BY BEVEN MUNDIDA
‘To be successful in rearing indigenous chickens, farmers have to exercise a high level of management in breeding their chickens’
Many poultry farmers assume that indigenous chickens can breed on their own especially when put on free range. But, this is not the case. Indigenous chickens require proper breeding and management techniques for the farmer to rip the benefits of the enterprise. The article focuses on a few important considerations on how farmers can maximize the benefits of indigenous chicken enterprise.
Problems of inbreeding: There exists a high probability of inbreeding within poultry farming. Inbreeding is a loosely defined term that refers to breeding chickens that are closely related. Inbreeding causes a lot of problems like stunted growth, reduced egg production, weak off spring’s that are prone to diseases and many other abnormalities. Controlled free range management is important to avoid inbreeding. Chickens can be separated into different batches (groups) and only released at different times to avoid mixing and increasing chances of inbreeding. A farmer who wants to succeed in indigenous chicken rearing has to combine both traditional and modern methods of indigenous production.
Selective breeding: Selective breeding is when high quality breeds of hens or cocks with certain qualities (traits) such as high egg and meat production are crossed with a less quality stock. There are three categories of indigenous chicken breeds: light breeds which are good for egg production, Heavy breeds which are good for meat production and mixed breeds which are suitable for both meat and egg production. If farmers want to rear indigenous chickens for egg production, then they cross breed their indigenous chicken breeds with light breeds that have a history of good egg production. If farmers want to push for meat production, they can look for heavy breed(s). Farmers, who want a breed that is both good for meat and egg production, they can cross-breed their stock with a mixed breed.
Choosing a breed: Experienced breeders go a step further and continue improving their chickens by cross-breeding them with other breeds which have special qualities (traits) such as disease resistance, particular shape, egg size or good feed conversion rates. A criterion or standard allows the choice of the right breed. Any hen or cock between 1kg and 2kg is classified as light breeds. All hens above 3kg in weight are considered as heavy breeds. Chickens weighing 2kg to 3kg are mixed breeds. A good breeding practice is to ensure that after every breeding cycle, the cock is either replaced, or the whole flock of chickens and eggs is sold off , and a new flock brought in to stop inbreeding. Allow only one cock for every ten hens. Farmers can also reduce chances of inbreeding by keeping very simple records, for instance in marking breeding cages to ensure they know which chicken are in which cage at particular period.
Importance of record keeping: For farmers who want to go into serious business of breeding chickens, record keeping is a must. Records help farmers to trace the lineage of each of their chicken selected for breeding. It a major way that is helping many farmers to analyze each of the breeds they have in their flock, including their performance, in terms of egg or meat production.
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Images provided by Beven Mundida & Melissa Katunga