Chickens in the Philippines

chickensMany people don’t know much more about chickens than what they put in their mouths. After all, they all taste the same when cooked, right? While the taste differences may be subtle, they’re still there. How a chicken tastes probably has more to do with what they eat than how they look. Some people believe those fed with chicken feed are far less tasty than those that forage for themselves.

The first time I saw anything other than a white chicken was in the Philippines, that I can remember. The only place I saw live chickens before that was at my grandmother’s farm before I joined the military. I’ve never seen a red chicken. The plumage on roosters doesn’t count. I’ve seen brown and black chickens, though, as they graze in and around the compound.

People around me call one breed “White Leghorn“, another breed “Cantonese” and the rest of them “native”. They’re probably wrong about all of them but the White Leghorn. I’m almost positive the native chickens are actually junglefowls because they look like the picture on the Wikipedia page. I know some roosters used for gaming are junglefowls.

The White Leghorn is the most well-known breed of chicken, and it’s probably what all the chicken farmers prefer. It may or may not be the best-tasting chicken breed. People around me call the broiler chickens “45 days”. I don’t know why, but perhaps it’s because they aren’t a specific breed. They look like White Leghorns, but not exactly. They mature at different speeds, so 45 days is only correct for some of them.

Raising Chickens

I don’t know much about city ordinances in the Philippines. They’re obviously different in every city. I’m sure some places have restrictions on where chickens can be raised. Most Filipinos would simply ignore those restrictions or find a way around them. Having food on the table is far more important than following rules.

Raising chickens can be an exercise in frustration if the chicken coops aren’t built properly. Even when they are built properly, other things can happen to make raising them harder than it should be. My wife, Josie, raised chickens three times. I don’t remember much about the first time, but out of 100 chickens, at least a third of them died from heat. She picked the wrong time of year or something.

In August 2015, after Josie returned from a trip to England (a trip I avoided), she had one of her sisters buy 60 chicks. I paid for the chicks, the chicken feed and the vitamins they added to the water. I think they only lost one, and that was because it stuck its head out of the cage and a cat took a swipe at it. The cats in our compound are not pets. They’re scavengers.

In October, they raised chickens again, this time starting with 90 chicks. By the end of the month, they were down to a little over 70 chickens. Some neighborhood cat found a way to get into the chicken coop. That chicken coop was checked a dozen times to make sure it was secure. The superstitious people living in our compound thought it was an aswang, pretending to be a cat.

I don’t remember how much money I spent that time around. I told Josie to stop raising chickens, for various reasons, and she hasn’t raised any since then.

Chicken and Rice

In all the years I’ve lived in the Philippines, there’s one specific thing I’ve noticed: Filipinos love chicken and rice, perhaps more than anything else they can possibly eat. How the chicken is prepared doesn’t really seem to matter.

The Jollibee Food Corporation took advantage of the Filipino love for fried chicken by introducing “Chickenjoy” in 1980. Other fast-food chains copied it to some degree over the years. Today, almost every restaurant in the Philippines serves a chicken and rice dish of some kind, even Burger King and McDonald’s.

I’ve eaten so many varieties of chicken and rice, I can’t even name them all. I’ve had fried or barbecued chicken, chicken adobo, chicken tinola, arroz caldo and hot wings and those are just the dishes I can remember. A wider variety of dishes is what I’m after. I’m happy when I can eat beef instead of chicken.

Chickens for Cockfighting

Called “sabong” in Tagalog, cockfighting is a popular blood sport in the Philippines. When speaking to a Filipino over the phone, who’s in the Philippines, it’s more likely than not that a rooster can be heard crowing in the background. I’ve heard them in the background when Josie watches Filipino dramas.

Those roosters serve one purpose, cockfights. I’ve never participated in any, and I’ve never betted on any outcomes. One of my in-laws (a “bilas”) raises several roosters at a time and participates in cockfights every weekend.

Image by Andrei Niemimäki from Turku, Finland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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