THE world is slowly moving towards a demand for improved versions of almost everything. This could be electronic gadgets, crop produce or livestock.
At the same time the world is moving towards organically produced crops or livestock.
This is in direct response to humanity getting more and more conscious of their diets. It is no wonder the indigenously bred chickens are trending and hogging the menu limelight in most restaurants. It is in this spirit that this week we discuss the need to improve the breed of indigenous chickens but still maintain the indigenous hardy flavour that is making them a delicacy.
There are a number of improved indigenous chicken breeds that smallholder farmers and backyard producers can rear.
Some of the improved indigenous breeds include the Boschveld, Potchefstroom Koekoek, the grey and black Australorp. The first two have their roots in South Africa while the last two have origins in Australia.
This week I will discuss the Boschveld which originates from our neighbours and therefore can do well in our own country since we have similar climatic conditions. The Boschveld are indigenous chicken breeds which cannot be easily distinguished from our usual breeds by mere visual appraisal.
They, however, have slightly superior production traits compared to our common indigenous breeds. One outstanding trait that makes them perform better for the market is the growth rate. It grows relatively faster compared to our common indigenous breeds that tend to be slow on growth. Readers will be reminded that a broiler will be ready for the pot from five to six weeks while the Boschveld will be ready for slaughter from 11 weeks and the traditional makhaya chickens, several weeks much later.
They quickly grow mature feathers which makes then have no demand for external heating for warmth.
They are also suitable for both meat and egg production. The Boschveld are hardy which makes them able to withstand a range of climatic conditions as well as a variety of poultry illnesses. They can be reared as completely free range birds as they are able to scavenge for food within their environment. However, for maximum efficiency minor mineral and vitamin supplements may be recommended.
They have excellent conformation and appealing plumage as well as superb fertility for hens. The hens can begin dropping eggs at 20 weeks and can produce up to 220 eggs per annum. It is therefore my well-considered view that smallholder farmers who wish to tap into the ever-growing demand for makhaya chickens should consider rearing these improved indigenous breeds which will give them an excellent growth rate and subsequently a viable turnover.
I am also aware that there a number of farmers who are already producing these chickens and selling to fellow farmers who wish to go into production.
It should therefore be relatively easier to find seed stock, be it in form of eggs or chicks.
It should be also noted that if these improved breeds are cross-bred with our local breeds the resultant hybrid will have superior performance. It is my hope that the rearing of these improved indigenous breeds can be grabbed with the same level of zeal as the quail birds!
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