Some mild clucking going on in social media about a report that Bill Gates said the poor can benefit from owning chickens:
In a blog post entitled “Why I would raise chickens,” the tech mogul said he was cock-a-hoop about the barnyard animals.
“I’ve met many people in poor countries who raise chickens, and I have learned a lot about the ins and outs of owning these birds,” he wrote. “It’s pretty clear to me that just about anyone who’s living in extreme poverty is better off if they have chickens.”
The Sun piece gives in to snark and makes a big deal about a rich man — the richest man, according to Forbes — talking up chickens for the poor, but what Gates writes in this blogpost is real:
- In fact, if I were in their shoes, that’s what I would do—I would raise chickens.
They are easy and inexpensive to take care of. Many breeds can eat whatever they find on the ground (although it’s better if you can feed them, because they’ll grow faster). Hens need some kind of shelter where they can nest, and as your flock grows, you might want some wood and wire to make a coop. Finally, chickens need a few vaccines. The one that prevents the deadly Newcastle disease costs less than 20 cents.
- They’re a good investment. Suppose a new farmer starts with five hens. One of her neighbors owns a rooster to fertilize the hens’ eggs. After three months, she can have a flock of 40 chicks. Eventually, with a sale price of $5 per chicken—which is typical in West Africa—she can earn more than $1,000 a year, versus the extreme-poverty line of about $700 a year.
- They help keep children healthy. Malnutrition kills more than 3.1 million children a year. Although eating more eggs—which are rich in protein and other nutrients—can help fight malnutrition, many farmers with small flocks find that it’s more economical to let the eggs hatch, sell the chicks, and use the money to buy nutritious food. But if a farmer’s flock is big enough to give her extra eggs, or if she ends up with a few broken ones, she may decide to cook them for her family.
- They empower women. Because chickens are small and typically stay close to home, many cultures regard them as a woman’s animal, in contrast to larger livestock like goats or cows. Women who sell chickens are likely to reinvest the profits in their families.
He’s right. And giving people in need a gift of chickens, while it sounds strange, is a very good thing. Why your correspondent’s brother and sister-in-law got married, I gave them a goat. Well, not really, what I did was purchase a goat for a family in need, in their name, in honor of their wedding.
They loved it. They loved knowing that their important day was important for an impoverished family, too.
Thanks to Bill Gates’ prompting, this Father’s Day, Dad is getting 20 chicks given in his name to people who need them.
I’m sure he’ll prefer it to the usual white shirt.