By: Mark “Epa” Barret
I am a pediatrician, not a farmer. I haven’t seen a patient since Jan 25th.
I have been in Uganda since shortly after that time. There are striking similarities to taking care of medicine’s smallest patients and poultry’s tiniest birds. Let me share:
#1. Both are little when you start. We started the PCM Enkoko House in late October. The chicks reminded me of a newborn premie…….small, sensitive to temperature change, and needing just the right environment.
#2. If you feed them the right thing, they will grow.Breastfed babies gain weight at a huge rate the first 4 months. Chicks do the same when fed eggs from the high-quality feed mill in Rwanda. They love it. We are paying an extra $2,000 per chicken house to haul this feed across the border. We have a huge warehouse and probably will need more room soon.
#3 Neither has poop that stinks. Never in my life have I smelled chickens or a chicken house that didn’t smell. This feed is amazing. It’s like a breastfeeding infant, great weight gain with no smell.
#4 Enkoko House workers are like neonatal ICU nurses. Both are highly educated and equipped to deal with big problems. However, if you manage the patient/chick you can avoid a ton of problems. We got lectured from Tyson’s international experts from a company called Cobb Ventress. Dave and Gustavo from Cobb and Chris Ordway from One Egg, brought their A game to educate us, the “green” chicken house people. It felt like an intensive CME (continuing medical education) course on steroids. We walked away with practical applications to our farm and a confidence of knowing where we are going with these 2,000 birds.
#5. Bio security is king of the nursery and the chicken house. In the NICU, you don’t get to pass further than 1 step in the door before you have to scrub down. We have isolation rooms and gowns that are changed every time you enter and exit. The Enkoko House is no exception. Once our house is completed, a bio-secure entry will lead to a 5-minute shower and new clothes to get on site by our PCM Farm staff. No other visitors are allowed just like the ICU. The patients are too fragile and so are the chickens.
#6. Vaccines save lives of babies and chickens. There is an outbreak of bird flu in Uganda not far from our 2,000 birds. I diagnosed my first influenza patient in Texas the day before I left for Uganda. The border in Uganda has already been closed to any poultry moving across the line. One thing is for sure, vaccines are good for babies and good for birds.
#7. Premies like routine and so do chickens. Both require a schedule, nail or beak trimming, and special feeders to get the job done. If you mess with the schedule, you are likely to hear lots of crying and squawking.
#8 Premies and little chicks are pretty popular with people. Everybody loves them……and they should. Both bring lots of joy. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for these gifts from above.
Soon I will be back with the crying babies instead of the squawking poultry. I just need to hop across the pond. I will miss these birds just like I have missed the babies. Both are growing up before our eyes.