Indigenous Free Range Poultry Biology Essay

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80 of the per capita consumption of poultry meat and eggs while the 20 is by the commercial poultry sector UBOS, 2002. In developing countries nearly all families at the village level, even the poor and landless, are owners of poultry. The role of family poultry in poverty alleviation, food security and the promotion of gender equality in developing countries is well documented (Guèye, 2000). Poultry makes good use of locally available resources, requiring low inputs. Production is feasible at village level, where only low cost technology is needed to improve production considerably. Low investments only are required to achieve such change, land ownership is not a constraint, and village production is environmentally friendly (Upton,


Family poultry production represents an appropriate system to contribute to feeding the fast growing human populations and to provide income to poor small farmers (Kitalyi and Mayer, 1998). Though generally considered secondary to other agricultural activities by smallholder farmers, the poultry industry contributes to improved human nutrition and food security by being A crucial supplier of high quality protein in form of eggs and meat (Mukiibi-Muka et al., 2000).

The poultry industry increases peoples' incomes and improves their welfare through the sale of poultry and poultry products (Mukiibi-Muka et al., 2000). The poultry industry has the potential

to generate foreign exchange earnings through export of poultry products to neighboring countries. The poultry industry acts as a key supplement to revenue from crops and other livestock enterprises, thus avoiding over-dependency on traditional commodities with inconsistent prices. Poultry products can be sold or bartered to meet essential family needs such as medicine, clothes and school fees. They are also active in pest control and provide manure to

Fertilise our gardens (Alders et al., 2003). In commercial poultry production, poultry contributes

significantly to the incomes of both urban and suburban farmers. Urban dwellers too keep

Poultry from which they derive additional income in addition to other sources and on the other hand, the big commercial producers derive most of their income from the sector as their primary

business (Byarugaba, 2007).

Management of poultry has been associated with women and children for various historical and

social factors. Poultry are mainly owned and managed by women and are often essential elements of female-headed households. Chicken products are among the few agricultural

Products directly accessible to women in rural areas and increased food production from

Chickens will improve household food security and is often easily combined with other

Household activities such as gardening because of the proximity of the chickens to homesteads

(Byarugaba and Katunguka, 2002). Poultry are socio-culturally important with few religious taboos attached. Poultry is highly prized in many socio-cultural functions such as dowry and festivities (Alders et al., 2003; Byarugaba, 2007). It was therefore vital that research could be carried out to promote the poultry industry since it is of importance to the livelihood of the people of Uganda and the world at large.

Free-range chicken is widespread in the rural areas in Uganda, just like the rest of Africa. In the rural areas, local chicken is an important source of meat and eggs. They are valued mainly for their ability to scavenge, disease tolerance, meat quality and general hardiness (Ssewanyana et al., 2003b). In rural communities, free-range chickens contribute significantly to the livelihoods of the households. They are easily disposed of when need arises by any of the family members. (Ssewanyana et al., (2003c) observed that in Apac and Kumi districts, husband and wife jointly take the decisions on sales and cash. Local chickens also fulfill a range of other functions for which it is difficult to assign a monetary value. They provide manure, are required for special festivals to meet social obligations, and they are essential for many traditional ceremonies and treatment of illness (Ssentumbwe, 2006).

2.2 Management systems

2.2.1The Free Range (scavenger) system

This is commonly used management system for the local poultry in Uganda (Byarugaba, 2002; Ssewanyana et al., 2003c; Kyarisiima 2004). The free-range chicken production system, there is low input and output. Local poultry rearing is important in getting low-quality feed into high protein food. The birds move during the day and at night, they are provided with shelter for protection against predators. Local poultry houses most time meet only protect birds against inclement weather but donot usually provide enough space and ventilation. The hygiene in the house is also inadequate. Studies show that housing of local chicken is not commonly done by most farmers. For example, Ssewanyana et al. (2003c) observed that in Lira, only 37% of the farmers provide shelter for their chicken during the night. The scavenger (extensive) system gets little attention from the farmers, and there is no data on the number of homes that look after local poultry in the country.

The free-range production may sometimes include many type of species, especially chickens, turkeys and many others. But this is only in the eastern Uganda. Chicken of different ages are put together and they interact with wild birds. In this system birds usually suffer severely due to poor nutrition, disease, and predators. Kirunda et al. (2003) estimated that about 70% of indigenous poultry under this system die at 8 weeks of age, which greatly affects their increase in populations. The predators increase the losses but local poultry farmers are using dye on chicks to protect them. This may help to increase the flock sizes albeit on a small scale.

Local poultry always scavenge to obtain their feed requirements and the birds only get nutrients available in the area that include the following insects, seeds, discarded grain and kitchen wastes. The farmers do not usually provide water to the birds and they can only get water when poured or during rainy season

2.2.2Intensive system

Intensive chicken production is based on special chicken breeds and constitutes 30% of the chicken in Africa. In intensive management system, producers aim at using recommended practices such as breed of choice, appropriate housing, feeding, health and disease control (Katalyi, 1998). The systems involved in intensive poultry production include; slated floor, deep litter and battery cage systems.

2.2.3 The semi- intensive system

The farmers who use this system have commercial and broilers supplied by farms that keep parent stock to supply day-old chicks. This system is carried out in urban and peri-urban areas due to the higher demand for eggs and poultry meat. The chicken keepers are committed to commercial production and veterinary practices and other management interventions. These may include disease control, water supply and feed and housing. Farm inputs suppliers like drugs, feeds etc., play an important role in this system. Routine work by the farmer is scheduled and most times such farmers access extension. Local and crossbred's bird's keepers have also started using this system, where they keep between 400-800 to produce eggs and meat for the market. NGO's (CIDI, CORET) are promoting improved management system whereby indigenous chicken is housed using locally available materials built out of mud wattle and thatch. In some areas of Hoima district, farmers near the urban area buy commercially compounded feeds in small amounts but the quality of these feeds is still poor and there is no quality assurance. There is relatively medium capital investment to construct houses for chicken and buying of other inputs. In urban areas, farmers may hire houses to rear layers and broilers so as to benefit from the urban markets. Chicken keepers supply most of the eggs and meat to the local market.

2.3 Housing of local chicken

Housing in modern poultry is an important input, accounting for a major component of the initial capital investment. In modern poultry enterprises, the structures are constructed and designed in consideration of bird welfare and efficiency of production (Weaver, 1996; Bhagwat, 1996). Housing in rural poultry is at a rudimentary stage, and field surveys have shown cases where no housing or shelter is provided (Huchzermeyer, 1973; Kuit, Traore and Wilson, 1986; Atunbi and Sonaiya, 1994; Yongolo, 1996). Housing practices for rural poultry in Africa are reported to be influenced by the prevailing farming system, with major differences between the pastoral farming systems and the agro-pastoral or sedentary systems (Kuit, Traore and Wilson, 1985).

Research on the economic efficiency of housing in rural poultry in Africa is scanty. However, published reports suggest that where housing is provided to village chickens, the houses are made with locally available materials such as wood, mud bricks; sugarcane stems bamboo and cereal stovers (Atunbi and Sonaiya, 1994; Huchzermeyer 1973; Yongolo, 1996). In an evaluation of the economic efficiency of the local materials for housing chickens, Atunbi and Sonaiya (1994) reported that cane cages were cheaper than wooden cages.

2.4 Feeding

Chicken feeds are referred to as complete feeds because they contain proteins, energy, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients necessary for proper growth, egg production and health of birds. Carbohydrates and fats are primary sources of energy needed to maintain body temperature, movement of the body and for chemical reactions involved in synthesis of body tissues and elimination of wastes (Austic and Nisheim, 1990).

The conventional foodstuffs used in feed formulation are maize, sorghum, fishmeal, soyabean meal as sources of carbohydrates and proteins respectively. Other ingredients added include; mineral salts, vitamins, cocidiostarts and antiosidants like ethoxyquine or butylated hydroxytoluene, vitamin and mineral premixes (Smith, 1993). When feeding broilers, broiler starter is given to the birds from 0-21 days of age the followed by broiler finisher. Each broiler chick consumes1.5kg of broiler starter in the brooding period (0-3 weeks) and 3.5kg of broiler finisher from 4-7 weeks of age (Ugachick poultry breeders). For layers, chick mash is given from 0-8 weeks of age followed by grower's mash from 9-20 weeks. After 20 weeks of age, layer's complete meal is given (NUVITA Uganda feeds limited). Each layer chick consumes 2kg of chick mash in the brooding period (0-8 weeks), 6kg of grower's mash in the growing period (9-20 weeks) and 49kf of layer's mash in the laying period from 21-80 weeks of age (Ugachick poultry breeders).

Water is normally provided adlibitum. Water consumption increases with increase in age of the bird, protein and sodium chloride levels in the feed. Water deprivation can lead to death of poultry within 24 hours. A 10% restriction of water availability can reduce the growth rate and feed conversion efficiency of broilers.

2.5 Health and diseases control

Disease is a deviation from normal health, a condition where all the organ systems and the body structures are working in full harmony. In disease, a function of organs and body structures is up set and normal life is disturbed. In most cases, poultry diseases manifest by clinical signs and these may include; reduced feed intake, reduced egg production, high mortality, isolation from other birds and retarded growth (Kekeocha, 1984). The management decision made by the owner and the implementation by the stock person are reflected in the health of the flock especially in birds kept intensively. The diseases that commonly affect chicken may be grouped into bacterial, viral, protozoal, helminth and fungal.

One of the major constraints to local chicken production in Uganda and developing countries in general is undoubtedly the existence of various diseases (Ojok, 1993). Among the diseases most commonly recognized is Newcastle disease, which has been ranked the most important (Mukiibi-Muka, 1992; Byarugaba, 2007). It is important to vaccinate against Newcastle disease regularly starting with chicks. However, in the small scale chicken production system, vaccination is not done because farmers have a problem to purchase the vaccines as they are usually packed in big doses. In Hoima district, hatchery management and vaccination of day old chicks is backstopped by extension staff (Kajura, 2007). The management system where birds of all ages stay together heightens chances to lose all birds whenever epidemics occur.

This is the case for the local chicken production system because of the inherent mixing and movement of the birds (Kirunda et al, 2003). Other chicken diseases like Fowl typhoid,

Gumboro, Fowl pox etc., are still endemic and also become prominent where vaccinations against NCD have been done. There are also parasites both external and internal, which are well recognised by the farmers (Kiddu-Makubuya, 1998; Lubwama, 2002). Some of the parasites such as stick tight fleas are known to cause serious losses especially in the chicks. In these villages, local remedies are usually used to treat many of these diseases such as use of paraffin to clean off external parasites and many herbs for internal parasites (Kirunda et al.

2003). There are no scientific studies done to establish resistance of local chicken to common chicken diseases like Newcastle disease or Fowl Typhoid.