From clucks to bucks: How Ida's chicken lessons can add $1,000 to a family's pocket.
Did you know that Ida Bazonoona’s Health and Spiritual Empowerment curriculum includes … chickens?
Along with Bible stories, anger management, and health lessons, Ida empowers rural communities “wallet-wise” by teaching them how to potentially quadragintuple their chicken yield. Yes, you read that correctly. With only 3 chickens to start, she tells a crowd in Sinde village, you can have 200 chickens by year’s end instead of the usual 5. Here’s what Ida teaches them:
Caring for eggs
Ida spends the first two weeks teaching community members how to care for eggs to maximize output and to ensure healthy chicks.
For instance, it is important to mark eggs in order to differentiate between newer eggs and older eggs. It’s also important to throw out cracked eggs.
To maximize yield, Ida teaches community members how to fool their chickens into laying more eggs more often. Instead of hatching eggs only twice per year, the hens can hatch eggs 7 times in a year. By separating hens from their chicks soon after hatching, for instance, the egg yield of a single hen can increase dramatically.
Processed feeds are no good, Ida says. It’s better and cheaper to mix your own. To help chicks grow, Ida gives a detailed regimen of cotton seed bread and sunflower seeds. Her speech is interspersed with mention of carbohydrates, proteins, and preservatives.
During weeks 1 through 8 after hatching, all the chicks receive the same feed. Around 8 weeks, however, it is possible to distinguish the sexes of the chicks. As Ida says, “I grew up with brothers, and at the dinner table, they would eat all the food before I had the chance to take a single bite.” Chickens, it turns out, are the same.
Not only that, female chicks need to start preparing to lay eggs. Diet and nutrition can play a big role in helping them grow.
Keeping chickens strong and healthy is great, but the real killers of otherwise healthy chickens are predators. When chickens go into the bush and away from the compound in search of food, it is common for the hen to return with only half her chicks. By the time morning comes, that number dwindles even more. Cats, snakes, and other predators pick the baby chickens off one-by-one when they venture into the bush.
What’s the solution? Feed them closer to home so they don’t have to venture so far in search of food. Build a chicken coop for them to stay safe at night — away from snakes and cats. From a purely mathematical standpoint, preventing the premature deaths of 5 chicks results in an exponential increase in egg yield down the road.
Show me the money
Chickens, it turns out, can be a real money-maker. They can be more profitable than goats with proper care. They can be a form of insurance in case of crop failure. They can subsidize school fees or pay them off entirely. If each chicken costs 20 to 30 thousand shillings, which is 6 or 7 dollars, the yearly total of 200 chickens sold can be a game-changer.
Of course, not all families can or want to invest the time it takes to increase their chicken yield in the way Ida describes. But for every village in which Ida teaches her chicken lessons, she estimates that three or four families commit to chicken farming and see amazing results. Everyone else who follows her instructions gain a greater number of healthy chickens that provide extra money and food for the family.
What’s the final verdict? By following Ida’s advice and taking a healthy interest in their chickens’ lives, it’s possible for a household to raise as much as $1,000 a year that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Now that’s what we call empowerment.