At the corner of the ever-busy Central Market, Sibu, there’s a middle-aged woman who sells chicken. Live chicken. Wrapped in newspapers. Customers come and buy one or two live chickens, and she neatly wraps the birds with newspapers and ties them with rafia string, leaving the birds’ heads protruding at one end. Customers hold the chickens like carrying a tote bag.
Mrs Wong, as she wanted to be known as, had been selling live chickens wrapped in newspapers for the past two years. There were at least 30 red and brown-feathered chickens at her stall, wrapped and placed nicely on a wooden plank on a two-tier position.
“These are chickens bred for their meat. They are slim and tall like the fighting breed. It is always better to buy live chickens as they are guaranteed to be healthy. If people buy ready-cut chickens, how can they know if the meat they are buying come from sick or dead birds?”, said Wong.
Before you start calling up the authorities to complain about animal cruelty out in the open, chill out! The chickens seemed relaxed and docile, perhaps because of the way they were comfortably wrapped. They didn’t struggle to free themselves, even while being carried around. Wong said the method of selling live chickens this way was unique and could only be found at the market here – almost like a tradition.
On average, Wong sells up to 100 chickens a day (stocked from a farmer) and on festive days like Gawai Dayak and Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the number could go as high as 300. A chicken is sold for RM12.
Unlike regular chickens that were slaughtered once they reached three to four months old, Wong said all the chickens that she sold were at least a year old.
“The meat is not easily broken into pieces when cooked like the ‘injected’ one. The chickens are raised in the way intended by nature and as a result, the meat is better when cooked and can last longer”, she said, referring to chickens raised in farms that use hormones and antibiotics.