The main aim of this guide is to help rural families (village people) who have only a few chickens and who are unable to get advice easily to increase production of meat and eggs from their chickens. Their meat and eggs provide protein essential for children to grow and to allow their brain to develop well so that they can learn more easily and become tall and strong. It is also important that mothers who are nursing their babies have enough of the high-quality protein that eggs and chicken meat contain. Good nutrition is essential for good health.
This book is designed to increase the productivity of indigenous (local) chickens who are scavenging (finding their own food) and mostly caring for themselves, by introducing basic, simple approaches and very small inputs that will not be costly. Often women care for chickens because they recognise how important eggs and chicken meat are for good nutrition and health, for themselves and their children. Chicken rearing can also provide additional money. Local chickens and old hens often fetch a good price in South Africa and eggs are easily sold to neighbours.
Provide a separate nest well off the ground for the broody hens who want to hatch their eggs in the hen house. This could be a woven basket. Put in a layer of dried grass, then some sand and finally a layer of straw or thatch grass. The eggs will not then break easily and many chicks should hatch out.
Chickens need a good mixture of feeds from many sources to grow well and to produce many eggs. They also need a clean water supply.
Household food waste is important. This should be saved and given to your chickens fresh each day in a feeder. If you have spare fresh garden vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, cabbage leaves and the like, it is better to cook them first as the hens find it easier to digest them when cooked. Ripe bananas and other fruits are good for poultry. It is a good idea to give birds the household scraps when you close the door of their house at night. This will encourage them to look for food when they get out in the morning.
I wish to thank the following for translating the text into local languages: Kobie du Preez into Afrikaans; Tebo Magolego into Sotho; Joyce Mafu into Xhosa; Qeda Nyoka into Zulu and Edward Nesamvuni into Tshivenda.
Helpful comments on the text were made by Ed Wethli, Stephen Slippers and Edward Nesamvuni.
Illustrations were skilfully drawn by Susan Powell who also made useful comments. I thank Kathy Kamarinos for proficiently word processing and assembling the book.
Funding for the book was from an Australian-funded LINK Project managed by the International Development Program, Canberra and from a grant provided by the International Union of Nutritional Sciences. I am most grateful for these funds.
The University of Queensland