Happy Chickens for Fiji Food & Climate Emergency!

by Corals for Conservation
Happy Chickens for Fiji Food & Climate Emergency!
Happy Chickens for Fiji Food & Climate Emergency!
Happy Chickens for Fiji Food & Climate Emergency!
Happy Chickens for Fiji Food & Climate Emergency!
Happy Chickens for Fiji Food & Climate Emergency!
Happy Chickens for Fiji Food & Climate Emergency!
Happy Chickens for Fiji Food & Climate Emergency!
Happy Chickens for Fiji Food & Climate Emergency!
Happy Chickens for Fiji Food & Climate Emergency!
Happy Chickens for Fiji Food & Climate Emergency!
Happy Chickens for Fiji Food & Climate Emergency!
Happy Chickens for Fiji Food & Climate Emergency!
Happy Chickens for Fiji Food & Climate Emergency!
Happy Chickens for Fiji Food & Climate Emergency!
rocks prevent tipping & chicks from drowning
rocks prevent tipping & chicks from drowning

Because of patrons responding to #GivingTuesday, and with the sizable bonuses awarded by GlobalGiving, an urgent program to both protect endangered coral reefs and also to provide a necessary addition to scarce chicken feed was launched.

2020 continues to be a year of crisis all over the world.  Fiji’s border is sealed, and tourism, our largest industry, has closed down.  Tens of thousands of families have lost their primary source of income.  Families are struggling to make ends meet and to feed their children.  Shipping into the country has also been disrupted, impacting the commercial poultry industry, as shipments of baby chicks and fertile eggs from New Zealand stopped for several months, and now have resumed at a lower level, so prices for eggs and chicken in the stores have gone up, at a time when people have less money to spend.  We have responded by doubling the size of our breeding flocks, with the goal of producing 300 chicks per week, to meet the increased demand from the many small family farmers and those newly unemployed who have turned to farming.  However, the cost of chicken feed has also increased by 12%, affecting our base costs of production.  These problems of shipping during the pandemic are stretching the supply chain thin.  A simple thing like procuring chicken feed has become a complex exercise in spending more money and more time searching for an increasingly scarce commodity.  Fortunately, coconut trees planted in years past are now producing and so the chickens are fed coconuts in addition to their forging. We have also in recent months helped plant 5,000 coconuts in surrounding communities, and have provided fencing to protect them from stray cows, horses, and goats.

While in the past chicks were provided as a donation to families in greatest need, the majority of chicks in recent months were sold at cost of production to poor family farmers, with the goal of these farmers hatching chicks of their own and becoming self-sufficient, and spreading prosperity in the wider community.  We have also begun lending out small incubators to the best farmers. One small farmer has proven particularly exceptional, and so we have given him the machine.  We also gave nine roosters to a commercial egg producer and he paid us back in fertile eggs- a cross between our super roosters and his imported super layers.   

While these efforts in self sufficiency for small farmers continue, the New Zealand Government recently awarded us a grant to purchase a wood chipper, and so we plan to begin worm farming as a way of lowering feed costs, while producing valuable potting soil.  The wood chips and dry compost will also be used as litter in the hen houses and under the roosts, providing a cleaner environment for the happy chickens, especially needed now, as it is the rainy season.   

We also are sourcing another free source of chicken feed, harvested from the ocean- the crown of thorns starfish (COTS).  This is part of our coral reef conservation project, where we are funding the removal of a horrific plague of these venomous animals, which eat nothing but live corals, digesting the coral tissues and leaving behind the white skeletons. The COTS removal program is an emergency response leading up to a severe hot water coral bleaching event, which is predicted to hit our reefs from February until April.  Each adult COTS kills a saucer-sized bit of coral every day, and can live for years. Conservatively estimated, removing a single COTS saves 250 corals per year.  Last week we collected 450 COTS from Votua village, for use as chicken feed, paying a bounty of 25 cents USD for each.  Our goal is to remove at least ten thousand in the next six months, at a cost of US $2,500, saving over 2.5 million corals, providing a high protein, high calcium chicken food, and providing a much-needed cash income to the villagers.  We are encouraging the Fiji Government and other NGOs to support this effort for other communities during this coral bleaching crisis, in order to save the bleaching-resistant corals that do survive, helping the coral reefs adapt to the increasing temperatures caused by climate change.  

The villagers know how dangerous the toxic starfish are, as the local name is “Vula Walu” or “eight months”, as that is how long a COTS wound can last before healing.  So the program is helping make the waters safer for children to swim in again.  Each COTS has over a dozen arms covered in venomous spines.  The fishers load them into their canoes or used kayaks, bought from the closed resorts, and then spread them out on the shore to dry, until we come to collect them.  Their sharp thorns fortunately become dull on drying. They also lose their poisonous power, and so they can be more easily handled and ready to be eaten by the hungry chickens, eager for a nutrient rich natural supplement.  Dried COTS, stacked up like pancakes, are smashed before feeding to the chickens.  If they are not yet dry when we bring them in, we lay them out on the hill to dry at the farm.  

A gift of $25 towards this effort will remove 100 COTS, thereby saving 25,000 corals, while translating into joy for cash strapped families, and savings on happy chickens poultry feed, passed on to the farmers.  We will also begin offering baby chicks for trading in-kind for dried COTS, as a way of coastal communities becoming more more self-sufficient. 

U.S. donors, because of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed last spring by Congress, you may make up to a $300 cash donation to your favorite non-profit, and claim as a tax deduction next year, even if you don't itemize.  The IRS is encouraging citizens to utilize this special provision to benefit charities worldwide.

We're preparing for Yasa, a hurricane thought to arrive here in Fiji as a Category 4 within two days.  Yasa, in Fijian means sandalwood, and we grow some here at our permaculture farm. 

Godspeed to one and all during the holidays, Austin

Apakuki and Natanieli are excited about the catch!
Apakuki and Natanieli are excited about the catch!
Chickens enjoy picking coconut out of the shell
Chickens enjoy picking coconut out of the shell
Village Children Planting Hybrid Coconuts
Village Children Planting Hybrid Coconuts
Chicks one week apart in age
Chicks one week apart in age
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Free-roaming kids & animals with Austin in shade
Free-roaming kids & animals with Austin in shade

Happy Chickens has been re-branded & re-imagined to meet the demands of the growing food crisis in Fiji.  We are still your favorite chicken project on GlobalGiving that you have known and supported these past five years, but now our mission has expanded to answer the need during the pandemic.  The world is at a standstill here in much of the South Pacific--island nations that we have helped with coral & food security workshops have halted ties to keep safe from the still spreading contagion.  Kiribati, New Caledonia, Samoa, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, for the most part Papua New Guinea and French Polynesia have closed off air traffic and shipping.  This is necessary because these nations have severely limited hospital capacity and historically the villages have no way to stop the spread.  There are no closed houses for quarantine isolation, only the traditional communal living which has afforded survival for generations.

Happy Chickens is ramping up to answer the call for food security in Fiji.  Even though our hatchery program has provided over 30,000 free or at-cost chickens, our yield must be increased to supplement the diets of so many.  No one knows when the high volume poultry shipments from New Zealand can resume.

Before I detail our newest developments at the sustainable, permaculture farm, let me show some of our happy scenes photographed by my son Akka and shared via blog by my wife Kim:

 These cocks squaring off:

Feathers are about to fly.

Looks like a big fight was about to happen. But what really happened is that one rooster chose to de-escalate matters by pretending to eat. ha ha.

Akka shot over this photo which he identified as “two white ducks that are always together.”

 

Best buds – whatever species they are.

I’m pretty sure that it is a pair of ganders.

Right now Austin is getting quotes from businesses with diggers because he landed a government grant for fish ponds! Akka and wife Monica are going to be raising some gigantic tilapia – as high quality Fish Food is part of the grant. The idea is that people raise the first batch of tilapia with government help, and then reserve part of the fish sales to pay for the high quality food for the next batch of fish. Grow, sell, repeat. If we can make this work, we can pass it on!

 

2015-09-04 avocado flower  Cr

 

The avocado tree is making flowers.  Akka adds this photo which shows some of the flora of our farm.  Woot woot – I guess we may be getting our own avocados soon.

Now returning to our re-branding to meet today's emergency situation in Fiji, here are some key elements from our GlobalGiving project page:

Challenge

Tourism, Fiji's biggest employer, has collapsed, forcing tens of thousands of unemployed to return to their villages. Many have resorted to farming and fishing, but lack skills and resources for sustainable practices. Coral reefs, already stressed by climate change, are becoming over-fished. Free range village chickens integrated into farming are a good alternative, but Fiji is dependent on imported chicks, and airfreight has slowed, resulting in a critical shortfall of baby chickens.

Solution

We have crossed local chicken breeds with imported breeds to produce highly productive birds well-adapted to local tropical conditions. Our answer to the crisis has been to ramp-up our Happy Chicken hatchery to >300 chicks/week and to train farmers to produce their own chicks, as well as to train communities in organic farming, with chickens integrated as a key element. With an alternative protein source, some coral reef areas can then be set aside within no-fishing "tabu" recovery zones.

Long-Term Impact

The cyclones destroy important traditional food sources. Improved island-type chickens are excellent foragers and reproduce well on their own, resulting in restored chicken flocks and lasting change. By offering housing & training for youth at our permaculture farm, we are starting a positive chain with our improved island-type chickens. As the world crisis tightens its grip on Fiji, we share seeds, root crop cuttings, and superior coconut seedlings, resulting in feeding >30,000 rural poor.

What began as a partnership and a shared vision with local farmers, indigenous communities throughout the South Pacific, and plain hard work by my extended family, has become one of the key components of addressing the food crisis in Fiji.  Our methods are inspired by the wisdom of my North Carolina ancestors regarding free-ranging chickens and breeding, and are enhanced by local tropically suited practices.  Happy Chickens is now achieving governmental recognition and may one day build upon that international humanitarian attention from agencies like the United Nations and the disaster relief arm of GlobalGiving.

All of this progress and the vision of a better future is sponsored by you!

Sincere thanks for believing we all can make a difference,

Austin Bowden-Kerby and my entire family here at Happy Chickens

 

 

 

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Fiji Salusalu Rooster
Fiji Salusalu Rooster

The colorful roosters are coming into their own high season here at the Happy Chicken farm- time for rebuilding and improving the flock to meet the increasing need for baby chicks.  The country is shut down due to Corona virus and imported chicks can no longer be flown into the country from New Zealand. Fiji normally imports over 20 million fertile eggs and chicks per year, providing poultry and eggs to much of the South Pacific region, but this crisis is affecting air transport. 

If you've been following the hen and rooster tales recently, you'll recall our flock has taken some hard hits and suffered severe set-backs....so much so that we've had to sell off most of our six flocks and to rebuild the nucleus of our superior breeders from the chickens that were not affected.  In Fiji we call the foraging local chickens "jangli chickens" - a Hindi word, as we have a lot of people of Indian descent here. The word jangli means "wild"- the same word root as "jungle".

Breeding and then Choosing Mr. Right Rooster:

We tried for seven years to bring in heritage chicken breeds from overseas, but it proved impossible, so we worked to create our own productive dual purpose (for both eggs and meat), mixed breed of chickens.  We started by selecting the best local jangli roosters we could find and crossing them with imported shaver brown egg laying chickens, which were the only egg chickens allowed into the country from overseas.  Every year we raised up at least a hundred of these mixed breed chickens, and we sold off the smaller roosters and hens, and kept the biggest and the most beautiful.  So over the past ten years or so, we have produced a very productive mixed breed of chickens for the communities..... and the breed has gotten better with each passing year primarily through selecting the best roosters from each generation.

A good hen lays eggs for three years, but in mixed age flocks, (which most flocks are here), the farmers cannot tell how old each hen is, so it is just a guessing game for retiring hens from the flock.  So we are now trying to create specific breeds of chickens so that the farmers can know how old their hens are, and so they will know which ones to select for culling (those that are ~4 years old). That is what my grandmother taught me, and really the only way to manage a multi-year flock.

Each breed is based on a unique color or form.  On researching the internet, we found that for some breeds, the hens and roosters do not look anything like each other- so it's challenging, yet fun deciding which roosters to pair up with which sorts of hens, as I divide the chickens up into reasonable breeding groups, based on the closest heritage breeds.  We have some real beauties here at the farm, and I include some photos below from two of the new breeding groups.  From these groups we will soon collect the eggs and hatch the chicks and raise them up and then further select for size and color and egg production.  We hope that after three years, we will have created several good breeds for the country. 

I looked online yesterday at chicken breeds to try to figure out what some of my interesting chickens must be related to Norfolk Gray chickens, very rare breed, which seems to have somehow gotten to Fiji long ago. We are calling these gray/white fringed chickens "Saluasalu" chickens which means "flower lei".  Many of the happy chickens look somewhat like the Welsummer breed, and others.  In time we hope to produce breeds that look like Sussex, Australorp, Rhode Island Red, and Anconas.  One of the new breeding groups is a shiny greenish black rose comb chicken-some with small red markings around the neck, and with beautiful gold and red roosters with a glossy greenish black tail.  The Rose Comb birds are one of my best layers, but these hens also often hide their eggs in the bushes. The disappear for three weeks, only to reappear with a dozen fuzzy chicks following behind. For local farmers, these chickens will be important for hatching out their own chickens, and the rose comb eggs can be substituted for any eggs.

Addressing Impending Food Shortfalls Due to Covid-19 Import Restrictions:

Besides significant damage to the local farmers and village comunities from two cyclones since our last report, the most important development is that there is a developing shortage of imported egg laying chickens, which are required to maintain the egg industry of Fiji.  The imported chicks are no longer available, as the cargo flights are so few. In 6-9 months a shortage of eggs is expected to develop, and this situation might last for up to two years. W ithout egg producing chickens and abundant eggs, coral reef fish and river prawns will be targeted and could quickly become overfished. Our challenge now is how can we produce more high quality egg producing chickens in larger numbers- and quickly in the hatchery? 

With the culling of most of our hens last year, we are now getting only eight dozen eggs per week for hatching, not enough to scratch the surface of the needs.  So I called Pranil, a local egg and organic vegetable farmer on the coral coast, as he has 330 young brown egg layer hens, and I proposed to buy 20 of his hens for crossing with some of my best roosters, as I had five surplus breeding roosters.  What ended up happening is that I have given him five of my five best super roosters as barter, and he will give me ten dozen fertile eggs per each rooster, or a total of 50 dozen eggs, which I will hatch and begin distributing to the farmers as a 1/2 to 3/4 egg bird cross.  Subsequent eggs from Pranil's farm will be hatched in our incubators and the chicks will split 50/50 between Pranil and the Happy Chicken project.  The eggs produced from these Fiji egg layer chickens will be of mixed colors, as three of the breeding roosters hatched from a light blue egg, they will father hens which lay olive green eggs, as dark brown + blue = olive green.  I will grow up 100 or so of these chickens, to see how fast they grow and how many eggs they lay etc for comparison with imported egg layers.  Assuming that they do really well, we will then have multi colored layers available for free-range small egg farmers.  That would help give the poor farmers of Fiji a boost.  So fingers crossed that this will work out for maximum benefit for all.  The first eight dozen of these eggs went into the incubator just yesterday.

Coconuts as Chicken and Human Food: Another long term vision is finally coming true!

After placing an order and paying for improved coconut seedlings four years ago, the seedlings finally arrived at the farm just two weeks ago!  The 5,000 coconut seedlings came by boat and truck all the way from Taveuni Island, three hundred kilometers distant.   When the trees mature in only five or six years, the they will bear magnificent large coconuts the size of soccer balls.  So we are also giving out these wonderful coconut seedlings to communities and to farmers of our happy chickens. The coconuts make excellent chicken feed, as well as human food plus numerous useful products, such as virgin coconut oil, vegan coconut cheese, toddy sugar, toddy vinegar, and soap.  We have begun training communities in production of these products, using coconuts already growing at the farm.

Salusalu Hens- Real Beauties
Salusalu Hens- Real Beauties
Fiji Rosecomb Rooster and Hens
Fiji Rosecomb Rooster and Hens
Pranil and brother and their organic farm
Pranil and brother and their organic farm
Happy Rooster and Imported Egg Layer Hens
Happy Rooster and Imported Egg Layer Hens
Coconut Seedlings by the Truck-load
Coconut Seedlings by the Truck-load
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Fiji Rose Comb
Fiji Rose Comb

The colorful roosters are coming into their own high season here at the Happy Chicken farm.  It is a time for rebuilding and improving the flock to meet community needs for baby chicks, as the country is shut down due to Corona virus and imported chicks are not being flown into the country from New Zealand.  Fiji normally imports over 20 million fertile eggs and day-old chicks and provides poultry and eggs to the South Pacific region.

If you've been following the hen and rooster tales recently, you'll recall our flock has taken some hard hits and suffered severe set-backs....so much so that we've had to sell off most of our six flocks and to rebuild the nucleus of our superior breeders from the chickens that were not affected.

In Fiji we call the foraging chickens "jangli chickens" - a Hindi word, as we have a lot of people of Indian descent here. The word jangli means "wild", and wildlands in India are known as "jungle".  Everyone  says that jungli chicken tastes so good, not like the mass produced (unhappy) ones raised on big poultry farms. The fresh eggs are also wonderful and of all colors- cream, brown, green and even light blue! 
Choosing Mr. Right Rooster:
We tried for seven years to bring in heritage chicken breeds from overseas, but it proved impossible, so we worked to create a productive dual purpose (for both eggs and meat), mixed breed of chickens.  We started by selecting the best local roosters we could find and crossing them with imported shaver brown egg laying chickens, which were one of two types of chickens allowed into the country from overseas (the other breed proved unusable).  Every year we raised up at least a hundred mixed breed chickens, and from that we sold off the smaller roosters and hens, and kept the biggest and the most beautiful.  So we produced a very productive mixed breed of chickens for the communities over time and it got better with each passing year.  
A good hen lays eggs for three years, but in mixed age flocks, (which most are), the farmer usually can not tell how old each hen is, so it is just a guessing game for retiring hens from the flock.  So we are now trying to create specific breeds of chickens, so that the farmers can know how old their hens are. That way they will know which ones to select for culling (4+ year olds).  Researching on the Internet, we found that for some breeds, the hens and roosters do not look anything like each other- so it's challenging, yet fun.  I am now dividing the chickens up into reasonable breeding groups, based on the closest heritage breeds I can find photos of.  We have some real beauties here at the farm, and I include some photos below of the new breeding groups I have created.  From these groups we will collect the eggs and hatch the chicks and raise them up and then further select for size and color and egg production, and after three years, we might get some very good breeds for the country.  
That is what my grandmother taught me, and really the only way to manage a multi-year flock.  I looked online yesterday at chicken breeds to try to figure out what some of my interesting chickens must be related to.  Norflok Gray, a very rare breed, seems to have somehow gotten to Fiji long ago, also Welsummer.  I can get Sussex and Australorps and Rhode Island Reds, and Anconas, or something that looks similar. One of the breeds is a black rose comb chicken with small red markings around the neck.  With these beautiful mostly gold and red roosters, I get what seems to be one of my best layer birds, but these hens often want to set and hatch their eggs. I need to take some good photos of each group. 
The hardest thing is to choose the right rooster for the hens of a particular sort, because the hens and roosters do not look anything like each other in many breeds.
  
If I create the breeds, will people keep them true to form? Or does it fall apart when I am gone?
 
Addressing Looming Food Shortfall Due to Covid-19 Import Restrictions:
Even more important development is that the chicks of the egg chickens that are needed to maintain the egg industry in Fiji are no longer available in Fiji as the cargo flights are so few. Thus in 9-12 months a shortage of eggs might develop.  We do not know how long this situation will hold, but it might be for two years?  Without chickens and eggs the poor coral reef fish will have no chance, so our time has come.  How can we produce more high quality egg birds in larger numbers?  
At the moment, we culled out 75% of our chickens late last year, as we had 
had diseases and I was too involved with the corals, plus the hatchery manager resigned as she has a baby. So I am only getting about two dozen eggs a day, up from one dozen last week and only half a dozen the week before that.  I have about 70 hens, and so I will be getting 4-6 dozen eggs per day by the end of June.  
I called Pranil, a local egg farmer on the coast who I know, as he has 330 young brown egg layer hens. I had wanted to buy 20 of them for crossing with some of my best roosters, but what ended up happening is that I have given him five of my best super roosters as barter. Next he will give me ten dozen fertile eggs per each rooster, or a total of 50 dozen eggs, which I will hatch and begin distributing to the farmers as a 1/2 to 3/4 egg bird cross.  Three of ten roosters hatched from a green egg, so I expect some olive egg layers. 
Out of the cross, which is the result of dark brown + blue color gene, I will also grow up 50 or so of the chickens. That way I can see how fast they grow and how many eggs they lay etc. for comparison. If they do really well, then we will have layers of 3-4 colors available for free-range small egg farmers.  That would really help give the poor farmers a boost.  
So fingers crossed that this will work out for maximum benefit for all.
We are also giving out the wonderful coconuts to the farmers and especially those with happy chickens. 5,000 coconut seedlings (back-ordered from 2 years ago & when mature will boast magnificent coconuts) is a lot to deal with.
The chickens all seem healthy now and we sold off 60 of the smallest roosters as they were fighting. At least 7 of the best ones went into breeding on other farms- I could not see people eating those good ones. I still have too many, but how to part with such good stock?  Saving them for when I find a farmer like Pranil with some good hens to cross them with sounds like a plan.

Our Reigning Super Star Rooster:

Let me introduce our prince of a rooster, Salusalu, so named because his showy neck rings give him the appearance of wearing a flower lei.  He's plump, he's feisty, he's LOUD, he's irresistible, and I find him to be a spirit lifter and interesting company when I go about my morning seed scattering chores.  He's so dominant that he gives me confidence the stock will gain increased hardiness during his reign.

Now there have been some mysterious happenings out at the chicken yard.  For starters, Hurricane Harold blew through Fiji with a force not foreseen by anyone.  The rain was pelting us for days prior and the wind was steadily becoming stronger.  I had made my way out to board up the chicken keeper's house, as an extra precaution, and found I could not make headway back to my house.  I retreated to shelter with the chickens and our three geese.  Who knew what might happen, when POW, the neighbor's roof blew off.  Even the tree where the horse was tethered teetered and fell, but the horse had enough sense to get clear.  In all the commotion, it was difficult to assess damage.

Next followed nine days without main power, and our cistern of stored water was running down.  Luckily, our hatchery has solar power, and that's where we recharged our phone batteries to stay in touch with the outside world.  

Last week, I lost two roosters.  I thought they had been stolen, but turned out this was not the case.  The crafty fellows had ducked under a tear in the fence.  Often I use what's on hand for repairs, so I proceeded to fix the spot.  Why not re-enforce with the thorns of a bougainvillea?  It soon became evident that what started out as a good idea, lacked a great deal in application.  Yes, the fence was fixed, but I came away with my hands and face pierced and considerably worse for wear.  In one of my better moves, I hired some neighbors to help with the bigger hurricane clean-up tasks.

Happy Chicken land is disease free and gearing up to a return of full chicken levels of 300 chicks per week.  A big unknown in the food security of Fiji is whether New Zealand will become Covid-19 free.  This is critical because factory bred chickens from there account for 20 million per year.  We know these imported standard chickens are not well suited to our tropical climate, but for the present they account for a huge portion of the market.  Our methods using natural foraging and supplementing with some other nutrition from unused parts of the coconuts is far superior, but the scale is small.  Our plan is to continue breeding and sharing heat hardy, more self-sufficient chickens suitable for supplying villages and culturally the best way to go.

We are ever grateful to all you have done to make this vision of tropical happy chickens a reality.  Your generosity has kept the breeding program alive during some bumps and now your help is bringing the production levels safely back up to capacity.  

Salusalu (Flower Lei) Rooster
Salusalu (Flower Lei) Rooster
Salusalu Hens
Salusalu Hens
Salusalu Chickens - Creating a New Breed for Fiji
Salusalu Chickens - Creating a New Breed for Fiji
Fiji Rosecomb Chickens Make Excellent Mother Hens
Fiji Rosecomb Chickens Make Excellent Mother Hens
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Happy Chickens make Happy Children
Happy Chickens make Happy Children

Looking Back:

As we welcome a new decade 2020, it's fitting to pause and reflect how Happy Chickens started as our first GlobalGiving project for Corals for Conservation.  Looking to our neighbors here in Fiji, we saw communities impacted by food shortages and suffering the rampages of diabetes--the highest death rate due to diabetes in the entire world.  Meanwhile, the coral reefs were being severely impacted with the effects of overfishing, higher temperatures causing corals to bleach and die, horrifically severe cyclones, and floods.  Taboo no-fishing sites had been set aside to allow the fisheries to recover, but closing the fishing grounds compounds food shortages in the beginning, as it takes three years or more before the restored fish stocks begin spilling over to the fishers.  A reliable low-cost protein source was needed.

I turned to my childhood, growing up in North Carolina, and remembering what my grandmothers had taught me about raising free-range chickens, housing, feeding, keeping them secure from predators, and breeding them, and I realized that a workable solution for the communities was to breed and provide village-adapted chickens that are good foragers- happy to be pecking about during the day on grass, worms, and local feeds like coconut and cassava. The introduced mongoose had eliminated most local chicken flocks two generations ago, and so most local chicken raising knowledge had died out with the chickens.

With determination, Happy Chickens were bred with care, and they improved with each passing year, until they finally became one of the most sought-after commodities in the town market.  We have now provided over 35 thousand day-old chicks to farmers and communities, at-cost, below cost, or free of charge, depending on the economic condition of the farmer.  If a community went through a happy chicken workshop, they were rewarded with chicks and feed and housing materials.  I now am known as "the chicken man" in the communities surrounding our farm, and I am often stopped in the market to discuss people's chickens and how big and nice they are and how many eggs they are producing- it is clear that the chickens have made a big difference to the communities and to the farmers.  I receive warm handshakes and sometimes even hugs from the children. In other areas of the country and on the coast, I am better known as "Tui Lase" or "the coral man".  Strange how chickens and corals belong together!

Happy Chickens has also played a key role in our Climate Action Fund effort.  This past year, when Corals for Conservation was awarded GlobalGiving's high honor of being one of the first of five organizations chosen for special Climate Action- Happy Chickens was in the wings.  Island villagers could live on eggs and chickens while they were letting the coral reef, river prawns, and forest birds rest.  It was truly a case of empowering local actions for the bigger picture of small actions to save the planet while improving human and animal health both, and becoming more effective with each passing year.

However, we were recently challenged and have had to slow our work down.  As we were having our chickens tested for export throughout the region, Fiji Biosecurity identified a rather serious chicken disease in one of our eight chicken flocks, and as a precaution, in November we were forced to reduce our flocks by selling off 2/3 of our hens, as they might be disease carriers.  It broke our hearts to say goodbye to our favorite birds.  We made the difficult decision to close the hatchery until we could guarantee that the chicks we produce are disease-free once again. We now have a lot to do to improve the cleanliness of the flocks and to prevent another disease from coming in.  Next month Fiji Biosecurity will return to test the chickens, and if they give the 'all-clear' we will proceed to re-open the hatchery.  Starting with quality rather than quantity, we will build up once again.

Looking Ahead:

Once we attain a disease-free flock, we will not only start the hatchery back up, but we will finally be able to export chicks to Kiribati, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, and all the other island nations that cannot access such productive village adapted breeds of chickens.  No one has chickens like these!  Our plan to export regionally was how the disease was identified in the first place!

By May or June, we expect to be ready to carry out our community workshops once again, with five villages on the wait list, either with no-fishing areas already, or in the process of setting some of their coral reefs aside for recovery.  And yes, I expect to be back in the market once again, selling off surplus chicks to the farmers in order to break even, and in general making a spectacle of myself to the delight of the children and everyone who come in with their parents from the villages and farms every Saturday.  Any personal sacrifice is small in relation to all the good this Happy Chicken program has done in the past, and most certainly will do in the future.

Vinaka Vakalevu Kemuni, Nai lolma nei Taiose!

Thank you very much to all, sending love from Grandfather Ose

Over a dozen Happy Chicken workshops so far!
Over a dozen Happy Chicken workshops so far!
The Moala incubator hatched out hundreds of chicks
The Moala incubator hatched out hundreds of chicks
We also have provided over 700 baby ducks
We also have provided over 700 baby ducks
Climate change impacts communities but we can help
Climate change impacts communities but we can help
The Happy Chicken Man
The Happy Chicken Man

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Organization Information

Corals for Conservation

Location: Samabula - Fiji
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Austin Bowden-Kerby
Samabula, Fiji
$35,909 raised of $55,500 goal
 
339 donations
$19,591 to go
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