The chickens in my kitchen

I have a personal policy here in Jordan of saying yes to pretty much everything. When my school principal comes to me with 6 bags of buttons and a 5×6 orange sheet and requests that I make a mural, I say yes. When strangers on the street invite me to their houses for tea I say yes and then I follow them home. And during training whenever my host family told me to get in the car with my camera and a bottle of water and to tell Peace Corps I would be gone for the day, of course I always said yes. So last week when one of the teachers at my center told me I should come with her to visit her sister’s husband’s poultry farm, I said yes without even thinking about it. This is my standard of normal now.

So after work we convinced the school-bus driver to drop us off at her sister’s house and we spent the afternoon making and eating  lunch and then hanging out and eating ice cream with all the family members that showed up to meet the awkward foreign American. Eventually (after I dropped a lot of hints) all 5 women, 1 man, and 4 children piled into the car to drive up the road and visit the farm. I’d been picturing the whole red barn, rooster on the roof, lots of hay- type scenario, but the reality was a little more business-like:

We took a tour through the building, which was all white tile and giant carts filled with egg trays that, according to our guide (teacher’s sister’s husband Hammud), get tilted at 40 degree angles to the right and then to the left every hour. Then we practiced picking up the eggs with an anxiety-producing suction machine.

And then it was time to move on to the incubation rooms, which were heated at 95 degrees and filled with tiny, fluffy, out-of-this-world-adorable baby chicks packed in floor-to-ceiling stacks of plastic crating. Hammud casually pulled one of them out and plopped it down on the floor.

At which point we all reached in and started to make friends.

After a few minutes of bonding with the most adorable animals on earth it seemed like it might be time to leave, so I started to get up and put my new friends back in their crate. But instead Hammud and the kids all handed more chicks to me (I had like 5 in my hands at this point) and insisted that I take them home to live with me forever. So of course I said yes.

I didn’t consider the fact that I have no experience raising anything ever, that I’d never actually even encountered a baby chick in my life before that day, or that  I own a cat. Whatever, someone had just offered me an armful of baby animals and I wasn’t going to turn them down. So we put them in the trunk and drove home.

The first step when I got home was locking my bloodthirsty, attention-starved cat in the bedroom while I googled the business of raising 5 day-old chicks without any equipment or experience. Fortunately there are a lot of people that have already done this (special thanks to the DIY movement and Barbara Kingsolver), and I was able to figure out pretty much everything that I needed, which included a brooder and a lot of birdseed. so after a little research and a trip to the hardware store in Amman I was able to produce this:

It’s constructed mostly duct-tape, cardboard, and fire-hazards, but the chicks are alive and happy so I’m calling it a success. When they get a little bigger I’m planning to move them to my center so our students can help take care of them. Farming is big out here, so the more skills our kids learn in that department the better. And I guess I’m learning with them.


4 responses to “The chickens in my kitchen

  1. !!!!! love this. you’re turning your house into an animal party. my brother raises chickens if you need any advice, though you sound like you’ve got it covered. oh, how relevant the egg question was…

  2. Maggie, I am impressed with your “can do” attitude in constructing the brooder! Baby chicks are adorable, and your story reminds me of the chicken flock (50 hens) that I tended when I was a teen. The children at your center will love them too.

  3. What do you mean you’ve never raised anything?! Are you kidding me? I lived through a Noah’s ark of animals with you. Of course, we did kill most of them off. Perhaps that’s what you meant: your animals did have a short shelf life. I think if you can keep That Thing away from the chicks they may have a fighting chance. 🙂

  4. I love your “Can Do” attitude, Maggie. The Jordanians are lucky to have you there! Happy farming!

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