With a childish grin plastered on her face, she beckoned on customers to check out her feathery merchandise displayed in several cages littered with droppings.
“This one is broiler, this one is a breeder and this is layer,” she explained, while shoving three squeaking chickens towards a potential customer for inspection. “They are very heavy and have plenty of meat. I will give you each one for N2,000. I can also kill and clean everything for N200. When you get home, you will only wash and cook,” the young girl offered.
After haggling and settling for a price, the girl, in a business-like manner, led the customer to the back of a building, which served as a mini abattoir. Then she briskly went to work. With ease, she sliced the blade of the knife across the jugular of the chicken until it went limp. Then she waited for the blood to empty into a dingy container overflowing with poultry glut and feathers.
Meet Idaya Adebayo, popularly called Enugu, the Chicken Girl. At 15, she has a look that bellies her age. At first glance, she passes off as a boy but her voice and feminine gesticulations soon give away her gender.
The Abeokuta, Ogun State, indigene, slaughters chickens with expertise and meticulously dissects them like an experienced butcher.
“Before the end of today, I would have slaughtered 40 chickens. During Christmas or New Year and other times, I can kill up to 100 in a day,” she said, concentrating on de-feathering a fowl. Idaya, who is the most preferred among many others working in the poultry abattoir located inside Oja Market in Mafoluku, Oshodi, said she went into the business at the age of five. The girl, the last in a family of four, said she was introduced to the trade by her mother, who thought she was bold and fearless.
Having lost her father at a very tender age, Idaya said she was left with no choice than to become streetwise. For her, the financial independence that comes with it remains her attraction.
Thirty-two-year-old, Hammed Mustapha is a Mass Communication graduate from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State. With a calm mien, he goes about scouting for customers among those inspecting chickens.
After landing himself a customer, he immediately throws on an apron with caked bloodstains and goes to work. In minutes, he is done with processing. He then cuts to the sizes desired by the owner before neatly packing them in a polythene bag.
“This is what I do for a living and I love it. I can kill over 70 chickens in a day, depending on the season. I charge between N100 and N300 for a chicken, depending on the size,” he explained, flashing a wry smile at the reporter.
Also from Ogun State, Mustapha said he started helping his mother, Risqat, to sell and process chicken for customers in 1996, while still in primary school. Graduating years later but unable to land a job, Mustapha said he naturally gravitated to the business.
Though he still nurses the dream to work in a media house, Mustapha just does not see himself taking up any other paid employment in the mean time.
Despite having two different life narratives, these two are among the many Nigerians making a living through poultry business by killing and processing chicken for a fee in several markets across the country.
From obscure roadside markets to the ultra-modern ones located in highbrow areas, these individuals usually have their special makeshift abattoirs embedded into the poultry section. Some of them actually have a thriving poultry business and carry out the slaughtering themselves. But most hang around and ‘ambush’ customers purchasing chickens before approaching them with an offer to help process the chicken for a token.
These special butchers are well sought after by those with preference for fresh chicken and those who live with the phobia of consuming strange packaged frozen foods. Their emergence has also made the job of killing and processing chicken hassle-free, especially for housewives.
Though these poultry butchers hang around a section of the poultry market to source for customers, they have a dedicated area, which is usually lined with their makeshift tables and work tools. There are various sizes and shapes of pots filled with boiling water on a gas cooker or firewood stove. The water is used for removing feathers from slaughtered chickens.
Everyone into the business is united by the use of a central abattoir that is always damp and littered with blood. There are also waiting areas for those who purchase the chickens to either sit or stand waiting for it to be processed and delivered.
For those into this business, it is survival of the swiftest. Being able to smile home with good money at the end of the day depends solely on the ability to quickly ambush a customer in the poultry section and convince the person to part with his purchase for processing.
In Mosafejo Market, Alhaja Nosirat sits on a wooden stool in front of her stand. The rotund, overly friendly woman flashes her gold tooth at those trooping into the market and beckons on them to check out her array of chickens on display in cages.
“I have big, healthy chickens of various breeds. If you buy two, we will collect money to kill only one. We use clean water and no chemical to clean the chicken,” she announced.
Alhaja, as she prefered to be called, has been in the business for over 11 years and understands all the tricks for attracting customers
“Madam, which one do you want? I feed my chicken with original feed and they are heavy. Just choose one and my boy will bring it out and kill for you now,” she told the reporter.
“You can wait in my stall and he will bring it when he finishes. Next time, you will come and look for me,” she said patronisingly.
Alhaja explained that the business was very lucrative, which explained why many people were going into it. She noted that from processing chicken alone, she could make as much as N10,000 daily, and with that she is assured of the day’s meal with her family.
She, however, said it comes with its own risk, especially for those that are into full poultry business. She said hundreds of chicken could be wiped out at once if one chicken becomes ill.
For Alhaja, with the economic situation hitting hard on most homes, getting down and dirty to make money remains the ultimate way out of starvation.
“I have built a house from this business of killing chickens alone. I have also trained my children in school. I would remain in this chicken business until I die,” she said.