Letters

Footsteps readers’ survey 

We have been humbled by the many responses we have received to the readers’ survey. Thank you to all those who have responded. What a pleasure it has been to have our post bag full of envelopes covered in stamps from all over the world. We will be sharing the results with you in a future edition of Footsteps but your suggestions are already helping us to make the magazine even better and shaping our plans for the future. 

Tiny eggs 

Can anyone help me with an unusual phenomenon that just occurred for the second time in six months? I have 12 hens, all laying every couple of days. Yesterday, we found a tiny egg, measuring about 2.5cm in length. This had happened previously about two months ago, and I presumed it was ‘just one of those things’ but now that it has happened for the second time, I would be grateful for any advice on what it could be. I think it was laid by a one-year-old hen but I also have four hens who are only six months old. 

Marion
PO Box 751, Kabale, Uganda

aes_uk@yahoo.com 

Editor’s note: We passed Marion’s question on to chicken expert, Keiron Forbes and this was his advice: 

The first thing to say is not to worry – there is nothing wrong with your hen. This is quite normal, if unusual. These tiny eggs can take two forms: with or without a yolk. I assume this was a perfect egg but just in miniature. This means that the yolk has not fully developed before being released. When a hen matures she already has all the yolks she will ever produce and each 28 hours or so the next one develops and is released. This normally happens in a pattern of 6–8 eggs and then the hen stops. This is because in nature the hen would then sit on these eggs and hatch chicks, but with commercial layers this trait has been almost lost and the hens continue to produce eggs at a much higher rate. However, all hens need to take a break at some time and often the first egg of the next clutch after that pause is much smaller, like the egg of a young bird starting to lay for the first time. 

Advice on chicken rearing 

In your last issue of Footsteps, you were seeking some advice about chicken rearing. I am a poultry farmer in Kisumu, Kenya and would like to advise fellow farmers everywhere. 

Firstly, don’t underfeed your chickens, especially broilers which are reared quickly for meat production. Broilers need to eat well for 5–6 weeks to be able to give you the best product. Otherwise you will end up with underfed hens that your customers don’t want. You might have to sell them at throwaway prices and get less profit. 

Secondly, to ensure that you do not have a high mortality rate in your flock, keep everything clean: feeders, water trays etc. The entire room needs to be well ventilated. 

Elijah Ogeda 

Faida Adrama, a nurse facilitator, using the ‘Problem tree’ exercise from Footsteps 90. Photo: Kay Wotton

Helpful resources 

We recently held two community workshops in south-west Uganda on environmental change, to identify which environmental issues the communities knew and were concerned most about. We used a number of drawings of environmental and farming issues from Tearfund publications for exercises that helped participants share with others and consider many new ideas. Your drawings are wonderful, easily understood, appropriate for rural Africa and inexpensive to reproduce, as they are black and white. 

We found community members identified a number of key environmental issues such as charcoal burning, the need to replace forests, the loss of soil fertility and the impact of banana monoculture on their food supply and they wanted then and there to take action immediately. So, although we had a limited budget, we quickly printed and bound copies of Tearfund’s Agroforestry PILLARS guide as well as farming posters which you can download (www.fourthway.co.uk/posters). 

Both the students and I find your practical suggestions for simple interventions that can improve health in rural settings are a great inspiration. I would be most appreciative if you would make people aware of our Community Development manual which is available for free download on the Healthy Child Uganda website:http://healthychilduganda.org/assets/web-CD-Manual-Final.pdf Kay Wotton katewotton5@hotmail.com Faida Adrama, a nurse facilitator, using the ‘Problem tree’ exercise from Footsteps 90.