Livestock Research for Rural Development 22 (4) 2010 Notes to Authors LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Factors influencing the trade of local chickens in Kampala city markets

N Emuron, H Magala, F B Kyazze*, D R Kugonza and C C Kyarisiima

Department of Animal Science, Makerere University, P.O. Box 7062, Kampala, Uganda
* Department of Agricultural Extension Education, Makerere University, P.O. Box 7062, Kampala, Uganda


A study was conducted to determine the factors influencing the supply of live indigenous (local) chickens in Kampala city markets in December 2008. A total of fifty local chicken traders were randomly selected from five markets to respond to a structured questionnaire.


Chicken trade was generally informal. Local chickens were mainly marketed alive in Kampala markets and the main customers were piecemeal consumers. The majority of the traders (52.9%) obtained local chickens from Eastern Uganda. Chickens were transported to markets in passenger vehicles, on motorcycles and on lorry trucks that were carrying cattle and other agricultural produce. This mode of transport sometimes caused injuries and bird mortality. Fifty percent of the traders obtained the chickens from middlemen while 46% of the traders personally bought the birds from rural farm households. Chicken trade was the major source of household income to 72.7% of the chicken traders and many of the traders had secondary sources of income. During peak seasons, the traders could sell an average of 120 birds per week per person. Local chicken marketing involved traders of varying levels of education (with a mean of 9.5 years of formal education). The number of local chickens traded per week was positively correlated (P<0.01) with the level of education of the traders. The demand for these chickens was highest in the festive months of December and April; and lowest in February and March. The cost of local chickens was more than twice as much as that of exotic chickens. Most traders (56.7%) perceived taste to be the basis for consumers’ preferential demand for local chickens in preference to exotic chickens. The major constraints in the marketing of local chickens in Kampala city markets were identified as high mortality rates/chicken diseases (43.5%), costly transport (22.4%), and irregular demand (15.3%).


The study revealed that there was a high potential for the development of local chicken trade in Uganda. Designing solutions for the constraints of local chicken marketing would act as a tool for poverty alleviation not only to the rural chicken farmers but also the traders.

Key words: Indigenous, marketing, poultry, Uganda


In Uganda the traditional poultry production systems are mainly based on free-range indigenous chickens which are kept at the subsistence level and are found in almost all rural households (Mukiibi 2001). In 2006, the estimated total size of the national chicken flock was 23.5 million, composed of 3.7 million exotic/cross chickens and 19.8 million (84.2%) local/backyard chickens (UBOS 2007). Regarding local chickens, Eastern region had the highest share of nearly 7.4 million birds (37.3%). The Central region and Northern regions followed with 4.3 million and 4.2 million, respectively. The predominance of the indigenous chickens long after the introduction of the exotic strains shows that these chickens have the potential to form the basis for improved rural poultry production and can be transformed from subsistence to increase food security and income in the poor rural households (Kyarisiima et al 2004). Elsewhere Gueye (1998); Sonaiya et al (1999) and Whyte (2002) observed that village poultry represent a significant component of rural household livelihood as a source of income, nutrition and as gifts to strengthen social relationships.


Despite being disregarded through limited provision of shelter, feeds, limited protection against predators and above all against infectious and parasitic diseases which cause high mortalities (Msami and Kapaga 2001), indigenous chickens have invaluable characteristics that are not found in the exotic strains. These characteristics are appropriate to the traditional low input/low out put farming systems in Uganda (Kyarisiima et al 2004). To the urban folk, there is general preference for local chickens over their exotic counterparts because of the belief that they are tastier and have no drug residues. This puts marketing of local chickens in a check as to how their demand and supply could interplay.


Traditionally indigenous chickens are mainly sold when there is a need for money by a farmer. In some places, the chickens are sold in village markets to hawkers or middlemen who subsequently assemble and transport them to urban traders (Okot 1990). In this case middlemen take the advantage of the situation and pay far lower prices to the poultry farmers. Organized marketing of free-range rural poultry is difficult because of small size of the output per household generated at irregular intervals (Chandraschka 1998). In Uganda today marketing of local chickens is not well streamlined although few studies have tried to trace out gross margins and to determine the parties that benefit in the marketing chains of indigenous chickens (Mukiibi-Muka and Kirunda 2005). Most of the research aimed at improving local chicken production has been skewed towards technical and managerial aspects of the chickens, hoping that these constitute the principal constraints. There is very little information regarding the marketing of local chickens. The scanty market information that is available is only informal and may not yield concrete facts for traders to rely on. This research gap prompted the curiosity of the present study.


Materials and methods  

Study area


The study area was Kampala city, situated in central Uganda. The five major divisions in Kampala city include; Central, Nakawa, Makindye, Rubaga and Kawempe. Its resident population is estimated at 1.2 million but the day time population is estimated to be more than two million people due to influx of the people from other districts coming to work in the capital city. Kampala is a commercial and an industrial district that also houses most of the government ministry headquarters and many leading training and education institutions. The high population influences the demand and supply of produce and it is a principal determinant of prices in markets.


Sampling procedure


The purposive sampling technique was used to select markets based on their location and the importance in the local chicken trade. A total number of fifty (50) respondents from five markets in Kampala were selected. The first step in the selection of the respondents was the identification of the leaders of the chicken traders within each market. These leaders provided lists of traders who had local chickens in their stalls. For each market, local chicken traders were randomly picked, ensuring gender representation. A total of ten (10) traders were selected in each of the five markets of Kalerwe, Nateete, Nakasero, Nakawa and St. Balikuddembe as shown in Table 1. There were no female local chicken traders in Nakasero market.

Table 1.  Number of participating local chicken traders in Kampala markets


Number of male traders

Number of female traders






St. Balikuddembe




















Data collection and analysis


The 50 respondents were interviewed using a standard structured questionnaire. To accompany the questionnaire, the researchers also employed general observation on aspects like transport, presentation and maintenance of local chickens in the markets. In-depth interviews were conducted with the leaders, who served as key informants, to cross check the information collected. The survey was conducted during December 2008.


The data obtained from the interviews was coded, entered into the computer spreadsheet and analyzed using descriptive analysis procedures of the Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS 2000). Graphs, frequency tables and percentages were generated as the summaries of the data for the responses recorded. SPSS was used to generate correlation analysis of some variables which could help in the generalization of the findings and explanation of the existing phenomena.


Results and discussion  

The nature of local chicken trade in Kampala


Local chickens in Kampala are mainly marketed alive. Most chicken traders engage in marketing of local chickens as well as exotic chickens. Live chickens are confined in cages, and are sold side by side with exotic chickens (broilers, spent hens and aged breeders). The cages are hardly ever cleaned or disinfected. The cages are dusty and unhygienic not only to the chickens but also to the traders who do not use protective gear for handling the birds. While in the market, birds are usually fed on maize bran and some cereal grains. Traders treat diseased birds with unprescribed drugs, mostly antibiotics. In such cases, drug withdrawal period is not observed. This could be a threat to the consumers’ health.


The main customers in the market are piecemeal consumers who buy one or two birds at a time. These consumers slaughter the birds in their homes or occasionally request for slaughter services in the market place. Slaughtering of chickens in the market place is done in unhygienic places. Local chicken meat is served in only a few city restaurants, unlike the exotic chicken meat which is served in almost all restaurants. This can be attributed to high prices of the local chickens which make local chicken dishes very expensive.


Marketing of live local chickens is a common phenomenon in many developing countries. Sonaiya and Swan (2004) attributed this to lack of refrigeration facilities in most of the households. According to Babji (2001) improving the cold storage facilities in developing countries would result into a significant increase in the trade of poultry products in both the local and distant markets. Marketing local chickens alive leads to the risk of transmission of zoonotic diseases (Byarugaba 2007). In addition, in the cages where birds are confined while in the market place, lack of faecal trays for collecting chicken droppings exposes the birds in the lower cages to dirt which could be a route of infection. When traders treat the diseased birds with unprescribed drugs, the resulting associated danger is drug residues in chicken meat which has a negative impact on consumers’ health. Muhammad et al (2009) assert that illegal use of drugs has direct and indirect hazards to public health. Live chicken slaughter at the market stalls too has hygiene and health implications. The slaughter of local chickens in Kampala markets is informal and there is no law that governs it. Unlike beef, there is no inspection of market chicken meat.


Sources of local chickens for Kampala markets                                       


Traders in Kampala markets obtained local chickens from as far as Lira in the North, Soroti in the East and Sembabule in the mid Western region. Chicken traders in Nakasero and St. Balikeddembe markets mainly obtained their local chickens stocks from the districts of Lira (Northern region) and Soroti (Eastern region). However, traders of Nateete market acquired local chickens from Mpigi, Sembabule and Mubende districts (Mid Western region), while traders in Nakawa market solely depended on Eastern region as their source of local birds. However, it is worth noting that traders of Kalerwe market got most of the local birds from within the central districts.  In general, the majority of local chicken traders (52.9%) in Kampala got their chickens from the Eastern parts of the country, followed by Central region (17.6%) and Western region (15.8%). Only 13.7 percent of the traders obtained local birds from Northern region.


Previous reports indicated that most local chickens were obtained from the Northern region (MAAIF 2006). The present drop in the supply of chickens from the northern region could be attributed to the recent diversion of the local chicken market to Southern Sudan (Juba), in addition to the civil war. According to UBOS (2007) the Eastern region produced nearly 7.4 million birds. While Eastern region is currently the leading producer of local chickens, the Central region is leading in production of exotic chickens.


Modes of transporting local chickens to markets


The transport of live chickens to urban markets were largely by buses, taxis, lorry trucks (92.2%) and motorcycles (Bodaboda) (7.8%). Traders of Nakawa, Nakasero and St.Balikuddembe had their chickens transported on taxi racks and in bus boots. This could be attributed to the fact that traders obtained chickens from far Eastern and Northern districts. Birds were loaded in the boots of buses or bundled together and transported in vehicles carrying cattle or passengers. For Kalerwe market, most of the chickens were transported using motorcycles. This was because the source of local chickens was within Kampala and “Badaboda” motorcyclists could agree to offer transport services. 


These results show that traders had no specialized means of transporting local chickens. This was consistent with the findings of Byarugaba (2007). These modes of transport violate the Government of Uganda Animal Act (Prevention of Cruelty) 1957, which states that animals are not supposed to be ill-treated, overridden, overdriven, overloaded, tortured or infuriated in any case by the owner; however, the law enforcement arm is weak. Ideally, where an owner is convicted of permitting cruelty within the meaning of this Act by reason only of his or her having failed to exercise such care and supervision, he or she would be liable to imprisonment with the option of a fine. This act has failed to be fully implemented. During loading and transport to market places in Kampala, local chickens are exposed to situations resulting in mortality, injuries, damage to health, and physiological conditions resulting from stress. Factors that cause mortality in market birds have been documented and include the method of catching (Nijdam et al 2005), handling (Knowles and Broom 1990), thermal stress (MacCaluim et al 2003), vibration motion impacts, fasting and withdrawal of water, social disruption and noise. These factors cause adverse effects on the local chickens that may range from mild discomfort to the death. The potential harmful effects of adverse conditions during the transport of local birds in Uganda should not only be taken to be of public concern due to their consequences for animal welfare, but also of economic importance with respect to increased losses and diminished quality of local chicken meat.


When asked who brings the local chickens to Kampala markets, 46% of the traders said that they picked birds from farmers and brought them to their stalls (Table 2).

Table 2.  Persons that bring local chickens to Kampala markets


Frequency (n =50)

Percentage, %

Traders themselves









Vehicle drivers



Thirty percent of the traders obtained the local chickens from wholesalers, while 20% of the traders used bus and taxi drivers as their middlemen. The use of the vehicle drivers as middlemen was perceived to be cheaper than buying from wholesalers. Generally informal means of marketing could explain the low level of development of local chicken trade in Uganda, as a whole.


Other researchers in Tanzania (Mlozi et al 2003), Ethiopia (Dessie and Ogle 2001) and other countries in Africa (Kitalyi 1998) reported a chain of middlemen in marketing of local chickens. The involvement of middlemen in local chicken trade increases costs and risks in the marketing process. There could also be a risk of purchasing sick birds which therefore die before being sold. Nwosu (1990) noted that informal means of marketing local chickens are associated with lack of information and poorly developed market channels. Therefore, formalization of local chicken marketing in Uganda could yield future improvement in chicken trade.


Characteristics of local chicken traders in Kampala city


Characteristics of traders such as age, family size, level of education and experience are important variables that could influence the decisions involved in the marketing of local chickens. Traders in the Kampala markets were youths with mean age of 34 years (Table 3). 

Table 3.  Characteristics of local chicken traders of Kampala markets                    

Socio-economic characteristics

Mean (n =50)


Family size



Age, years



Education level (years spent in school) 



Experience (years spent in the business)


3 months-30 years

On average traders in Nakawa market were older (41.8 years) than their counterparts in other markets. However, the lowest and highest ages across markets were 19 and 58 years respectively.


On the other hand, traders in all markets had at least 5 years of education. The majority of the traders (72%) had secondary education and only a couple of male traders had tertiary education (Figure 1).

Figure 1.  Level of education of chicken traders by gender

The years spent by traders in the business varied a cross the markets. While some traders had just joined the market in the past (3 months), others had taken as long as 30 years in the business. Nakawa market had the longest serving traders in the market and the rest of the traders were in a range of 5.75 to 10 years in the business. However, traders from Nakawa market had larger family sizes (8.8) than their counterparts from the other markets.


Ojo (2003) reported that skills acquired in any business are depicted by the number of years of the traders’ experience. In all markets, the mean years of formal education were below the 11 years required to complete Ordinary Level education in Uganda. The low level of education of traders could explain why local chicken trade has not yet developed. Education plays an important role in the adoption of new technologies (Ojo and Ajibefun 2000). It widens the scope, and provides necessary managerial skills. It also strengthens the aptitude to make rational decisions. Mandal et al (2006) observed that education among traders is one of the important factors which accelerates growth and development of any enterprise in India.


Results of the study showed that only 60% of the traders depended on chicken trade as a sole source of household income. While the other 40% of the traders got supplementary income from sources such as rental houses (10%), sale of food crops (10%) and livestock (4%). This shows that many traders’ concentration in local chicken trade is diverted by other businesses. This is probably another factor that could hinder the development of local chicken trade in Uganda. These results imply that many traders in Kampala do not fully prioritize local chicken trade. Related studies by Alabi et al (2006) indicated local chicken trade as the third most important income generating opportunity in influencing women’s incomes in the Niger delta. Therefore the development of local chicken trade in this view could be based on motivation of traders to consolidate their efforts on chicken trade.


Quality attributes of local chickens as perceived by traders


Traders gave different reasons as to the qualities considered by consumers when purchasing local chickens. More than half of the traders (56.7%) perceived taste as the main attribute that attracts consumers to local chickens. According to the traders, local chickens were also thought to be drug free when compared with their exotic counterparts. Traders also asserted that some of their customers considered local chickens as having a vital role in socio-cultural functions, for which exotic chickens were not acceptable. Consumers were reportedly willing to pay more money for the purchase of local chickens. This shows a high potential for the development of local chicken trade in Uganda. 


The local chicken dynamics in Kampala city markets


The findings showed that the markets dealing with the bulk of local chickens stocks were Nakasero and St. Balikuddembe (138 and 250 birds per trader per week, respectively). However, the average number of birds sold per trader per week by these two markets was low, leading to a relatively low capital turnover.  Local chicken trade contributes highly to the household income of chicken traders in Kampala (Table 4).  

Table 4.  Dynamics of the local chicken trade in Kampala markets


Mean (n = 50)


Initial average flock size



Present average flock size per trader



Number of birds sold per week per trader



Percentage capital turnover1



Percentage contribution of local chickens trade to the household income



1 proportion of birds sold from each week’s batch, expressed as a percentage

The majority (88%) of traders in Kalerwe market, which was dominated by women traders, derived their household income from trading in local chickens. Meanwhile Nateete market had the lowest fraction of traders (63.3%) deriving their household income in this trade. The high contribution of local chicken in generation of household income in most markets signifies that traders depend on chicken trade as their source of employment. The capital turnover was highest (70.2%) in Kalerwe market implying that traders in this market generate more sales compared to their counterparts in other markets. Nevertheless capital turnover in most markets were within the mean range of 67.5%.                 

Similar findings by Alabi et al (2006) showed local chicken trade as a major income generating activity for traders dealing with local chickens in urban markets in Nigeria. Guye (2003) in Botswana also found out that 74% of the women had their main occupation in trading of live chickens and their eggs. Although the majority of women were involved in other occupations, their major income was derived from trading in local chickens. The contribution of local chicken trade to the households of the traders in Kampala should therefore be appreciated from poverty alleviation perspective.


In the present study, there was no correlation between the age of the traders and the number of local chickens traded per week (Table 5).

Table 5.  Pearson correlation between local chickens traded per week and other socio- economic characteristics

Independent variable (n = 50)

Pearson correlation


0.132 NS


0.048 *

Education level


Family size




Initial stock


Contribution to household income


* Correlation is significant at 0.05 level

**Correlation is significant at 0.01 level

On the other hand there was a positive and significant (P<0.01) correlation between local chickens traded per week and education level. This could be attributed to the knowledge that education contributes in the management of a business.  Findings by Mandal (2006) reveal education as accelerator for growth and development of any enterprise. Education changes overall behavior, since, it is the process of imparting or acquiring knowledge and habit through instruction or study.  Female traders marketed more chickens (P<0.05) than their male counterparts. This is not surprising since chicken trade was the sole income generating activity for most of the female chicken traders. There was no evidence of traders’ sales being associated to their family size and experience (P>0.05).  There was no correlation between chickens traded per week and contribution of trade to household income. This result could suggest that traders do not reinvest the income obtained from the local chickens back into the business. Instead they could be investing in other income generating activities outside local chicken trade.


Chicken traders asserted that, there were fluctuations in local chicken trade across the months of the year. The highest demand for local chickens coincided with the major social and religious festivals of the year. These are the Christmas and New Year season (December- January) and Easter season (April). On the other hand the pre-Easter fasting period which lasts about two months (February to March) was reported to have the lowest demand for local chickens.


Aklilu (2007) similarly reported high sales of local chickens in periods like Easter and Christmas in Ethiopia. In Thailand, the months in which large numbers of chickens were consumed corresponded to annual and occasional ceremonies in which all villagers participated (Masuno 2008).  The differences in the demand of local chickens in times of the year can be attributed to the tastes and preferences of consumers. Religious festival days are associated with increased poultry consumption and sales. These patterns cause strong fluctuations in prices of local chickens and is reflected as one of the problems faced by traders. Demand for local chicken increases in the onset of festivities and later decreases. It is difficult to change this demand pattern as it is a matter of religion. The only option is to cope with the existing situation. If poultry production in Uganda could be carefully planned and managed to match the fluctuating market demand, high economic benefits might be realized.


Local chicken trade as a business should be profitable, for benefits to be realized. According to the study 66% of traders considered local chickens as most profitable of the other types of chickens (Table 6). This was followed by broilers (16%) while spent layers and aged broiler breeders earned the least profits.  

Table 6.  The most profitable type of chickens as reported by traders

Type of chicken

Frequency ( n= 50)

Percentage, %




Spent layers






Aged breeders



These results show that local chicken trade in Kampala faces considerable competition from exotic chickens. Reports (UBOS 2007) indicated a population of about 3.7 million exotic/cross chicken national wide, and the Central Region had the biggest number.

Constraints in the marketing of local chickens in Kampala city

Local chicken marketing in Kampala city was said to be constrained by a number of factors which include; high mortality rates, costly transport, fluctuation of prices and supply of local chickens (Table 7). Traders of St. Balikuddembe and Nakawa particularly ranked mortality rates as the most important constraint. Meanwhile markets of Nakasero, Nateete and Nakawa considered transport costs as their biggest challenge.

Table 7.  Constraints to local chicken marketing in Kampala


Percentage, %

High mortality rates


Costly transport




Irregular demand


High maintenance costs


Unpaid debts by customers


Lack of capital


These results are consistent with the findings by Kaudia and Kitalyi (2002) who reported high mortality rates and transport costs as major constraints of chicken trade in Kenya. The high mortality rates can be attributed to poor modes of transport for live chickens.  According to Tabbaa and Alshawabkeh (2000) high mortality rates in birds during transit is a function of factors which includes stress and spread of disease infections during mass transportation of birds. Therefore, the modes of transport for chickens need to be improved so as to lower mortality rates of birds. Diseases were ranked high among the major constraints to local chicken trade. Prevalence of diseases in the market birds is not surprising since rural poultry are almost never vaccinated against diseases. In addition, there are hardly any veterinary inspection checks at the farms, in transit or in the market place. Guasi et al (2004) reported similar factors constraining marketing local chickens in Malawi. Therefore local chicken trade development in Uganda could be advanced by improvement of transport of birds.


In the present study, traders were asked to suggest solutions for the constraints of marketing local chickens. Their responses were that they want improvement of transport for local chickens. Some of the traders suggested the need to address the mortality problem.







This research was funded by the Network of Ugandan Researchers and Research Users (NURRU).



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Received 6 November 2009; Accepted 8 March 2010; Published 1 April 2010

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