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May 11, 2018

One Hatching Season is Finished and then Another Season Begins

Some chickens have been hiding nests in the bushes
Some chickens have been hiding nests in the bushes

The hot southern hemisphere summer is now over and the nights are at last getting cooler here in Fiji at the Happy Chicken Hatchery and farm.  This is important as the weather makes a big difference to the fertility and abundance of eggs,and so to the hatching of the chicks. Of course that affects our interactions with the community.  

The hatchery was closed down for the off-season in early April, as many of the hens were taking their annual "vacation", no longer layng and going into "molt"- where the old feathers are replaced by new ones and the hens build up fat reserves so that they can begn another season of productive laying, about two months later. Their hoildays are filled with foraging and scratching for bugs and worms around the farm- a happy existence, and such a contrast to the life that caged hens experience.   

Just as we were considering closing the hatchery in late March due to a shortage of fertile eggs, a hurricane passed by, and we had major flooding in the surrounding community- we are fortunately situated on a high hill.  We lost power for two days and with that, we lost 300 eggs/ developing chicks, which were incubating, impossible to keep the generator going for that long.  Then in mid April, another hurricane passed by even closer, and we lost power for six days, so we were thankful that the hatchery was at that point closed. These last two major power outages have inspired me to put in a proposal to try to get the funds to install solar power to the hatchery... we shall see if it succeeds.

We hatched out 104 chicks this week, the first of the new season, and another hundred or so expected net week.  During peak season in July-October, we get about 300 chicks hatching per week, with workshops and training sessions being conducted and with chicks distributed far and wide around the country to farmers and communities. A very active time, and frankly we were rather exhausted and have enjoyed the off season.

We have planned six community Happy Chicken workshops for the coming months, focusng mainly on women's groups and facilitated by Peace Corps volunteers.  Another donor has agreed to pay for the workshops, so that your donations through GlobalGiving will pay for chicks, starter feed, mobile rearing pens, transport costs for the materials, and a bit of follow up support.  No one is being paid for this work- it is all service, and from the heart, and so your donations go directly to supporting the trainees and their chickens.     

I leave you with some photos of our truly happy chickens... whose very existence is dependent on you.  So far the flocks have produced over 25 thousand baby chicks for the communities, giving hope to the poor and helping improve the lives of many people. 

Vinaka vakalevu (thank you very much).

The proud father rooster!
The proud father rooster!
Happy chickens forging in the dry season
Happy chickens forging in the dry season
May 11, 2018

Slow but Steady Progress in Self-sufficiency for Koro Island

Seni and the incubator + curious school girls
Seni and the incubator + curious school girls

It has been a hot and very wet summer here in Fiji in the southern hemisphere at the Happy Chicken farm, and the hens are have been on their annual "vacation", not laying eggs so that they will have the resources to change their feathers for new ones (= molting).  We closed the hatchery for two months and have just begun to set eggs in the incubators again, as the weather is finally cooler and the hens are gettting back to work laying their precious eggs.  

News from Koro Islnd in the Cyclone Winston disaster area:

We sent an incubator to the Nabasovi Women's Group in January along with 90 fertile eggs- which they successfully hatched, and so we sent a second lot of eggs in February, which they also hatched. But in March we unfiortunately did not have enough eggs to send. However, the oldest hens will begin laying in June, and they have retained 20 of the chickens, which will soon become the new breeding flock!  The woman's cooperative ageed to turn the incubator over to Senirosi Talei, "Bu Seini", who has good business sense, as she successfully runs the village 'canteen'.  Seinirosi will now receive special support to create her own hatchey business, hatching chicks monthly on behalf of the nearby villages.

Thea, the US Peace Corps volunteer supporting the project, will be travelling to Suva soon, to purchase school supplies on behalf of the community, and we will send back with her on th boat 90 fertile eggs for the incubator, starter feed for the chicks, supplemental feed for the breeding flock, and more cuttings of edible feed plants. 

With the first lots of chickens sent to Koro, we had to also send many bags of feed, as the vegetation was so badly damaged that the chickens could find little to eat from the land. That was costly and burned up most of the donations, but it was desperate times.  Now local chicken feeds are becoming more available, with coconuts beginning to bear again, and mornina cuttings which we sent up with the trainees nearly two years ago, have grown into trees whose leaves make excellent feed when combined with coconut and cassava roots. 

Our forging chickens at the farm recently taught us an additional wild plant, which the chickens absolutely love to eat- 'costus' or 'crepe ginger', which turns out to be edible for humans as well- see the photo below. We will now include this plant in the workshops, with one happening at the farm next week for a group of young men from Beqa Island

As local capacity and knowledge of the Happy Chicken methods spreads and increases on Koro, we may need to send an additional incubator to Bu Seine (in red in the photo below), in order to meet the needs of the island's fourteen villages. 

Vinaka valkalevu- thank you SO much to the donors and to our helper Thea, and of course to the Nabasovi Women's group for making this all possible.

         

Costus- a new and highly nutritious chicken feed
Costus- a new and highly nutritious chicken feed
Feb 13, 2018

Children Arise to Help the Project

Xave is a successful fund raiser
Xave is a successful fund raiser

Xave, a seven year old boy from New Zealand who visited the farm with his parents last August, was so taken by the chickens that he decided to help raise funds for the project when he returned home.  He drew pictures of the chickens and of birds and his father had the drawings lazer cut into wood.  With the help of his mother and a kind-hearted shop keeper, the ornaments were marketed. 

Each ornament has this story printed on an attractive card-

''Hi I'm Xav,  I'm 7 years old and I love animals.  I have drawn and made these decorations for the Happy Chicken Project in Fiji.  I stayed at the Happy Chicken Project permaculture farm in August.  I learnt that they help the communities in the Fiji Islands to sustain an alternative food source while the reefs are closed to repopulate the fish. Villagers are sponsored to come to the farm near Sigatoka, where they learn to forage and grow the feed for the chickens. Then to raise, care and select the hatchlings for breeding, laying or eating. Thank You'' 

The lazer cut-outs sold well, and we were so very touched to receive some of the ornaments in the mail, as well as a sizable donation from Xave's family through GlobalGiving. 

Yet another example of volunteerism by children came after Christmas, when two boys from Vanuatu arrived for three weeks as volunteers. They worked hard feeding our eight flocks of breeding chickens and tending to the hatchery, and baby chicks.  The boys were a true blessing to the farm. As a thank you for their service, we sent a small portable incubator back with them, as they plan to set up a small hatchery to support the project.  Based on discussions with Fiji and Vaanuatu Biosecurity scientists, and once we make a few suggested upgrades to the hatchery, we expect to have permission to send fertile eggs and day-old chicks to Vanuatu by April.  In the mean time the boys will try to access fertile eggs from local farmers to start a breeding flock of local chickens of their own, which can then be used for selection purposes for cross-breeding as the project grows.     

These efforts by the younger generation, together with the loving support of their parents is very encouraging.   

Thanks again so much to all of our supporters, and blessings to you all.

Vanuatu Volunteers Helping in the Hatchery
Vanuatu Volunteers Helping in the Hatchery
Xave's Animal Ornaments
Xave's Animal Ornaments
A Happy Chicken
A Happy Chicken
 
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