Most of the households rear village chickens under scavenging system mainly as a source of income (39.4%) and food (36.2%). Women own and mange most of the flocks. But chicken meat is only consumed when important guests visit the family. Most farmers (62.5%) prefer chicken with brown plumage color mainly because it lays many eggs and sells faster at the market.
Average flock per household was 24.12 chickens with 50% chicks at a sex ratio of 2.9 hens for one cock. A core of breeding hens is kept to maintain the flock. Some (26%) households did not have a cock. Mopate and Lony (1998) observed a hen to cock ratio of 6:1 in Chad. In general the number of chicken per household was high.
Most of the farmers share their houses with chicken housing them either in the main house and/or in the chicken. The main bedding materials used where chickens are enclosed in the night are soil, sacks and mats with most farmers using soil. The bedding material is swept and/or removed every morning mostly by women. A woven basket locally known as Otete is used for covering chicken in the night to confine them in one part of the house. Few farmers have built poultry houses but are inappropriate.
Ninety-eight percent of the farmers feed supplements to chicken. Most of the supplements are bought and fed to chicken in the morning mainly by women. Supplements are spread on the ground when feeding chicken The feed resource base (FRB) consist of maize, kitchen wastes, vegetables, sorghum, rice bran, ants, local fish meal, commercial feeds, flour and milling wastes lacking in vitamins and proteins. More than 75% of the farmers were supplementing with carbohydrates. Fishmeal, which is the main sources of protein, is only occasionally fed to chicken. The total quantitative supplementation is about 3.30 kg per week given mainly during harvest time.
Chickens are given water in all the households mainly by women. Water containers, except dishes are secured in a hole dug in the ground. These containers are seldom removed for cleaning and sanitation. Water is simply refilled when the level goes down.
The mortality is oftentimes more than 50% rising to 100% in most of the farms with an average of 89%. Forty six percent of the farmers had noted a mortality of 100%. Ninety-eight percent of the farmers treat sick chicken with diverse types of drugs including traditional concoctions. 56.7% used traditional methods, 26.9% used modern drugs including non veterinary drugss, 11.9% vaccinated chicks while 4.5% used pesticides to control external parasites.
The most worrying disease symptoms are swollen heads, white diarrhea, closed eyelids, mucus salivary exude from the nostrils and mouth and wheezing and coughing.
From the symptoms described by farmers, it was clear that Newcastle disease (ND), Infectious Bronchitis (IB), Infectious Coryza and Fowl Pox, Fowl Cholera (Common during cold weather), Infectious Bronchitis, Coccidiosis, Fowl Typhoid (Common during warm weather affecting both chicks and adult birds) and Pullorum Disease are common poultry diseases in Kusa. Most ( 95.7%) of the households bury dead birds while 4.3% throw dead birds, which are eventually picked up by scavengers.
Flock Production Characteristics
Hens lay an average of 15.4 eggs per clutch with 3.1 clutches per year. Few farmers wean off chicks at day old and reported 5 clutches per year. Households consume about 18.5% of the eggs laid. Selling of eggs is not common. The average hatchability was good at 87.6% with 62.9% chick mortality. Hens spend 270 days brooding chicks in a year.
The causes of mortality in chicks were predators (42%), disease (18.3%), a combination of disease and predators (36%) and drowning (3.1%).
Constraints to managing indigenous chicks
Main constraints to rearing chicks and adult birds are lack of feed, lack of proper housing, disease outbreaks, predators and poor management Figure 1.
The solutions to these constraints that could be pursued according to farmers' perspectives are constructing proper poultry houses, making feed at home, vaccination and treatment with modern drugs, training and forming poultry groups.
Figure 1. Constraints to managing chicks and adult chicken
Marketing and Marketing Constraints
Households sold an average of 10.6 chickens earning a month income of US$ 1.575, which is below poverty level. Income can be increased through training to reduce mortality, increase number of clutches per year and improve rate of growth. Only three hens are required to earn above poverty level (Table 1). Main marketing constrains are low prices (56.9%), lack of market (25%), disease outbreak (12.5) and high cost of transport to other markets (5.6%). Feeding expenses worked out from 3.3-kg supplements fed per week.
Table 1. Income projections from village chicken under improved management
With three hens a farmer is already above poverty line.
Farmers need training to be able to control disease, improve management and increase size of flock. Most of the farmers have not reared exotic breeds of chicken because they lack skills and capital.
The activities on the action plans were vaccination, training, building poultry houses, marketing and provision of market information, extension services, exchange tours and starting a community livestock resource centre.