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 Hunger  Fiji Project #20071

Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment

by Corals for Conservation
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Happy Chickens for Food Security and Environment
Making VCO to produce chicken feed
Making VCO to produce chicken feed

We conducted our very first international Happy Chicken traing workshop at the Fiji farm and hatchery for ten days, 9-18 April.  A group of five community representatives flew in from the remote coral atolls of Aranuka, Marakei, and Tarawa, with the transport paid for by an Australian grant to our Kiribati partner, FSPK.

An important revelation of the discussions during the week is that the fish of Aranuka Atoll have become poisonous to eat in recent years, since the corals died in the 2014-15 mass coral bleaching event, which was caused by extremely hot water due to el Nino and climate change. The fish poison "ciguatera" has worsened to the point whereby people are deprived of most reef fish in their diet, with only a few species remaining safe to eat.  This makes the chicken project all the more important to the community.  

The goal of the workshop was to learn the care and breeding principles necessary to build a successful community poultry programme on each of the atolls.  Due to the isolation of Kiribati, the projects must rely totally on local feeds, rather than imported feed. The participants learned about local plant foods, care and feeding, housing, and breeding. Incubation was also taught, using the small incubators that they already have on site.  An illustrated handbook was created that includes most of the information, and was given out to the participants.

Additional training included the making of virgin coconut oil (VCO), as a means for de-fatting coconut so that more coconut can be fed to the chickens- full-fat coconut can only be 25% of a healthy chicken diet, while defatted coconut can make up 40-50%.   Leucaena and morniga leaves, chopped kumala leaves, and chopped Vigna beach pea leaves are ideally added to the defatted coconut, which ensures that more healthy vegetable matter and complete/balanced protein sources are consumed.

Using the VCO, we demonstrated soap making to the trainees, which was very exciting to them.  Coconut oil soap lathers well in brackish water, and is better for the atolls than imported soaps. Dried seaweeds, brought to Fiji from Kiribati, were made into seaweed gel, and then used to make kimchee pickles and coconut jelly pie.  The biggest hit was the after-shower gel, made from seven parts seaweed gel mixed with one part VCO, scented with vanilla and orange oil.  Everyone took a bottle home, with plans to make their own. 

As Ruiti, the FSPK Director, had a permit for bringing seeds back, we spent time preparing and drying various vegetable and fruit seeds from around the farm. 

Each participant was sent home with an efficient coconut grater, a strong bucket, watering dishes for baby chicks, a roll of 1cm wire mesh for making a mobile rearing pen (7 meter x 75cm), a 500 gram bottle of caustic soda for making soap, and ample chick starter feed.

We will send the baby chicks via plane to Kiribati next week, and FSPI will follow up on the atolls.  We are also planning for follow up visits, as resources allow.  

The former president of Kiribati, Mr Anote Tong, visited the farm to view the project last week, right on the heels of the Kiribati workshop.  This historic visit was filmed by Netherlands TV, and will be aired in several countries in Europe. This visit was a great honor for the Happy Chicken project and the farm staff, and we hope the filming will result in some good exposure as well.  

Thanks so much for your support in making this vital work happen.

Tebbi hugging a Kabir cross rooster
Tebbi hugging a Kabir cross rooster
Seeta and Ata-ata working in the hatchery
Seeta and Ata-ata working in the hatchery
Tebbi loves the new hatched chicks
Tebbi loves the new hatched chicks
President Tong visits the farm to learn more!
President Tong visits the farm to learn more!
Workshop participants with C4C staff
Workshop participants with C4C staff
Rahul with his happy chickens on a rainy day.
Rahul with his happy chickens on a rainy day.

The Happy Chicken project reached another milestone in January, with over thirty thousand chicks produced and distributed over the past six years.  In 2018 we conducted happy chicken workshops at the training centre for communties from the remote islands of Taveuni, Kadavu, and Beqa, and from two communities from the province of Naitasiri.  

Our first workshop of 2019 started yesterday, with seven youth coming five hours by bus and carrier from the remote interior village of Nandelei in Tavua.  As always we have head-started chicks to the two-month old stage, so they have a high probability of survival and will begin laying in only four more months.  The community will take over a hundred of these back with them to grow into their own breeding flock.

Our hatchery is closed for two months as we are installing solar power thanks to a grant from New Zealand. Also the number of eggs laid is down to a tenth of what we get in the high season, as most of the hens are undergoing their annual molt, changing their feathers and building up resources for another year of laying.  All the hens free-range and have constant access to forage, their pen doors are open all day, which can be a problem at times with chicken poo on the doorstep or hens sometimes trying to hide a nest and hatch their own chicks.  We had three such renegade nests thatch last year, only seen when the mother hen parades her chicks into full view.  We quickly put the hen with her brood into a mobile rearing pen to protect the chicks from hawks and mongooses.   

We continue to be improve our diverse mixed breed by rearing up a hundred or so chicks every year, and then selecting the largest roosters, and changing the older roosters for the younger males, selling off the older roosters to the neighbors during the New Year holiday when relatives come calling.  The hens lay for 3-4 years, and are retired only when they begin stop laying well.  Our eggs are distinctively diverse in color, ranging from dark brown, to tan, to white, to cream, and even to light blue and green, and we have seen these eggs for sale manay times in the Sigatoka market this past year, which is a good indicator off project success. 

I will close with a story of Rahul, pictured below with his Happy Chickens.  This is the boy who became the head of the house when he was just 14- caring for his younger sister and unmarried aunt.   His mother died of cancer in 2015, and his father, a bus driver, was shortly afterwards imprisoned for five years, all because a young teenage passenger on his bus jumped from the bus unexpectedly and as killed.  Without going into detail on this injustice, we have been helping Rahul in several ways, including happy chickens.  Two years ago, Rahul successfully raised up several dozen chickens, selling the eggs.  He recently he sold off the older birds to help support the family, and he is now is raising up another lot of chckens as he continues developing his small business.  His father wil be released in January, 2020.  Which will be a big relief, and Rahul will graduate from secondary school in 2021.

Thank you all for making these works of love possible.

Junia teaching the trainees
Junia teaching the trainees
Pausing for reflection during the lessons
Pausing for reflection during the lessons
Workshop Participants, with trainees and PCVs
Workshop Participants, with trainees and PCVs

We just last week finished up two weeks of training for 22 traines - seven men from Kadavu, seven women from Taveuni, and joined on the second week by eight from a local NGO who work with communities in the provinces of Tailevu and Naitasiri.

The Kadavu trainees arrived after one full day of travel by boat and bus, while the Taveuni women travelled for two whole days to get the the farm- three hours by boat to Vanua Levu, then a six hour bus ride acoss the island, a seven hour ferry ride to Suva, and a three hour bus ride to the farm. 

Two US Peace Corps volunteers, Courtney stationed on Taveuni, and Wade stationed on Kadavu, organized the communties and will be folloing up over the next year to help ensure project success. Much of the cost was covered by grants from the Fiji PC Offiice. 

After five days of Happy Chicken training, we began additional livelihoods traing, which included virgin coconut oil production and soap making. 

We sent with the communities larger four-week old chicks that we had raised up, 130 for Kadavu and 75 for Taveuni.  The goal is to create breeding flocks to increase the project.  We aso sent with the trainees materials for a mobile rearing pen, chicken feed, and cuttings of perrenial plants grown as feed sources for the chickens: Moringa and Costus.  The chickens and associated costs were all covered by donations through GlobalGiving.

The participants left us happy and encouraged and full of hope for the future. We have received word that all of the chicks made it safely to their respective destinations.

An additional 45 of these larger chicks were sent last week to Beqa to the women's group there who were trained earlier in the year.  An additional 75 chicks- now five weeks old, will go up into the interrior of Naitasiri nt week, to the trained communities.  We are very busy!

Thanks so much for touching these communities and helpng make this all possible.

Austin 

  

Chicks packed for Taveuni
Chicks packed for Taveuni
Peek a boo
Peek a boo
Three hours to the Suva Wharf
Three hours to the Suva Wharf
Suva Wharf, Giving Water and Food
Suva Wharf, Giving Water and Food
Safe in the hold
Safe in the hold
Nicole the Happy Chicken Hatchery Manager
Nicole the Happy Chicken Hatchery Manager

The hatchery is again fully operational, with 250-300 chicks hatching every week.  A big obective is to continue improving the local chicken breeds through selective breeding.  With that in mind, all of the breeding roosters were changed in April, as the one-year olds were getting too big (4-5kg), and their long and sharp spurs were beginning to hurt the hens.  All hens are kept as layers for at least three years. The diversity of feather color and egg color is amazing, the eggs range from brown to tan to white, to light blue and dark green.  Eggs- clearly from our chickens- are now appearing for sale in the markets. Productive and happy chickens are making a real impact on the communities and farmers.   

Farmers from all over the area want the chicks, which are now clearly recognized as being much better than anything that is available imported from overseaas, or locally hatched.  The people come on foot, by car, even on horesback, to purchase the chicks, sold at $2. Fijian = $1 USD each, which is helping make the project more self-sustaining.  About 20% of the chicks contiune to be donated free of charge to workshop participants and to the poorest farmers- widows, disabled people, the elderly, etc. Materials for pens and feed are also donated to workshop graduates, selected from the poorest communities and those impacted by the recent hurricanes and floods.  We have also sent seven small incubators out to the comunities and we there is a need for purchasing more. 

The last week-long workshop, with 18 participaants was in late June.  We have since raised up close to 100 chicks to the eight-week stage, and they are now ready for sendng to the interrior vllage of Wairuarua, Naitasiri.  Additional chicks are being raised for the trainees from Beqa Island, and fertile eggs are being sent to Koro Island to support the small hatchery we helped establish there.

The big news is that with our increased prosperity from farm sales, we have been able to provide a stipend for a full-time hatchery manager, Mrs. Nicole Raivoka, 23 years old and a graduate of Environmetal Studies at the University of the South Pacific.  Nicole is gaining work experence, and she loves the chickens. We are so thankful for the much needed help. 

More news!  We have secured funding for installing solar power to the hatchery!  This will be a BIG help as the power goes out so often at the farm, and for days on-end, during floods and after cyclones.  We need to get this done and dusted by November when the cyclone season begins.... for now we are in a drought and eperiencing very cool weather down to 13C (57F) at night.  But it is good for the chickens, as they are thriving and  producing over ten dozen eggs a day, about 2/3 of which go to the hatchery.  Any eggs that are too small, too big (double yolked), deformed, cracked, or dirty are used for food.     

Thanks so much to our donors for your generous support, which makes this all possible.   

Chicks for Wairuarua just love morniga leaves
Chicks for Wairuarua just love morniga leaves
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
 

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Organization Information

Corals for Conservation

Location: Samabula - Fiji
Website:
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Project Leader:
Austin Bowden-Kerby
Samabula, Fiji
$26,477 raised of $40,000 goal
 
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