A Chicken Named Sunday

“He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” (Psalms 91:4 New Living Translation)

Finally, we came to Africa, to realise our dream. We were in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, which was a British territory. They have a savanna climate, so there is a rainy season and a dry season. When there is little rain, the land becomes very dry and rough. The residents there were very poor, and were constantly exposed to malaria, tuberculosis, cholera and AIDS. Children were free to explore, and our children, who were little at the time, seemed to enjoy climbing trees, playing soccer, swimming in the pool, learning karate, and interacting with nature.

Our children talked freely with the local kids and adults, and were invited into their homes to share meals. They ate a lot of local food, like “shima”, made from boiled corn powder, and flying ants, which local people ate for protein. My husband and I were amazed by their boldness, and how easily they had adjusted to their new environment.

On Saturdays, all the Japanese children went to a supplementary school. There were about ten students, and they were only learning Japanese and mathematics. During the week, they all attended English schools. We Japanese families sometimes got together for picnics, to celebrate our own culture.

Our children loved animals, and wanted to keep their own pets. We had four big guard dogs. Our second son, Yoshiyuki, had a couple of rabbits. They had litter after litter, as rabbits tend to do, and we couldn’t keep them. He gave them to his classmates, and a Korean missionary couple. Our third son, Norimichi, wanted to have a turtle, so one day when my husband, Michio, was playing golf, he asked the caddy to see if he could find one in the pond at the golf course. Norimichi enjoyed having the turtle for a while, but it soon suffered a fatal bite from one of the dogs.

One day Nori asked us if we could keep a chicken, but Michio and I were fed up with all the pets, so he gave Nori an assignment. “Go to the library and read up all you can find on chickens. Report back on what you’ve learned, and we’ll consider getting you a chicken. If we do, however, you must promise to take care of it all by yourself.” He immediately went to the library and began to research chickens. He made a presentation about chickens which was quite convincing for a first grader, so we allowed him to have one.

I went to the market with Mr. Kabesa, our house assistant, and bought a good looking rooster. Our children named it “Uncle Bob” from the movie “Terminator”, which we all liked. He crowed his morning call at 5:00 every day at the top of his lungs. Soon thereafter, we bought two hens, which we named “Sunday” and “Saturday”.

One day, Nori rushed into the house and said “Mommy, Sunday started laying eggs! That’s because they mated. I saw them!” I was so surprised to hear that. “What? Mate? You saw them?!”

“Well. That’s sex-ed taken care of.” I thought.

Sunday laid a lot of eggs each day, sitting on them and keeping them warm under her wings. During that time she refused to eat, so I worried about her. I put food and water right next to her, but she didn’t eat or drink anything. I wondered if she was suffering from something like the morning sickness that pregnant women feel. After twenty days the eggs still hadn’t hatched.

“Nori,” I told my boy, “it’s been twenty days, but none of them have hatched. If they don’t hatch tomorrow, I think we should eat the eggs. It’s a bit of a luxury to keep chickens as pets, don’t you think?”

“Well, mommy,” he replied, “I read that chicken eggs usually hatch 21 days after they’re laid, so I believe they’ll hatch tomorrow. But if they don’t, I’m OK with us eating the eggs.”