Monday, February 12, 2007

Kuku Day!

My newly bought chickens and I on Kuku day.
In my small village of Malava every Wednesday and Friday is Kuku Day. If you know your Swahili you'll know that "kuku" means "chicken." All of the farmers that raise chickens gather together just off of the main crossroads in the marketplace and show them off to all who pass by, even those who have no intention of buying a chicken. Who knows, for the right price maybe they'll change your mind.
Many of the chickens arrive by bicycle and are stuffed many into a small wooden cage on the back. Chickens in Kenya seem to be seen as a mere commodities and are not given any animal rights. The chickens' legs are tied together so they will not run away and when hung upside down, the legs provide a handle for carrying them. A potential buyer may also hang a chicken upside to see that it is not sick. If the chicken is sick a liquid will drain from its nostrils and beak.

Many farmers want to make a quick sale and when they see that someone is interested there is stiff competition between those that can offer the right bird at the right price. As with nearly everything that can be bought here there is an "African price" and a "Mzungu price." Mzungus (white people) are always preceived to have a lot of money and so they tend to pay the highest prices for anything that can be bargained for...and chickens are no exception.

In Kenya, chicken is considered to be one of the finest foods and this is reflected in the high price for chicken in the restaurants. Surprisingly chicken is even more expensive than beef.
I have been thinking for a couple of weeks now that it would be good to have a couple of chickens on hand. They could always be slaughtered and eaten, but I was thinking more that they would make good pets and that I would always have fresh eggs for breakfast.
One Friday David, the Occupational Therapist that I work with at the St. Julie Center, met me at the market to help me get the best price on a couple of kukus. David is a Kenyan and was able to help me get an "African price." I ended up paying 430 Ksh for a rooster and a hen, just a hair over 6 dollars US. Not too shabby.
I brought them home and now they live in my courtyard. The rooster is named Rafiki (Friend) and the hen is Malaika (Angel). They are both a little young and will not be crowing in the morning or laying eggs for several weeks. Rafiki has not yet grown the comb on his head for which a rooster is most recognized. For this reason many people have mistaken him for a hen. They are both white with a similar pattern of black on their tails and as many other chickens in
Kenya are completely brown or black, I like to joke about them being mzungu chickens. We all seem perfectly suited for each other.
Rafiki looks like a hen, but clearly has the manners of a rooster. He gets excited quickly and does not care to be petted. He seems very proud of himself, for no reason at all, and struts along a ladder that is laying down in the courtyard.

Malaika sitting calmly and Rafiki standing proud.

Malaika is calm most of the time and doesn't mind being petted. She seems very modest and spends most of her time sitting and clucking. When food is present she is clearly "the boss" and will peck at Rafiki to get the first bite.

Malaika and Rafiki sitting together.

I let them out in the morning to find food in the field out back and have trained them to come home at night. When they come home separately, one will wait for the other and then they will sit together on the ladder and sleep throughout the night.

They are the perfect Kenyan pets!


Erin Miesmer said...


You don't really think that you are going to be able to slaughter those little kukus after you've befriended them do you?? I can just see it now...they will be on the plane with you in December.

You are in my thoughts and prayers,
Erin :)

Anonymous said...

It figures that you would take a chicken as a pet. love the postings. God bless.

Jeremy Priest said...


I've just been reading your blog...very funny! You are a great writer! Your words flow very well and it's easy to read. Know of my prayers and God bless your work. Please pray for me.

In Christ,

Jeremy Priest

Anonymous said...

I'm having fun reading your letters from Kenya, wish you the best and happy new year!

love, grandpa constantino

Anonymous said...

now you're a farmer too!! (of chickens at least!) haha. :-) Hope things keep going well for you. God bless!
ps...are there chiggers in africa?

Anonymous said...

Tim -
You never cease to amaze! I truly enjoy reading your blog. You'll have to let us know when you are enjoying fresh eggs for breakfast!