular patrols during the day came up empty handed until late in the afternoon the rooster, having had only a short stay at our house, managed to find his way back.He was plucked by an experienced local as was the hen, who later turned up wandering aimlessly.Both were back in their box by the time Chris and I returned from our ‘pre-dinners’ on the top of Ngangu Hill.

So we began to tie the chickens up by the leg to keep them out of the garden and Maternity Ward and eagerly awaited the construction of their “house”.The first temporary structure, built by a local boy named Raziki, was a tragic affair with sacking for walls, a cardboard door and old roofing pinched from the doctor next door. The housing and the persistent tangling of the chickens was a daily concern for Grandma and Grandpa, who fought the urge to report us or sell them off. The chickens often managed to escape at daybreak through the sodden cardboard for greater happiness in the garden, eating various animal, vegetable and mineral combinations before reliably returning home at dusk.

The new house is here now and resembles a work/live condo with loft.It retains some of the charm of the previous house with a cardboard front door that we now barricade to keep the chickens from wandering.We remind ourselves to buy a hinge in Moshi to make a truly upscale entry.Lockie, Eva and Sasha serve maize, rice and leftovers with devotion to the chickens morning and night and except for the rooster’s exceptional crowing at sunrise these animals are quite sweet.No eggs yet but we live in anticipation.Does anyone know about the chicken bylaw in OakBay?

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