Livestock Research for Rural Development 15 (1) 2003

Citation of this paper

Village chicken production systems in Ethiopia:
1. Flock characteristics and  performance
 

Tadelle D# , Million T*, Alemu Y* and K J Peters 

Humboldt University of Berlin, Animal Breeding for Tropics and sub-tropics,
Philippstr. 13, Haus 9, 10115 Berlin
*Debre Zeit Agriculture Research Centre, P.O.Box 32,
Alemaya University of Agriculture, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia
#Corresponding author: sarmeder@hotmail.com
Present address: Humboldt University of Berlin, Animal Breeding for Tropics and sub-tropics,

Philippstr. 13, Haus 9,  10115 Berlin
 


Abstract
 

This study was conducted in five different agro-ecological regions in Ethiopia. A total of 250 households (HH) from 10 villages (two villages from each region) were included in the study. The objectives were to assess the flock characeristics, production and productivity of local birds and related constraints of village chicken production in studied regions. A formal survey, usintg a structured questionnaire integrated with Participatory Rural Appraisal techniques relevant to rural chicken production system, was applied. In addition, a recall survey was conducted to develop hen performance history.

Study regions and corresponding market sheds differed significantly in the number of chicken owned per household. The mean number of mature birds and breeding females per household was 7.4±0.22 and 5.4±0.17, respectively, with a male to female ratio of 1:2.5. Purchase was the main source of stock for foundation while hatching and purchase were the main sources of replacement stocks. Mean egg laying performance of hens were 17, 21 and 25 eggs for the first, second and third and higher clutches, respectively. Mean clutch number was 2.6±0.06 per year. The mean number of eggs set per bird was 13.5±0.19. Hatching rate was 70.5±10.6% ranging from 30-90% (n=250). High mortality of chicks (average survival rate of 51.3±13.3%, ranging from 12-75%.) were reported and occurred between hatching and the end of brooding at 8 weeks of age. About 50% of the eggs produced are incubated in order to replace birds that die. This makes the reproduction for replacement as the main focuses of chicken keepers.  

It is concluded that village chicken production is part of a balanced farming system and that there exists considerable opportunities for changing the inefficient system using the available animal and other resources. 

Keywords: Village chicken, flock characteristics, performance,  Ethiopia 


Introduction 

Poultry production in tropical countries is based on the traditional scavenging system and chickens are the most important poultry species. The share of family poultry to total poultry population in developing countries in general and in Africa in particular is not well documented but estimated to reach 70 to 80% (Sonaiya 1990; Gueye 1998; Sonaiya et al 1999; Gueye 1998). A critical review of available literature from eight Sub-Saharan African countries showed that village poultry on average accounts for 78%, ranging from 30 to 99%, of the total poultry population. The largest proportion of eggs and poultry meat in Ethiopia are produced by the village system (Tadelle 1996). Despite the fact that village poultry are more numerous than commercial ones, and provide the largest proportion of products in developing countries, little research and development work has been carried out to characterise, understand and develop the system (Cumming 1992).  

Village poultry production, however, is warranty-regaining attention in smallholder agricultural systems, wherever low external production inputs are demanded (Sonaiya et al 1999). According to Delgado et al (1999), the dramatic increases in consumer demand for poultry products, mainly in urban areas, will have major implications for demand in availability and prices of concentrate feeds, that will, in turn, affect intensive poultry production activities in most developing countries.  

There are various advantages which make poultry attractive in the context of poverty alleviation and quality protein supply in Sub-Saharan Africa: poultry in one form or another is kept in most areas, there are hardly any religious or social taboos associated with it, it has a high reproduction rate per unit time, it is efficient in transforming feed protein and energy into human food, it uses a very low capital investment and space needed for small-scale poultry production which allows poultry production to be practiced even by landless families or other rural poor and eggs and meat represent consumable units which do not require storage and preservation facilities. In spite of the above-mentioned advantages, a certain reservation to include poultry production into livestock development programmes still exists. This is due to the assumption that poultry compete with human beings for food grains.  This assumption is justified, if the poultry feed used in many industrial poultry farms where the major ingredients are high quality raw materials like maize, wheat and soya bean meal is considered.  However, it is known that high quality poultry feed based on industrial and agricultural by-products and feedstuffs not used in human nutrition, can also be produced. 

To date, there are no detailed studies conducted targeting comprehensive description of the flock characteristics and associated performances of the village production system in Ethiopia. Understanding the roles and function of local chicken as well as production constraints is of considerable relevance in envisaging future research and development directions and strategies. Thus, the present study was conducted with the objectives of understanding flock characteristics, performance and related constraints of the system.:


Materials and methods 

Study areas 

This study was conducted in five different agro-ecological regions of Ethiopia (Figure 1) namely, Tilili, Horo, Chefe, Jarso and Tepi regions. Two market sheds per region and one village per market shed consisting a total of 250 households were included. The selection of market sheds was made on the basis of information from previous studies regarding the importance of sub-regional poultry markets and in consultation with experts from Regional Agricultural bureaux. A total of 10 market sheds each of which supply chicken and chicken products to a sub-regional market and urban centre, were selected. The assumption is that markets allow measurement of the diverse functions of village poultry required for assessing opportunities and perspectives of village poultry and for understanding the flock characteristics and performance. Villages were selected and considered for the present study if chicken production exists in the village economy, no prior improvement programs (e.g. distribution of exotic birds) were undertaken, and villagers were willing to participate in the study. Selection of villages from each market shed was also done in consultation with agricultural experts in sub regional bureaux.  

 

  Figure 1. Locations of the five study regions in Ethiopia

Data collection 

A structured questionnaire integrated with Participatory Rural Appraisal methods relevant to rural poultry production were used. Information was gathered from individual farmers, extension officers, key informants and village groups using both methods. The exercises were aimed at assessing the perspectives of the poultry production system, its function and importance in the socio-economic lives of the community. In addition, information on the poultry production and management system (organization, ownership, flock characteristics, flock performance, use patterns of poultry products and production management) and other related issues of poultry production (e.g. relationship between poultry keeping and wealth status of each household) were gathered. Problems prevailing in chicken production in each of the study villages, and opportunities for improving poultry production were assessed and attempts were made to closely examine other socio-economic aspects such as cultural roles of poultry production in the respective study areas. 

Finally, a transect walk was made involving 10 households in each of the 10 study villages. Closer visits in and around the residential quarters of the villages were then made in order to obtain first hand observation on all aspects of poultry production in individual households, and to involve women in the households since their participation in the village meetings and other data collection activities were rather restricted. Based on the assumption that each woman farmer has an idea of the performance of her chicken a recall survey was conducted to establish specific hen performance history in relation to production and productivity. In addition, the sources of present breeding females (as replacement) and foundation stock in the household and use patterns of poultry products were assessed. 

Statistical analysis 

The qualitative and quantitative data-sets were analyzed using appropriate statistical analysis procedures. Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS 1996), a computer-based statistical software program, was employed. Analysis of variance was carried out on some of the parameters (SAS 1987). The Duncan Multiple Range Test (Duncan 1955) was used to locate treatment means that were significantly different. Correlation analysis was also conducted to depict the influence of wealth status on flock characteristics, performance indicators, use patterns of chicken and chicken products, and income from chicken farming (Steel and Torrie 1980). 


Results 

Flock characteristics 
Description of birds 

Indigenous chicken predominate the other poultry species in the study villages. Birds are non-descriptive, surviving on irregular supplies of feed and water, and with no health care, and are part of a "balanced" farming system. Indigenous birds in all study areas differed widely in plumage colour, comb type, down colour, feather cover and morphometrical variables. In two of the market sheds from the Tepi region, more than 50% of all chicken were found to be of the Naked Neck type, while the normal feathered chicken were dominant in all other study areas. Farmers, in Tepi region preferred to keep naked neck chicken for egg production. However, they are considered not to be good mothers and fetch a lower price in the market as a meat bird.  Birds in Tilili and Chefe market sheds were taller and heavier compared to birds from the other three regions. Birds from Tepi region were predominantly vertical in their body positions while birds in Tilili, Horo and Chefe areas had a predominantly horizontal body position, and chicken from Jarso exibited an intermediate body position. These distinctive differences in body shapes were particularly manifested in male chicken. The plumage colour of birds in Tilili and Tepi market sheds were predominately red with black down colour or black, respectively, but the other ecotypes showed considerable heterogeneity.  

Flock composition 

The least squares means and overall mean flock composition by age and sex are presented in Table 1. There was a significant difference (p<0.001) in the number of chicken owned per household between the study regions. 9.8, 7.7, 6.9, 6.6 and 5.8 mature chicken were recorded in households from Tilili, Jarso, Horro, Chefe and Tepi agro-ecological regions, respectively. There was a highly significant (p<0.001) difference in the number of birds owned per household between Kubito and Berhan market sheds in the Tepi region. The mean numbers of breeding females per households were 5.4±0.2. The number of breeding females varied significantly (p<0.001) among the different regions and market sheds within each region. The highest (8.2±0.5) and lowest (3.0±0.5) breeding females were recorded in Tilili (Absela market shed) and Tepi (Kubeto market shed) regions, respectively. The overall male to female ratio of village flocks was 1:2.5. The number of male birds in each household was more than that required for breeding purposes.  

Table 1. Least Squares Means (LSM±SE) of flock composition by age and sex in ten market sheds of the five Agro-ecological regions in Ethiopia

Regions

 

Age and sex category

Market sheds

Matured chicken (n)

Hen/pullets (n)

Cocks
(n)

Male: female (n)

Chicks
(n)

Tilili

Absela

10.3±0.67a (25)

8.2±0.5(25)

2.0±0.28ab (25)

1:4.1 (25)

9.1±1.1(25)

Ageza

9.3±0.67ab (25)

7.2±0.5(25)

1.9±0.28b (25)

1:3.8 (25)

9.5±1.1a (25)

Horro

Achame

7.4±0.67bc (25)

5.6±0.5 b (25)

2.5±0.30ab (23)

1:2.2 (23)

8.5±1.2 ab (23)

Aleku

6.4±0.67cd (25)

4.9±0.6 b (24)

2.2±0.35ab (25)

1:2.2 (25)

8.1±1.3 ac (17)

Chefe

Kersa     

7.0±0.67c (25)

4.6±0.6 b (25)

1.7±0.32b (24)

1:2.7 (24)

9.4±1.2 a (21)

Koka      

6.2±0.67cd (25)

5.3±0.6 b (25)

2.0±0.33ab (22)

1:2.7 (22)

10.1±1.3 a (22)

Jarso

Diro       

7.5±0.67bc (25)

5.4±0.5 b (25)

2.2±0.29ab (25)

1:2.5 (25)

10.1±1.1a (25)

Fedise   

7.9±0.67bc (25)

5.1±0.5 b (25)

2.8±0.29a (25)

1:1.82 (25)

9.6±1.1a (25)

Tepi

Kubito   

4.8±0.67d (25)

3.0±0.5c (25)

1.8±0.29b (25)

1:1.8 (25)

5.0±1.1c (25)

Berhan

7.0±0.67c (25)

4.3±0.5 bc (25)

2.6±0.29a (25)

1:1.65 (25)

5.8±1.1bc (25)

Significance level

***

***

NS

 

*

Overall mean

7.4±0.22 (250)

5.4±0.17 (249)

2.2±0.09 (244)

1:2.5 (244)

8.5±0.37 (235)

Figures in brackets represent number of households from which the means were derived.
abcd
Means within a column followed by different superscripts show the presence of significant differences,

Significant * P<0.05; ** P<0.001, NS non-significant;

During group discussions and the transect walk, it was discovered that families tend to keep additional male birds as a result of their preference for special colours and other features for cultural purposes and for sale in the forthcoming religious and traditional holidays to take advantage of the highest premium market price during such occasions. According to farm households, the flock number and composition vary with season and agricultural activities. Families tend to reduce the flock number during peak seasons of agricultural activities. Indigenous chickens are the only important poultry species in all the market sheds studied.  

Sources of breeding animals 

The sources of foundation stock and current breeding females in the households in the five study regions in Ethiopia are presented in Table 2.  

Table 2.Proportions (%) of households by sources of foundation and replacement stock (based on present breeding females) in five study regions in Ethiopia (2000/2001)

Study regions

Sources of foundation stock

Source of present breeding females

Purchase

Gift

Custody

Hatching only

Purchase only

Hatching and purchase

Tilili (20)*

60

30

10

15

 

85

Horro (20)

75

25

---

40

15

45

Chefe (20)

60

30

10

30

 

70

Jarso (20)

95

5

---

30

 

70

Tepi (20)

65

35

---

30

15

55

There was a significant (p<0.001) difference in the source of breeding females as replacement stock among the study regions and sources. Purchase was the main source of birds for foundation while hatching and purchase were the main sources of replacement stocks. About 70% of breeding females in the studied households originated from hatching at home and the remaining 30% were purchased (Table 3).  

Table 3 Least Squares Means (LSM±SE) of flock performance in  five Agro-ecological regions of Ethiopia.

 

Study regions

SE

Sig.

Grand mean

Tilili

Horro

Chefe

Jarso

Tepi

Age at start of laying (months)

6.9

6.7

6.8

6.8

6.9

0.13

NS

6.8±0.0

Mean egg no./bird/year-with hatching

47.1

44.4

45.8

47.3

46.3

1.9

NS

46.4±0.84

Mean egg no./bird/year-with out hatching  (n)

72±1.7 (19)

75.6±1.8 (16)

73.1±1.8

(16)

76±2.4

(9)

75±1.8

(16)

---

---

NS

---

74.6±0.86

(76)

Clutch number to set eggs

2.2

2.0

2.3

2.1

2.0

1.9

NS

2.1±0.0

No. of eggs/set for hatching

14.7a

13.2b

14.5a

12.8b

12.3b

0.44

***

13.5±0.19

No. of chicks hatched /set eggs

9.5

9.0

9.8

9.1

8.9

0.48

NS

9.3±0.21

No. of chicks  survived at 8 wks

5.0

4.3

5.2

5.2

4.4

0.36

NS

4.8±0.16

Number of breeding females in the house hold (100)- Hatched at home

5.6 a

2.9 b

4.1 ab

4.0 bc

2.5 c

0.56

***

3.8±0.25

Number of breeding females in the house hold (100)- Purchase

2.5 a

1.4 b

1.2 b

1.6 ab

1.5 b

0.34

 

1.6±0.15

*Means were derived from 50 households per region unless it is indicated in bracket., abc Means within a row followed by different superscripts show the presence of significant differences, Significant *P<0.05; ***P<0.001; NS= non-significant

The villagers bought breeding animals mostly based on their acquaintances, or from markets with no recent history of disease outbreaks in the areas of origin. Gifts of chicken from relatives may at times serve as a foundation stock. The latter is particularly true for newly married couples, or new settlers. Very few households obtained foundation stock in a custody arrangement with a contract to share the outputs. 

Production and productivity 
Flock performance 

Least squares means of hen performance history in the two market sheds from each of the five study regions are given in Table 3 and 4.

Table 4 Least Squares Means (LSM±SE) of hen performance history established from recall survey with women in the household in ten market sheds of the five Agro-ecological regions in Ethiopia.

 

Parameters

Study regions/ market sheds

SE

Sig.

Grand mean

Tilili

Horro

Chefe

Jarso

Tepi

Absela

Ageza

Achame

Aleku

Kersa

Koka

Diro

Fedise

Kubeto

Berhan

Laying performance of pullets in different clutches

1st

19.6a

20.0a

16.8b

16.5b

17.2b

17.4b

15.8b

15.4b

15.5b

16.6b

0.81

***

17.0±0.26

2nd

23.3ab

24.1a

20.7c

19.4c

21.2bc

21.1bc

19.9c

19.4c

19.5c

20.5c

0.83

***

20.9±0.27

>3ed

27.1ab

28.0a

24.7c

23.4c

25.3bc

25.1bc

23.8c

23.5c

23.6c

24.5c

0.82

***

24.8±0.26

Mean egg no /clutch/bird

18.5ab

19.7a

17.4bc

16.4bc

17.9ac

17.8ac

17.5ac

17.1bc

16.2c

18.2ac

0.80

*

17.7±0.25

Mean clutch number/yr

2.9a

3.0a

2.8a

2.8a

2.8a

3.1a

2.0 b

2.1b

2.9a

1.7 b

0.18

**

2.6±0.06

*Means were derived from 10 households per market shed, # = Flock mean egg number,

abcd Means within a row followed by different superscripts show the presence of significant differences,
Significance ** P<0.01;  NS non-significant

There was no difference between regions and corresponding market sheds on sexual maturity of breeding females and the overall mean age at point of lay was 6.8 months.  A highly significant difference (p<0.001) in egg laying performance of hens in their first, second, and third and higher clutches was observed between the study regions and corresponding market sheds. The overall mean egg-laying performances of hens for the first, second and third and higher clutches were 17.0, 20.9 and 24.8 eggs, respectively. Hen performance history revealed that the mean flock egg number/clutch/bird, clutch number/bird/year and egg number/bird/year were 17.7±0.25, 2.6±0.06 and 46.4±0.86, respectively. It was noted that productivity of birds was related to agricultural calendar and age of birds.

Group discussions held with farmers showed that higher egg production are always expected at the time of land preparation, sowing and during and after harvesting. In addition, it was understood that pullets produce higher number of eggs in their first year of production than in the subsequent year(s).

Measures to improve laying performance of hens 

According to farm households in all the studied market sheds, all birds get broody between clutches. Normally, once a bird becomes broody and is not used for hatching eggs, she will remain broody for 3-4 weeks. Traditionally, households in all the study areas attempts to increase egg production by stimulating broody birds to resume egg laying. One or more of three different ways are used to stimulate the bird to resume laying. These are: 1) piercing the nostrils with a feather to prevent sitting, 2) physically move the bird to a nearby house for a couple of days, and 3) hanging the bird upside down for a limited period of time each day for about 3-4 days. The basis for these practices is to disturb the broody bird and to cause a hormonal shift so that it starts to lay eggs again within 8 -10 days. Because of this human interference, the number of clutches and eggs produced /year /bird were increased. However, if the hen hatches eggs it will stay with its brood for up to eight weeks. Some farmers, however, set eggs under two birds at the same time, and after hatching give all the chicks to one of the hens. The one without chicks is then subjected to either of the above indicated three treatments to stimulate egg production. The mean number of eggs produced /bird /year with and without hatching in different market sheds is presented in Table 3.  Regular stimulation of birds to resume egg laying is reported to increase egg production by about 80%.  

Egg storage 

Storage time of eggs according to the intended use (hatching or sale) in the five study regions in Ethiopia is presented in Table 5.  About 46% of the women in the households reported that eggs for hatching were stored until the time when the hen gets broody and ready to incubate. Another 35% of households reported setting three weeks old eggs for incubation. On the other hand, 49% and 46% of the farm households reported the storage duration of eggs for sale to be two weeks or until cash is needed at home, respectively. Eggs were stored inside grains and other containers. Storage inside Tef (Eragrostis tef) grain was accepted and is believed to increase the shelf life of eggs and make them suitable for hatching, sale or consumption. 

Table 5. Storage ages of eggs used for hatching and sale in ten market sheds of the five study regions in Ethiopia as percent of respondents

 

Parameters

Study regions/ market sheds

Grand mean

Tilili

Horro

Chefe

Jarso

Tepi

Absela

Ageza

Achame

Aleku

Kersa

Koka

Diro

Fedise

Kubeto

Berhan

Age of an egg for hatching (10)*

Two weeks

30

40

10

50

30

20

---

---

---

10

19

Three weeks

50

40

20

---

30

20

40

60

50

40

35

When the hen is ready

20

20

70

50

40

60

60

40

50

50

46

Age of an egg for sale (10)

One weeks

10

10

---

---

10

---

10

---

---

10

5

Two weeks

30

20

60

50

60

60

40

70

60

40

49

When cash is needed

60

70

40

50

30

40

50

30

40

50

46

Egg incubation and Chick survival 

The least squares means of number of eggs per clutch, number of eggs set for incubation, number hatched and number of chicks that survive to eight weeks, as reported in the different study regions, are given in Table 3. The results revealed that there was no significant effect (p>0.05) of the study regions and corresponding market sheds on these parameters The overall preferred mean clutch number of hens to set eggs were >2.1±0.05. The mean number of eggs set per bird was 13.5±0.19. The hatching rate was 70.5±10.6% ranging from 30-90% (n=250). Clay pots, bamboo baskets, cartons or even simply a shallow depression in the ground were common materials and locations used for egg setting. Crop residues, usually tef, wheat and barley straws were used as bedding materials. According to farm households, the number of eggs set per bird depends, in their orders of importance, on: season, experience and size of the bird. From group discussions held with farmers, it is understood that setting eggs immediately before the onset of the rainy season is not recommended because of the high risk of spoilage of eggs, expected disease outbreak and destructive effect that the chicks may bring about on seasonal crops cultivated in the backyard. Hens were often identified for incubating eggs based on past performance of their mothering ability and age. Normally, farmers set eggs six months before an important holiday to take advantage of the high prices for slaughter birds during such occasions. Chick mortality rate was found to be generally high. The overall mortality rate reached up to 49% before the chicks reached two months of age. Positive and highly significant (p<0.01) correlation (r = 0.64) was evident showing an increase in survival rate with larger number of chicks hatched per incubation. 


Discussion 

The chicken populations from the different study regions showed a large variation in body position, feather distribution, plumage color, comb type and down colour and production and productivity which agrees with other  findings from Ethiopia and elsewhere (Teketel 1986; Olori 1994; Sonaiya et al 1999; Tadelle and Ogle 2001) who state that there are many ecotypes, breeds and strains of indigenous poultry that are well adapted to their production environments in the tropics. Households in two of the market sheds from Tepi region preferred to keep naked neck chicken for egg production and this assertion by local farmers agrees substantially with the earlier study report of Teketel (1986) that the naked neck "Melata" ecotypes in Ethiopia were found to produce more eggs than the other types. There exists a significant difference in the number of birds owned per household between the different market sheds and households and for example, there is huge difference in number of birds owned between households in Kubito and Berhan market sheds in the Tepi region. This variation may be attributable to the fact that households in Berhan market shed, who are new settlers coming from the northern parts of the country, have experience in chicken farming. Conversely, those from the Kubito market shed are local people and have recent history of sedentary farming. 

The present study showed that a breeding female produces, on average, between 40 to 50 eggs and about 12 chicks of eight weeks of age annually. This result is in agreement with earlier reports for scavenging village chicken under village conditions in tropical Africa and sub tropical Latin America (AACMC 1984; Tadelle 1996; Rushton and Ngoni 1998; Paterson et al 2001). The present system is quite productive in relation to the very low input levels and this is underlined by McArdle (1972), who states that the net output from poultry rearing is higher in scavenging systems compared to commercial systems and the scavenging flock is not in competition with humans for feed which is, off course, true if only the input-output relation is considered. Every egg or unit of chicken meat produced is an addition to the family food system with low or nil inputs.  

However, Cumming (1992) and Tadelle and Ogle (2001) reported that the present system is equally inefficient and characterised by its high reproductive wastage. Chick mortality represents a major loss in the studied village chicken production systems. Reports from different countries show that 50% to 70% of chicks die between hatching and the end of brooding. Kingston (1980) and Kingston and Cresswell (1982) in Indonesia,  Roberts (1992) in Sri Lanka, Matthewman (1977) in Nigeria and Tadelle and Ogle (2001), reported mortality rates of chicks as being 69%, 65%, 53% and 61%, respectively. In this study, the overall chick mortality was about 49% (n=250) in the first two months after hatching, and is reported to be higher when there was a disease outbreak in the area. Various authors attribute these losses to different causes, for example,  Roberts (1992) reported that in Indonesia losses were due to a combination of poor nutrition, predators and various disease factors, and although predators were blamed for the majority of the losses, other biological and environmental factors made significant contributions. The newly hatched chicks have access to the same feed resource base with stronger and more vigorous members of the flock, with whom they are unable to compete. In addition the low protein and energy content of the available feed, the low hatching weight of the chicks, high ambient temperatures and other associated factors are major causes of losses, both directly, and also by increasing vulnerability to predation and susceptibility to disease.  

The high mortality rate necessitates a rigorous replacement strategy, which, in turn affects the potential egg output and off-take rate. Disease periodically decimates flocks and consequently more than 50% of the eggs produced were incubated in order to replace birds that have died. A laying hen needs about 120 to 130 days to accomplish one production cycle – that is  40 to 50 days of laying, 21 days to incubate eggs and 60 days of brooding the small chicks. The time taken by the laying hen to incubate eggs and to brood chicks, that may eventually die, represents a considerable loss of eggs that would have been  consumed or sold. Smith (1990) estimates that under scavenging conditions the reproductive cycle consists of laying phase, a 21 day incubation phase and finally a 56 day brooding period which is in line with the results of this study. This implies a theoretical maximum number of 4.2 clutches per hen each year, although in reality the number is probably not more that 2 to 3 clutches.

Huchzermeyer (1973) and Kingston and Cresswell (1982) suggested that more protein would be available for human consumption if the eggs were harvested instead of being incubated, which eventually would lead to unsuccessful brooding. Although broodiness is a vital characteristic of traditionally managed local birds and the physiological mechanism is a prerequisite to sustain the present system at least until local farmers start to use other means of incubation. However, regular stimulation of birds to resume egg laying as a measure taken by households to improve laying performance of hens increases egg production by about 80% and is testimony that chicken ecotypes are shaped not only by the environment but also by human intervention.  


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Received 2 November 2002; Accepted 20 January 2003

 

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