The momma hen that lives in the small room off my kitchen may just be the best friend I have in Kongo. She certainly knows a lot more intimate details about me and my daily life than anyone else here. And she's a great companion, so much character and personality.
I first met Momma early last year. I was still in the first three months at site, so I was still doing a lot of adjusting and adapting and learning everyday. We became instant besties.
I began to see her, this average sized black and white hen with brown on her neck, come in and out of my compound a lot everyday, and when in my compound she would spend a good deal of time in her little room by my kitchen. When I looked in there one day, I realized, Duh, she needs a place to lay her eggs. Her owner is my landlord, Francis, who's house is directly behind mine, where I go to fetch my water. That household is constantly noisy- they have a small boy (with a slight developmental disability) who just turned 4, and they have another boy and girl, about 10 and 9; the mom and dad who are usually yelling at one of the kids; plus a whole bunch of animals running about. So its never quiet. I'm sure little ol' me hanging out by myself in my big compound all to myself looked pretty inviting to her!
So she came to have her babies in my compound. Last year, she started out with maybe eight chicks in her first round of babies, but lost about half, probably from the hawks. By the time the babies were hatched, Momma had become part of my daily routine. By the time I was up in the morning, she had already gone out to forage for food, then mid-morning she'd be back to go sit on her eggs. But not before she'd ask me for food!
I told my landlord that his hen was in my house. He was totally fine with that, and I would always come over to give him updates on how may eggs she had. He said that if I could feed her somes grains every once in a while that would be nice. So I started to throw her a handful of rice in the morning, and she came to expect it everyday. Silly girl!
After she raised two sets of babies last dry season, she went back to my landlord's house for the wet season. They have a little mud hut for their fowls, and I'm sure he probably feeds them more regularly. I would see her sometimes in the mornings and say hi when I would go fetch water.
Come January this year, she came back! I was so happy to see her duck under my compound door again to come greet me (and of course to get some food).
Her first batch this year had 10 chicks, and I think she only lost one or two to hawks. And just like last year, Momma and her babies made up my morning entertainment. Watching 10 little babies running around frantically, following their mom- cutest thing EVER. And them being so darn cute, when they all crowd around me while I eat my breakfast, I throw them a few handfuls of rice. One day I had made myself too much oats for breakfast, so I tossed them some. Turns out they like oats! They also like to come around my veranda and lap up the water from my leaking water filter. But I try to keep a small tin tomato can filled with water for them in their little room, so they don't poop all over my veranda. That gets hard though because Momma seems to like to have them all come into my veranda occasionally so she can keep them protected from hawks.
Now her first 10 babies of the year have been "kicked out" of the house. Time for her to have her second batch! The other day I counted about 15 eggs in her little room. Some days she doesn't bother me much since she's sitting on her eggs, but the past few mornings, she refuses to leave my side if I don't feed her!
I'm definitely glad that I decided not to get a pet while here. It was very tempting at first to have a companion, but I would not be able to part with a cat or dog, knowing it would be eaten. (Cletus kept telling me to get a dog since I love them so much, and he said he would take care of it when I left. I told him he would just eat it. He said he wouldn't. Well, Cletus, then you would just sell it and then someone else would eat it. He just laughed. Not too hard to see through his plan. Oh Cletus, always the jokester.) But Momma has become like a pet to me, a woman's best friend. She's there to talk to, she's see me at the lowest of the lows. She's been there to remind my life ain't so bad; its like she says, "What are you complaining about? I'm raising 20 babies in three months in 100-110+ degree weather with no guaranteed food and water supply. And I have this crazy hot coat of feathers. So what's your problem?" Oh, Momma, she brings me down to earth, she raises my spirits when I wake up pissed off after listening to blasting music all night, she makes me laugh.