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Urban poultry farmers in North Korea’s capital permanently silence chickens to avoid detection

A hen in a laying box. (Pexels/Released)
June 15, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Residents of the North Korean capital Pyongyang, who have resorted to raising chickens in their apartments in order to have meat in the food-scarce country, are disabling the larynx of the birds to silence them and avoid detection by authorities, sources in the country told RFA’s Korean Service.

More than just a means of being courteous to one’s neighbors, silencing the birds helps the urban chicken-raisers get around a ban on raising livestock in apartments imposed by authorities worried the practice would lower Pyongyang’s upper-class reputation.

“A new technique that prevents chickens from clucking is being developed in Pyongyang and it is drawing a lot of attention,” said a resident of Pyongyang who came to Dandong, China in an interview with RFA’s Korean Service Sunday.

“If you inject boiling water into a chicken’s throat with a syringe, it paralyzes its larynx. The chicken will sound hoarse or won’t be able to make any noise,” said the source.

“Raising livestock such as chickens and ducks is prevalent in apartments in Pyongyang, but the Municipal People’s Committee prohibits raising livestock [this way], saying that it undermines the authority of the capital and pollutes the environment of Pyongyang. [This is why] residents came up with the technique,” the source said.

The source said that the new technique is enabling those who were previously discovered and stopped by authorities to return to raising livestock at home. Chickens are a popular choice for apartment-dwellers because they grow quickly and can be raised on apartment balconies, the source said.

A second source, also from Pyongyang, said, “It’s been a while now since Pyongyang citizens started raising chickens or dogs in their apartments to get meat or make some money. The areas where the most apartment livestock are the apartment buildings on Tongil street and those in Rakrang district.”

These apartments are popular spots to raise chickens because of their layouts or architectural features.

“The Tongil street apartment has spacious rooms and there is a balcony in every room. So people [can] build a two-story chicken coop on each balcony,” the second source added.

“People in Rakrang district apartments move their flowerpots away from the apartment balcony, and buy dozens of chicks from local market,” the second source said, adding that when they get larger they can be sold to local markets.

A source from South Pyongan said that although Pyongyang residents receive special privileges from the government, they are resorting to urban chicken-raising as meat is scarce.

“[They] get salt, soybean paste and other basic foods from the state, but meat and eggs are so rare that people can only see that during the holidays,” said the source from South Pyongan.

“Even [privileged] Pyongyangers are subject to state rationing, unless of course they are high-ranking officials or very wealthy. Ordinary citizens, even if they live in luxury apartments, cannot eat meat unless they raise livestock or run a livestock selling business,” the third source said.

But even those in smaller apartments are doing what they can to get into home poultry-raising.

“Residents of apartments in Chung and Potonggang districts, in the central areas of Pyongyang are able to raise one or two chickens on their balconies for eggs and chicken meat,” said the third source.

“But regardless, if chickens are being raised on apartment balconies in any part of Pyongyang, they are mute chickens and can’t make a sound.”

Reported by Hyemin Son for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.