Jesus said in Matthew 23:37 that he longed to gather the people of Jerusalem together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. Jesus would've known chickens even from his boyhood in Egypt, where they came from Persia about 1000 BC. Chickens now outnumber humans by four to one. They are an extremely valuable gift of God, 28 billion chickens can't be wrong!
In Zululand, a high carb low nutrient density protein poor diet is common. This is even more concerning in HIV infected people and orphan households. Healthy hens laying 300 eggs a year, each egg providing 13% of daily protein needs, all nine essential amino acids, and 13 essential vitamins and minerals including vitamin D, choline and selenium, are hard to beat, no yolk!
We began to plan how to provide chickens to our health builders as a result of a survey of gardening skills and poultry that we did last July. We consulted with a local missionary, farmer and inventor named Chris who works with Izulu Orphan Projects. He began to experiment with cost-effective ways to equip people to raise chickens.
In America, we take good fences for granted. Not so in Africa. Here unfenced animals make havoc in gardens and fields. Chickens are also destructive if allowed to wander unrestrained. We concluded that the best solution for our area is the chicken tractor, a closed-topped open-bottomed portable chicken coop on wheels. Chris initially constructed them out of wood and chicken wire but it was heavy to move and the chicken wire is tempting to theives. Chris changed the design to use plastic pipe and plastic netting instead. The tractors are shaded with Tyvek bags cut to size and obtained free from a local paper factory. The tractor is moved every couple of days to new ground so that the chickens within can work the land. Contained yet mobile chickens are the solution to many interrelated problems in Africa and elsewhere. Land fertility? Fresh chicken droppings have 2 to 3 times the nitrogen 3 to 5 times the phosphorus versus other animal droppings. Chickens scratch and kick, mixing this richness into the topsoil layer. Bugs and weeds? These become highly nutritious chicken feed.
Last fall we announced our poultry for protein and profit initiative. Forty people and churches from 21 states supported this project in its first two months! That's some widespread fowl appeal. From Clovis, California to Castro, New York…. Christ followers were plumping for healthy hens in Zululand and beyond. This enabled us to move forward with the project.
Chris’s farm is next door to Jabulani Rehabilitation Centre which has an existing workshop and residents eager for work. Titus was bit by a venomous snake at age 15, subsequently losing his leg. Now in his 30s, like Bezalel he is skilled in many crafts. A couple of weeks ago, we teamed up with Chris to train Titus to lead a team of 12 disabled people at Jabulani Home to build the first chicken tractors for our health builders. Our chicken tractor project is the subject of a Zululand Observer newspaper article this week. Local people are being invited to sponsor a chicken tractor for an orphan household. Chris will manage the process in conjunction with us. Our hope is that hundreds of tractors will be sponsored in the coming year. This will generate an excellent income for the residents of Jabulani, while bringing good nutrition and income generation to hundreds of Izulu Orphan Project families. Our Health Builder initiative is stimulating a local charity multiplier effect.
Our first 10 chicken tractors were constructed, and we began delivery to health builders in February. Each health builder is expected to create a fenced area for growing corn, sunflower, sorghum and Chaya. The crops grown will be used for family needs as well as ground for chicken feed. Fencing can be made up of plants like cactus, spiny acacia branches, etc. When health builders demonstrate this commitment, they receive two chicken tractors ($100 each), four hens & two roosters, ($50 for chickens), a small grinder for feed and three large composting bags. I estimate a return on investment of almost twofold in eggs alone in the first year. Our PVC pipe- framed chicken tractors should last for at least five to ten years, and are easy to repair. We are purchasing roosters and hens with robust genetics from local village breeders.
We have just completed a video on an easy to grow green vegetable called Chaya which can be used as chicken feed. We will produce videos on other skills such as assembling a chicken tractor from a kit, poultry disease control, protection of chicks, growing chicken feed and marketing.
We thank our first 40 investors for supporting this vital project. We intend to make chicken tractor kits with pre-sewn Tyvek shading for ease of distribution, with a DVD showing assembly and written instructions as well. In the end, we hope to see chicken tractors improving our African soils, enriching the lives of the people Jesus calls us to serve together.
To eggs for Easter, and poultry power, Rick Gutierrez
To find out how to donate towards chickens, chicken tractors and video production costs, go to: http://www.internationalministries.org/projects/55