Klein came by the other day and dropped a load of books off. They’re all about raising chickens, ducks and geese. I was fascinated. Or perhaps I was just bored with Montgomery’s tedious six hundred page tome, ‘A History of Warfare’ (and his part in it), a Director of Studies prize I received at Sandhurst in 1985 and with which I was so delighted, it is the only book in my household I have not managed to read to its conclusion.
There are lots of books out there on raising poultry and all the information anyone could wish for is available on the internet. What makes these books special is that they were published in an age when small holders had little choice but to be largely self-sufficient and able to improvise. One, the Muskator Geflügelbuch was written in 1956 and another, Hadlington´s Australian Poultry Book ten years earlier in 1946 (Australia: Large island south of the civilized world, famous for football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars. Population: Largely imported from Asia). Both are full of handy tips and hints, Hadlington’s more for the commercial poultry farmer while Muskator seems aimed at those raising chickens for food while rebuilding a country.
|Nice bloke. Mad on chickens.|
While implicit in Hadlington’s advice is an assumption that everything required can be obtained from an emporium dedicated to the poultry farmer, Muskator illustrates artisan drinkers made from bottles, flower pots or tin cans and feeders made from what look like spent artillery shell cases and steel helmets. Thankfully, the German who wrote Muskator’s guide had heard of S.I. units of weights and measures. I was keen to learn what and how much of it I should feed to a laying hen each day. Hadlington advises a morning mash made of pollard, bran, Lucerne meal, wheat, maize (whole and cracked), meat meal, linseed meal, coconut meal or cake, and salt. The liquid may be offal soup, milk or just water, preferably hot. He also advises an unlimited supply of shell grit stating that no other substance is of use. Oyster shells are the best. Yes, yes, yes, I thought, but what are the quantities? ‘A kerosene or petrol tin is the measure most frequently used,’ advises Hadlington leaving this keen reader still none the wiser, ‘as well as the most common conveyor of poultry food on the farm.’ Depending on the product, a kerosene can holds between 12 and 18lbs I discovered after many more pages of this. It’s all delightfully vague, isn’t it!
Living here in Africa, I don’t need books which list all the latest techniques and are full of glossy pictures illustrating all the Gucci must have kit every smart poultry farmer can’t live without; I need the sort written by those living in the dark ages before Amazon was invented. The chapter entitled ‘Selbstbau, zweckmäβiger Hühnerställe’, offers detailed plans for practical self-build hen coops for 5 to 8 chickens, 10 to 14 chickens, 20 and 50 chickens. They appear so simple to construct I think I shall buttonhole the Filipino carpenter in the morning and tell him to knock some up. This poultry farming lark is beginning to look easy.
|Marcia collecting a day's egg production while wearing zweckmäβiger clothes.|
Klein also had the prices for birds. I asked him what breed of chickens they were and he said, ‘Brown ones’. I know enough about chicken breeds to be confident that brown ones lay more eggs so US$15 per bird seems pretty reasonable as at 80 cents an egg, they would only have to lay twenty each to cover their purchase price but buying 100 of them will dent my piggy bank a bit so I will go for 30 instead and see how I get on. 45 bucks a beak for ducks made my eyes water a bit but they are made in Peking apparently so should crisp up nicely. I had planned on 40 of those but half that has a nicer ring to it, I think. Geese are still unobtainable so poor old Goosie is going to have to wait a while longer before he gets his first leg over. I was very disappointed that in a country where they run round wild (just not round here), Guinea Fowl were also off the menu. Klein asked me if Coturnix coturnix africana would do instead. Coturnix? Sounded like an under garment Asterix the Gaul would wear. ‘Codorniz,’ he said in Portuguese witnessing my baffled expression. ‘Wachtel,’ he tried in German. ‘Quail?’ I asked querulously. ‘Ja! Qvail!’ he confirmed, ‘nur neun hundert pro stück!’ Nine hundred Kwanzas, nine bucks a bird.
I did a very quick mental calculation and decided to bin the ducks for the time being and get quail instead. The chickens would provide eggs, the quail would be for raising and eating. I’ll go for fifty or sixty quail and blow the rest of a thousand bucks on chickens. I will wait until the restaurant and cottages are all fenced and then buy the ducks and geese and put them on the pond, they’ll be happier there than here although God knows how I will find my duck eggs.
Feed is available in Luanda. 50 kgs of chicken feed is $38 (compared to the US or UK, is that chicken feed or is it expensive?) and quail feed is $46 a bag. I have absolutely no idea how much a quail eats but I have tentatively concluded that a laying chicken eats 110 grams of feed twice a day. Please correct me if I am wrong!
So there you go! I was a bit worried that I had all those varieties of sea food on the menu but not much exciting as far as fowl was concerned, I mean, who is going to come all this way just to eat chicken unless it is in one of my amazing curries? Quail along with the guinea Fowl when I lay my hands on them should really add something to the menu especially as I will also be offering venison.
|Coturnix coturnix Africana. Lovely, tasty little game birds.|
I want them to go from here...
|... to here.|