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Poultry and Livelihoods

Small-scale family poultry production is practised by most rural households throughout the developing world, and can also be found in peri-urban and urban environments. Small semi-scavenging flocks of indigenous-breed birds and backyard poultry provide scarce animal protein in the form of meat and eggs, and are sold or bartered to meet essential family needs.

They are generally owned and managed by women and children, and are often essential to women’s incomes and position within their households. Poultry plays important social and cultural roles in the lives of rural people, not least in building social relations with other villagers. The output of village poultry is lower than that from intensively raised poultry in commercial production systems, but it is obtained with minimum inputs in terms of housing, disease control, management and supplementary feeding. Village poultry have many advantages in mixed farming systems as they are small, reproduce easily, do not need large investments and can scavenge for food. Chickens are the most common species, but mixed flocks including species such as ducks, geese, turkeys or guinea fowls also often exist.

The interventions that could enhance poultry productivity are well recognized, but the support services needed to promote these interventions are, in general, poorly developed. Appropriate interventions focusing on the factors that limit the productivity of different production systems include effective control of Newcastle disease and reduction in mortality to about six weeks of age. This mortality is often very high – typically owing to the combined effects of predation, disease, malnutrition and climatic exposure – and can be addressed effectively through supplemental feeding and early confinement rearing of the chicks with the hen.