Machine Chickens

I remember the incubator miracle like it was yesterday.  I was an upper primary school teacher in Monduli, Tanzania in 1966.  Among the projects that I was involved in was the development of a flock of chickens both for eggs and for meat.  The project started with 100 eggs from the area agricultural college and a kerosene incubator provided by Peace Corps. A small room was found for the incubator and the project got underway.

As the project progressed, I became aware of not only interest among the students in what we were trying to do both in the classroom and the incubator room but the also the fact that I was considered by many students to be suffering from at least a mild form of insanity.

What is the cause of this?  Everyone knew that you did not get chicks to hatch from their eggs by putting them in a machine with a little water and rotating them daily.  What you needed was to have a hen set on the eggs.  Daily, students would look through the door at the eggs lying apparently dormant in the machine clearly doing nothing and at the poor delusional Peace Corps volunteer who had obviously lost his mind.

Imagine the amazement when on the 21st day little cracks and openings began to appear in the egg shells and gradually over time 87 little chicks emerged.  Students were enthralled and would stare at the process for long periods of time in wonder at each new birth.  Over the next two years we developed a large flock of black sussex and rhode island red chickens which were a food source and also were sold to area farmers.  But nothing was ever as much fun as that first group of chicks and the learning and amazement that they inspired.



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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.