|Guidelines and References: Livestock Training Component (Small Animal Husbandry) (Peace Corps, 1985, 302 p.)|
Information concerning this topic has been reviewed in the overview of Livestock Training, Livestock Production Planning and Livestock Production levels, and in Chapter 5, Poultry Husbandry.
Although it is wiser to select egg and meat breeds when available, the breed's hardiness, adaptability to the area and selected management system, and acceptability among local farmers should also be considered. This author has had better results with improved dual purpose birds in moderate management systems than with specialized egg layers and broilers. Reasons vary.
(1) In parts of West Africa, chicken is prepared by boiling in soups. Broiler meal would tend to fall apart in this cooking process. So, although there may be a market for tender broiler meat in the tourist hotels of large cities and for Africans with western tastes, people in the villages liked an older, tougher chicken.
This need was supplied by a dual purpose bird. After it had laid for about a year, it was economically necessary to sell the bird for meat.
(2) The dual purpose bird appeared to be hardier, less prone to disease, and more adaptable to the environment than white leghorn type breed. Also it was easier to market a larger breed after it finished laying than a smaller one.
(3) Because the broiler industry was not as developed as the egg industry, there was a good market for spent layers (birds finished laying). Also it was a custom to give a live chicken as a gift, especially during the holidays, and the bigger the bird the better the gift.
These observations do not mean to say that dual purpose birds are better for West Africa. These observations do indicate that the volunteer will have to understand the local conditions where he/she is working before applying general advice on what type of breeds to work with.
In dealing with local varieties of chickens (see chapter 4 in Practical Poultry Raising), the volunteer must remember that production of eggs and meat may not be the only objective of the owners. The farmer can be dependent on his chickens for subsistence, instead of the commercial benefits you would expect in developed economies. Chickens could be kept as a sign of wealth and social status. They can also be a form of economic security. Farmers tend to store wealth in material things, including animals, rather than using the banking system. Animals tend to survive better in drought conditions than plants, and can be sacrificed gradually as emergencies arise.
Therefore, volunteers should consider the many objectives that the farmer may have in raising chickens and how trying to improve one may affect the others.