Saturday, April 03, 2010

Chicken Finale

My career as a chicken farmer is ending. As we pack up our belongings and say our goodbyes, we have also had to find homes for the chickens, preferably not in a stew pot. My neighbor Mrs. Moono asked me months ago if she could buy some of my chickens. She raises commercial broilers, but she wanted some village chickens as well. So I gave her the best of the lot: Justafella III, the rooster; Petronella, the mother hen who started my flock three years ago; her friend Big Red;and the five chicks that they are co-parenting. That's been an interesting phenomenon. The two hens took turns sitting on their eggs, and when the six chicks hatched, Petronella claimed three and Big Red claimed three. One of the chicks died along the way, and now the two hens keep the five chicks together so it's impossible to tell whose is whose. Soon they'll have a new home next door.

Today it was time to send the other six nameless hens to new homes. We made a deal with Obrien and Brighton that we would let them sell the chickens and keep part of the money as their commission. They climbed in the pen and started grabbing chickens, stirring up a cacophony of squawking as the hens raced frantically to escape. The guys triumphed easily, tied each hen's legs together, and plopped them in the back of our Toyota pickup. David drove the sellers and their feathered wares into Kalomo and headed for the market. One hen sold to a passerby. Then our mission neighbors the Siafwiyos spied the truck and came over. They bought the remaining five, promising to send them to their farm where the fowl can live out long and happy lives laying eggs and hatching chicks.

I will miss my chickens. When my life got too stressful, a few minutes of watching the drama and comedy unfolding in the coop could lift my spirits and soothe my soul. I never lost a sense of wonder at seeing the newly hatched chicks. Petronella's rule of the roost and her faithful mothering of any abandoned chick amazed me. I learned a lot from my chickens, and I'll miss my chicken farming days.

Big Red and Petronella lead their chicks through the yard after escaping the pen


Keith said...

David and Linda - We stayed with you two different times at Namwianga. Once with a larger group from Memphis in 06 I think and then with just my family in 07. I can't tell you how much we appreciated your hospitality and your work there. I am both saddened and glad that you're coming back to the US to Texas I presume! Saddened you won't be there if and when we make it back to Zambia (David French keeps asking). But glad for you to get back to your roots.
In Him,
Keith Fussell

David and Linda Gregersen said...

Keith, it was good to hear from you. We remember your visits fondly. Thanks for your kind words. We feel those same sad and glad thoughts about returning. We will leave with an Africa-shaped hole in our hearts that will not be easy to fill.