Livestock Research for Rural Development 23 (10) 2011 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Indigenous chickens of the Kamuli Plains in Uganda: I. Production system and flock dynamics

K Natukunda, D R Kugonza* and C C Kyarisiima*

Department of Agribusiness and Natural Resource Economics, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Makerere University, P.0 Box 7062 Kampala - Uganda
natukunda2007@gmail.com
* Department of Agricultural Production, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Makerere University, P.0 Box 7062 Kampala - Uganda

Abstract

This study was conducted in Kamuli town council and Namasagali sub-county located in the Kamuli Plains of Eastern Uganda. We aimed at determining the systems used to produce indigenous/local chickens and understand their flock size dynamics across a calendar year. A formal survey using a structured questionnaire was used to collect responses from 100 indigenous chicken farmer households drawn from the two sites in equal proportions. 

The results revealed that the free range or scavenging was the dominant production system (92%) with seasonal/conditional feed supplementation. Indigenous chickens were mainly for sale so as to raise income for the household and were also used as a source of food (84%). Eggs were mainly for consumption and hatching. The average number of indigenous hens, cock and chicks per household was 14.52 1.29, 3.90 0.32 and 10.08 1.39 respectively with a total (average) flock size of 29.36 2.04 birds. On average, a total of 38.76 4.10 birds were added to the flock while 40.5 4.18 birds were removed from the flock in the previous year. The study revealed that 98% of indigenous chicken owners in the study area experienced chicken diseases in their locality with Newcastle disease (NCD) being the most common and economically important disease. The use of indigenous herbal treatments was the mode of disease control used by the majority (66%) of indigenous chicken owners. Seasonal disease outbreaks (mainly NCD), predation, low productive performance of indigenous chicken ecotypes, theft, inadequate chicken management and lack of chicken marketing information were identified as the most important constraints affecting the chicken enterprise. Almost all the interviewed indigenous chicken producers were interested in boosting the chicken production and productivity levels. This is an opportunity and potential for chicken production and development intervention activities in the study area. Therefore, efforts have to be put up to enhance the productivity of indigenous chickens and to transform the existing extensive production system to semi-intensive, focusing on market-led production with a holistic and multidisciplinary support of services like; health, husbandry, research, extension, training and credit interventions. 

Key words: Feeding, flock size, herbal treatment, scavenging, theft


Introduction

Animal production generally and chickens in particular play vital socio-economic roles in developing countries (Alders 2004; Salam 2005). Generation of extra incomes and ensuring food security are amongst the major reasons for keeping indigenous chickens by resource-poor rural communities. Most of the rural and peri-urban families in developing countries keep a small flock of free range indigenous chickens (Jens et al 2004). It is also a source of employment for disadvantaged groups in many indigenous communities (Guye 2000).However, most communities lack the required chicken management skills, training and opportunity to effectively improve their household chicken production (Mlozi et al 2003).Rearing indigenous chicken is also an integrated component of most rural, many peri-urban and some urban households (Branckaert et al 1999). Two decades ago, indigenous chicken population accounted for more than 60% of the total national chicken population in most African countries (Sonaiya 1990). The situation today has not changed much, for instance in Uganda, these chickens still contribute over 70% of the national flock (UBOS 2009). Resource-poor rural communities are able to raise chicken with low inputs and harvested the benefits of eggs and meat via scavenging feed resources (Robert et al 1992; Sonaiya 2005).

 

The prevalence of the indigenous chickens long after the introduction of the exotic strains shows that these chickens still possess the potential to form the basis for improved indigenous poultry production. They can be transformed from subsistence to commercial production to increase food security and income in the poor rural households (Kyarisiima et al 2004). Uganda's chicken population has increased from 23.5 million in 2005 to 37.4 million in 2008. 

 

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, indigenous chickens have invaluable characteristics that are not found in the exotic strains (Msami et al 2001). These characteristics are appropriate to the traditional low input/low output farming systems in Uganda (Kyarisiima et al 2004).  Indigenous chicken production depends on traditional knowledge and to some extent, on literature mostly applicable to temperate regions (Oba 2000). Well-organized marketing of indigenous chickens is difficult due to the small flock sizes reared by farmers (Chandraschka1998). Indigenous chickens supply most of the meat and all eggs in indigenous and 20% of urban and peri-urban demand (Melewas 1989; Minga et al 1996). Thus, there is a need to understand existing production characteristics, productivity and constraints faced by indigenous chicken producers. Constraints to chicken production are complex and vary among households due to the different biological, social and economic factors that influence production methods and consequently, productivity levels (Mwalusanya et al 2002). It is not easy to design and implement chicken-based development programs that benefit rural people without understanding indigenous chicken production systems (Guye 1998; Pedersen 2002). Understanding of indigenous chicken functioning and profitability are a prerequisite for developing market opportunities for farmers and could be used to inform policy-makers and development workers in considering the commercial and institutional environment in which indigenous chicken keepers have to operate (Hellin et al 2005). 

 

Eastern Uganda possesses the greatest potential for expansion of indigenous chicken production due to land availability and climatic ambiance. However, assessment of appropriate technological interventions that are affordable to resource-poor farmers and that could boost chicken productivity have not been evaluated, nor have the production systems and flock dynamics of indigenous chickens in the area been determined. It is from this research gap that prompted the curiosity of the present study.  


Materials and methodology

Study area 

The study was conducted in Eastern Uganda in Kamuli district with focus on Kamuli Town Council and Namasagali sub-county. The Town Vouncil is the main administrative and commercial centre of Kamuli district. Namasagali is along the eastern bank of the Victoria Nile and northwest of the district headquarters. The population density of the study area is estimated to be 236 persons/km. The study area is categorized as one of the regions in Uganda known to have highest potential for crop and livestock production.  

Selection of the study farms and sampling technique 

A sampling procedure (purposive and random) was applied to the study. Rural Development Extensionists (RDEs) were actively involved in the selection of representative farmers in the study area. Chicken production potential and accessibility were the main criteria considered in the selection of farmers. The simple random sampling technique was applied to choose 50 indigenous chicken farmers from each sub-county by giving equal chance for those farmers who were actively engaged in indigenous chicken rearing. A total of 100 indigenous chicken farmers were interviewed using a pre-tested structured questionnaire. 

Data Collection 

Primary data were collected intensively through personal house to house interviews using an organized and pre-tested structured questionnaire. A closer visit in and around the residential quarters of selected households was made in order to obtain first hand observation on all aspects of indigenous chickens. Appropriate data such as indigenous chicken production systems, flock dynamics and production and marketing constraints affecting profitability was gathered from individual indigenous chicken farmers and RDEs. Errors in data collection were minimized by making use of carefully trained enumerators who were retained throughout the course of the field data collection.

Data management and statistical analysis 

The qualitative and quantitative data-sets were analyzed using SPSS statistical analysis software (SPSS, 2007). Descriptive statistics were used for this study. Tables and figures were used to present summary statistics such as mean and percentages. 


Results and discussion

Household characteristics 

In our study, 66% of the respondents were females and the rest were males. The majority (40%) of the respondents were ≤ 30 years, while the rest were distributed in different age categories (Table 1). This implies that many of the youths appreciate indigenous chicken rearing and this can be used as an opportunity and potential for chicken production and development intervention activities in the area. Data on education level of respondents showed that 90% of the respondents had attained some form of formal education. These results generally agree with Kugonza et al (2008) who reported slightly lower value (87%) in Kumi district, but vary with proportions reported results elsewhere for village chicken farmers (Abo et al 2006). Nevertheless, the education grade attained by respondents of this study were low and may be a contributory factor to explain the levels of adoption of better chicken management techniques that are readily and freely available under the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS). 

In this study, the majority of the households were largely male-headed (98%) and most of the household heads (86%) were married. This indicates that men have greater control over resources. Almost half (48%) of the respondents were peasants while the remainder had various occupations (Table 1), though for all, rearing of indigenous chickens was not being done as a commercial activity. Family size of households ranged between 1 and 14 individuals, and had a mean of 6.7 0.2; hence, most households had enough family labour to participate in indigenous chicken rearing. These results are slightly higher than the value of 6 members per household reported for Moyo district in North-western Uganda by Chandia (2008). 


Table 1. Socio-economic status of respondents of the study area

 

Variable (n = 100)

 

Category

Percentage of farmers

Namasagali

Town council

Overall

Gender of chicken owner

Male

18

16

34

 

Female

32

34

66

Age (years)

< 30

20

20

40

 

31-40

16

16

32

 

41-60

10

10

20

 

> 60

4

4

8

Education level

Illiterate

8

2

10

 

Primary

28

10

38

 

Secondary

10

22

32

 

Tertiary

4

16

20

Marital status

Married

44

42

86

 

Single

4

6

10

 

Divorced

2

2

4

Occupation

Peasant

28

20

48

 

Progressive farmer

16

15

30

 

Self employed

2

5

10

 

Civil servant

4

6

12

Household size

1-5

15

25

40

 

6-10

30

20

50

 

>10

7

3

10

Production systems and flock dynamics

About 92% of the indigenous chicken farmers in this study practiced the free range (scavenging) production system with only seasonal/conditional feed supplementation. Indigenous birds were left to search for their own feed, scratch and pick on the ground while only small amounts of grains or kitchen leftovers were supplemented, mainly during feed shortage seasons; yet, poorly fed birds may develop low immunity to diseases leading to lowered productivity. These results are nevertheless agreement with findings of Kugonza et al (2008), who observed that indigenous chickens in Teso were mainly reared in a free-range system with seasonal supplementation. Scavenging of indigenous poultry still predominate in other African countries including Ethiopia, Gambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe (Kitalyi 1995). Similarly, Huque and Paul (2001) reported that chicken production systems of Bangladesh depend mainly on indigenous chickens that were reared. 
 

Indigenous chicken farmers had 7.02 0.77 years of experience in indigenous chicken rearing. This time is enough for them to be able to adapt better chicken management systems. The results also revealed that 52% of farmers got knowledge to start indigenous chicken rearing from parents and neighbours while the rest started from their own interest. The average indigenous chicken flock size/household of the study area for hens, cock and chicks was 14.52 1.29, 3.90 0.32 and 10.08 1.39 respectively with a total flock size of 29.36 2.04 birds. This implies that indigenous chickens are still kept in small numbers and hence less profit can be made. These results are in agreement with the 5–40 flock size range reported for Uganda flocks by Kyarisiima et al (2004), Mwalusanya et al (2001) and Muchadeyi et al (2004). 


Analysis of flock dynamics data showed that on average, a total of 38.76 4.10 birds were added into the flock in the year preceding this study. Of these 34.54 4.12 birds were hatched, 1.18 0.19 birds were bought, 0.90 0.51 were added as gifts while 0.94 0.81 were exchanged/borrowed. However, an average of 40.5 4.18 birds was removed from the flock in the same period of one year, and of these 22.98 2.88 birds were sold, 5.96 0.47 birds were slaughtered for consumption, 10.36 1.34 birds died, 1.5 0.47 were stolen and 1.52 0.36 were given out as gifts. This means that the number of indigenous chicken removed from the flock is greater than that added and this is a great threat to the indigenous chicken enterprise. The results further revealed that the predominant way of removal is commercial sale, although the numbers kept are still modest. However, these results disagree with those reported by Chandia (2008) for Moyo district where 20.12 2.34 birds were added and 17.91 1.89 removed from the flock in a year. 

 

According to the reports of the farmers (Figure 1),  old age appeared to be the major determinant for culling the birds from the flock


Figure1. Reasons given for culling indigenous chicken
Benefits/purpose of indigenous chicken rearing

In this study, sale of live birds as source of income and use of poultry as a source of food were the most important functions (84%) of rearing chicken (Table 2). Eggs were mostly used for food, hatching and as a source of income (46%). Indigenous chickens and their eggs are believed to be tastier and this might be why they are mostly used for food and their high demand. However, the respondents reported that eating of chicken was seasonal and in most cases on festive days. In all the households, hatching was naturally done with hens brooding and raising their own chicks. The study showed that eggs produced from indigenous chickens could also provide a regular, though small income while the sale of live birds provided a more flexible source of cash as required. 


Table 2. Benefits/purpose of indigenous chicken rearing and eggs

 

Percentages of farmers

Variable (n=100)

Namasagali

Town council        

Total

Purpose of chickens   

 

 

 

Income and food only                             

46

38

84

Enhancing friendship and food only        

2

8

10

Poultry management, income and food 

2

4

6

Purpose of eggs

 

 

 

Income, hatching and food                      

28

18

46

Hatching and food only                           

14

14

28

Income and food only                               

4

12

16

Income and hatching                                 

4

6

10


Similar to the current study, Tadelle and Ogle (1996) reported that the major uses for eggs of indigenous chickens in central Ethiopian highlands were as income, hatching and food (51%). They also indicated that the major purposes of production of indigenous chickens in central Ethiopian highlands were income and food (80%), gifts of live birds (8.6%) and gifts of eggs (5.4%) to visitors and relatives, and as starting capital for youths and newly married women. The results of this study are also in agreement with the findings of Sonaiya et al (2004), who reported that income and food was the primary goal of keeping indigenous chicken in developing countries. Veluw (1987) also reported similar results with regard to the purpose of traditional chicken production in Northern Ghana.

 

Feeding and watering system

 

Even though scavenging was the major feeding system practiced in Namasagali and the Town Council, 99.5% of the respondents provided supplementary feeding to indigenous chickens, especially during feed scarcity seasons. Home produced grains and household leftovers were the major feedstuffs (97%) supplemented by farmers while 3% of the farmers purchased the feed to supplement. The reason why the majority of the farmers provided supplementary feeds may be because poorly fed birds normally develop low immunity to diseases and also their productivity is low. Halima (2007) also reported that 99.3% of chicken owners in North-West Amhara provide supplementary feeds to their birds. Similarly, Mapiye et al (2005) also reported that 95.5% of the farmers in Rushinga district of Zimbabwe produced their own supplementary feeds and only 4.5% used purchased feed. 

 

In this study, 66% of the interviewed farmers provided water to indigenous chickens while 14% never provided water at all. However, Halima (2007) reported a higher percentage (99.5%) of indigenous chicken owners in North-West Amhara provided water to indigenous chickens. The main reason given for not providing water to indigenous chickens in this study was ignorance, as farmers claimed that they never knew that indigenous chickens should be provided with water. Failure to provide water to chickens lowered productivity and possibly death.

 

Housing system of indigenous chicken

According to Figure 2, only 29 farmers (58%) provided shelter for their chickens, 14 farmers (28%) left the chicken to sleep in the kitchen while 7 farmers (14%) used the main house for providing night shelter. Provision of shelter at night indicates the importance that farmers from Namasagali and Kamuli Town Council attach to their flocks. The reasons for not having poultry house by the farmers who never had poultry houses were mainly due to presence of small flock size/household, lack of construction materials and lack of knowledge and awareness on the importance of housing chickens. In agreement with these results, Kugonza et al (2008) reported that the majority of farmers in Teso (77%) kept indigenous chickens in complete enclosures such as the owner’s residential hut, kitchen or night ark and about 20% of the households who let their chickens perch in trees overnight. However, In Natal in South Africa, Swatson et al (2001) reported a very low percentage (7%) of farmers who provide chickens with overnight accommodation.

Figure 2. Housing condition of the indigenous chicken farmers in the study area
Chicken health and disease control measures

The  diseases which attacked indigenous chickens are presented in Table 3.The results of the study indicate that 98% of indigenous chicken farmers experienced disease problems in their locality and NCD was the most common and economically important disease (72%) in the study area. The majority of the farmers (68.8%) reported that diseases mainly strike during the dry season, showing the positive relationship between NCD prevalence and low humidity. Diseases affect the sustainability and productivity of the indigenous chicken enterprises. It is evident from these results that on average, 6.32 0.33 birds out of 10 died when there was a disease outbreak and this puts the indigenous chicken enterprise at risk. 


Most of the birds are sold in the dry season and this coincides with the high NCD incidence, increasing the spread of the disease. However, it is also practical on the side of the farmers to sell at this time as the risk of total loss is very high. Newcastle could on the other hand be overcome using thermo-stable vaccines. Provision of traditional treatments was the main treatment used by most indigenous chicken farmers (66%) against diseases. It was also recognized that NCD affected every chicken breed and age group. The hens that were either laying or incubating eggs were the most affected and sensitive age groups in the flock. 

 

In agreement with the findings of this study, Ambali et al (2007) reported that the major cause of death for indigenous chicken in North-West Amhara in Ethiopia was seasonal outbreaks of chicken diseases, specifically Newcastle disease. Yongolo (1996) and Spradbraw (1993) also supported the argument that NCD was the major constraint to the development of both indigenous and exotic chicken industry in Africa. 


Table 3. Most common chicken diseases and control measures used in the study area

 

Percentage of farmers

Variable (n = 100)

Namasagali

Town council

Total

Most prevalent disease

 

 

 

Newcastle disease (NCD)

38

34

72

Gumboro disease                                                        

9

9

18

Coccidiosis

5

3

8

Control measure

 

 

 

Traditional treatment                                                 

36

30

66

Both modern and traditional treatment                     

14

20

34


The current results showed that further research activities focusing on identifying the effectiveness of traditional treatment used by the farmers of indigenous chicken could be very important. Lack of awareness about presence of modern treatment for sick chickens and non-effectiveness of modern treatment were some of the major reasons mentioned by indigenous chicken farmers for lacking a culture of treating sick birds with conventional medicine.

 

Challenges to indigenous chicken production 

 

Prevalence of disease and inadequate health care

High incidence of chicken diseases, mainly NCD, was the major constraint in indigenous chicken production system of Namasagali and Kamuli Town Council. The results of this study indicate that 98% of the interviewed farmers experienced the disease condition in their flocks which resulted in reduction in numbers of indigenous birds per household. This caused farmers to keep few birds due to the fear that they would lose a lot of birds due to disease outbreaks. Similar results were reported by Guye (1998) and Kugonza et al (2008). 

Indigenous chickens in Namasagali and Kamuli Town Council which were kept mainly on scavenging systems were exposed to diseases mainly due to contact between birds during scavenging. Giving away birds and exchanging birds from a flock where the disease is incubating with those in the market was also recognized as the other way of spreading diseases from place to place in the study area. However, lack of awareness about vaccines and vaccination was discovered in the study area and this could also contribute to increased incidences of diseases. 

Thus, there is a great need for serious intervention in disease control so as to improve chicken production and productivity in Namasagali and Kamuli town council. Control of chicken diseases in the study area could be achieved through improvement in veterinary and advisory services. With this regard, further detailed studies focusing on identification of NCD virus strain and prevalence rate of IBD in the study area should be conducted. 

Predation 

 

All the indigenous chicken farmers reported that predation was the other economically important constraint in indigenous chicken production system in the study area. Indigenous chicken farmer said they scared wild birds and animals away from their flocks by making noise and said they were not aware of other methods such as providing a fenced run and the fold and ark systems to protect their flocks from predators. These results agree with Halima (2007) who reported that predation was one of the major constraints in indigenous chicken production in North-West Ethiopia. Similar results were reported by Bell and Abdou (1995). 

 

The challenge of predators dictates that construction of ‘predator proof’ chicken houses could help to reduce losses, especially during the night. Chicks also needed to stay in protected areas for the first 4–5 weeks of life in order to avoid predators and accidents. Protection of young chicks, especially from wild birds was found critical, as this is the time when they are most vulnerable to predators.

 
Poor productivity of indigenous chicken ecotypes

Although indigenous chickens were more adapted to the adverse climatic and management conditions of the study area, the result of the study showed that the productivity of indigenous chickens was relatively low. Accordingly, 95% of the indigenous chicken farmers showed great interest towards improved chicken breeds so as to improve their productivity and increase profitability. All the farmers reported slow growth of the indigenous chicken and poor egg production. Similar to the findings of this study, Kugonza et al (2008) reported that indigenous chicken have slow growth rates and poor egg production.

Theft 
 

About 26% of the farmers reported theft as one of the major constraints indigenous chicken production. This led to loss of mature birds at the selling stage and eggs due to improper farm structures. This reduced chicken numbers and hence profitability of indigenous chicken in both Namasagali and Kamuli Town Council. It is apparent that building of proper structures for the indigenous birds would help to reduce theft in the study area.

 

Poor chicken management regime (feeding, housing and health care)
 

Production losses due to poor chicken management were found to be one of the main constraints in indigenous chicken production in the study area. Most structures were also improperly constructed (not well ventilated and most of the roofs were leaking). This exposed indigenous chicken to predation, theft and bad weather. Figure 3 shows examples of indigenous chicken structures in the study area.



Figure 3. Some of the poultry shelters in Namasagali and Kamuli town council

Provision of agricultural extension services 

The results of the study indicate that 50% of the indigenous chicken farmers did not receive adequate technical support related to indigenous chicken production. The farmers reported that they have been getting advisory service, trainings, credit and input facilities from VEDCO and NAADS. More so, agricultural extension was found to be the main source of information about improved chicken production system. The percentage of farmers who obtained extension service is consistent with Halima (2007) who reported that 52.5% chicken rearers in North-West Ethiopia received support from government extension services. This indicates that there is need for the government of Uganda to employ more extension agents in the study area so that farmers can receive adequate training and advisory services. This will in turn increase productivity of indigenous chickens and hence boost owners’ incomes. 

Volunteer Efforts for Development Concerns (VEDCO) and National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) have given attention towards improving agricultural productivity and thus assigned extension agents to sub-counties in Kamuli District including the studied area. The extension agents were specialists in animal and crop sciences. A big number of the interviewees in the study area reported that the present extension services were better than the former extension services, where they would hardly get technical support. However, extension agents were still few and could not reach every farmer. In order for effective extension service to be effective, farmer groups can be used to reach many others farmers.


Conclusion


Recommendations

Based on the result of the study, the following recommendations are made:


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Received 15 August 2011; Accepted 20 September 2011; Published 10 October 2011

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