Livestock Research for Rural Development 17 (8) 2005 Guidelines to authors LRRD News

Citation of this paper

Egg traits, hatchability and early growth performance of the Fulani-ecotype chicken

T R Fayeye, A B Adeshiyan and A A Olugbami

Department of Animal Production, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ilorin, Nigeria


Three studies were conducted to evaluate Fulani-ecotype chicken for egg, hatchability and growth traits. In study one, 30 eggs were used to evaluate thirteen internal and external egg traits including egg weight, egg length, egg width, egg index, yolk weight, yolk height, yolk diameter, shell weight, shell thickness, albumen height, albumen weight, haugh unit and egg index. In study two, 165 eggs were used to evaluate fertility and hatchability traits. In study three, sixty-eight day-old Fulani-ecotype chicks were evaluated for growth performance. Mean values for egg traits were 40.73g, 20.25g, 4.92mm, 75.53 percent, 13.03g, 14.27mm, 24.68mm and 0.58 for egg weight, albumen weight, albumen height, haugh unit, yolk weight, yolk height, yolk width and yolk index, respectively.

Mean value for shell weight, shell thickness, egg length, egg width and egg index were 5.12g, 0.58mm, 34.91mm, 23.59mm and 1.48, respectively. Fertility percent, live germs at 18th day and percent hatchability were 76 percent, 75 percent, and 47 percent, respectively. Body weight gain in chickens increased from hatch to 3 weeks of age, and afterward declined. Indices of egg internal quality suggested that the Fulani-ecotype chicken is highly desirable. Its good shell thickness may be exploited in reducing losses due to cracked eggs. Mean chick weight increased by more than eleven times within the first eight weeks of life.

The present report suggests that Fulani-ecotype chicken has good potential for meat and egg production, therefore selection along these two directions may help to develop indigenous strains of meat type chicken.

Key words: Early growth, egg traits, Fulani-ecotype.


The native chicken constitutes about 80 percent of the 120 million poultry birds found in Nigeria. These animals are also known for their adaptation superiority in terms of their resistance to endemic diseases and other harsh environmental conditions (Nwakpu et al 1999). It seems therefore a laudable proposition that more attention should be given to the genetic improvement and development of the largely neglected native bird in order to ameliorate the present acute animal protein shortage. What is generally referred to as native chicken is a pool of heterogenous individuals which differ in adult body size, weight and plumage. The Fulani-ecotype chicken is native to the drier parts of the country. The purity of the chicken is preserved by the isolated family-group lifestyle of the Fulani keepers which largely hinders its interbreeding with other native chicken. Although the origin is uncertain, some authors ( Ogundipe 1990; Tiamiyu 1999) were of the opinion that Fulani-ecotype chicken is a crossbred between indigenous fowls and Rhode Island Red chicken used in previous cockerel exchange programmes. Although the Fulani-ecotype chicken has been confirmed (Atteh 1990) to be superior to other ecotypes within Nigeria in term of liveweight, however, the detailed characterization of this chicken with respect to its egg, hatchability and growth performance traits is generally unavailable. This information must necessarily precede their genetic improvement for commercial traits. The objective of the present work is to characterize the Fulani-ecotype chicken for egg traits, hatchability and early growth performance.

Materials and Methods

The Fulani-ecotype chicken used for the egg quality traits were obtained from Fulani settlers in Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara state. They were maintained in the department as a random bred, unselected flock. The study was carried out in three phases. In study 1, thirty eggs collected directly from the breeder flock were used to evaluate the external and internal egg quality traits. The traits investigated were egg weight, EWT; egg length, EL; egg width, EW; egg index, EI; yolk weight, YWT; yolk height, YH; yolk diameter, YD; shell weight, SWT; shell thickness, ST; albumen height, AH; albumen weight, AWT; haugh unit, HU and egg index, EI. Eggs were collected and weighed using a triple beam balance (OHAUS, 2600g). Egg length and width were measured with the aid of a pair of vernier calipers calibrated in mm. The values of the EL and EW were used to determine the egg index. Each egg was later carefully opened and content poured into a tripod micrometer (calibrated in mm) to determine the albumen height. The yolk and albumen were carefully separated and weighed separately on a triple beam balance to determine their respective weights. The thickness of each shell was determined using a micrometer screw gauge calibrated in mm. Accuracy of shell thickness was ensured by measuring shell samples at the broad end, middle portion and narrow end of the shell. The average shell thickness was then recorded in mm. Yolk index was determined as a ratio of the yolk height to the yolk width. The haugh unit was calculated from the records of albumen height and egg width using the formula:

HU= [100Log (H-/G(30W 0.37-100))+19]/100


HU= haugh unit
HA=observed albumen height (mm).
G = gravitational constant, 32.2
W =observed weight of egg.

A total of one hundred and sixty-five eggs of Fulani-ecotype chicken were used to determine hatchability traits. The eggs weighed between 32.2 and 50.2g. The hatchability traits were percent fertility, percent live germ at 18th day and percent hatchability of fertile eggs. Incubation was done using an electrically heated (500 egg capacity) incubator. The incubation temperature and relative humidity were 370c and 60.55 percent, respectively. Eggs were turned 3 to 5 times daily. Candling was done on the 5th day and between 17th to 18th day to determine infertile eggs and dead embryo, respectively. Eggs with living embryo were then transferred to the hatching section of the incubator. Hatched chicks were collected, counted and weighed. Hatchability was determined using the formula:

Hatchability =   100[Number of chicks hatched]/ Number of fertile eggs set

A total of sixty-eight chicks produced from birds originating from Ilorin and Irepodun localities were used to evaluate growth performance. The chicks were raised on electrically heated brooder. They were fed on chick mash containing 23% crude protein, 3200 ME kcal/kg, 1% calcium and 0.5% phosphorus (Table 1).

Table 1: Composition of chicks feed


Percent in diet



Groundnut cake


Wheat offal


Fish meal


Blood meal


Bone meal




Broiler premix




Palm oil


Crude protein: 23.00; ME 3200 KcalME/kg

Feed and water were supplied ad libitum for eight weeks. Body weight was taken weekly and growth rate calculated as follows (Maciejowski and Zeiba 1982).

   T    =    100 [(W2-W1)/(W2-W1)/2]


T = growth rate per week (in percentage).
W1 = average initial weight for the stated week.
W2 = average final weight for the stated week.

The K-test (Dettmers 1977) was used to determine difference in growth performance of chicks hatched from eggs obtained from the two localities (i.e. Ilorin and Irepodun).

Results and Discussion

Mean values for internal and external traits of the eggs were as presented in Table 2. Egg weight ranged between 33.5g and 48.7g.Measurement on albumen weight, albumen height and haugh unit ranged from 15 to 28.5g, 3.3 to 6.3mm and 59.15 to 88.3 percent, respectively while the yolk weight, yolk height, yolk width and yolk index ranged between 5.3g to 20.9g, 12.2mm to 17.3mm, 20mm to 29.5mm and 0.11 to 0.77, respectively.

Table 2: Mean (+SD) for egg quality characteristics

Egg quality trait

Mean + SD

Egg weight, g


Albumen weight, g


Albumen height, mm


Haugh unit, %


Yolk weight, g


Yolk height, mm


Yolk width, mm


Yolk index


Shell weight, g


Shell thickness, mm


Egg length, mm


Egg width, mm


Egg index


About 76 percent of the eggs candled on the 5th day were fertile while percent live germs (at 18th day) and hatchability were 75% and 47%, respectively (Table 3). Chicks weight as a ratio of egg weight (for 68 eggs only) ranged between 68 to 78 percent.

Table 3: Fertility and hatchability traits in the Fulani-ecotype chicken


Number of eggs

Fertile/hatched eggs







Live germ at 17/18th day








Growth rate increased between hatch and 3 weeks of age and subsequently declined (Table 4). Chicks were able to increase their body weight four times within four weeks of life and by more than eleven times within eight weeks of life.

Table 4: Mean (+SD) body weight and growth rate in the Fulani-ecotype chicken in successive weeks after hatching


Hatch weight









Body weight





























Weight gain





























Growth rate





























Differences between means for the two localities were not significantly different (p>0.05) for body weight and growth rate

The mean egg weight, shell thickness and haugh unit in the present study were higher than values reported by Joseph and Oduntan (1999) for eggs of unclassified Nigerian local chicken. This suggests the superiority of the Fulani-ecotype chicken. Such comparison is however limited by the fact that the other group of workers obtained their eggs from the open market. An earlier work on local chicken obtained from the Western part of River Niger (Oluyemi et al 1982) also showed a lower haugh unit and shell thickness compared with the present results. Egg weight in the present study was lower than the values reported by Oguike and Onykweodiri (1999) for commercial exotic layer strains.

The mean shell weight obtained in this study was slightly higher than that by Oguike and Onykweodiri (1999) for Yaffa and Issa Brown layers. This might be due to the good shell thickness of eggs obtained from Fulani-ecotype chicken. Good shell thickness is an important bioeconomic trait in commercial egg production as it may help to reduce the percentage of cracked eggs.

The yolk index (0.50) and haugh unit (75.50%) in the present study suggest that eggs from the Fulani-ecotype chicken are highly desirable since these two indices are the best indicators of internal egg quality (Isikwenu et al 1999), and the higher the yolk index (Ayorinde 1987) and haugh unit the more desirable the egg quality.

According to Ihekoronye and Ngoddy (1985) high quality egg generally have haugh unit of 70 and above. Nwakpu et al (1999) observed significant difference in fertility percentages among three genotypes of layer- type chicken. They observed that the black Olympia and Hubbard and Nick strains were 20% and 19% (respectively) higher in egg fertility than the investigated Nigerian local chicken. They were of the opinion that the intensive management given to the traditionally scavenging local chicken may have negated their performance. Percent hatchability in the present study was by far lower than the near 100% reported for Nigerian local chicken (Atteh 1990). The low hatchability may not be a true reflection of the genetic potential of the Fulani-ecotype chicken, as most of the embryo died few days before hatching. Such a late embryonic mortality is not uncommon and may be due to non-genetic factors. For example Weis (1991) observed from his study on guinea fowls that the highest embryonic mortality occurred before hatching. A number of factors including egg age (Tarongoy et al 1990), storage condition (Brah and Sandhu 1989), age of flock (Rogue and Soares 1994; Buhr 1995), system of husbandry and rearing technology (Weis 1991), mating system (Gebhardt-Henrich and Marks 1991), incubation relative humidity and eggs turning angle (Permsak 1996) have been shown to influence the hatchability of poultry eggs. Improved management of eggs during incubation may therefore help to increase the hatchability of eggs. Robel (1990) reported that the hatchability of fertile turkey eggs is increased by the injection of exogenous pyridoxine into the eggs following up to 25 days of incubation. There may also be the need to work with larger number of eggs than the number used in the present study. Such an increased sample size may help to reveal the true potential of the Fulani-ecotype chicken for fertility and hatchability traits.

The chick weight as a ratio of egg weight were 69% and 72% for eggs originating from Ilorin and Irepodun localities, respectively. These values were consistent with those reported by Guill and Washburn (1973) for broiler chickens. The present result was close to the findings of Adeshiyan (2001) that growth rate in Fulani-ecotype chicken increased from hatch to four weeks of age before it declined. Adedokun and Sonaiya (1999) investigated the growth potential of local chicken from two ecological zones and the mean body weight of chicks at 8 weeks for the two ecotypes were generally poorer than the values obtained in the present study for the Fulani-ecotype chicken. This corroborates earlier reports (Atteh 1990) that Fulani-ecotype chicken is superior in liveweight to other ecotypes encountered in Nigeria.

There was no difference in the bodyweight and growth pattern of the Fulani-ecotype chicken from the two localities. This indicates genetic similarities between the birds from the two localities. However, the large standard deviation for the mean bodyweights and growth rates suggest a wide individual variation as may be expected in an unselected flock. It can be concluded from the present study that the Fulani-ecotype chicken possesses good egg quality and growth performance that may be tapped in commercial production. The wide individual variation for these traits also suggests that fast genetic progress could be made via individual selection among the Fulani-ecotype chicken.


Adedokun S A and Sonaiya E B 1999 Evaluation of the reproductive and growth performance of Nigeria indigenous chickens from three ecological zones.Proceedings of the 26th Annual NSAP Conference, 21-25 March 1999, Ilorin. Nigeria.

Adeshiyan A B 2001 Characterisation of the Fulani-ecotype chicken for egg and meat production traits. Final year project report, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ilorin.

Atteh J O 1999 Rural poultry production in Western Middle belt of Nigeria. In: Sonaiya E B (Editor).Rural poultry in Africa. Proceedings of an International workshop held in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Nov. 13-16, 1989. Thelia House, Ile-Ife.

Ayorinde K L 1987 Physical and chemical characteristics of the eggs of four indigenous guinea fowls in Nigeria.Nigeria Journal of Animal Production. Volume14: 125-128.

Brah G S and Sandhu J S 1989 Preincubation storage of guinea fowl eggs in cooling cabinet vs. room: Effect on hatchability components. Tropical Agriculture (Trinidad and Tobago) Volume 66:265-268.

Buhr R J 1995 Incubation relative humidity effects on allantoic fluid volume and hatchability. Poultry Science, Volume 74:874-884.

Dettmers A 1977 Reseach techniques in animal production (part 1). Sterlight press, Ibadan. Page 3.

Gebhardt-Henrich S G and Mark H L 1991 The effect of switching males among caged females on egg production and hatchability in Japanese quail. Poultry Science, Volume 70:1845-1847.

Guill R A and Washburn K W 1973 Relationship between hatch weight as a percentage of egg weight and feed conversion ratio in broiler chicks. Poultry Science, Volume 52:1646.

Ibe S N and Nwohu U F 1999 Influence of naked neck and frizzle genes on early growth of chickens. Proceedings of the 26th Annual Nigerian Society for Animal Production Conference, 21-25 March, 1999, Ilorin.

Ihekoronye A T and Ngoddy P O 1985 Integrated food science technology for the tropics. Macmillan press Ltd. London.

Isikwenu J O, Okaplefe C S and Mmereole F U C 1999 Storability of chicken eggs under different storage conditions. Proceedings of the 26th Annual Nigeria Society for Animal Production Conference, 21-25 March, 1999, Ilorin.

Joseph J K and Oduntan R O 1999 Egg quality traits as influenced by sources of eggs. Proceedings of the 26th Annual NSAP conference, 21-25 March, 1999, Ilorin.

Maciejowski J and Zeiba 1982 Genetics and Animal breeding. Polish Scientific publishers, Warszama.

Nwakpu P E, Odo B I, Omeje S I, Akpa M and Edoga C C 1999 Hatching performance of three strains of layer-type chicken and their lines. Proceedings of the 26th Annual Conference, NSAP, 21-25 March, 1999, Ilorin.

Oguike M A and Onyekweodiri E O 1999 Eggshell quality of four commercial strains of layers. Proceedings of the 26th Annual NSAP Conference, 21-25 March, 1999, Ilorin.

Ogundipe S O 1990 In: Sonaiya E B (Editor).Rural poultry in Africa. Proceedings of an international workshop held in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. November. 13-16, 1989, Thelia House, Ile-Ife.

Oluyemi J A, Longe O and Songu T 1982 Requirement of the Nigerian indigenous fowl for protein and amino acids. Ife Journal of Agriculture, Volume 4 : 105-110.

Omeje S S I and Nwosu C C 1984 Heterosis and superiority in body weight and feed efficiency evaluation of exotic parent stock by local F1 crosses. Nigeria Journal of Genetics. Volume 1 :11-26

Permsak S 1996 Effect of water spraying and eggs turning angle to efficiency of duck hatchability . Proceedings of the 34th Kasetsart university annual conference, Bangkok(Thailand),1996,517pp, Pp22-26.

Robel E J 1990 Composition and method for increasing the hatchability of turkey eggs. (Monograph). Agris 1993-1994.

Rogue L and Soares M C 1994 Effect of egg shell quality and broiler breeding age on hatchability. Poultry Science, Volume 73:1838-1845.

Tarongoy J jr, Eduave F and Gemota E K 1990 Age as a factor of hatchability. SWUCA-Journal of Agricultural Research (Philippines) Volume V:22-26.

Tiamiyu A K 1999 Morphological features of Fulani ecotype chickens. Proceedings of the 26th Annual NSAP Conference, 21-25 March, 1999, Ilorin.

Weis J 1991Analysis of fertility, hatchability and egg quality indices in reproduction breeding of guinea fowls. Acta Zootechnica Universitatis Agriculturae (CSFR). (1991). Number 47 pp 5-15.

Received 29 May 2005; Accepted 14 June 2005; Published 4 August 2005

Go to top