Household flocks of scavenging chickens were monitored from August 2002 to August 2003 in 27 villages in Lilongwe, Malawi. The objective was to evaluate the local chicken production system by investigating flock structure, utilization, management and constraints. Farmers and researchers jointly obtained data on household flocks. Mean flock size was 12.9, with a range of 1-61 chickens. The flock dynamics of chickens over 8 weeks old constituted 91% migrating out of flocks and 9% into the flocks. Primary functions based on flock dynamics were, in order of importance, household consumption, participation in socio-cultural ceremonies, selling, exchanging breeding stock and gifts. Of the flock exits, 43.9% were due to losses from diseases, predation and theft. Most flocks (85%) were housed in human dwelling units. Scavenging was the main source of feed. The majority (77.6%) of farmers supplemented their chickens erratically with energy-rich feeds, mostly maize bran. Most supplementation took place during the cold-dry season. Village chicken production offers diverse functional outputs but faces animal health (diseases, parasites, predation) and management (feeding) constraints, which require an integrated intervention approach at community and household level.