Living Cheek by Beak in Indonesia

How the special place of poultry in Indonesian culture is putting the rest of the world at risk for an avian-flu pandemic

John Stanmeyer / VII for TIME

Ducks and chickens being sacrificed during the Nelubulanan ceremony which is held for each Balinese Hindu baby when they turn three months old based upon the Balinese calendar system in Munduk Juwet village in north Tabanan, Bali.

Chickens are inseparable from daily life in Indonesia in a way that must be witnessed to be understood. The birds are used in religious rituals as a magnet for evil spirits. For poor villagers, chickens are walking bank accounts: since the birds forage for their own food, they can be raised cheaply and sold when extra income is needed. It's not unusual for Indonesians to sleep with their birds to protect them from thieves. "We keep chickens not just for money but to reduce stress," says Hadiat, a farmer in the village of Kaseman in West Java. "But now with the...

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