50 Chickens! Likhoho li teng!

Juliana Fulton - American Lesotho Peace corpsAfter months of delay we finally got our layer chickens. The gardens of the community centre have also really started to grow. The chickens are going to provide eggs for the orphans and needy of the village, along with vegetables from the gardens.

We wanted to have free-range chickens and demonstrate how you can raise chickens without building an expensive concrete building. We built chicken tractors instead, enclosed chicken runs that are portable. After the chickens have eaten all the grubs and weed seeds on one spot we move the tractor/run to another spot and the previous one is fertilized and ready to be planted.

Although the tractors/runs are pretty simple, it’s taken many, many hours to build six, we still have one to go. We got layer chickens from South Africa. The chickens are a couple of months old and have lived in cages their whole lives. They had never seen sun or had the freedom of running around, and apparently don’t know what to do with it. One mme (woman/mother) from the support group that we work with joked that the chickens were like us Americans here, since after four days they are all still clustered in the shaded ends of the runs, apparently afraid of the sun, rain, and not being in a tight pack.

We paid a neighbour with a covered pick-up truck to drive us to town to pick up the chickens. The chickens arrived four hours late on a huge semi-truck, packed into metal crates more densely than I would have thought possible. There were customers ahead of us that we were getting hundreds of birds and we sat and waited as they grabbed the birds two and five at a time by their feet and flung them into the backs of pick-ups, cages and boxes. It was a real site. When we finally got our fifty chickens and were back in village it was almost dark and we still had a giant hill to climb carrying all fifty disgruntled birds. (There are no drivable roads that go up to the centre.) But quickly a group gathered to help us, and the chickens were surprisingly complacent about being carried, I didn’t get scratched at all. We didn’t have time to prepare and put them in the runs, so we put them in our office for the night. We had a real mess to clean up the next day, but with the village support group’s help we managed to get all the runs in place, with the birds inside, fed and watered. I was very encouraged to see how the group took charge of taking care of the birds, taking turns every day to climb the hill to feed and check on the chickens. If only the chickens were as cooperative and would start laying some eggs.

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