Billions of village or backyard, mainly scavenging, chickens are found in almost all developing countries throughout the world. In many African countries, village chickens make up 70-80% of the national flock. Village chickens are extremely important, despite their poor production, in providing, albeit in small amounts, valuable high-quality protein, poverty alleviation and income and food security. Despite their importance, in surveys of village food resources, village chickens are sometimes ignored.
These chickens are usually cared for by women and children, and are mostly kept in small numbers, unmanaged, but are sometimes given supplementary feed. They have to ﬁnd most of it by scavenging for insects, grubs, snails, seeds, fallen fruit and berries. As a consequence, village chickens grow very slowly, lay few eggs and mortality is high.
Their meat and (normally small) eggs are prized and in some countries may fetch a higher price than those commercially produced. A village can support only a limited number of chickens based on the concept of ‘the scavenging feed resource base’. This is the amount of feed available to scavenge in a particular area. The amount and variety of feed will change with each season and so will bird numbers and production. They usually produce much less than their genetic potential because of few inputs so there is an opportunity to increase egg numbers and meat yield.
The origin of village poultry genotypes varies from the jungle fowl to introduced breeds that have interbred. Several recognised genotypes of village chickens have survived in many countries. Most have developed various characteristics that allow them to live under harsh conditions, to resist many diseases and to escape from predators by flying short distances. Introductions of superior breeds that lack some of these characteristics invariably result in failure, as they are unable to survive.
If you wish to improve your village poultry production, you must be observant and watch them carefully so that you can identify superior birds and their behaviour.
Before we commence the course there are things that we need to do.
If throughout the course there is anything that you do not understand or words that you are uncertain of their meaning, please ask. Usually, there are others who do not understand either!
At the end of the course, you should understand the structure of the village poultry system and where small improvements can be made to increase productivity. We will deal with:
It is therefore very important that when you have eggs and kill meat chickens, remember your family comes ﬁrst.