“Whose chicken is that?” This has become one of our favorite questions here in Tanzania. The question stems from our initial curiosity about why chickens roam throughout the roads all day long. We never see owners nearby, we never see chickens in their coop, but we always see chickens roaming free. We asked a Tanzanian friend if people own the chickens, and if so, how do the owners know which chicken is theirs? He said, “The chickens know their home.” He explained to us that the chickens are set loose by their owners in the morning and that by the time the sun sets, the chickens return home. We thought he was telling us a Tanzanian joke. We later found out that his story is true!
When Melissa was cooking at Kaaya’s house last week, Kaaya’s chickens came home (see photo below)! It was dusk and the chickens (and Daisy the duck!) were at the gate! There were over 20 chickens and they were all pecking at the gate waiting to be let inside. We officially believe that chickens do come home at night. We are not sure how the chickens know their home, or how people do not steal the chickens during the day, but the system seems to work!
As you can tell by the photo, the chickens aren’t quite as plump as you might find in the U.S. Most of the chickens are a bit malnourished. They are not fed food in their coops; instead they fend for themselves throughout the day. This often means that they eat a few blades of grass, some garbage, or whatever else they run across. The lack of proper nutrition is shown in the eggs.
The egg yolk is not very yellow. When it is cooked, the yoke usually becomes white. You can hardly tell the yoke from the rest of the egg by color! As you can tell by the photo below, the egg on top must have been from a chicken that found a little more grass! The eggs taste fine, but their color is a bit odd for us! However, not all eggs are like this. When we ate breakfast at the Masai Lutheran Church Easter morning, we had eggs with yellow yolks. We imagine this is due to the fact that the Masai chickens roam around grassy land instead of roads and pavement in the urban areas.
Melissa’s grandparents were farmers in Nebraska. During a Skype call, we asked them if their chickens were ever set free on the farm. They laughed and said that their chickens were never allowed to roam around! They said that they are sure their chickens wouldn’t have come home like the chickens do in Tanzania!
Perhaps we’ll bring a few chickens home so that the U.S. chickens can learn how to return home when they are lost!