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C.V.Reddy1 and S. Qudratullah2
1 Formerly Professor in Poultry Science and Dean, 391/3 R.T, S.R. Nagar Hyderabad-500038 (A.P.) India
2 Department of Poultry Science, College of Veterinary Science, A.P. Agricultural University, Hyderabad 500038 (A.P.) India

Although large and medium scale layer and broiler units in developing nations are growing at least 10% annually since last decade, the contribution through meat and eggs is estimated to be about 50% from the traditional small scale backyard units including free range birds. The local Governments in most of the Asian and African countries also encourage small poultry units through subsidized programs to serve as sources of income, employment and proper nutrition to the village families. The shortage of the conventional raw feed materials (maize, wheat, oil cakes, fish meal etc) for production of meat an eggs from rural poultry can be overcome significantly through supplementation of some novel feed resources like millets, fruits and vegetable wastes, shrub leaves, insects, termites, earthworms, and aquatic plants which can serve as good as sources of protein, energy, vitamins and minerals. But appropriate technology has to be developed to improve the skills of the users through proper training and maximum utilization of environmental feed resources for sustainable village poultry. There are two approaches for possible future research and development to aid feed and poultry production in developing countries: 1) to assist large scale commercial poultry by reducing feed costs through utilization of alternate feed resources and 2) to improve the efficiency of small scale village poultry by supplementing locally available novel feed resources.


The world wide increase of meat and eggs derived from poultry during the last decade is remarkable. Poultry research, multi-lateral, bilateral and the local government aid and technology transfer have all supported this development. In recent years, the main goals in poultry research were to solve problems for the factory like ‘Intensive Systems’ of production of highly valued commercial strains. The beneficiaries of this development have been all too few in the developing countries. This intensive system involving high technology and automation with ‘High External Input’ (HEI) dominating the poultry industry of the developed countries is not necessarily appropriate and sustainable to densely populated developing and the third world countries.


In recent years, eggs and poultry meat in many developing countries especially in Asia and Africa have constituted important components of human diet. Today's poultry industry as practiced in the third world and other developing nations including India can be broadly classified into two systems. (1) ‘Intensive’ or industrialized commercial farming (2) ‘Extensive’ or traditional farming. The intensive or industrialized commercial farming which exists in and around metropolitan and urban cities utilize sophisticated high technology characterized by high yielding commercial strains, environmentally controlled housing, automated feeding and management practices. Depending on the size of poultry and level of technology employed, the intensive farming can be further classified into three sub-systems. a) Very large scale commercial farming (having 100,000 birds more) b) Large scale commercial farming (50,000 to 100,000 birds) c) Medium scale commercial farming (10,000 to 50,000 birds). These commercial units requiring HEI are mostly managed by resource-rich people who cater to the needs of urban areas and export markets. The intensive systems of production can negatively affect the resource-poor rural people by competing and suppressing the utilization of locally available feed resources, by altering familiar working patterns and by increasing unemployment and by degrading nutrition to rural people and hence we will not deal with this system in this paper.

In the ‘extensive’ traditional farming system, flock sizes of 10–20 birds in Africa, 20– 50 birds in Bangladesh, 50–100 birds in Pakistan, and 1000–5000 birds in India and China seem to be typical to day as small backyard units in many rural areas. It is reported (Farrel, 1992) that almost 75% of eggs and poultry meat produced in Africa and 50% of eggs produced in South Asian countries are derived from rural poultry raised on traditional farming system. In China 80% of birds belong to local breeds raised in rural areas whose average yield is around 120 eggs/year. Therefore depending on size of unit and method of management, the ‘extensive’ system of poultry farming which exists in rural areas of Africa, Asia and the Pacific can be further classified into three sub-systems. a) Small scale units (5,000 to 10,000 birds) b) backyard units (1000 to 5000 birds) c) Scavenging or free range units (50 to 1000 birds). Although, the intensive commercial layer and broiler farms have grown much faster in the last decade in some countries (China, India, Pakistan, Thailand, some South East Asian nations), the eggs and poultry meat produced by the ‘extensive’ traditional sector employing mostly ‘Low Internal Inputs’ (LII) has become common in rural areas of Africa and many South Asian nations. The traditional farming systems employ mostly well-adopted indigenous or cross-bred chickens to which minimum inputs are used from local resources for their management, feeding and housing. The small holder units maintained by resource-poor small and marginal farmers are considered useful not for mass food production but as an important source of employment and income and bridging the nutritional gap through supply of eggs and poultry meat to a large number of rural people. They can also be integrated into existing farming systems and can assist rural women to fully engage themselves and achieve some level of economic independence and autonomy within the household. Since feed is the major cost item in any system of poultry production, we will discuss here more about using locally available feed resources in the traditional systems for a sustainable rural poultry farming.


Maize, wheat, barley, oats are the most commonly used energy-rich feed stuffs in conventional poultry diet. But their production in Asia, Africa, and Pacific nations has never been adequate both for human consumption and industrial use. Hence, there is a severe shortage of cereals for use in poultry feeds. Similarly the cost of conventionally employed vegetable oil meals/cakes (soybean, peanut, sunflower, sesamum, rape) and animal proteins (fish meal, meat meal) are highly prohibitive and their supply is inconsistant. Therefore, there is a continuous search for some novel energy and protein sources of foods to sustain the traditional village poultry farming. The potential availability of some energy-rich feeds (milling by-products, roots and tubers, molasses, mango seed kernel, salseed meal etc) used by rural household units and scavening birds in various regions of developing nations is shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Potential availability of some novel energy-rich sources in developing nations

Feed stuffSouth AsiaSouth East AsiaChinaMiddle EastAfricaPacific
Rice by-products+++---
Wheat by-products+-+-+-
(except India)
Sweet potato+++-++
(except Pakistan)
(except Fiji)
Mango seed kernel+++---
Salseed meal------
 (except India)     


Millets and Milling By-products

Millets which are small seeded coarse cereal grains generally contain more protein and high fiber than maize and wheat. Asia accounts for about 48% of world millet production-China, India, Pakistan, Burma and Yemen being the major producers. They have high levels of tannin and can replace maize at levels ranging from 20–40% (Asha Rajini et al., 1986, Reddy et al., 1989) with better growth and fed conversion in chicks. Pearl millet (Pennisetum typhoides), Ragi or finger millet (Eleusine corocana) sorghum or milo (Sorghum vulgare) are cheaper energy sources than maize and wheat and can serve as ready choices to provide energy for rural poultry (Table 2). Important by-products like broken rice, rice polishings, rice bran and wheat bran obtained in the milling processes also serve as good sources of energy, B-complex vitamins and trace minerals. They can be included at 10–20% level depending on the nutritive value and still maintain optimum growth, egg production and fed conversion (Narhari et al. 1981). Replacement of maize by par-boiled rice bran at 20% level has also not resulted in any adverse effects on the performance of chicks (Gohl, 1981; Eswaraiah et al., 1986).

Table 2. Replacement of maize by millets and milling by-products on broiler performance

Type of 
cereal used
Body wt at 
8 weeks (gm)
Maize (37.5%)1185a2.53b
Complete replacement by
Sorghum (Jowar or Milo)1277b2.47aAsha Rajini  
Finger millet1369c2.50abet al. (1986)
Pearl millet1356c2.40a
Maize (48%) replaced by1052a2.27a
Rice polishing (20%)1067a2.34a
Rice polishing (30%)1009a2.45aNarahari      
Rice polishing (20%)1066a2.30aet al. (1981)

Roots and Tubers

The most important in this category is cassava (Manihot esculenta) commonly grown as a subsistance food crop for humans in most developing countries accounting for about 18% of cereal supply in human diets. Tapioca, a product made from cassava roots is usually processed into chips, flour or pellets for animal and poultry feed as a cereal substitute. Cassava root meal is rich in energy, low in fiber but has only 3% crude protein. One disadvantage with this meal is its cyanogenic glucosides which liberate HCN and which is toxic to poultry. Gowdh et al., (1989) observed that boiled tapioca meal can replace maize completely resulting in better weight gains of broiler chicks (Table 3). In some African countries, dried sweet potato and several yam species are grown extensively for their starch value. They are used upto 30–35% level in broiler diets without any adverse effects on their performance. The peels are also used by scavenging birds. Taro (Colocasia esculenta), gaint taro (Alocasia macrorrhiza) and tannia (Xanthosoma sagittifolium) are some energy rich aroids grown in India, China, Japan, and Philippines and their energy content is almost equal to maize (Ravindran and Rajguru, 1985). Their studies indicate that cooked taro meal can be included upto 10% level in poultry diets but calcium supplementation seems to improve the performance of backyard and scavenging birds (Table 4).

Table 3. Performance of broiler chicks fed on differently processed tapioca meal

Types of tapiocaCorn : Tapioca
Wt. gain
F.E.R.Wt. gain
F.E.R.Wt. gain
Raw tapioca--612cd1.98558ab1.90

Source : Gowdh et al., (1989)

Fruits, Fruit and Vegetable By-products

Some important fruit and fruit by-products abundantly available in China, India and Pacific nations are bananas and plantains which are largely wasted during collection, transport and preservation. Other fruit wastes like guova, orange, mango etc. which are seasonally available in some Asian countries are good sources of energy and vitamin A. Some common vegetable wastes like cabbage, tomato, carrot, cauliflower can also be usefully employed as good sources of energy and vitamins for rural poultry.

Other Agro-industrial By-products

Mango seed kernel meal, a residue obtained from mango seeds (Mangifera indica) is rich in carbohydrates but has a high tannin content (0.4 – 0.5%). The tannins can be removed through soaking or boiling and treated mango seed kernel meal can be employed to replace maize upto 25% in poultry diets (Reddy, 1975). India is the largest producer of mangoes accounting for about 60% of world total production and has high potential for processing mango seed as feed for manogastric animals. Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is the major crop in hot, arid lands of Persian Gulf and African countries. Ground whole dates are very rich in energy and suitable for poultry feeding at 30% level. Salseed meal (Shorea robusta) after extraction of oil contains 10% crude protein and has similar energy value to that of maize. But it has high content of tannins. Baruhah et al., (1978) reported that tannins can be removed by boiling salseed meal in hot water and can be included in chicks and layer diets upto 5–7% without any adverse effects. Molasses which is a by-product of sugar industry in many parts of Asia, Africa, Pacific and Latin America is profitably employed upto 3–5% in layer diets.

Table 4. Performance of WL chicks fed taro-corn meal (TCM)

DietWt. gain
Feed intake
Trial 1
Control (maize) 206a4302.90a
10% uncooked TCM166c3652.20b
10% cooked, unpeeled TCM183b4052.21b
10% cooked, peeled TCM201a4202.09a
Trial 2
Control (maize) 211a4552.16a
20% uncooked TCM155c3702.38c
20% cooked, unpeeled TCM182b4402.42c
20% cooked, peeled TCM195b4402.25b
1% CaCO3

Source : Ravindran and Rajguru, (1985)

Leaf Meals

Generally green leafy meals serve as good sources of protein, carotene and trace minerals. Some of the dried leguminous leaf meals such as siratro (Microptelium atropurpurium) at 2% level and peanut leaf meal 10% level were used in layer diets as shown in Table-5 substituting for dried alfalfa meal which gave equal performance in egg production, egg weight and feed conversion (Reddy et al., 1973). Hussain et al., (1991) used luecaena leaf meal (Luecaena leucocephala) at 15% level and found that it is beneficial for optimum growth and feed efficiency in chicks. But they also reported that anti-nutritional factors like mimosine and tannins would be the limiting factors for using luecaena at higher levels. Sonaiya (1995) used fresh neem leaves at 10% level in layer diets and found higher production and egg weight than those receiving either O, or 10% dried neem leaves (Table 5). Neem leaves contain a toxic factor ‘triterpenoid’ (nimbocinone) which if detoxified could be used even at higher levels. Cassava leaf meal could also be used at 5% level in layer diets without any adverse effects on egg production, egg quality and hatchability (Johnson, 1973). Several of these leaf meals are abundantly available in rural areas at economic prices for feeding backyard poultry.

Table 5. Utilization of some leaf meals on the performance of layers

Type of leaf meal% level usedEgg production
Egg weight
Siratro leaf meal067.7a49.1a1.8
Peanut leaf meal066.7b55.8a1.8
Neem leaves061.9a47.8b-



Earthworms occur in most parts of the world and serve as natural food sources for poultry raised under free range system. Maize earthworm diets either live or dried supplemented with Ca, P and vitamins were highly palatable to poultry and their performance was almost comparable (Table 6) with those fed commercially formulated diets (Togoba, 1980). The amino acid content of earthworm homogenate corresponded fairly well with the requirements of chickens. It was shown that in an area of 25 m2, 1 kg of fresh earthworm biomass could be produced daily which was sufficient to feed 15 chickens as animal protein source. One possible limitation would be harvesting methods because no satisfactory mechanical means for collecting earthworms has been developed for large scale poultry operation.

Table 6. Mean body weights of chicks fed proprietary diet, and maize earthworm diets (1–8 weeks) (average of two trials)

Age in
Proprietary diet
maize diet
Worm powder/

Source : Togoba (1980)


Insects form a part of natural diet for many kinds of birds including poultry. The protein content of house fly (Musca domestica) and their pupae is about 60% and M.E value is 2,500 The amino acid content of fly pupae is comparable to bone and fishmeal. It is also rich in fat and minerals. Calvert (1979) showed that dried fly pupae when substituted for soybean meal in chick diets upto the fourth week of age, no difference in weight gain, feed efficiency were found between chicks fed pupae or standard ration (Table 7). Several coprophagus insects can convert human excreta and degrade manure effectively into protein rich food useful for scavenging chickens. Other insects which were found to be of feed value to chickens are grass hoppers and Mermon cricket (Anabrus simplex). Mormon cricket meal contains 58% and grass hopper meal 76% crude protein. The chemical composition and amino acid profile of some insect meals shown in Table 8 reveal that they are of higher nutritional value compared to soybean meal which is a conventional protein source in most parts of the developed countries. Many of these insect meals can be used with maize-based diets for rural backyard poultry. Since cricket crop is seasonal, its full economic potential for free range birds depends on its efficiency of utilization and range land vegetation. The utility of cockroaches, cater pillers, termites, and beetles were also studied as economical protein sources for rural poultry.

Table 7. Performance of chicks fed house fly pupae Vs Soybean meal diet. (0–2 weeks)

Diet typeExpt. 
Wt. gain
Feed consumedF.C.R.
Soybean meal163a108a1.71a
Fly pupae162a113b1.82a

Source : Calvert (1979)

Table 8. Chemical composition and important amino acid profile of some insect meals Vs soybean meal

(% dry matter)

ConstituentHouse fly pupaeMermon CricketGrass hopperSilkworm pupaeSoybean meal
Crude protein63.
Crude fat15.
Crude fiber-
M.E. (
Amino acids
(g/100g protein)

Source : compiled from text

Silkworm pupae is a by-product obtained from silk industry and it is available in large quantities in China, India and Japan. It contains about 48% protein and 27% crude fat and high vitamin content and requires deoiling to improve its keeping quality and nutritional value. Deoiled silkworm pupae contains about 80% crude protein and it is profitably used by replacing fish meal completely in layer diets and 50% in chick diets. (Virk et al., 1980)

Animal Wastes

Food and wastes are closely interlinked. Livestock produce enormous volume of its own wastes in confined areas. In addition, municipalities and households produce large amounts of garbage and other animal excreta wastes. Feeding of animal wastes results in reducing feed cost and lower price of animal products. Animal wastes supply a good amount of protein, phosphorus, and other expensive nutrients to poultry. Cow manure has marked benificial effect on growth of chicks and feed conversion probably due to unidentified growth factors. Sinha et al. (1977) and Sadgopan et al. (1979) have shown that dried poultry manure can be used upto 10% level in chick diets without any adverse effects (Table 9) and can serve as good source of protein for scavenging birds.

Table 9. Utilization of dried poultry manure (DPM) in growing chicks (0–8 Wk)

Type of
CriteriaD.P.M. in diet (%)
W.L. chicks
(0–8 wk)
Wt. gain
Broiler chicks
(0–6 wk)
Wt. gain
R.I.R. chicks
(0–8 wk)
Wt. gain

Snail meal

The African gaint snail (Achatina fulica) is wide spread in South East Asia and the Pacific and it serves as a potential source of protein for rural poultry. Studies by Cresswell and Kompiang (1980) showed that snail meal contained about 60% protein, 2% calcium, 0.8% phosphorus, 4% lysine and 1% methionine and M.E. content of 3400 K. cal/Kg.

They also observed that raw snail meal has a depressing effect but boiled snail meal was found to be benificial upto 15% level by replacing maize in poultry diets (Table 10).

Table 10. Performance of chicks fed graded levels of snail meal

LevelWt. gain
F.C.R.LevelWt. gain
Raw snail mealBoiled snail meal

Future research to promote rural poultry

It is believed that in rural areas of Africa and Asia the ‘extensive’ traditional poultry farming systems which serve as catalysts to promote the growth of agro-based industry on the principles of ecological sustainability by utilizing the natural and other environmental resources, economic efficiency and social equity have been blamefully neglected. There seem to be three main reasons for failure of rural backyard poultry program. (1) Adoption of inappropriate technology (2) Lack of training and evaluation of farmers (3) Failure to utilize locally available resources thus recognising rural poultry production is only a sub-system within the complex agricultural production program.

To overcome these deficiencies, the local governments or International agencies may establish ‘Research Centers on Rural Poultry Farming Systems’ (RECENT - RPFS) in developing nations especially in Africa and other third world countries. The main objective of the RECENT - RPFS (unlike the urban - located poultry research centers which mainly concentrate on problems concerning ‘Intensive system’ of production) is to utilize the locally available resources of feed, housing materials and unproductive labour to improve the profitability of native or cross - bred chickens through gainful employment. A multi-disciplinary team of poultry scientists (like a breeder, nutritionist, disease and or extension specialist) may work in RECENT - RPFS to develop an appropriate technology for small scale backyard units to make them economically profitable, ecologiclly sustainable, technically feasible and socially compatible. It also calls for synthesizing or blending of ‘Indigenous - Technology - Knowledge’ (ITK) of local farmers with the package of technology developed by the poultry scientists in RECENT - RPFS. Such technology should be transferred through training of the farmers, farm - women, unemployed rural youth so that they can confidently use the locally available resources and increase the productivity of small scale and free range poultry.

In third world countries, most farmers are resource - poor, often uneducated, illeterate, live in unpredictable risk - prone environments where inputs and marketing infrastructure are often unreliable but nevertheless they are intelligent and professionals in their own field and often willing to adopt innovations they consider to be advantageous (Brady, 1981). They are also good economists in allocating their scarce resources among competing and diverse enterprises (FAO, 1990). Since their income is inadequate, farmers often try to reduce costs by avoiding risks for ensuring a steady income (Pineiro, 1989). Therefore in view of the complexity and instability of the backyard rural poultry farming system, great care is required in selecting appropriate technology.


Research with a farming system's perspective offers a good possibility for increasing productivity and profitability of rural poultry. In this context, it is a pre - requisite to take into consideration the concerns, cultural, socio - economical and political conditions and the experiences of the subsistance farmer. Further to promote rural poultry development with limited resources, training of farmers in efficient management with locally available feed resources, disease control ready markets and a fair price for the produce adequate credit system for the purchase of required input are necessary. It also seems necessary to adopt ‘Low Inputs for Sustainable Poultry Development’ (LISPD) rather than using ‘Low Internal Inputs’ (LII) alone or ‘High External Inputs’ (HEI) so as to develop appropriate and affordable technologies which comply with the needs of small holder poultry units. Universities, national, and international research centers, Governmental and non- Governmental organisations have to play key roles in helping to identify needed policy changes and to encourage their implementation.


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