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A week with the chickens

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Posted Feb. 17, 2015

Last week was a week of fixing mistakes. Big Dutchman, a German-based company that engineers and sets up poultry farm implements, was so kind to donate 50 percent of the equipment needed to make Watoto one of the most modern poultry farms in the country. But when the first engineer came over to Watoto to set up the freshly purchased equipment, the follow through was not there. We may never know why some things were installed incorrectly. It may have been language barrier, running out of the time or lack of motivation. Last week was the week to fix it to be prepared for the new flock of birds in a few weeks.

A British egg farmer has come multiple times to consult Watoto's egg farm over the past few years. Danny is actually the largest organic and free-range egg farmer in the United Kingdom, with 20,000 birds. He has such a big heart for Uganda and a conviction for Watoto children and their stories. He paid for the newly hired supervisor of the poultry farm, Andrew, to fly to the U.K. and see his chicken operation. This was such a good opportunity for Andrew to see the potential of chicken farming and bring ideas back to Watoto. You can see Danny's U.K. farm on Facebook, where he has blog posts narrating each of his trips to Watoto.

danny and andrewDanny and Andrew in one of their many intimate conversations about poultry farming.

With him came a German engineer from Big Dutchman who is helping troubleshoot problems with the grain storage silo, auger, automated feeders and waters, nests, and egg belt for the chickens. Marius spoke little English, which made figuring out his solutions to the problems that much more entertaining. A lot of hand gestures and simple phrases were exchanged. But Marius knows his poultry equipment well and easily diagnosed the many issues.

unpacking parcelsMarius and Joseph unpack the parcels sent by Big Dutchman to fix the poultry equipment.

The bottom half of one silo was bolted on top of the top half, with the joint exposed and unprotected from rain. So, moisture from the heavy rainy season caused the feed to compact. The feed then began to get stuck inside the silo instead of sift through the bottom into the auger to be dispersed to the chickens.

silo incorrectly installedThe silo on the left was incorrectly installed, causing the feed inside to be vulnerable to moisture.

As a result, one of the workers tried to break up the feed using a metal rod through the top of the silo. But by mistake, the rod was dropped into the silo and was unable to be retrieved. Eventually the rod made its way to the bottom of the silo and jammed the auger. So both the silo and auger were out of commission.

augerA metal rod interfered with the auger to disperse the feed to the chickens.

Inside the chicken barn, all the equipment needed to be addressed. The motors for the feed chains were rusted from the exposure to salt water during cleaning and had been left for three months without being run. The chains inside the feed troughs needed to be turned around, tightened, straightened and tied down. The water nipples needed to be disinfected and the leaks in the hoses fixed. The nests' cables had to be readjusted so they would be drawn up uniformly each evening. And the egg belt had to be adjusted and realigned. It was seven long days of hard work.

automatic feeders and waterersThe equipment for the chickens, the nests and egg belt running down the center of the barn with automatic feeders and waterers on either side.

feed troughsJoseph turning the chains of the feed troughs.

disassembling the siloThe farm workers disassembling the silo, a two day process.

We had QUITE a surprise in the middle of one of our workdays. The managing director of Big Dutchman decided to pay Watoto's poultry farm a visit to see the state of their equipment they had donated. It was such an honor to meet him and see his interest. He was traveling to a few countries in Eastern Africa to see the potential his company could have there.

olafOlaf, managing director of Big Dutchman, paid us a visit.

About the Author

Emily Jost is a 2015 Noble-Watoto Fellow working at Watoto Child Care Ministries in Uganda. Jost is from Edmond, Oklahoma, and is in her final semester in the master of international agriculture program at Oklahoma State University, where she focuses on sustainable development.

Emily Jost
2015 Noble-Watoto Fellow