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The freezing rain in GuiZhou Province has lasted for a long time from the days before Lunar New Year. But the weather didn’t change Zhang Hui and his wife’s resolve to make a difference in their lives.

In the past three months, there have been a lot of changes for Zhang Hui and his family. The 500 pheasants he raised were sold out during the Spring Festival. Demand exceeds supply. Zhang Hui regretted not raising more to earn more money — each pheasant sold at a price of RMB 70 Yuan (about US $11), which brought Zhang an income of 31,500 Yuan (nearly $5,000). After factoring in the costs for feed, corn, disease prevention and chicks, Zhang earned $3,470 of net income.

In addition, the natural-fed chickens Zhang raised were also sold for a very good price. During the past three months, he has sold 726 natural-fed chickens at a price of about $12 each, which brought him a profit of $6,944. With this income, Zhang Hui bought 24 breeding hens and four breeding cocks. Zhang has accumulated about 600 hatching eggs up to this point, and he plans to raise all of the hatched chicks. Zhang also bought a hatching machine at a cost of about $500.

“With the help of the hatching machine, I can hatch more chicks to raise, which saved me a lot of expenditures on purchasing chicks," Zhang says. "And I can also sell chicks; it’s a win-win.”

As his business expanded, Zhang also enlarged his chicken house. He used wood and iron sheeting to build two new poultry houses with a fence surrounding them. With a key function of raising pheasants, each house covers nearly 60 square meters and a nearly 600 square meter open area is fenced for raising chickens. The building materials of the two poultry houses cost 6,500 Yuan, or about $1,025.

New Chicken House
A new poultry house

Because his pheasant business is off to such a great start, Zhang went back to his profession, which is making leather shoes. Shortly after his return from Guangzhou, Zhang started a small shoe business. But at that time, he had little start-up money, he was not skilled at manufacturing shoes and the market was not good. Those factors led to him running his shoe business in a deficit. With the money they earned from their livestock rearing, the couple has re-started their shoe business. Zhang bought a machine at a cost of about $4,100. Their work is mainly to process semi-finished products into final products.

“The main business for us is still the poultry rearing. My wife and I just do the manufacturing work for two hours at noon, and another two hours at night," Zhang says. "When it rains, we also do the shoe processing. My wife is still a new-comer for this; she is very slow at this, but I will teach her. When we are old, we can use this craft to make a living. This doesn’t cost too much, we can pass this craft to our children if they are not good at study.”

Zhang and his wife have made 200 pairs of shoes together since January, with a profit of about $4.70 per pair. At this time, the predictable income is about $950. One of Zhang Hui’s older brothers runs a shoe store in Kaitang Township, and Zhang can have his shoes sold there. “Making shoes is a tough job, but every time when I look at the future of my family, I can hold it even if I feel alone," Zhang says. "I want to drink wine every day, play Mahjong, watch the battle between the oxen, singing and dancing, just like everybody else did. But I take time to make shoes, if I can enlarge my business in the future, I will make leather bags. I can also use the leftover materials to make kids shoes, which can bring me about $3 each.”

Shoe making machine
Shoe making machine

Since Zhang’s income has increased, he purchased a stereo. When he stays at home, he can listen to some music to make his life happier.

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series that follows the progress of specific families, starting at the beginning of their work with Heifer. Our team in China has chosen one family in each region where we work and is sharing quarterly updates as these families work to better their lives with Heifer's help. You can read their earlier posts about Zhang Hui and his family here.

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Heifer China