Friday, March 12, 2010

the hen that flew the coop

i was browsing at queen victoria market in melbourne, when i came across cages of chicks, ducklings, ducks, quails and hens. it makes me wonder if australians are immune to bird flu. in singapore, a quail farm at lim chu kang lane 6, which was very popular with school-children and other visitors, had to quickly close its door, or rather its gate, when the bird flu hit. these days, in singapore, you do not get to see any live poultry at wet markets or any other market.

poultry reminds me of my kampong days. we used to keep free ranging - as the australians call them - or kampong chickens and ducks, just outside the compound of our house. my mother would go to the vicinity of the now defunct kallang gaswork to buy the baby chicks and ducklings. to protect the young poultry and to keep them warm, an oil lamp would be kept burning in the cage throughout the night.

those days, the baby chicks and ducks cost a few cents each. i do not recall the ducklings being noisy but the chicks would be chirping away throughout the day and intermittently, at night. the chicks and ducklings were reared to be sacrificed, when they became adults, to the gods on the many festivities that are celebrated throughout the year.

however, some were spared. the egg-laying hens and ducks did not end up on the altar table. i recall having to go around collecting the eggs laid by the hens and ducks that we kept. the newly-laid eggs were warm to the touch. the hens' eggs were smaller than the ducks'. sometimes, the birds strayed to the neighbours' compound to lay their eggs. the taking away the egg became atricky and sensitive issue.

once, i remember, one of the hens flew to the top of our zinc-roofed house. we tried to coax it down but to no avail. finally, i had to climb to the top of the roof, via the guava tree, to shoo it down. it was also something of a realisation for me..that chicken can fly and fly quite high.

some chickens were destined for a higher purpose. these were the cockerels that were castrated. the caponised rooster would grow very big but when the time came, they would be offered to the heavenly god (tii kong) on the 9th day of the lunar new year.

today, in singapore, if you want to see chickens, you will have to visit some of the big commercial poultry farms at lim chu kang, sungei tengah or jalan murai. ever since the bird flu scare, the authorities have banned all forms of small-scale rearing of poultry, so you do not see chickens or ducks in somebody's backyard, not even in rural pulau ubin.


fr said...

besides the big farms, do you know where can get some chicks?

peter said...

This u got to help me clarify.

1. How do you determine which is a cockerel and which is a hen, like man and woman? Likewise for duck?

2. How do you tell which hen can lay eggs or cockerel can lay eggs also?

3. Does it mean black feathers = black colour skin?

yg said...

fr, i don't think you can buy chicks in singapore anymore, not even from the large commercial farms.

yg said...

peter, i am not a chick sexer, so i can't help you. i remember, when we were buying chicks, the seller determined the sex of the chick by squeezing its anus but i don't know what he looked out for.
not all black chickens have black feathers. i have seen black chickens with white feathers.

peter said...

alamak, I thot i cham u also. I never take Biology, so I ask questions. Squeeze anus? shit will come out what!

Can anybody help?

yg said...

peter, no one to study biology to know more about sex.

nah said...

Our birds never strayed to the neighbours’ house… to lay their eggs. As a kid, I observed that the adults knew which hen was about to lay her egg, simply by putting a finger into the anus of the hen. The hen would then be put in a box which had a cover to give her privacy. Not long after this, I would go to the box to collect the egg. After a few training sessions like this, the hen would know exactly where to lay her egg the next time, by jumping into the box.

yg said...

mr nah, looks like the chicken's backside serves a number of purposes - you can tell the sex of the young ones by pressing the anus and you can tell if the egg (of the hen) is on the way by inserting your finger into the anus.

peter said...

wiat wait u guys before u run off talking about anus.

1. When u squeeze the anus, what do you expect to see to determine the sex?

2. Finger so thick, how do enter anus? Anyway, insert the finger what does it say?

Maybe time for me to call AVA and find out answers?

nah said...

YG, allow me to reply to Peter’s Q2. If an egg which has the size of three fingers placed side by side, can come out of an anus, where is the problem with one finger, even the middle one? Inserting a finger into an anus is a smelly job but from the looks of the adults doing it, a very satisfying one.

yg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
yg said...

peter, you can go to this website to find the answer to your pressing (the anus) question.

jack said...

What about 45 days old chicken? Are they easy to farm? What are the necessary budget to start a chicken farm business? I am thinking of starting about 50 chickens before going full blast. I already had references and ebooks to guide me all throughout this business. But not a complete plan tho.