Science - May 7, 2009

TANZANIAN CHICKENS HAVE A BELLYFUL OF SAND

Tanzania’s 31.5 million free-range village chickens are malnourished. As a result, they lay few eggs, grow slowly and often die an early death due to disease or predators. Simple measures could enable chicken keepers to raise production, says PhD graduate Ezekiel Hamisi Goromela.

Village chickens are important for food security and income generation in many farming families in Africa.
Goromela interviewed more than three hundred households in four villages. He also analysed the crop and stomach contents of the chickens in these villages. Besides 29 percent grain, 2 percent vegetables and 3.5 percent seeds, he found 23 percent sand and 41.5 percent indeterminate material in the chickens – which were malnourished.

An experiment led Goromela to the conclusion that in the dry season the chickens need extra protein, while in the rainy season they need more energy-rich feed. He advised supplementing their feed with locally available nutrients. The extremely low egg production – thirty to fifty eggs a year – can be raised to seventy by taking the hen away from her chicks and putting her in with the cockerel sooner. Chicks should be kept in a run for the first eight weeks too.

Village chickens are usually looked after by women and children. They are important for food security and income for many farmer families in Tanzania. Yet Goromela notes that there are no initiatives from the Tanzanian government to increase the productivity of poultry by spreading information about better feeding and management practices. He advises the government to set up courses for chicken keepers on the basic skills involved in raising healthy poultry.
Goromela, who works at the Livestock Research Institute at Mpwapwa in Tanzania, received a PhD grant from Nuffic. / Albert Sikkema

Ezekiel Hamisi Goromela received his PhD on 28 April from Dr. Martin Verstegen, Emeritus Professor of Animal Nutrition.

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