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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
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
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
Xave's Animal Ornaments
A Happy Chicken
A Happy Chicken
Bua Workshop- Wild Plant Feeding Demonstration
Bua Workshop- Wild Plant Feeding Demonstration

News continues to come in from our trainees in remote communities.  The 23 dozen chicks we initially sent with the 11 trainees from Moala Island are doing very well in six village communities.  Unfortunately a small tragedy occured with the chicks at the district boarding school- most of the the five dozen chicks they received were killed by stray dogs which broke into the rearing pen. This problem is now being addressed in community meetings and by the traditional leaders, and the starter pens have in the mean time been reinforced to keep the little chicks more safe.  We have also purchased a much stronger gage wire for the mobile chick rearing pens, and will use that in all future sites. 

Despite this setback, the Moala school has had a new and very exciting success- an entirely new stage in the wider Happy Chicken project- with a small local hatchery being established.  The 90-egg incubator we sent in August has already produced two successful hatches, and yet another hatch is due next week.  The fact that the school has 24-hour solar power has made this possible.  Until the Moala chickens begin laying, we will continue to send fertile eggs by boat and plane, to keep the incubator stocked. The trainees hope to produce chicks for all seven villages on the island and to spread the impact of the project widely.  By December, self sufficiency will be attained as seven breeding focks of happy chickens will begin laying, fully localizing the project, with eggs hatching in the incubator every three weeks, and with additional eggs hatching underneath broody hens.  Trainees will keep the largest, healthiest roosters for breeding, one rooster per eight hens, and to offer any excess high-quality roosters for a local rooster exchange program with existing farmers, to improve existing local flocks and to incorporate local diversity and adaptations into the chickens.  Thus far, Moala Island has become our most successful site, and a model we are now using for other areas.  One factor in this success is the fact that a US Peace Corp volunteer couple is facilitating the work on site. 

Since September, three addtional workshop groups have been trained at the farm in Sigatoka, each group with a facilitating Peace Corps volunteer; Naviti, Yasawa Islands, Beqa Island, and Bua, Vanua Levu- the big island to the north.  A total of 20 people- mostly women participated in these trainings.  Each community found their own travel funds to get to the farm and each of them took back with them 2-3 dozen chicks per participant, enough feed for a month, materials to build a mobile rearing pen, plus the knowledge to feed and house the chickens using locally available materials.

The Peace Corps volunteers of Beqa and Bua had identified additional funding to build their own commuity chicken houses and pens, however, the Naviti group, being affected badly by Hurricane Winston the year before, had fewer resources, so we paid for those materials.  We also sent our community officer, Simi Koto, on a folow up visit to Naviti to help ensure that things were advancing on schedule.     

Just last week we hosted a women's group from Bua, and they took back with them over a hundred 4-week old chicks, a mobile rearing pen, feed for a month, plus an incubator and fertile eggs, as they have a dependable solar power source in the community.  Additional training took place on the use of the incubator, and we have promised to send fertile eggs every month until March, when their own chickens begin laying.  Unfortunately the Beqa and Naviti communities do not yet have reliable solar power, but the Peace Corps facilitators are looking into small systems to run the 40 watt incubators. 

In June our old main incubator finally died, a major problem as it was filled to capacity with 500 incubating eggs.  However because we had the ten small incubators on hand, we were able to rescue the eggs from the broken machine and put them into the smaller 90-egg machines.  In early August the new machnes finally arrived, and we are presently hatching fifteen dozen chicks per week, and at a higher hatch rate than in times past. Chicks are either raised to the 4-5 week stage for distribution to workshop participants, or sold at cost to small farmers in the Sigatoka market, and funds used to support the project. 

Many other things have happened since our last report- another NGO paid my way to Vanuatu, where I was able to follow up at the two Happy Chicken sites, which included setting up two community hatcheries.  Vanuatu Biosecurity has finally given us the green light to export day-old chicks and fertile eggs from Fiji to Vanuatu- a major breakthrough.   Fiji Biosecurity, in preparation, tested our flocks for disease in October, and found the chickens to be disease free. Once the paperwork and permits are completed, we will carry out this important activity.  

Thanks again for supporting this project, and be sure to visit the Happy Chicken facebook page for updates and additional information.

Bua Women
Bua Women's Group Trainees
The small incubators save the day...
The small incubators save the day...
Training in the use of small home incubators
Training in the use of small home incubators
Bua women doing their happy dance....
Bua women doing their happy dance....
Chicks ready to travel to the remote islands...
Chicks ready to travel to the remote islands...
Moala Workshop Participants with Incubator
Moala Workshop Participants with Incubator

So much has been happening with the workshops and at the Happy Chicken farm.  The new hatchery was finally completed and new incubators arriving earlier this month to replace the old broken machines, thanks to grants from other organizations.  Five new chicken breeding houses were also completed, increasing the capacity of the farm to produce about seven thosuand chicks per year.  Ten small 40 watt incubators also arrived, and will used to establish small hatcheries at community level, to build self sufficiency into the project. Up to 900 chicks are possible per machine per year, if they are utilized to capacity.

Last week the farm hosted eleven people from six villages on Moala Island for an intensive Happy Chicken traing worshop.  The training included two US Peace Corps volunteers, a young couple who facilitated the community participation and transport. These volunteers are comitted to devoting much of their time to the project on this remote island in the Lau group. The improved follow-up and internet communcation will greatly increase the impact of the project. 

Master Luke, a teacher from the boarding school among the attendees, was trained to operate the 84-egg capacity incubator,which will run on the school's solar power. Seven dozen fertile eggs will be sent along with the incubator on the next boat, and the hatchery will then begin operation, producing chicks on site, with a new hatch possible every three weeks,. 

Twenty-seven dozen 3-4 week old chicks have been raised up at the farm and will be sent with the participants who return to Moala on the once-monthly boat on the 21st.  Raising up that many chicks to that larger size has been a challenge at the farm, and has stretched the capacity of the staff. 

With the foundation now laid, the goal is to first establish the project with the trainees in the six villages, the school, and the women's group, and then to assist other farmers to join the project, including the two villages who did not send participants to the workshop.      

I am writing this report from Vanuatu, an island nation about two hours away by plane from Fiji.  I arrived just yesterday and was able to carry two of the small incubators with me, one of which will be deliered this mornng to Tanna Island, while the other will be set up on Efate Island.  The two ni-Vanuatu men who were trained as resource people at the farm in Fiji for six weeks last December-January, Joel and Iopil, have now established breeding flocks in their home commmunities, and fertile egs are now available for this major breakthrough. Biosecurity officials have not allowed us permits to bring in eggs or chicks from Fiji, so the process of developing an improved breeding flock over time has commenced on Vanuatu. A major ''Hapi Jicken'' workshop took place on Tanna Island in July, using the handbook recently translated into pigin language, facilitated by our local counterparts.

These achievements and blessings contiue to flow, thanks to our donors, and so a warm thanks goes out to you all.               

New hatchery and two free-range breeding houses.
New hatchery and two free-range breeding houses.
Moala women
Moala women's group members
Happy Chicken
Happy Chicken ''pretty birds'' breeding group
Happy Chicken Hatchery and Farm, Singtoka Fiji
Happy Chicken Hatchery and Farm, Singtoka Fiji

Our Happy Chicken farm in the Sigatoka valley of Fiji was recently visited by a representative from SPREP, the South Pacific Regional Environmental Organization, and they have produced an article on our project. The article discusses the connection between poverty and overfishing of coral reefs, and how community-level production of chickens and eggs can help provide an alternative food source and livelihood for communities seeking to conserve their environment by setting aside no-fishing and no-hunting areas as part of community-based management.  One slight error in the report is that the maximum size of the chickens being produced should read 12 pounds, not 12kg.  Our largest breeding rooster recently weighed in at 6.4kg- over 14 pounds- WOW! 

http://www.sprep.org/attachments/Publications/Newsletters/PEBACC_Newsletter_March_2017_FINAL.pdf

After producing over 20 thousand chicks over four years, and after many repairs, our main incubator finally broke in March. Fortunately it happened during the ‘’low season’’- the hot summer, when many hens are in their annual molt and resting, building up resources for another year of laying.  The several hundred eggs inside the machine were mostly saved by putting them under broody hens and transferring them into two small incubators. 

The good news is that new incubators have been given by SPC, the South Pacific Community, and are expected to arrive within the month. Ten portable incubators are also on their way from Australia.  These 60-capacity incubators will be used to set up small hatchery businesses for women farmers in Fijian villages where electricity is dependable.  Two will also be sent to the Vanuatu project, where breeding flocks are being established on Efate and Tanna islands by our two special trainees there- Joel and Iopil.

Upcoming Happy Chicken workshops are planned for June, July, and August and will be facilitated in Fiji by US Peace Corps volunteers, with exciting plans for bringing in five farmers from each of 17 communities for training at our Sustainable Livelihoods Farm. With this new development, more effective follow-up with communities will occur, and with our new incubators we plan to increase production of chicks to ten thousand per year.  In mid August we will be back in Vanuatu for more workshops in partnership with HCDI, a local NGO, and using the new Pidgin English translation of the Happy Chicken handbook ‘’Hapi Jiken’’, which we have jointly developed.

Never-ending thanks to our donors for making all of this work possible…. in spite of challenges, we do seem to be making a transition to greater effectiveness and local empowerment.   We hope to focus on individual stories from farmers in the villages and bush for our next report- where the real impact of all of this work is being felt. 

I leave you with an overview of the Happu Chicken hatchery building and staff, and trainees

The Farm
The Farm's smallest helper... Kiki
Six new breeding houses being built at the farm
Six new breeding houses being built at the farm

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Corals for Conservation

Location: Samabula - Fiji
Website:
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Project Leader:
Austin Bowden-Kerby
Samabula, Fiji
$26,787 raised of $40,000 goal
 
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