From the time he was a little boy, East End resident Edwin Fisher liked animals.
Seeing his grandfather, the late Edison Scott raise chickens all his life and the joy it gave him, Mr. Fisher followed right in his footsteps – forming his own special bond with the chickens along the way.
Most Caymanians in days gone by found chickens to be very entertaining, and fond of the fowl being raised for the pot and for eggs. Some older folk, and young ones too, up to this day will sit for hours, watching and feeding local chickens.
“My grandfather had a chicken pen, and we would collect chickens throughout the day. If they were left in the pen too long, some of the chickens would eat the eggs. We had a remedy for this, which was the chickens that ate the eggs would be the first to get eaten by the family,” Mr. Fisher said.
“Common chickens taste a whole lot better than the ones we buy at the supermarket,” he added.
On many days off, when the mosquitoes are not swarming about the place, Mr. Fisher can be found laid up in his hammock at his property on Farm Road in East End, watching his chickens running round the place.
“Sometimes I will go right down to where I have only six or seven chickens, then right back up again with hundreds,” said the Port Authority truck driver, who nevertheless finds time to care for and describe his love for the feathery bird species that has captured his attention over the years.
“I am 47 years of age, and I have been raising chickens from the time I knew myself,” Mr. Fisher said.
A flutter of feathers greets him as he approaches the coop with a bucket of feed. About 85 chickens, a mixture of Rhode Island reds, mixed breeds, broilers, peel-necks and roosters, rush to the front of the cage to feed.
“I have a generation of peel-necks that I got from my grandfather over 25 years ago,” Mr. Fisher said. A flock of common chickens come running as they hear the sprinkling of the feed hitting the soft earth.
Castro, the chickens’ canine friend, breaks up the group as they feed, but it’s only a short while before the chickens make their way back to pecking again.
“The common chickens come early in the morning to look [for] feed and disappear for the rest of the day, I only cage them up when some people come looking [for] a few to make a favorite dish of chicken and dumplings,” Mr. Fisher said.
A typical day for Mr. Fisher begins with him taking care of his plantation at the back of the house.
Chickens are not the only animals in his collection. Goats, rabbits, dogs and pigeons have also captured the animal lover’s attention.
To increase his stock, Mr. Fisher uses the common fowl running round the place to hatch his big breed chicken eggs.
“I look to see where the common chicken are laying, take away their eggs and put the big breed eggs in the nest,” he explained.
He said the chicks take 21 days to hatch, but two weeks before the chickens break through the shell, he removes the eggs from the nest and puts them in a small cage with a light which serves as an incubator to finish the process. When the chickens hatch, they are kept and fed in the small cage until they are ready to be transferred to a bigger cage.
Sometimes Mr. Fisher mixes the breeds.
“People say broilers don’t lay but they do lay. You just don’t give them too much of the starter grow feed. It makes them fat and they cannot walk,” he said.
Mr. Fisher gives his chickens starter grow feed for about a week, and then a diet of corn, pusley (an edible low maintenance annual plant) and callaloo so they do not get fat.
For those wishing to start their own hatchery, Mr. Fisher suggests getting chickens from the time they are young. These, he said, can be bought through the Agriculture Department.
“Get them to lay to grow your stock, making sure to not give them too much Layena [a chicken feed] because many of the eggs won’t hatch,” he advised.
“You need the eggs to be fertilized by a rooster, and then place them under a hen to hatch.”
Now that his children are off school for the summer, Mr. Fisher’s time is spent mostly with them, and the animals take a backseat – for the most part.
“Sometimes I take them fishing, and we drive around the neighborhood, that is, after we finish feeding the animals,” he said.