Livestock Research for Rural Development 23 (12) 2011 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

A socio-economic survey of cultural practices and management of village poultry production in Ondo area, Nigeria

O R Adeniyi and A O Oguntunji*

Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension
Bowen University, P.M.B. 284, Iwo, Nigeria
(formerly Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, Nigeria)
* Department of Animal Science and Fisheries Management
Bowen University, P.M.B. 284, Iwo,Nigeria


A large proportion of the poultry products available for consumption in Nigeria come from rural poultry production in spite of the dearth of knowledge on their statistics, production, management practices, disease control methods and level of Government intervention in the business. The need to obtain baseline information on the availability of rural poultry and the level of productivity of the indigenous chi cken under the village conditions in Ondo Area formed the basis of the study. The study investigated production systems and reproductive performance of village chicken in rural villages surrounding Ondo town, Ondo State, Nigeria.Data used were collected from rural poultry farmers in the southern and north eastern parts of Ondo Area using structured questionnaires and were analyzed by means of simple average and percentages.

The study revealed that women dominated (63.3%) rural poultry production while sex composition of the flock was heavily skewed towards hens (72.2%). Indigenous breeds dominated the study area compared to exotic genotypes (98.2 vs. 1.8%). Sales and consumption were the major reasons for engaging in rural poultry production. Estimate of reproductive indices revealed that average clutch size and hatchability rate were 10.8 and 78.4% respectively. 43% of respondents identified Newcastle disease as the principal disease plaguing the flock, likewise, information on causes of mortality indicated diseases (30%) and predators (28%) as the principal exits. Relationship of age and incidence of mortality showed that chicks were the most vulnerable group. Relevant solutions centering on dedicated support from various governments are suggested.

Key words: clutch size, indigenous breed, newcastle, predator, village chicken


Animal agriculture in Nigeria revolves largely on poultry, fish, cattle, sheep, goats and to a lesser extent on micro livestock like rabbit and snail and of recent cane rats. These livestock contribute a substantial proportion of internal supply of animal protein. Among these livestock, poultry are the most numerous and most widely spread in both urban and rural areas in Nigeria.

Various nationally coordinated animal improvement programmes and policies on poultry are focused on exotic breeds while little attention is paid to rural poultry in spite of their significant contribution to animal protein supply. It is noteworthy that rural poultry in spite of their poor genetic potential for meat and egg production compared to exotic breeds are of invaluable contribution to nutritional intake of rural dwellers by affording them assess to cheap but nutritionally balanced animal protein. Village poultry makes the greatest contribution to the supply of meat and eggs for the average Nigerians, contributing annually about 89% of total poultry meat and over 25% of total poultry egg consumed in the country (Sonaiya 1999a).

In Africa at large, rural poultry alone account for over 70% of the poultry products, and, 20% of animal protein intake in most African countries come from rural poultry sector (Kitalyi 1988). Rural poultry species comprise largely of indigenous breeds which have not been subjected to selection and improvement programmes. Majority of them are managed extensively and to a lesser extent semi-intensively reared.

Demographic classification of poultry species in Nigeria (Nwanta et al 2006  Dafwang et al 2010) and in some African countries (Kitalyi 1998  Kuzonga et al 2008  Olaboro 1990, MoLD 2006) is heavily skewed towards chicken of various ecotypes while ducks, geese, guinea fowls and pigeons complete the list.  Most rural households rear chickens with or without other species.

Putting into cognizance the significant contribution of rural poultry, and the organized systematic management of these village birds is long over due.  Appreciation of the importance of rural poultry could be of immense contribution to stemming the tide of rural-urban migration of youths and enhancement of food security of rural dwellers. Besides, promotion of indigenous chicken production could also economically empower rural youths and women (Gueye 2009) who are mostly economically disadvantaged compared to men, in our male-dominated society.

In view of the foregoing, the present study was initiated to obtain some baseline information on the management, disease control methods and level of government intervention on the productivity of the indigenous chicken under village condition in Ondo Area of Ondo State, Nigeria.

Materials and Methods

The socio-economic survey for this study was carried out in the surrounding rural towns and villages of Ondo land within Ondo State of Nigeria.  The primary data were collected from eleven out of twenty six typical rural villages in Ondo area. For ease of data collection, these villages were grouped into two, based on their routes – those located along Ondo-Akure road (Akure road – North East of Ondo State) and those located along Ondo-Ore road (Ore road – South of Ondo). Selection of sample villages was based on three criteria.

First was  the accessibility in terms of closeness to the researchers’ institution (Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo) and state extension offices like Ondo State Agricultural Development Project (ADP) and Ministry of Agriculture. It was  expected that these institutions would have positive impact on the farmers by enhancing their knowledge, skill and co-operation with researchers. Second was  the fact that students of Adeyemi College of Education (a degree awarding Campus of the Faculty of Education of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria) have over the years been using these villages as their laboratories for social, economic and rural based researches hence the respondents are already used to regular visits and interview by students. Thirdly, the villages were thought to be  representative of typical rural villages as described by Adeniyi (1995).

On the whole, five villages were selected on Ore road (numbered 1- 5) and six on Akure road (numbered 6 – 11). In the Ore road group are Bagbe, Omifon, Asewele, Odigbo and Igunsin and the Akure road group includes Bolorunduro, Owena, Laagba, Oboto, Igba and Igbo-Oja (Table 1). 

Table 1: The Villages Involved in the Study

Village No


Distance from Ondo Town (km)

Village No


Distance from Ondo Town (km)





































From the list of rural poultry farmers collected from the village heads, the respondents for this study were randomly selected. A total of 1,133 respondents fully completed questionnaires were  used for this study.

Structured questionnaires were used for the survey. Various questions relating to the different aspects of poultry production practices and marketing in the rural areas were asked. In order to obtain accurate information, check questions and cross fertilization of ideas were introduced to control earlier information given. All information was obtained in confidence and questionnaires were pre-tested few days before the interview with necessary modifications made to suit the purpose of this survey and adapt to the conditions of the rural farmer respondents. Some personal communications were also made during the survey.

Data were analyzed by means of simple averages and percentages. Some qualitative information was recorded and obtained especially when such information was given by a simple majority.

Results and Discussion

Socio-economic characteristics

The results of preliminary investigations on socio-economic characteristics of rural poultry farmers in Ondo Area are presented in Table 2.

Age of respondents

31.60% of respondents were between the ages of 15 and 30 years, 38.1% were between 31-45, while 24.2 and 6.1% were between 46-60 and 61-75 years respectively.  It is evident that the majority of rural poultry keepers in the study area were  adults in their active working age. Most of the fowls owned by teenagers were given as gift by parents, grandparents and relatives.

Marital status

Information on marital status revealed that 75% of the rural poultry farmers were married. The remaining unmarried rural farmers (about 25%) were single parents (6%) and young children who still stayed with their parents and a few poultry were tagged as belonging to them. This implies that poultry keeping is done by active men and women in the study area.  

Sex of respondents

A further probe into the sex of respondents who were actively involved showed that women overwhelmingly (63.3%) took the lead in all the villages considered. Women have been reported to be the major producer of rural poultry in African societies (Nwanta et al 2006  Maphosa et al 2004  Mcainsh et al 2004). Of recent, Ayoade et al (2009) investigated involvement of women in livestock production in Northern Nigeria; the study revealed that 41.3% of the respondents kept poultry as their major livestock enterprise. Greater involvement of women in village poultry production might not be unconnected with its easier management and relative low cost of procurement of foundation and replacement stocks.

Table 2. Socio-economic characteristics of rural poultry farmers, Flock structure and feeding frequency in Ondo area



Percentage (%)

Age in years












Above 60
























Marital Status















Purpose of keeping poultry



Sale and consumption





















Sex ratio of the flock















Breed composition















Feeding frequency


















1Refers to combination of different purposes.

Some retrogressive African cultures which are gender-biased as exemplified in unequal farm land and tree crop inheritance and cash crop cultivation in favour of men rendered many rural women economically disadvantaged thereby forcing them to explore rural poultry production as an alternative source of income. Tanko (1994) agrees with this assertion that women do not get the same as men in their access to critical farm resources and services such as farmland, credit and improved input due to culture and tradition and sociological factors.

Another possible explanation for higher proportion of women in rural poultry production could be attributed to the fact that most women play complementary roles in villages; occupying themselves with household chores, looking after the children and livestock and assisting their husbands in harvesting, processing and sale of farm produce.

Though women dominate village chicken production, nevertheless, it is worth emphasis that decisions on them are largely made by men or in some cases, by the family.        

Purpose of keeping poultry

Sale and consumption constitutes the primary purpose (63%) of keeping the village poultry. Others were consumption (12%), sale (10%), cultural (3.5%) and others (11.7%).

Many rural farmers are keeping fowls for family consumption and sale purposes. The majority of those keeping them primarily for sale purpose were  the singles/teenagers who raised them purposely to meet their financial needs.  Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that sale of live birds and consumption of poultry meat were more common than for egg. Those keeping them for cultural reasons premised their action on the local belief that livestock are capable of ‘carrying’ evil/calamity that are supposedly predestined to befall them.

Flock structure:
Sex ratio

Information on sex ratio of the flock was analyzed based on the adult local fowls and as shown in table 2, the majority of the local fowls kept were females (72.2%) while the remaining 27.8% were males. The preponderance of hen in this study agrees with the previous studies in Zimbabwe (Mcainsh et al 2004) and Ethiopia (Mammo et al 2008).

Farmers attributed lower number of cocks in the study area to the need to preserve females for multiplication purposes. Some posited further that due to frequent theft of cocks mainly due to their higher body weight and market price relative to hens, they prefer to keep more of the hens than cocks. Besides, some respondents submitted that keeping large number of male is uneconomical for hens can easily get cocks around for breeding purpose. Mcainsh et al (2004) submitted that lower number of cocks could also be adduced to preference of males as slaughter birds whereas pullets were saved for reproductive purposes. This observation is in consonance with the age-long practice in Nigeria where cocks are victims of entertainment of august visitors, festive periods/seasons, sacrifices, family consumption and sale as a reliable source of income in case of emergencies.

Breed composition

An overwhelming majority (98.2%) of respondents kept local breeds of chicken while exotic and crossbreds were 1.8%. Surprisingly, some of the respondents ignorantly felt that they could not succeed in raising other breeds locally except the much adapted indigenous breeds, thus only a few farmers in two of the villages in Ore road and five in Akure  road kept one or two exotic breeds; pure and crossed.

Native fowls have been observed to be the predominant breeds in African countries (Mammo et al 2008  Kusina and Kusina, 1999  Gichohi and Maina, 1992  Dafwang et al 2010). The underlying factors responsible for preference for native breeds by farmers despite acknowledgment of superior performance of exotic genotypes were multifaceted.

Some posited that the cost involved in procurement of exotic day old chicks and their intensive management was  discouraging while some submitted that exotic breeds were not a good hedge in case of pressing financial needs, for their demand is low compared to local fowls.  The exotic breed’s susceptibility to local fowl diseases with attendant decimation were the reasons advanced for their poor adoption by some rural farmers. Conversely, indigenous fowls are known to be hardy, highly resistant to poultry diseases and more adapted to the prevailing harsh environmental conditions.

Similar reasons have been advanced for poor acceptance of exotic and crossbred fowls among Ethiopian rural poultry keepers (Mammo et al 2008). These authors reported further that poor mating preferences among local cocks towards the exotic hens and vice versa also contributes to their rejection by farmers.

Though, introduction of various exotic breeds and or crossing of local with exotic counterparts offers hope for accelerated improvement in performance with concomitant increase in poultry output, nevertheless, their utilization should be with caution in order to prevent ‘adulteration’ and erosion of valuable germplasm inherent in various local ecotypes that could be exploited for future development of tropically adapted strains. In addition, Mapiye et al (2008) advised that imported breeds should be used with caution as they succumb to diseases and performed poorly under the existing feeding regime.

It is interesting to note that the majority of the few exotic genotypes reared in the study area were cockerels of commercial egg layers. None were  found rearing broiler or breeder hens. Non broodiness of exotic females might be the principal reason for their rejection by farmers.

Management practices, diseases and mortality
Feed and feeding frequency

Feeding frequency showed  that most (55.2%) of the respondents fed their chicken once in the mornings, 28.4% and 12.3% fed them once and twice again in the afternoon and/or evening while very few farmers (4.1%) fed their flocks occasionally (Table 2).

The major item of feed given to poultry in the study area was maize. This was supplemented occasionally with guinea corn. However; the choice between these cereals depended largely on their availability and season of the year. Some stated that feeding frequency and quantity of feed offered depended on the season of the year. They said further that feeding frequency may be up to 3 or 4 times per day during harvesting and processing seasons but declined there-after at the approach of the planting season when sale of products increased. Occasionally, farmers gave the chickens supplements comprising kitchen wastes and agricultural by products.

Little attention was given to the nutritional quality of feed fed to them. Some respondents, due to their ignorance on the importance of balanced diet to these livestock, offered them low quality grains. For instance, grains that have been infested with weevils and unfit for planting and sale are commonly offered to them. Similarly most of the household/kitchen wastes commonly offered to them as supplements were given not primarily because farmers really appreciated the nutritional contribution of such left-overs but rather to prevent wastage. In some cases such left-overs were already decaying or spoilt with little or no nutritional contribution to the fowls. This probably serves as a pointer to one of the underlying reasons for poor performance of local fowls besides limited genetic potential compared to exotic breeds that are intensively managed. Nevertheless reports from some African countries have demonstrated that supplements fed to chicken contributed to increased flock sizes, high growing and fertility rates and also made them less vulnerable to diseases and parasites (Roberts and Gunaratne 1992  Tadelle and Ogle 2001  Ogle et al 2004).

Special attention is commonly given to the feed of chicks. Broken maize/corns are commonly fed to them. This is one of the reasons why most farmers prefer guinea corn to brooding hens so as to make it easier for chicks to pick.

Diseases and mortality

Information relating to incidence of diseases and causes of rural poultry mortality are shown in Figure 1.


Diseases such as Newcastle (43%), cold (28%), coccidiosis (17%) and fowl pox (7%) among others (5%) were the major diseases affecting vitality and productivity of flocks in the study area. Newcastle disease has been identified as the major disease of poultry in Nigeria (Nwanta et al 2006  Dawfwang et al 2010) and in African countries such as South Africa (Mtileni  et al 2009), Kenya (Kingori et al 2010), Botswana (Moreki et al 2010) among others.

Farmers submitted that this disease defied curative measures and  claimed a substantial proportion of the flock annually and in some instances wiped out the entire flock. It is unfortunate that this viral disease has become a perennial menace to rural poultry keepers mainly because of their ignorance on the availability of vaccines against its infection. Nwanta et al (2006) and (Kingori et al (2010) in Nigeria and Kenya respectively have reported that majority of poultry keepers were ignorant of the existence of vaccine for the control of Newcastle disease, and this significantly contributed to its spread and prevalence in the area.

Sonaiya (1999a) reported that the major outbreak of Newcastle disease regularly occur at the peak of the rain (June/July) and the dry season (January/February) during which mortality reaches 70 – 100% in Nigeria.  Related studies on seasonal incidence of Newcastle disease were at variance on the peak of its epidemic. Reports from Kenya (Anonymous 1996) and Ethiopia (Sonaiya 1999b) indicated that severity of this disease reached the peak in wet season but in dry season in West Africa (Mukiibi–Muka 1992; Gueye 1998).Unfortunately the period of high demand in dry season coincided with high incidence of Newcastle disease thus increasing its spread (Kuzonga et al 2008). This high demand for rural poultry in December/January for Christmas and New Year Celebrations is a major factor for its spread in Nigeria

A further probe of the respondents on disease management in general revealed that most of them treated those diseases themselves by using locally available medicines such as plant extracts, pepper etc while few of them applied orthodox drugs which are meant for man. The majority of the respondents never had contact with Veterinary officers before due to remoteness of their villages and financial incapability. Some also dispose sick ones by selling them.

Free ranged chickens are susceptible to the same metabolic diseases affecting intensively kept birds, but the environment can influence their severity and make birds susceptible to syndromes rarely found in cage birds (Mostert et al 1995).It is however worthwhile to emphasize that most of these diseases can be prevented or controlled if there is a well-coordinated health management programme for rural poultry.


Significant population of rural poultry was lost to diseases (30%) and predators (28%). Other exits are automobile accidents (12%), domestic accidents mostly through children (10%), flood (7%) while for about 13 percent of the casualties, the respondents can not really ascertain the true cause of mortality.

From the personal discussion with farmers, it was noted that Newcastle disease (ND) was the principal disease decimating the flock in the study area. In similar vein, rural poultry farmers in northern Nigeria claimed that about 76% of poultry mortality was attributed to ND (Nwanta et al 2006).This disease is a major problem to rural poultry keepers in Nigeria at large and its epidemics is marked with attendant loss of poultry to farmers. Other notable diseases were coccidiosis, fowl pox among others. Extremely high mortalities due to ND have been reported to be a major factor discouraging peasants from investing much of their time and scarce resources in expanding their flocks (Foster et al 1997).

Hawks, eagles, wild cats, giant rats and snakes were the major predators of rural poultry. Though predation of village fowls can not be totally eradicated due to the traditional free-range system adopted by farmers, however, nocturnal activities of some predators like snakes, giant rats and wild cats can be prevented to the barest minimum by housing them in secured cages and sheds at night.

Relationship between age and incidence of mortality was investigated and all respondents equivocally submitted that chicks were the most vulnerable compared to adults (56% vs. 44%). This observation agrees with studies conducted in Nigeria (Nwanta et al 2006) and Uganda (Kuzonga et al 2008) that highest incidence of mortality was recorded among young rural poultry.

Variation was also observed in the seasonal trend/pattern of mortality. There was no consensus among the respondents on the season of the year in which incidence of mortality was highest. Some claimed it was the dry season mainly due to ND while others opted for wet season attributing mortality to cold and flood. Mortality is high among free-ranged chickens in comparison with intensively managed birds (Maphosa et al 2002) due to their exposure to harsh environmental conditions and poor health management practices among the owners.

Adoption of improvised intensive or semi-intensive methods could go a long way in stemming annual loss of rural poultry. Significant reduction in mortality has been reported in Zimbabwe where 50% mortality rate in communal areas (Kusina et al 2001; Pedersen  2002) was reduced to 20% in on-station farm (Pedersen 2002).

Reproductive performance

Reproductive performance in respect to egg clutch and hatching rate are presented in Figure 2.

Egg Clutch

Clutch size reported in this group can be broadly classified as small (1-10) and high (11-20). The average clutch size in the present study was 10.8 in the range of 5-17. Clutch size as observed in the present study compared favourably with related studies on indigenous fowls in African countries (Nwanta et al 2006  Missohou et al 2002  Mcainsh et al 2005). 

It is a well established fact that reproductive efficiency of local fowls in respect of meat and egg production is very low/poor compared to exotic breeds. A possible reason for this could be attributed to the fact that these rural birds are non-descript and have not really undergone intense genetic selection/improvement with a view to classifying them to meat or egg strains. Furthermore, seasonal fluctuation in availability of feed resources coupled with little or no supplements are other possible factors responsible for poor egg production most especially in dry season. Nutrient intake of rural poultry is below recommended levels and is insufficient for optimal growth and egg production (Goromela et al 2007).


Hatchability of eggs in the study area was not uniform. Some farmers observed high hatching rate (above 70%) while some recorded average (51-69%) and lower hatching rates (below 50%). The average hatching rate was 78.4% and this is in agreement with previous reports on African indigenous fowls (Nwanta et al 2006  Moreki et al 2010  Sonaiya 1999b).

It is worth noting that hatchability of flocks investigated was affected by clutch size. It could be inferred that clutch size and hatchability rate were inversely related (See Figure 3).

 One of the possible reasons for higher hatching rate of small clutch size compared to larger ones could be adduced to sufficient warmth provided for optimum incubation of embryos in contrast to when eggs were many. Another possible reason for poor hatchability of large clutch size could be attributed to storage length. For a fowl to lay 11 – 15 eggs, it will take an average of 13 -19 days and the longer the storage length the lower the viability of such embryo. It is well documented that extended storage of eggs reduces fertility and embryonic viability and is also directly proportional with embryonic deaths (Lapao et al 1998   Romao 2010   Karabayir 2010).

Respondents also commented that hatching rate also depended on season. Most of them asserted that chicks’ production was low in dry season in contrast to wet season.  



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Received 9 September 2010; Accepted 22 August 2011; Published 2 December 2011

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