Backyard farmers are still the most important providers of food in India. An important part of the poultry meat and eggs consumed in the country comes from these small scale producers. In the production process they make use of a variety of native breeds.
By Dr K. Ravvi Kumarr , Director, Central Poultry Development Organisation, Chandigarh, India
Rural poultry farming in India contributes to about 40% of the national egg production. The state sector has been taking care of backyard poultry units and the capital requirement of its co-operatives. Backyard farming has over the years contributed to a great extent to the agrarian economy of India. In the same way, rural backyard poultry production plays a vital role in the rapidly growing economy. It provides livelihood security to the family in addition to securing the availability of food. Unemployed youth and women can also earn an income through poultry farming.
Photo caption: Aseel meat is highly valued by rural and urban dwellers, rich and poor alike.
Indian native breeds are well known for their tropical adaptability and disease resistance, while their colour plumage helps in protecting themselves against predators. The first priority of today’s rural poultry farmer is not only having birds which lay just more eggs but also birds which early lay eggs with an optimum size as well as birds which grow to an optimum body weight and show a good feed efficiency. Producers hereby have a choice out of a number of native breeds.
Aseel, the woman’s choice
The Aseel has a short and broad breast, straight back and a close setting strong tail root. Its outstanding feature is its thick and long neck, long and slender face without feathers, short beak, short and small comb, ear lobes and the absence of wattles. Its legs are long, strong and straight and the bird has an upright and majestic gait. It has been traditionally bred for its meat with the average weight of a two year old adult male ranging between 3-4 kg and the average weight of a hen is 2-3kg. With 36-60 eggs laid per year; the Aseel is not a prolific layer. The hen matures and begins to lay eggs between 5-6 months of age, and lays 3-4 clutches per year, with each clutch having 10-12 eggs. Women are primarily interested in producing live birds, and not eggs. Studies have indicated, 95-100% of the total annual eggs laid by a bird are kept to hatch. Of the live birds that hatch and survive, between 60-70% are sold, 15-20% are consumed at home and the remaining 10-15% are kept as breeding stock to increase the flock.
The Cornish inherited from the Aseel its meaty, well-muscled body, sturdy frame and yellow skin and legs. Aseel meat is highly valued by rural and urban dwellers, rich and poor alike, with prices per kg live weight being 50-100% higher than the broiler because of its superior taste and texture. Moreover with demand outstripping supply, indigenous poultry meat is hard to access and is a niche commodity. CPDO (NR) Chandigarh supplied a significant number of Aseel cross in and around Punjab.
Kadaknath is all black
The Kadaknath is an Indian breed of chicken, which is local to the Madhya Pradesh area. Here it is known as “Kali masi” (“fowl having black flesh”). The Kadaknath is popular mainly for its adaptability, and the well-tasting black meat, which is believed to infuse vigour. Kadaknath is the only Black Meat chicken (BMC) breed in India. It is a native bird reared mainly by the tribal communities of Bhil and Bhilala in the Jhabua and Dhar districts of Western Madhya Pradesh. Its colour stems from the deposition of melanin pigment.
The commonly available varieties of Kadaknath are jet-black, pencilled and golden. The bird is very popular mainly due to its adaptability to the local environment, disease resistance, meat quality, texture and flavour. The Kadaknath eggs are light brown. The day-old chicks are brownish to black with irregular dark stripes over the back. The adult plumage varies from silver and gold spangled to bluish black without any spangling.
The skin, beak, shanks, toes and soles of feet are slate-like. The comb, wattles and tongue are purple. Most of the internal organs also show intense black colouration which is also seen in skeleton muscle, tendons, nerves and blood. The meat is repulsive to look at but delicious. The weight of cocks is about 1.5 kg and that of hens is 1.0 kg. The hens are medium layers and they are not good broodies. The CPDO (NR) Chandigarh created awareness for the Kadaknath in the north, where many small farmers have been supplied Kadaknath to take up rural poultry.
Dual purpose Naked Neck
The Naked Neck is a breed of chicken that is naturally devoid of feathers on its neck and vent. Naked Neck is a dual-purpose utility chicken. They are very good foragers and are immune to most diseases. Naked Neck roosters carry a single comb, and the neck and head often become very bright red from increased sun exposure.
This breed has approximately half the feathers of other chickens, making it resistant to hot weather and easier to pluck. They are preferred in India not only for their relatively good egg production but mostly for their excellent meat quality coming from the foraging of these birds, scratching for food regardless of hot or cold weather. They became strong, resistant to diseases and the costs of keeping them were very low. The birds are capable of tolerating the tropical stress. It lays the largest sized eggs among all the Indian native breeds of chicken.
Frizzle fowl is described as a heavy breed, having a single comb, is clean legged, and has the size of the Plymouth Rock. They come in large fowl and bantams; in addition, frizzle can also be a version of any recognised breed, such as frizzled Japanese, frizzled Cochin. They are kept mostly for their ornamental value.
Frizzles actually makes good multipurpose chickens with the cockerels reaching a very good weight in 7-8 weeks and hens are reliable layers. Frizzle plumage helps in fast heat dissipation due to which birds are better adapted to the tropical climate especially the amid zones. Frizzle fowl doesn’t require vaccination. It is a dual purpose bird suitable for backyard production.
Krishna J fowl was a replica of indigenous fowl adopted into the family poultry keeping scavenger system for high egg productivity and acceptability as meat fowl. Krishna J is basically a carried sex-linked dwarf gene and has been subjected twice to crossing with coloured broiler to improve its body size than crossed with the light coloured breeds of high egg productivity to sustain egg production.
Kalyani DK is a synthetic hybrid prototype which resemble indigenous fowl in body conformation, and has multi coloured plumage, dull shanks, pink skin and single combs. It has generated new opportunities for poultry production in rural areas. Satpuda Desi chickens were introduced in 2002. They have multi colour feathers, dull bluish shanks, pink skin and a single comb. It has an indigenous fowl body confirmation for meat and egg production. The Satpuda Male Desi attained 1.0 kg body weight in 8-9 weeks with 2.45kg feed. Satpura – Desi chickens, have been able to capitalise on its acceptance as an indigenous breed in the local meat markets.
Well adapted birds
These indigenous poultry birds are well adapted to harsh Indian environment of free range and they produce egg and meat at the least possible cost. The birds require no scientific feeding, health care, housing and management and thus make the indigenous birds suitable for backyard poultry farming. The raising of synthetic hybrid replicas of indigenous chicken ensures more monetary return than the traditional Desi fowl.
A reasonable livelihood is earned by small scale poultry farmers, with these birds. The bird is acceptable to the local inhabitants since it suits their socio-cultural beliefs. These small scale producers together produce more food than large farmers. They do not have the headache from the massive problems that go with intensification practised by larger producers. The crowded conditions of intensive industrial poultry meat production is contributing to more frequent and dangerous recombinant pathogens, which are not seen in backyard production. On the other hand intensive poultry production systems are beyond the reach of the common man and poor farmers in India.
Jungli Murgi - Jungli murgi (Gallus Gallus) Red Jungle fowl is progenitor of the domestic chicken. Jungle fowl commonly known as Jungli Murgha is facing threat of extinction.
Broiler - The term broiler goes back to the turn of century and literally means a young chicken that can be boiled, fried, baked or roasted.
Kuroiler - (Kegg+Broiler) Chicken which is custom bred chicken for small farmers. A female kuroiler gives 200 eggs in 18th month cycle; a male kuroiler reaches 1kg weight in 6-7 weeks. Kuroiler adult male weights maximum 2-2.5 kgs. They survive on scavenging, foraging and remainings from kitchens. Kegg refers to Kegg farms Gurgaon.
Croiler - It is a mediocre broiler breed cross between broiler and layer as higher demand and higher market return.
Desi chicken - Desi chicken is good brooder for ages and efficient mothers. They are known for adaptability to local climate and geographical condition. Desi chickens with hold on their own in low or no input conditions. They vary greatly in their plumage pattern, comb type and body confirmation.