Indigenous chicken play an important role in the rural economy of Botswana. The traditional production system in the country is often based on a loose free range model where the chickens are allowed to roam about and find their way back to the pen in the evening. The farmer rarely makes an intervention to reduce mortality and increase the productivity of the chickens.
There is no controlled breeding or any attempts to secure better poultry breeds so generation after generation, the farmer is faced with low yields in both meat and eggs and this is a situation that can contribute to food insecurity and also perpetuate poverty.
The best way to describe the model is that it is a low-input low-output system. The farmer puts in very little and gets very little in return.
There is no attempt to provide good biosecurity for the chickens. They live in poor housing which exposes them to disease and predators as well as various other antisocial behaviours. Some of the major poultry diseases such as fowl typhoid and fowl pox are a common feature in these traditional production systems for Tswana chickens.
The poor productivity of the Tswana chickens can be attributed to poor management and husbandry techniques. There is also very low nutritive supply that will ensure the chicken reaches its genetic potential to supply the farmer with abundant meat or eggs. The chicken fully relies on its scavenging base which will not be sufficient to meat their needs.
The other problem with the traditional poultry production system in Botswana is the lack of provision of clean and fresh water. It is either missing altogether or provided irregularly forcing the chickens to scavenge for dirty pools of water. As we have discussed elsewhere on this website, the chicken will never “forgive” when they are not supplied with adequate and fresh supply of water. The production dips irreversibly in most cases.
From these, we can conclude that the number one reason for the low productivity of Tswana chickens is the poor management practices employed by farmers who may not have adequate knowledge and expertise in managing profitable poultry enterprises. Apart from the poor management, farmers may not provide adequate nutritive value in the poultry feeds and they may also be working with poultry breeds which, genetically, simply cannot perform to the desired levels. The chicken breeds may simply lack the genetic potential to lay many eggs or produce good poultry meat within a short period of time. Tswana chickens generally have a hatchability of 67% which is quite low and is unlikely to be profitable.
Why Are the Indigenous Tswana Chickens Kept?
In spite of their low productive value, indigenous Tswana chickens are still widely kept in many Tswana homes. Why is this so? Let us look at some of the possible reasons why:-
- Indigenous Tswana chickens are kept mainly for home consumption especially during special occasions.
- They are a source of income for the family. The chickens or eggs can be sold to earn extra incomes.
- Chickens can provide status, especially for rural families in Botswana.
- The meat and eggs are source of proteins for the family
How to Improve the Indigenous Poultry Production System in Botswana
The traditional indigenous poultry production system can be improved by making modifications on the traditional management techniques to ensure the poultry reach their production potential. The indigenous chickens generally mature late in the day but with proper management and care, the maturity can be achieved much earlier. Here are some of the indigenous poultry management aspects that can be improved to boost productivity:-
Improvements in Poultry Feeding
The primary mode of feeding for indigenous Tswana chickens is scavenging but some farmers may supplement this diet by providing food leftovers. Formulated feed may be too costly for many Tswana households but it is still possible to roughly formulate poultry feed that includes the following in order to boost the chicken diet:-
- Crushed maize: 93%
- Crushed sorghum: 1%
- Soyabean meal: 1%
- Sunflower Oil: 1.8%
- Feed grade limestone: 1.1%
- Salt: 0.4%
- Vitamin and Mineral Premixes: 0.1%
- DL-Methionine: 0.2%
- L-Lysine: 0.2%
Lysine is generally a limiting amino acid in traditional production systems where well formulated feed is not available so it is important to include this in the formulation to supplement. For additional information on poultry feed formulation, check out the poultry feed formulation website.
Make sure you regularly provide fresh and clean drinking water at all times. Check out the drinkers and clean them regularly to prevent poultry infections. The water should be kept at room temperature and situated where the birds can access it easily. Preferably, put the water in a shaded area. Try to change the drinking water at least twice everyday. Adequate supply of water has a positive impact on the feed intake allowing your chickens to grow very fast.
Control of Diseases in Your Indigenous Poultry Flock
Indigenous chickens might be hardy but they are still badly affected by diseases such Newcastle disease. Make sure your chickens are vaccinated regularly based on the schedule provided by the Ministry of Agriculture. This will drastically reduce the infection rates in your chicken and cut down on your losses. Another serious disease for indigenous chickens is fowl pox. Make sure you provide proper hygiene and sanitation to reduce the incidence of these diseases.
Housing Your Indigenous Chickens
Housing is another area where you may need to improve on so as to boost their productivity and survivability of your indigenous chickens. Good housing should protect your flock against the vagaries of weather and predators. It should be able to support the stocking density of your poultry.
Between day one and three weeks old, the chicks should be housed in a brooding pen in order to boost their survivability.
Want to learn more about indigenous chicken production in Botswana for Tswana chickens and other indigenous breeds, contact us via the form below and get out indigenous poultry production manuals.