Surely you saw the biggest news moment of the week. The one in which Bill Gates professed “It sounds funny, but I mean it when I say that I am excited about chickens.”
Bill Gates, in case you haven’t heard of him, is the world’s richest man with a current net worth of $79 billion, and is, much more importantly, a chicken enthusiast. “Our foundation is betting on chickens,” he said recently in a post on his gatesnotes blog entitled “Why I Would Raise Chickens”.
He makes a compelling case for the economic wisdom of raising poultry in poverty-stricken countries like West Africa, borrowing a recommendation from Adam Smith’s 1776 page-turner The Wealth of Nations. Smith noted that in Great Britain, chickens were fed “offals of the barn and stables”and thus could be raised almost for free. In a 21st century take on that concept, Gates praises chickens for the fact that “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).”
“They’re a good investment,” says Gates. (And I can just see the CE nodding his head in agreement, because we’ve made such a fortune from raising chickens these past eight years, right?)
Okay, maybe we haven’t yet approached Gates’ billions with our chicken venture, but Gates’ point is that chickens make sense for families, especially those in poverty-stricken areas of Africa, living on $2 a day. Gates suggests “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.
An enterprising recent college graduate in Kenya recently had the same thoughts and is now a successful poultry farmer. As reported in The Daily Nation, Antonio Mudong’i purchased an incubator and some Kuroiler chicken eggs in October of 2015. Today, he collects seven trays of eggs a day and incubates 2,000 a month, getting at least 1,900 chicks. Here he is tending to his investment:
Gates recently partnered with Heifer International to donate 100,000 chickens in a “Coop Dreams” giveaway and says he may do so again in the near future. Of course, for Bill, 100,000 chickens is, well, chicken feed, but it’s a start. His stated goal is to “eventually help 30 per cent of the rural families in sub-Saharan Africa raise improved breeds of vaccinated chickens, up from just 5 per cent now.”
With Bill Gates on board, who can doubt that chickens make the world go ’round? Many thanks to my friend Katherine for this graphic that proves it once and for all: