The Igbo people of Nigeria call it Okuko, the Hausas call it Kaza while the Yorubas call it Adiye, other ethnic nationalities have their names for this particular domestic bird too. I do not know if chicken is the real or botanical name, but in this piece of writing, permit me to call it by its Nigerian “baptismal” name-chicken.
Chicken comes in different types, sizes and colours, and it is reared in all parts Nigeria and can survive therein. It contains first class protein. Apart from its richness in vitamins, it also contains some quantities of calcium, phosphorus, fats and other nutrients for human growth and health. Chicken is free from cultural and religious taboos. Chicken can be eaten alone or alongside meal. Both the rich and poor can afford chicken. Chicken is eaten by both young and aged people.
Chicken is served boiled, fried, grilled, among other methods, depending on the choice of the consumer. Chicken is consumed anytime of the day, and the size one consumes depends on the size of ones pocket…ha ha. This makes it to be a favourite meat in Nigeria. It is estimated that over 1 million chicken are consumed in Nigeria daily by active chicken-eaters.
While some Nigerians prefer local chickens, others prefer the genetically-modified breeds, popularly known as “agric”. Those who prefer the local breeds, argue that they are sweeter, stronger and natural, while those who prefer “agric” argue that its is bigger, softer and fleshy. To some, any chicken goes…whether the male or female.
During festive periods, even when one is broke, he/she will borrow to “kill” chicken. Some of those who cannot afford to borrow will steal. There are usually cases of missing chicken during festive season. In fact, someone was caught recently in an attempt to take away someone’s chicken. He pleaded that he was not a thief, he was only trying to count the teeth of the chicken, after which he will release the chicken…ha ha ha! If you are a chicken-farmer, beware!
Nigerians’ deep love for chicken is such that even when medical experts advice that certain age groups should cut down on chicken intake, especially the back which is high in cholesterol, it is often ignored to the detriment of the eater. The only time Nigerians had a break in the consumption of chicken was when bird flu was discovered in Nigeria. Bird flu killed many Nigerians because they cant give up eating chicken. Wow! bird flu took chicken away from the kitchen, dining table and lips of Nigerians. No wonder, why the Nigerian people gathered and fought the disease out of Nigeria (unlike HIV/AIDS).
With the demise of bird flu in Nigeria, and condolences to families of victims, the consumption of chicken has reached another crescendo. It is interesting to note that chicken is neither the biggest or smallest, cheapest nor most expensive meat in Nigeria. It’s even not the sweetest meat in Nigeria, but it is the favourite or preferred meat in Nigeria, just like US Dollars is preferred currency in international market over the Pounds and Euros which has higher value.
In Nigeria, there is no substitute to chicken. It is such that some Nigerians cannot take a meal that has no chicken or chicken flavor. The only set of people in Nigeria who do not eat chicken are vegetarians, because they do not eat other meats as well. Another set of people who would like to eat meat but would not are those who, on account of their health condition are strongly advised to stay away from chicken and other animal protein. I wish them quick recovery!
In the evenings, most junctions in Nigeria, have spots where babecue chicken are sold. It is often displayed in a manner that it is irresistible to chicken-loving Nigerian, popularly known as “I surrender”. Most Nigerians, who buy chicken at those spots, consume them there over a bottle or calabash of beer or other local drinks. If you witness where chicken is torn into shreds and consumed, you will not wait a minute to grab your own copy.
After consuming the fleshy part of the chicken, then the bone cracking begins. A friend asked me, “of what use is eating chicken without cracking the bones?” continuing, he said that “there is a feeling that comes with chicken bone-cracking.” Yeah, much as medical experts have proven that there are nutrients in the bones, however, bone-cracking requires strong teeth and some kind of skills if one must enjoy it.
In those chicken-spots, the men often display their “generosity” and “love” for the women by buying them assorted chickens, and the women consume it in excitement and affirmation. In most cases, the women lose the power of resistance to men after consuming their chickens. Oh chicken, thou art so powerful!
A drama ensued recently in a birthday party, when a man brought a live chicken to the birthday party of his girlfriend. Though it is a bit awkward, it eventually spiced the party as the chicken will intermittently interrupt the party with “kwoooooo” sound.
Other uses of chicken
In most traditional societies, chicken is used as clocks. When the cock crows in the morning, it simply announces day break and the people will wake up and begin their daily routine.
Similarly, chicken are used as security guards because of its ability to alert its owner at night whenever there is unusual movement or sound in their compound.
The traditional medicine practitioners, in most cases uses chicken for sacrifice as they demand from their clients varying number of chicken, particularly the white-feathered ones. It suggests that those men use chicken to connect with their gods. I might be wrong! Ha ha ha
In some cultures in Nigeria, women are not supposed to eat certain parts of the chicken such as gizzard, the waist, the laps, in fact the juicy parts. Those parts are reserved for the men. In these societies, the cultural practices prohibit women from enjoying certain parts of chicken, in the way and manner their male counterparts do, because they are seen as less than men.
Chicken is good motivator and reward. When I was kid, I remember that in the community where I grew up, whenever parents expect outstanding academic result from their wards, they promise “killing” a chicken for that particular kid. The results are often positive! Chicken-induced success! In addition, when chicken is “killed” for a person, it signifies high honour and compliments.
Chicken is used in the payment of a lady’s dowry in many parts of Nigeria. It’s an integral bride price-component. In some cases, the size of the chicken could make or marr the chance of the suitor.
Which event or festivity in Nigeria will pass without chicken being served? Even after slaughtering other animals, the kitchen is not complete without chicken. During festivities, chicken sellers smile to the banks because of the high volume of sales during that season. Chicken farming is a lucrative business in Nigeria, as it has made many Nigerians millionaires.
Though chicken is powerful, yet it is powerless. They are indiscriminately slaughtered and consumed in excitement; anyhow, anytime, anyplace and by any person. Sometimes, when a Nigerian dies and not given a “befitting” burial, the deceased is often said to have been buried like a chicken (unceremoniously). Unfortunately, despite its high commercial value, chicken does not have animal or human right in Nigeria unlike the practice in some countries.
I just remembered that it’s another festive season; whether a chicken is fine or not, whether a chicken is stubborn or not, its destination is obvious. So, RIP chickens!