Commercialisation of indigenous chickens

BIKITA — A non-governmental organisation — Netherlands Development Organisation — is promoting innovative rural market–based agriculture ventures through provision of agro-inputs and building capacity of agro-dealers and smallholder farmers in rural areas.

Two farmers in Bikita district — Senzeni Chitombe and Knowledge Chisi — have taken advantage of the availability of inputs to take indigenous poultry farming as a business.

There is a new demand for indigenous chickens, not only in urban centres, but also in rural areas. Due to widespread publicity about the effects of genetically modified organisms, consumers are becoming more health conscious.

“Over the past three years, I did not harvest much maize due to poor rainfall. As a result, I decided to switch to indigenous chickens which have a huge market among agro-dealers who have restaurant businesses at Nyika business centre.

I can’t meet the demand for both eggs and meat. My hope is to produce a cross-breed between indigenous chickens and modern chicken breeds from Irvines’ Day Old Chicks or Masvingo Chicks.

Local agro-dealers are providing me with abundant poultry feed and chemicals for controlling diseases as well as technical advice,” said Chisi.

Since he has set his eyes on commercial production of indigenous poultry, Chisi intends to buy an incubator.

Chitombe added working with agro-dealers enabled her to access inputs and advice regularly to enhance her venture.

She said: “I realised that to increase the number of chickens, it is critical to separate a hen from its young chicks because as soon as it has no chicks it starts laying eggs.

If you don’t do so, indigenous hens, being good mothers, can take up to six months before weaning their chicks and this is too long for business. I have to expedite production through manipulating their habits.”

Although considered secondary to other agricultural activities, Chitombe said poultry production contributes immensely to her household income.

In Zimbabwe, indigenous chickens are estimated to be between 15 and 30 million. The average household flock numbers 20 birds, and is composed of eight chicks, six to seven growers, four to five hens and one cock.

Indigenous poultry and other small livestock is a preferred method of investment in rural areas where few investment alternatives exist and is used mostly as “cash” for exchange even in shops.

Unlike pure breeds and hybrid layers, indigenous chickens easily go broody and are generally good mothers. The breeding of indigenous in Zimbabwe is usually at peak from September to April.

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