Traditional chicken production in Zimbabwe

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Formal knowledge about traditional free-range chicken production in tropical countries is increasing but still limited. However, it appears from literature studied in connection with these studies, that management, and thus production performance, in general is comparable in different countries and affected by similar factors. Further, poultry production has shown to be a very important income generating activity, predominantly run by women. On the basis of three studies (A, B and C), the paper describes local chicken production in a communal area of Zimbabwe and highlights production characteristics. Study A is an investigation of the management and production through questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. Study B is a phenotypic description of 360 chickens and a description of feed availability. Study C is records of production during 6 months. Findings confirmed that women owned most chicken flocks and that income generated from chicken production was spent to better nutrition, health and education of the family. High mortality and slow growth were, by farmers perceived to be the major constraints to production. This was supported by production records, which showed that survival among young chickens was low (45% until 16 weeks of age). Most deaths (69%) occurred during the first 3 weeks after hatching. Most common mortality causes were diseases, predation, external parasites and accidents. Few clutches per hen per year with long brooding periods resulted in low production of chickens ready for slaughter or sale. Growth rates until 10 weeks of age were just over 6 g/day. Production results are discussed in relation to other literature.

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