Livestock Research for Rural Development 27 (9) 2015 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Characterization of village chicken production system under traditional management in Gantaafeshum district of Eastern Tigray, Ethiopia

Letebrhan G/Slassie, Aberra Melesse1, Sandip Banerjee1 and Gebremedhn Beyene

College of Dry land Agriculture and Natural Resources, Department of Animal, Range land and Wildlife Sciences, Mekelle University, P.O.Box 231, Mekelle, Ethiopia
letegebre@gmail.com
1 College of Agriculture, School of Animal and Range Sciences, Hawassa University, P.o.Box 05, Hawassa, Ethiopia

Abstract

A study was conducted on characterizing village chicken production system in Gantaafeshum district of Eastern Tigray, Ethiopia. Data were collected from a total 160 chicken owners by using semi-structured questionnaire.

The most dominant chicken production system was a subsistence extensive system which is based on indigenous chickens with scavenging and supplementary feeding of home grown grains and household food refusals. The overall mean flock size per household was 11.6 of which 11.3 (97.4%) were local chicken. The average age of chickens at first egg was 6.8 months. The average egg production per clutch was 14.2 with a mean 3.68 clutches per year with a clutch length of 24.7days. The overall mean cock: hen ratio was 1:3.4. All respondents provided water and supplementary feed to their chicken. About 76.9% of the households share the same room with chicken, while only 23.1% of the households prepared a separate house for their chickens. In the study area, about 89.4% of the households select hens for brooding. It was concluded that efforts have to be made to shift the production paradigm to semi-intensive focusing on market oriented production based on scavenging with a holistic support of services such as health, housing, extension, credit and marketing to make it productive and sustainable.

Key words: indigenous chickens, production system, scavenging, traditional management


Introduction

Population growth, urbanization and rising income in many parts of the developing world is believed to result in a growing demand for food from animal origin. According to Devendra and Chantalakhana (2002) poultry husbandry is gender friendly and is associated with the self-reliance of women.

Ethiopia is one of the few African countries with significantly large population of chicken which is estimated to be 44.9 million chickens, out of which 96.61 percent are local chickens (CSA 2012). The majority (99 percent) of these chickens are maintained under a traditional system with little or no inputs for housing, feeding or health care. Despite their low productivity, indigenous chicken are known to possess desirable characteristics such as thermo-tolerance, resistance to some diseases, good egg and meat flavor, presence of hard egg shells, high fertility and hatchability as well as high dressing percentage (Aberra et al 2011). According to McAinsh et al (2004) village chickens play many socio-economic roles in traditional religious and other customs, as gift payments and serve as an important source of animal protein food to the families of smallholder farmer. They are also considered to be the main source of income for the rural poor (Muchadeyi et al 2007).

In the study area there was no research done in relation to village chicken production systems. It is therefore essential to conduct research that could generate appropriate technology, which is socially acceptable, environmentally sound and economically feasible. Therefore, the aim of this study was to characterize chicken production system in the study area.


Materials and methods

Description of the study area

The study was conducted in Gantaafeshum district which is located 928 km north of Addis Ababa and situated between latitudes 1010'N to1420' N and longitudes 3828' to 3915' E. The altitude of the district ranges from 1200-3000 m a.s.l, of which Dega above 2600, Woina-dega 1550-2600 and Kola below 1550. The annual temperature is 150C-240C, while the annual rainfall ranges between 350-700 mm. The livestock resources of the district are 51,519 cattle, 57,163 sheep, 32,882 goats, 67,269 poultry, 6,944 donkey, 59 horse, 5 mule and 7791 beehives (3201 modern and 4590 traditional) (BOANR 2010).

Sampling technique

The study was conducted in eight peasant associations (PA’s) of the district 2 PA’s from Dega (Hagereselam and Migulat), 4 PA’s from Weinadega (Sasun, Buket Mymesanu and Mergahiya) and 2 PA’s from Kola (Smret and Wuhdet) agro-ecology zones proportional to the size of agro-ecology selected by stratified random sampling technique. Twenty households which own chickens were selected randomly from each identified PA are making a total of 160 households.

Data collection and analysis

Information on chicken production objectives, the functions and importance of chickens in the socio-economic live of the community such as traditional rites, ownership pattern, Intra household dynamics (division of labour, decision making), management systems ( such as feeding, housing, disease control, brooding, hatching), flock composition and characteristics, flock performance, various performance related parameters of chickens (age at first egg, number of clutches per year, clutch length, eggs/hen/year and inter clutch), off take and loss of chicken was collected from individual farmer, extension officer and key informants using a semi-structured questionnaire. Secondary data was collected from district’s rural agricultural development office. The generated information was analysed using descriptive statistics of SPSS (SPSS Version 20).


Results and discussion

Household characteristics

Educational status, sex of household respondents and chicken rearing experience are presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Socio-economic characteristics of the respondents in the study area (% household)

Agro-ecology

Parameters

Dega
(40)

Weinadega
(80)

Kola
(40)

Over all mean
(160)

Educational status

Illiterate

57.5

40

42.5

45

Grade 1-4

25

40

37.5

35.6

Grade 5-8

22.5

16.2

12.5

15

Grade 9-12

2.5

3.8

7.5

4.4

Sex of household respondents

Male

30

30

32.5

30.6

Female

70

70

67.5

69.4

Chicken rearing experience

<2 years

7.5

5

2.5

5

2-5 years

22.5

13.8

12.5

15.6

6-10 years

17.5

22.5

30

23.1

>10 years

52.5

58.8

55

56.2

Numbers in parenthesis indicate total number of respondents

Flock structure and breed composition of chicken
Flock structure

Flock structure is described in terms of the number and proportion of the different age groups and sex in a flock. The numbers of chicks per household was observed to be higher (4.29) which was followed by hens (3.17). This finding was somehow similar with that of central highlands of Ethiopia as reported by Tadelle and Ogle (1996a) that was reported as 4.5 and 2.9 for chicks and layers per household, respectively. This indicates that the proportion varies between places and with time due to various reasons.

According to Mtileni et al (2009) in any poultry set up, the proportion of mature hens in the flocks is used to estimate flock productivity. About 29.3% of the respondent owned 3-6 pullets (Table 2). Keeping a relatively higher number of pullets could be a copping mechanism to replace the number of adult chickens reduced by selling, consumption and loss due to various reasons.

About 70.6% of the respondents owned only one cock. The respondents indicated that farmers in the study area have the experience of removing the males from the flocks at an early age to minimize cock fighting and to cope up with feed scarcity. The present study concurred with the findings of Meseret (2010) for Gomma wereda in Ethiopia indicating that the lower proportion of the cockerels and cock within the indigenous chicken population might be attributed to the selling of cockerels and cocks; few cockerels and cocks are maintained in a flock for breeding and sharing of cocks among neighbors is a breeding strategy in a community.

The cock to hen ratio of 1:3.4 in this study is lower than from 1:2, 1:2.5 and 1:2.2 ratios reported by Kitalyi (1997) for developing countries, by Tadelle et al. (2003a) for the central highlands of Ethiopia and by Mekonen (2007) for southern Ethiopia.

Table 2. Flock size and proportion of the respondents owning different size of chicken

Category

Chicken/HH
Mean ± SE

Proportion of respondents owning chickens (%)

1*

2*

(3-6)*

(7-10)*

>10*

Hen

3.17±0.11

(27.4%)

5.6

31.9

58.8

3.7

-

Pullets

1.90±0.11

(16.43%)

24.4

28.8

29.3

1.2

-

Cockerels

1.28± 0.08

(11.03%)

39.4

30.6

8.1

-

-

Cock

0.93± 0.05

(8.05%)

70.6

9.4

1.2

-

-

Chicks

4.29± 0.24

(37.08%)

1.2

-

50.7

21.2

1.9

* Size of chickens; values in parenthesis indicate percent chicken with respect to the total population

Breed composition

In the study area, local chicken ecotypes are the most prevalent type of chickens. In the study area, crosses of Rhode Island Red (RIR) with locals and pure exotic RIR chickens were found. The overall mean distribution of the crosses and pure exotic was found to be 0.11 and 0.19, respectively. There was no significant difference in the composition of exotic breed in the flock. However, significant differences (P < 0.05) were observed in the numbers of local breed chickens between agro-ecologies.

Table 3. Breed composition of the flock (mean±SE)

Breed types

Agro-ecology

Dega
(40)

Weinadega
(80)

Kola
(40)

Overall mean
(160)

Local

11±0.71a

10.6±0.41a

12.8±0.58b

11.3±0.31

Local x RIR crosses

0.08±0.06

0.15±0.06

0.08±0.06

0.11±0.04

RIR

0.2±0.10

0.15±0.06

0.28±0.11

0.19±0.05

a-b Means with in a row with different superscript differ significantly(p<0.05). Numbers in parenthesis indicate total number of respondents

Socio-economic aspect of chicken production
Expenses in relation to chicken production

About 63.1% of the respondents spend their money on purchase of birds, feed, veterinary products and the remaining 36.9% do not spend their money for anything concerning chicken production. However, the source of money for all these expense was personal income. The present result was in agreement with the findings of Meseret (2010) for Gomma wereda in Ethiopia indicated that the major input required to initiate and run rural household poultry are financial resource to purchase foundation and replacement stocks (49.4% of respondents) purchase of feed and spent money for the purchase of pharmaceuticals.

About 68.8% of the households spend the earnings from the sale of chicken and eggs to purchase items for home consumption, while 23.1% spend for educational materials, (books, pen, pencils, uniforms and an immediate cash inquires from the school) and 8.1% for purchase of agricultural inputs. This was in agreement with the findings of Mekonen (2007) that 72% of the households spend the earnings from the sale of chicken to purchase of items for home consumption, 23% spend for educational materials and the remaining to purchase clothes and agricultural inputs.

This indicates that chickens support food security at household level through not only direct consumption, but also creating an enabling economic environment that enables farmers to have better purchasing power or better access to purchase food. It also has a financial support for schooling of children.

Priorities in purpose and objective of raising chicken

Among the total respondents, the majority (52.5%) of the respondents give priority for sale of egg and chicken as primary and replacement of chicken as secondary important, while 36.2% of the respondents give priority for sale of egg and chicken as primary followed by consumption of egg and 11.2% of the respondents give priority for sale of chicken primary and hatching of egg secondary. The results indicate that the extensive backyard poultry production in the study area was mainly used to generate cash to be used by households for covering various expenses. This result was in agreement with the finding of Meseret (2010).

Source of foundation and replacement stock

Table 4 indicates about source of foundation stock therefore, the result status leads to the conclusion that most of the households started the poultry keeping with purchased foundation stock. Considering the existing replacement stock, the majority (55%) of the replacement stock constituted from chicken hatched in the house and 45% from hatching in the house and purchased. This is in line with the observation of Mekonen (2007) that majority of the replacement stock (75.5%) constituted from chicken hatched in the houses.

Table 4. Sources of foundation and replacement stocks

Sources

Number of
respondents

Percent
Respondents

Sources of foundation stock

Purchase

100

62.5

Gift

27

16.9

Inherited

33

20.6

Sources of replacement stock

Hatched in house

88

55

Hatched & purchased

72

45

Ownership pattern, decision making and division of labor in chicken production

Women and men had 48.8 and 36.9% ownership of the flock, respectively. The remaining ownership was distributed to children, adolescent sons and daughters in a ratio of 6.2, 3.8 and 4.4%, respectively. Results of the discussions with the key informant groups of the study areas indicated that the household heads provided chickens for children if they request and mostly, children share the responsibility of chicken feeding and watering if they have the ownership of chicken. These findings are more or less similar with the observation of Tadelle et al (2003b) from the central highlands of Ethiopia.

The ownership pattern was usually related to decision making in selling and consumption of chicken and eggs. It was noted that women followed by men play the major decision making role in the selling and consumption of chickens and eggs and in purchase of chickens. This was in agreement with the report of Aklilu et al (2007) from Tigray, Northern Ethiopia who reported that, live birds and egg sales were decided by women who would serve them as immediate income to meet household expenses instead of expecting their husband to provide the cash.

Women were further responsible to perform most of the activities in chicken rearing except in the construction of chicken pens perch or partitions, which is mainly carried out by the men and youth male. The women play a primordial role in feeding and watering (78.8%), cleaning chicken pens (60.6%), treating sick chicken (80.6%), selling chickens (75.6%) and selling eggs (76.2%) of the household. The results obtained in this study are in agreement with the reports of Mammo (2006).

Loss and off take of chicken

Loss of chickens due to predators, diseases and theft were 64%, 33% and 3%, respectively. The present findings are in agreement with that of Mekonen (2007) in Dale wereda of Southern Ethiopia who reported as 71, 28 and 1 % of the loss from the flock attributes to predator, disease and theft, respectively. Regarding the off take, about 70.8 and 29.2% of the off take from the flock was attributed to sales and consumption, respectively. This indicates that the primary purpose of rearing chicken in the area is for sale.

Productivity of local chickens

According to the observation of respondents, the average age at first laying was 6.8 months and ranged from 6-9 months (Table 5). The age at first egg obtained in this study was similar with the value 6.8 month reported by Tadelle et al (2003a). The overall average number of clutch per year was observed to be 3.68 while the average clutch length was observed to be 24.7 days and no significant (p>0.05) difference was observed among the three agro-ecologies for the above mentioned traits (Table 5). This result was similar with the value 3.7 reported by Mekonen (2007) from southern Ethiopia for village chicken production. However, it is lower than the value 5.2 reported by Mammo (2006).

The average egg/hen/clutch was 14.2 ranging from 8-20 which was relatively higher than the national average 12 eggs per hen per clutch (CSA 2003). The present findings showed that local chickens had a relatively good egg production potential compared to other findings. The higher annual egg production in the study area could be attributed to the manipulation of hen laying cycle, i.e. discouraging brooding.

Table 5. Productivity of local chickens (mean ±SE)

Parameters

Agro-ecology

Dega
(40)

Weinadega
(80)

Kola
(40)

Overall mean
(160)

Age at first egg (in month)

6.82± 0.10

6.81±0.08

6.75±0.09

6.8±0.05

Clutch per year

3.56±0.08

3.69±0.07

3.77±0.09

3.68±0.05

Clutch length (in days)

25.7±1.22

24.1±0.77

25.0±1.06

24.7±0.56

Eggs/hen/clutch

13.9±0.51

14.1±0.32

14.6±0.42

14.2±0.23

Eggs/hen /year

54.8±1.96

51.6±1.23

54.8±1.96

53.2±0.93

Inter clutch

61.8±3.48

60.5±2.13

59.8±3.11

60.6±1.57

Hatchability (%)

80.6±1.23

83.1±1.0

81.9±1.85

82.2±0.75

Numbers in parenthesis indicate total number of respondents

Flock management practices

Feeds and feeding

The results of the present study indicated that all households provide supplementary feed to their chicken. The present result in agreement with the report of Halima (2007) from Northwest Ethiopia indicating that, almost all of the households practiced scavenging with supplementary feeding. According to the respondents of the study area, scavenging feed source consists of insects (50%), grass (10%), harvest leftovers (29.4%) and kitchen leftovers (10.6%) and is in agreement with the report of Mekonen (2007). The major supplementary feeds in the study area are indicated in Table 6.

Table 6. Feeding practices and sources of supplementation in the study area

Parameters

Number
Respondents

Percent
Respondents

Types of supplementary feed (160)

Maize and wheat

66

41.2

Maize, Sorghum and Wheat

39

24.4

Wheat and Food leftover

39

24.4

Wheat and Barley

16

10

Frequency of feeding (160)

Once a day

89

55.6

Twice a day

65

40.6

Thrice a day

6

3.8

Feeding practice (160)

Put feed in container

12

7.5

Scatter on the ground

148

92.5

Source of supplement(160)

HH harvest

117

73.1

HH harvest and purchased

43

26.9

Numbers in parenthesis indicate total number of respondents

Watering

The respondents usually provided water for the chickens. Concerning the drinking materials, about 42% and 27% households used clay and plastic dish containers, respectively. The remaining 13.8%, 11.9% and 5.6% households used wood made material, tin can and stone dish, respectively. In the study area, only 23.8% of the respondents wash the water container every day and the remaining 62.5% wash the container occasionally while, 13.8% of the respondents never wash the container. This result is consistent with the results of Halima (2007) who reported that about 99.45 % of the farmers provided water for their chickens and used plastic, wooden material and clay bowls, and 31.52 % of the respondents wash the bowl daily while 32.96% never wash the bowl.

Housing

Among the interviewed households, about 76.9% of them share the same room with chicken of which 48.1% of the total households kept chicken on a perch at one corner of the main house and 28.8% had a partition in the main house, while only 23.1% of the households prepared a separate house for chicken. This was in agreement with the finding of Mammo (2006) from Ethiopia. Housing facilities in the surveyed area were wood materials, mud and stone. This was in agreement with the finding of Halima (2007) that housing facilities were made of locally available materials such as Eucalyptus poles and branches.

Hatching and broody hen management

Natural incubation is the most commonly used method for replacing and increasing the size of flocks. In the study area, about 89.4% of the households select hens for brooding based on several criteria which include the previous performance of the hen (55.6%), body size (25.6%) and plumage cover (8.1%). These results are in line with Meseret (2010) also reported that the households use the selection criteria of body size, ample plumage cover and previous hatching history of the hen.

In the study area nearly all households (93.1%) use in-house eggs for incubation. The remaining (6.9%) purchase eggs from the markets. On the average, 10.5 eggs were set per hen per clutch with an average hatchability of 82.2%. In the area farmers adjust the place for the broody hen to incubate the eggs. Usually they use cartons (26.9%), clay pots (38.1%) and they also sit the hen simply on the ground with hay and straw beddings (35%). This is in agreement with the findings of Meseret (2010) for Gomma wereda in Ethiopia where it was reported that households use clay pot or sit the hen simply on bare ground with the use of cereal straws bedding and that majority of the respondents (80.6%) incubates home laid eggs.

All households were practicing different traditional methods of reducing broodiness of a hen so that broody hens resume egg laying. This is in agreement with the observations of Messeret (2010). According to discussion made with key informant groups of the study areas, in most cases, tying the wings of broody hen can reduce broodiness of the hen within two to three days. However, this method fails to stimulate some of the birds. Thus, moving the bird to other village was reported to be the best option. They have indicated that, the extent of broodiness vary from hen to hen.

Disease and predator

About 65.6% of the respondents confirmed the presence of serious disease outbreak in the area. Fast transmitting fatal disease, locally known as ‘kudm/fengel’ that may kill all birds within a short time were reported by 53.8% of the respondents. They indicated that this disease is mostly common in rainy season and the symptom of the disease is mentioned to be greenish diarrhoea, in coordination of movement and loss of appetite which are symptoms of Newcastle disease. While 11.9% of the total respondents indicated that bloody diarrhoea, poor appetite and ruffled feather were the symptom observed. However poor appetite and ruffled feather are common symptoms for most diseases, bloody diarrhoea are characteristics of Coccidiocis infestation. This was in agreement with the finding of Solomon (2004) in Ethiopia reported that, among the diseases of village chicken New Castle disease ranked as the most important and it causes very high mortality.

Table 7. Scenario of disease outbreak and treatment in the study area

Characteristics

Number
Respondents

Percent
Respondents

Disease outbreak (160)

Yes

105

65.5

No

55

34.4

Action taken (105)

Treat them my self

75

71.4

Sell them immediately

15

14.3

Do nothing

15

14.3

Vaccine (160)

Yes

8

5.00

No

152

95.0

Treatment (75)

Traditional

70

93.3

Modern

5

6.70

Traditional treatment (70)

Garlic & green cruff with water

33

47.1

Neem juice & green cruff with water

26

37.1

Garlic & neem juice with water

8

11.4

Garlic & lemon with water

3

4.30

Numbers in parenthesis indicate total number of respondents

In the study area, predator is the primary problem and accounted for 64% of chicken loss.

The most common predators reported were wild cat (Felis silvestris), fox (Vulpes vulpes), hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) and domestic cat in their order of importance. According to Aberra and Tegene (2009) in Southern Ethiopia, wild birds (eagle, hawk, etc.) are the most common predators during the dry season, while wild cat is the most dangerous predator especially during the rainy season.


Conclusions


References

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Received 25 June 2015; Accepted 28 June 2015; Published 1 September 2015

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