Livestock Research for Rural Development 26 (3) 2014 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Village guinea fowl (Numidia meleagris) production systems in Nasarawa State, north central Nigeria: flock characteristics, husbandry and productivity

A Yakubu, I S Musa-Azara* and H S Haruna*

Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Shabu-Lafia Campus, P.M.B. 135 Lafia, Nasarawa State, Nigeria.
* Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture, Lafia, Nasarawa State, Nigeria.


Within the livestock sector, village poultry are often the most commonly owned type of livestock and they are more frequently owned than larger livestock species by resource-poor households. The present study was conducted to investigate the flock characteristics, husbandry and productivity of village guinea fowl (Numidia Meleagris) in Nasarawa State, Nigeria. Data were gathered using a semi-structured questionnaire survey of 117 households cutting across the three agricultural zones of the state.   


The mean number of guinea fowl owned per household between the study zones was higher in Nasarawa West and Nasarawa Central compared to the Southern Agricultural zone (9.94, 7.36 and 6.29, respectively). The overall cock:hen ratio of the village guinea fowl flocks was 1:2.5, depicting excess breeding males. Majority of the households purchased their foundation stock from the market. While approximately 78% of the respondents provided partial enclosure for their birds, 79% of the households claimed to offer partial feed supplements done in both wet and dry seasons. Women and children were the predominant providers of care for guinea fowls. The mean number of eggs per hen per year was 78.7, of which 56.1 eggs were hatched. Newcastle disease (ND) was the most prevalent disease while ethno veterinary services were used as substitute for conventional veterinary support by 28.2% of the households. About 72% of the village birds were sold at the adult stage and the priority purpose of keeping guinea fowls was mainly for cash (44.4%) and home consumption (26.5%). Losses incurred were due to factors such as poor health care, poor housing, poor feeding and incidence of predation and theft. The effective population size (Ne) and inbreeding rate (ΔF) of 493 and 0.00101 (0.1%) obtained across the three agricultural zones indicated that the guinea fowl populations are not at the risk of extinction. Therefore, better management strategies geared towards increasing the profitability of the village guinea fowl enterprise should be employed.

Key words: indigenous guinea fowls, inbreeding, management, Nigeria, performance


Most of the developing countries are found in the tropics (Ball 2003), which are currently experiencing high increase in human population, dramatic urbanization and monetarization of economies. The dominant issues to address therefore relate to reducing under nutrition, enhancing food security, combating rural poverty and achieving rates and patterns of agricultural growth that would contribute to overall economic development and environmental protection. Contribution from sustainable increase in livestock production would therefore be desirable in order to meet the demands of the human population on livestock populations and their products. The World Bank has estimated that it will be necessary to increase meat production by about 80 percent between 2000 and 2030 (FAO, 2011). Poultry production plays a significant role in the economic and social-life of the resource-poor households, contributing to cheap source of animal proteins and cash income (Magothe et al 2012; Yakubu et al 2013). When agroecological issues and the demographics of the human population are considered, village poultry often rank highly in terms of being an existing resource whose productivity can be increased with only a modest input (Copland and Alders, 2009). In sub-Saharan Africa, there are several species of poultry (Yakubu et al 2012; Yakubu 2013) mainly represented by domestic indigenous chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus), guinea fowl (Numida meleagris), duck (Cairina sp.) and turkey (Meleagris gallopavo); their distribution varies from one region to the other depending on both the physical and social environment.  


For third world villages, the guinea fowl could become much more valuable than it is today (Saina et al 2005; Fajemilehin 2010; Moreki et al 2010). The bird thrives under semi-intensive conditions, forages well, and requires little attention. It retains many of its wild ancestors characteristics: it grows, reproduces, and yields well in both cool and hot conditions. Compared to chickens, guinea fowls are economically more suitable to tropical regions because of their adaptation to traditional breeding (Dahouda et al 2007). The guinea fowl potential to increase meat and egg production among low-income countries should therefore be given greater attention (Rhissa and Bleich 2009; Madzimure et al 2011). The birds are widely known in Africa (Solomon et al 2012), and occur in a few areas of Asia, but they show promise for use throughout all of Asia and Latin America. Strains newly created for egg and meat production in Europe-notably in France- show excellent characteristics for industrial-scale production (Nahashon et al 2006 and 2011). Effective management of farm animal genetic resources (FAnGR) requires comprehensive knowledge of the breeds’ characteristics, including data on population size and structure, geographical distribution and production environment (Tixier-Boichard et al 2009). A number of databases have been established to collect information on poultry breeds; however, they are not as comprehensive and are often outdated (Groeneveld et al 2010). Information on guinea fowl production is necessary in order to identify opportunities to exploit and promote guinea fowl production and marketing by smallholder farmers and enhance income generation, ensure food security and contribute to poverty alleviation in smallholder farming communities. Family poultry are as important to the rural areas as are industrial poultry to the urban areas. Under the present circumstances in Nigeria, research and development that increases productivity of family poultry by 10% would contribute far more poultry products than a 10% increase in industrial poultry, which would require far more capital investment (Sonaiya 2009 ).  


Although, guinea fowl production provides one of the best alternatives for the rural populace to access meat and eggs as well as potential for revenue generation through sales of live fowl and/or eggs; to date, there are no detailed studies conducted targeting comprehensive description of the flock characteristics and associated performances of smallholder guinea fowl production in Nasarawa State, north central Nigeria, once hit by the outbreaks of avian influenza (Yakubu and Musa 2008). Therefore, the study aimed at evaluating the flock characteristics and some production parameters of village guinea fowls while proffering solutions to the associated constraints. 

Materials and Methods

Sampling procedure


A cross sectional survey was carried out in the three agricultural zones of Nasarawa State, north central Nigeria namely, Nasarawa South, Nasarawa Central and Nasarawa West as delineated by the Nasarawa Agricultural Development Programme (NADP). Nasarawa South comprises five local government areas (LGAs) namely, Lafia, Doma, Obi, Awe and Keana. Nasarawa Eggon, Akwanga, Kokona and Wamba LGAs make up Nasarawa Central while the Western zone is composed of Keffi, Nasarawa, Toto and Karu LGAs, respectively. A double-stage sampling procedure was adopted in selecting the respondents (village guinea fowl producers). Three villages were randomly selected from each local government area making the three agricultural zones. This corresponded to 15, 12 and 12 villages in the Southern, Central and Western zones, respectively. Three households were randomly sampled from each of the selected villages making a total of 117 respondents. Sampling was facilitated using the household listing record of the 2006 national population census.  


Data collection


Data collection was effected through the use of well structured questionnaires (rapid assessment tool) administered on the selected individuals between March and June, 2012. Detailed information was obtained on the flock structure, productivity, management practices, health and sale of stock. Problems prevailing in guinea fowl production of the study areas, and opportunities for improving poultry production were also assessed. 


Statistical analysis


Data on flock composition and performance were analysed using the General Linear Model (GLM) procedure of Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) while others were expressed in percentages. Furthermore, rate of inbreeding in the population was calculated for each of the three agricultural zones. Effective population size for a randomly mated population and the rate of inbreeding (ΔF) were calculated as described by Falconer and Mackay (1996) and adopted by Yakubu et al (2013). SPSS (2010) statistical software was employed in the analysis. 

Results and discussion

The least squares means and overall mean flock composition by agricultural zone are presented in Table 1. There was a significant difference (P<0.05) in the number of guinea fowl owned per household between the study zones, as this was higher in Nasarawa West and Nasarawa Central compared to the Southern Agricultural zone (9.94, 7.36 and 6.29, respectively). The mean number of breeding males varied significantly (P<0.05) among the different agricultural zones, with the highest value (2.22) recorded for Nasarawa West. However, the mean number of breeding females per household was not significantly (P>0.05) different among the zones. The overall male to female (cock: hen) ratio of village guinea fowl flocks was 1:2.5. The high values recorded for the parameters in Nasarawa West agriculture zone indicate the better disposition of the households to guinea fowl rearing  The present overall mean value on flock size (7.74) is comparable to the 8±6 reported for indigenous guinea fowls in Zimbabwe (Kusina et al 2012). The low sex ratio on the farms studied is an indication that the breeding system is not controlled by the farmers. There is a need therefore, to encourage the guinea fowl producers to retain more breeding hens in their flocks to increase the production, and hence, the profit level of their farms.

Table 1. Least square means of flock composition of indigenous guinea fowls by Nasarawa Ur  agricultural zone

Flock structure






Flock size













1.16 b

1.53 b

3 a




1.36 b

0.86 b

2.22 a















SEM= Standard error of means

Means in the same row for each parameter with different superscripts are significantly different (P<0.05).

A considerable number of the farmers (45.3%) acquired their initial breeding stock through purchase from markets (Table 2). Different forms of housing structures were provided for the village guinea fowls, and this depended greatly on available resources. However, partial enclosure (77.8%) was the most adopted housing method. Most of the guinea fowl farmers (79.5%) offered partial feed supplementation to their birds while about 0.85% and 19.7% of them provided full and zero supplementation, respectively (Table 3). Maize, sorghum, millet (or brans), sesame (beniseeds) and kitchen leftovers were offered to the birds in the morning before they were released to scavenge. The quantities given as supplementary feed, however, were based on the individual farmers’ judgment and varied from one household to the other, which is consistent with the report of Nyoni and Masika (2012). The scavengable feed resource base does not meet the nutrient requirements of indigenous birds. There is need therefore, to improve the nutrition so as to increase the productivity of the birds (Yakubu, 2010). Feed supplementation was done (71.7%) in both seasons (wet and dry) of the year. It was mainly the responsibility of mother and children (41.9%) to feed and offer water to village guinea fowls while a lesser role (6.84%) was played by the father. This is congruous to the submission of Gueye (1998) who reported that approximately 70% of guinea fowl were under the control of women in rural Sub-Saharan Africa. The mating system of the village guinea flocks was indiscriminate, which is a characteristic feature of smallholder village bird production system where the farmer had virtually no control on the breeding system as a result of the scavenging nature of the birds. 

Table 2. Foundation stock and housing management of indigenous guinea fowls


                            Number  (%)

a. Source of foundation stock

i. Inherited

                           9 (7.69)

ii. Purchase from market

                          53 (45.3)

iii. Purchase from neighbour

                         33 (28.2)

iv. Gift

                         11 (9.40)

v. Borrowed

                         9 (7.69)

vi. Others

                         2 (1.71)

b. Types of housing

i. Partial enclosure

                        91 (77.8)

ii. Complete enclosure

                        11 (9.40)

iii. Zero housing

                        15 (12.8)

Table 3. Nutrition and breeding management of indigenous guinea fowls


 Number / (%)

a. Feed supplementation

i. Zero supplementation

                        23 (19.7)

ii. Partial supplementation

                        93 (79.5)

iii. Full supplementation

                        1 (0.85)

b. Season of feed supplementation

i. Wet only

                         9 (7.50)

ii. Dry only

                         25 (20.8)

iii. Wet and dry

                         86 (71.7)

c. Members of household responsible for feeding and offering water

i. Father only

                          8 (6.84)

ii. Mother only

                        20 (17.1)

iii. Children only

                        15 (12.8)

iv. Father and children only

                        25 (21.4)

v. Mother and children only

                        49 (41.9)

d. Breeding control

i. Yes

                        0   (0)

ii. No

                        117  (100)

The performance indices of the village guinea fowls in the three agricultural zones of Nasarawa state are shown in Table 4. The overall average value (78.7) of the total number of eggs laid per year in the present study fell below the value of 89±50 eggs reported for the same species by Kusina et al (2012). The present values on hatchability are comparable to the 72.9% hatchability reported in Benin by Dahouda et al (2007) and 74.3% recorded in Burkina Faso (Sanfo et al 2012). They were however higher than the 64% reported by Saina et al (2005) for birds in Zimbabwe. Mortality rate was higher among keets compared to growers, cocks and hens. The problem of mortality could be attributed to the susceptibility of guinea fowl keets to adverse weather conditions, diseases and parasites, and poor management. Guinea fowl keet survival is essential for successful guinea fowl production (Saina et al 2005). A remedy to curtail losses could be through the provision of proper brooding facilities for keets, thereby enhancing survival of keets. The present system is quite productive in relation to the very low input levels and this is underlined by McArdle (1972), who states that the net output from poultry rearing is higher in scavenging systems compared to commercial systems and the scavenging flock is not in competition with humans for feed which is, of course, true if only the input-output relation is considered (Tadelle et al 2003).

Table 4. Least square means of performance indices of indigenous guinea fowls by Nasarawa agricultural zone

Flock structure






No of eggs laid/hen/year






No of eggs hatched/hen/year






No of Keet mortality/year






No of Grower’s mortality/year






No of Cock mortality/year






No of Hen’s mortality/year






SEM= Standard error of means

Means in the same row for each parameter with different superscripts are different at P<0.05

Newcastle disease (ND was the most important and prevalent disease (63.2%) in the study area (Table 5). This was followed by Coccidiosis (18%), Helminthosis (10.3%) and ectoparasites (8.55%). Local herbs such as Mahogany for Newcastle disease, Madachi (neem tree leaves) for treating Coccidiosis and Mahogany and Onions (Albasa) for treating Helminths were employed by some of the farmers. These herbs were similar to those reported by Yakubu (2010) in village chickens in the same study area. Some farmers used alternative remedies to control parasitic infestations and treat diseases but they did not have any guinea fowl husbandry education which may have led to mismanagement of flocks. Similar reports were made by Nyoni and Masika (2012) in village chickens in Ethiopia. According to Faouzi et al (2012), many traditional remedies were used by the farmers to treat sick birds and that the use of such inappropriate treatments may be attributed to illiteracy, poverty, lack of knowledge of basic health and management practices, and lack of institutional interventions. However, information in Nigeria on the use of Ethno-Veterinary Medicine (EVM) in village birds is very limited.  EVM can play a significant role in grassroots development, which seeks to empower people by enhancing the use of their own knowledge and resources (Mwale and Masika 2009). It will be therefore, imperative for researchers to validate these EVM to ascertain their efficacy and document the findings for current and future use (Nyoni and Masika 2012). Snakes, dogs, cats and hawks accounted for 27.4, 20.5, 18 and 16.2% of the common predators of birds in the surveyed agricultural zones.

Table 5. Health hazards/management of indigenous guinea fowls


Number (%)

(a) Common diseases/pests of flock



 21 (18)

Newcastle disease

74 (63.2)


10 (8.55)


12 (10.3)

(b) Access to veterinary personnel



12 (10.3)


105 (89.7)

(c) Application of local herbs



33 (28.2)


 84 (71.8)

(d) Common predators of birds



32 (27.4)


24 (20.5)


21 (18)


19 (16.2)


10 (8.55)


7 (5.98)


4 (3.42)

(d) Season of highest mortality



21   (17.5)


34   (28.3)


65   (54.2)

Respondents from all zones surveyed in this study mentioned a variety of reasons for keeping chickens, with the majority of households offering them for sale, especially at adulthood (Table 6). Home consumption was another good reason why village guinea fowls are kept. The marketing of guinea fowls at the adult stage could be attributed to consumers’ preference, easy marketability and the higher price they attract. The present finding is contrary to the report of Yakubu (2010) in chickens in the same study area, where birds were mainly consumed by the households.

Table 6. Disposal/sale of stock



a. Stage of disposal



6 (5.13)


27 (23.1)


84 (71.8)

b. Reason for disposal


Cash need

52 (44.4)


11 (9.40)

Home consumption

31 (26.5)

Festival /Sacrifice

15 (12.8)


8 (6.84)

The survey showed several stumbling-blocks to Guinea fowl production in the study area (Table 7). The major constraints reported by the farmers included poor health, poor housing, inadequate feeding, problem of predation, theft and labour. Poor feed supply is a serious problem in rural areas because supplementation does not cover the animals’ nutrient requirements (Dahouda et al 2007). In guinea fowl, like other domestic birds, prevention is better than cure and disease can be avoided a great deal by good sanitary conditions and adequate feeding (Ikani and Dafwang 2004). Prophylactic and sanitary programs must be considered, focussing on keets to prevent diseases such as Newcastle and intestinal parasites.


Community-based poultry health management (CBM), a strategy for village poultry improvement based on the installment of “poultry interest groups” in experimental villages, may help to improve village poultry's survival rate (Sodjinou et al 2012). This can be achieved through governments and development agencies who improve village poultry survival rates by investing in the dissemination of information regarding best husbandry management practices through approaches that rely on the community such as CBM. Msoffe et al (2010) argued that the principles of disease bio-security require that all the farmers whose poultry co-mingles take collective action to prevent diseases in the village flock. In the same vein, Rodríguez et al (2011) reported that vaccination improves the survival rate of chickens. Villagers are well aware of the losses of both adult and young birds to predators and the difficulty of locating eggs if a hen happens to be laying in the surrounding jungle. The need for appropriate housing is therefore easily understood and the poultry housing can be constructed from cheap locally made materials. Regular feed supply has to be provided, particularly to keets that require a high-protein diet in the starting period (during the first 4 weeks).

Table 7. Problems of village guinea fowl production




38 (32.5)


22 (18.8)


27 (23.1)


4 (3.42)


9 (7.69)


15 (12.8)


2 (1.71)

The effective population size (Ne) and the rate of inbreeding (ΔF) varied from one agricultural zone to another (Table 8). The effective population size (Ne) is the number of individuals from a population randomly selected and randomly mated that would expect to have the same rate of inbreeding as the population itself (Lariviere et al 2011). This concept is a key parameter widely used as a criterion for characterizing the risk status of livestock breeds (Duchev et al 2006). This is basically due to the direct relationship between Ne and the rate of inbreeding, fitness and the amount of genetic variation lost because of random genetic drift (Caballero and Toro 2000), which makes it useful to infer the future of genetic stock. Ne and ΔF values of 493 and 0.00101 (0.1%) obtained across the three agricultural zones are indications that the present guinea fowl populations are not at the brink of extinction. However, the present values were only obtained for a specific period, which are subject to change from one generation to another.

Table 8. Effective population size and inbreeding rates of guinea fowls in Nasarawa state, Nigeria




Nm + Nf

Nm x Nf



Nasarawa South







Nasarawa Central







Nasarawa West
















The authors are extremely grateful to the students of the College of Agriculture, Lafia who assisted in data collection. We are also appreciative of the maximum cooperation accorded us by the guinea fowl keepers.


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Received 27 October 2013; Accepted 14 February 2014; Published 1 March 2014

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