There have been many new additions to our growing poultry collection over the last couple of weeks. A man came by and asked if we wanted to purchase some baby ducks from him, so we decided to go ahead and give them a try to see what we thought (raising them I mean, we know they are tasty and lay eggs). We bought 4 three-month old ducks from him and he brought them by the next morning.
That same day in the afternoon two teenage boys came by with a guinea fowl for sale. It was the first one we have seen here so we bought her, no questions asked. Unfortunately that was a mistake because as soon as we unbound her and laid her on the ground we discovered she was unable to walk or stand. She was eating and drinking despite not being able to stand, so I had hope that she could recover.
I isolated her and mixed up a probiotic herbal remedy and doused everyone’s water with fresh garlic, ACV and cayenne. Less than 24 hours after starting treatment she was back up on her feet and in less than 36 she had her wild streak back and did her utmost to escape, not be held, and avoid people. I can barely even snap a picture of her because she is so wild (caught undoubtedly by the boys out in the jungle because she couldn’t walk or stand). Every night she tries to fly out of the covered run.
Last Friday (about a week after the ducks and guinea joined the homestead) our chicks arrived at last from Uganda! We ordered chicks for two other families along with our order and that brought the number up to 60. Three boxes came over, each holding 20 chicks. After taking a couple of pictures I brought them into our covered run and released them. We are not finished cleaning up the pen and our sand order for the runs just arrived this last weekend so it is still a work in progress. We boxed up 8 for one family, and another 8 for the other and got them to their new homes.
Our chicks have enjoyed being outside in the sunshine and have taken to the fermented feed right away. I’m not sure if they have ever been outside before but they truly love scratching around and sun bathing.
Having the chicks outside in Congo has brought some un-thought-of challenges along with the happiness. The day after we got them we had a heavy downpour leaving a lot of the chicks very wet (they don’t know to go into the house to stay dry). One chick in particular became very cold and lethargic so I brought it inside to give it probiotics, liquids and place it on a hot water bottle. It was improving so I put it outside with the others again but against my instincts, because we had a dinner party going on, I left it overnight with the others and in the morning I found it dead. I am now taking rain storms more seriously and have been either putting the chicks back in the house or setting out umbrellas for them to stand under and stay dry. We should be starting dry season soon and that will help a lot.
Chicks are in abundance on the homestead now, so ironically, three of my hens have decided to go broody and are now sitting on clutches of eggs. Broody hens can be a pain if you are raising a flock in the States but here they are completely a blessing and are VERY welcome. I placed what eggs of ours I had underneath the first hen that went broody and as two more decided to brood I purchased some local eggs that are usually fertilized to place clutches underneath them as well. We candled them two nights ago and about half of the first clutch were doing well and all but two of the purchased eggs are developing. We removed the unfertilized eggs.
So the first smaller clutch will hatch in just over a week followed by the other two clutches of 10 and 11 about a week later. We will see how many end up actually hatching.
So why order chicks if I have hens that are going broody at last and I have a rooster who hopefully did his job? Because the chicks we ordered from Uganda are a special hybrid breed called Kuroilers. They were developed in India for poverty-stricken areas, such as this one. They can live off of the same things that local birds do (foraging and kitchen scraps if they are lucky) but get heavy like European breeds and lay larger eggs almost daily (one statistic from a study of them showed that they would lay about 240ish eggs per year compared to the local hen that laid only 40).
We feed our hens fermented feed every day and so even our local hens lay eggs on a consistant basis, though not every day, but I wanted the Kuroiler breed for the purpose of bringing the breed into the area to perhaps get the locals breeding and raising them. It would benefit local families by providing eggs to sell and eat, and larger birds bring more money at the local market for income.
The only problem that comes with raising Kuroilers, a hybrid, is that they do not become broody. This makes keeping select local hens to brood for them necessary or using an incubator. Our local hens will be clearly marked with a leg band and their eggs will be collected to be eaten and never sat on – only our purebred Kuroiler eggs will get that privilege.
I was trying to work out getting a fully-automatic incubator to come back with a friend but in the end it calculated out to be too expensive (to buy an extra bag that had to be stored at the airport for 10 days it was more expensive than the incubator itself!) We will have to wait for another opportunity of some kind in the future for getting one here. I still have hopes that we can figure something out since we have to raise all the chicken (and turkey, and duck, and guinea fowl, etc.) that we want to eat (unless you buy them at the market for $7-10 a pop). It would be nice to not have to wait for our hens to go broody to have chicks. And yes, I know you can make homemade ones, but honestly I just don’t have the time to turn the eggs three times a day with everything else I’m doing and it just wouldn’t happen – hence the desire for a fully automatic one.
So the homestead has been blessed with many little peepers of multiple species and there are more on the way soon. It’s strange to be in December with Christmas music playing and not worry about our chicks freezing in the snow; however we have to keep vigilant with them out in the rain and the other hazards of chicken keeping like disease. We just had one of our chicks die last night from something, most likely Coccidiosis, after I isolated it and did my best to treat it with what I have on hand.
I am now doing everything I can in the prevention part of it for the rest of the flock. I’m stressed that more will fall ill, but none are showing any symptoms thus far. Now that we have our chicks we will most likely have a closed flock (meaning we wont be adding any other birds that can bring in disease) and this should help a lot. The only possible addition at this point would be a few guineas for breeding, but there are no solid plans. Perhaps we can get an isolation/observation pen built away from the main coop for this sort of thing.
It’s been a busy month and December is going to continue to be busy full of Holidays, parties, the new additions, and progress on projects. I’ll put an update on those and the garden soon.