Livestock Research for Rural Development 30 (8) 2018 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

The productivity and management systems of free range local chickens in rural areas of Babati District, Tanzania

L J Marwa, S H Mbaga1, S K Mutayoba1 and B Lukuyu2

Tanzania Livestock Research Institute, P O Box 147 SanyaJuu-Moshi, Tanzania
1 Department of Animal Science and Production, P O Box 3004, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Morogoro Tanzania
2 International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI),P O Box 24384, Kampala Uganda


A study was conducted to assess productivity and management systems of local chickens in rural areas of Babati District, Tanzania. Four villages from four different wards were engaged in the study. Cross-sectional study was employed in gathering information whereby 140 households were interviewed. In addition, four focused group discussions each with an average of 18 farmers were done. The questionnaire and check list were designed to collect information on rural chicken production status, population structure, breeds/strains, feeding, housing, health management, mortality and labour distribution in chicken management within the family. Data were analysed by using SPSS Statistics 21.0 program. The findings showed that 96.5% of the respondents in the study area kept local chickens, at an average of 17 birds per household. Most of the village households (53%) kept their chickens under scavenging mode of production with occasionalsupplementations. Other systems used included semi-scavenging (44%) and full confinement (3%). Labour in chicken management was provided either by man, woman or children depending on the nature of activity. However, majority of routine managements were done by women and children. Moreover, men and children (boys) played major role in poultry house construction and marketing of chickens to far markets. The results suggest a need for innovative approaches that integrate improved nutrition, housing and health management for the farmers to realize economic gains in raising chickens while taking into consideration gender responsibilities within the family.

Key words: constraints, flock structure, labour, production performance, survey


Majority of rural households in Tanzania like in other African countries, keep local chickens as the source of protein and income. Chickens are regarded as one of the enterprises that can be used for poverty alleviation (Mwalusanya et al 2002). They are sold for cash that is used to purchase family food, medicine, agricultural inputs, clothing and other petty needs (Guye 2003).

Local chickens in rural areas are mostly kept under minimal input of resources though they contribute significantly to food security, poverty alleviation and ecologically sound management of natural resources (Guye 2003 and FAO 2010). Free range system is predominant, whilst a few household have adopted semi-intensive system or intensive system. Under scavenging and semi-intensive systems, chickens are rarely fed supplementary feeds. They mainly depend on kitchen left overs and occasionally on grains or their by-products. On the other hand, low number of chickens kept by farmers make it uneconomical for them to construct a separate house for their chickens and therefore in most cases chickens spend night time in human dwelling (Mwalusanya et al 2002).

Despite local chickens contributions to household economy and food security , they are constrained by periodic diseases outbreaks resulting from inadequate biosecurity measures and poor feeding which consequently leads to low growth rate and low egg production with high mortality rates. Losses are mostly observed in young chicks and growers. Alfred et al (2012) reported 53% chick losses in the first six weeks of age mainly due to malnutrition, diseases and exposure to predators. Furthermore the low local chicken productivity is also contributed by the fact that, the birds are accorded low commercial value and farmers do not consider it as a potential investment. Consequently, women and children take an upper hand in managing chickens with less input from men as reported by other studies (Guye 2005; Dinka et al 2010; Olwande et al 2010 and Tsadik et al 2015).

Understanding the constraints of rural local chickens’ production is crucial in designing of strategic interventions to enhance rural poverty alleviation. This study intended to document information on the productivity and management systems of local chickens in villages of Babati, Tanzania as a step towards designing innovative strategies to enhance productivity.

Research Methodology

Study area

This survey was carried out in Babati district. The district is located below the equator between latitude 3 and 4 south and longitude 35 and 36E with a total area of 6,069 km2. The study covered four villages namely, Matufa, Seloto, Galapo and Sabilo within Matufa, Dareda, Galapo, and Dabil wards respectively. The villages are within elevations of 1020-1670 meters above the sea level. Mixed farming is dominant in the study area. Types of livestock kept by farmers are goats, sheep, pigs, poultry and rabbits while crops grown are maize, sorghum, paddy, lablab, soybean, pigeon pea, sesame and sunflower.

Research design

Cross-sectional study was conducted involving different gender and age groups in selected villages. The villages were purposively sampled basing on the population of chickens and easy access for data collection. Households were randomly selected from those that had been keeping chickens for the last three years. The study involved collection of both primary and secondary data. Secondary data were obtained from the district offices while primary data were obtained from farmers and key informants including livestock extension officers at village and district levels as well as village leaders.

Sampling procedures and data collection

A sample of 140 households was drawn for the survey and was computed according to Kothari (2004). Four focused group discussions each with an average of 18 farmers comprising of males and females were done in each village. Different tools and techniques including check list, pair-wise matrix ranking, and direct observations were applied. The general information on rural chickens production and existing constraints were explored. The collected information included chicken production status, population structure, breeds/strains, mortality, labour distribution in chicken management and other management activities or systems particularly housing, feeding, and health.

Data analysis

The surveyed data were coded and analysed by using SPSS Statistics 21.0 program. Descriptive statistics such as mean, range, frequency and percentage were used.

Results and discussion

Table 1. Population, productivity and flock structure of local chickens per household (N=140)








Number of chickens





Number of cocks






Number of hens






Number of chicks






Average eggs per clutch





Clutch per year





Hatchability (%)





Survival of chicks (%)





Disposed birds per year





Distribution and Flock structure of local chickens

The results in the current study showed that most of respondents (96.5%) in the study area kept local chickens while the rest kept the exotic and cross-bred chickens. The average number of chickens per household was 17 birds. number of chickens (30.1%) particularly the

Mortality was reported to reduce a large chicks before attaining maturity (Table 1). The number of chickens per household in this study conforms to observations by Mwalusanya et al (2002) in Tanzania, Olwande et al (2010) in Kenya and Tsadik et al (2015) in Ethiopia. However, the reported number of chickens per house hold was higher than the value reported by Swai et al (2007) and Guni et al (2013) in Tanzania. Moreover, Muchadeyi et al (2004) reported higher number of up to 30 chickens per household in Zimbabwe. The variations in flock sizes within and between the countries is attributable to factors like differences in seasons in which the survey was carried out, ecological zones, occurrence of diseases and other culling influences.

The number of cocks, hens and chicks differed in the population structure of chickens of the study area whereby the cocks were fewer (14.9%) compared to hens (41.3%) and chicks (43.8%) as presented in Table 1. The observed number of cocks was expected since farmers need only a few males for breeding purpose and maintain a reasonable cock:hen ratio. Fewer cocks also prevent cock fighting among themselves. The culling of cocks was mainly for home consumption and sale. More sells were reported to happen during festivals such as Christmas and New Year due to high demands.The hens and pullets were also culled but at a lower rate compared to cocks. The female chickens were mostly culled for slaughter and given to friends and relative for breeding. On average, nine chickens were culled per year. The scenario in this study correspond to the findings reported from other countries including Botswana (Mushi et al 2005), Nigeria (Fayeye et al 2006), and India (Kumaresan et al 2008).

Productivity of local chickens

Uncontrolled breeding with random mating dominated in the study area and the hens were used for natural incubation and brooding of young chicks. The mean clutch size and clutches/hen/year in the study area were 12.9 eggs and 3.5 respectively (Table 1). This implies that the annual total egg production for the local chickens could be around 45 eggs which is consistent with Guni et al (2013) for local chickens in Mbeya, Tanzania. Egg hatchability in this study was 81.5%, which was comparable to the value of 81% reported by Olwande et al (2010) in Kenya, and closer to the value of 83.6% and 83.2 - 92.6% reported by Mwalusanya et al (2002) and Guni et al (2013) respectively for indigenous chickens in Tanzania. The values were however, much lower than those of 90% reported by Kugonza et al (2008) in Uganda. The variations in hatchability within and between the countries is probably contributed by environmental factors such as differences in temperature and humidity (King’ori 2011).

Like in many rural situations hatching and brooding of chicks were entirely done by the brooding hens, and this practice consequently reduced the number of days for laying. The broody hens spent a lot of production time either lying on eggs or taking care of young chicks (Mwalusanya et al 2002, Kugonza et al 2008 and Olwande et al 2010). Though hatchability was higher, the practice of the hen to incubate her own eggs is inefficient means of reproduction and consequently contributes to low off take rate for local chickens.

Nutritional management

The result of this study as summarized in Table 2, shows that majority of respondents (86.4%) were practicing partial supplementation. The supplements used were locally available feedstuffs which included maize grain, maize bran, sorghum, sunflower seedcake and kitchen left overs. No effort was done to nutritionally balance the supplemented feeds and in most cases feeds were provided on an irregular basis depending on their availability.

Among the feed supplements, kitchen left-overs were mostly available throughout the year in all households. Maize bran ranked the first among the cereal by-products being utilized by most farmers as feed supplement while whole grains particularly maize and sorghum ranked the second. With regard to protein sources, fish meal, blood meal, and sunflower seedcake were occasionally used. Nonetheless, the feeding system was still dominated by scavenging and in case of supplementation, farmers were mainly relaying on one or two ingredients. This observation is consistent with what was reported by Halima (2007) and Dinka et al (2010) in Ethiopia as well as Mlambo (2011) in Malawi. Lack of technical know-how on feed formulations and higher cost of formulated feeds are among the reasons which caused farmers to feed chickens uncompounded feeds (Tsadiket al 2015). However, the study by Rashid et al (2004) and Goromela et al (2007) for local chickens in Bangladesh and Tanzania respectively showed that the nutrient concentrations of scavengeable feed resources consumed by scavenging chickens are below recommended levels for optimum productivity. This ultimately reduces the productivity in terms of growth rate and egg production. The situation becomes even worse during the dry season. Poor nutrition especially to chicks is likely to increase susceptibility to diseases and hence contribute to higher mortalities observed in this age class.

Table 2. Nutritional management systems of local chickens
and supplementation routine (N=140)



Nutritional management













Supplementation routine
















Housing and health management systems

The results indicate that only 17.1% of the respondents kept their chickens in purposively built shelter while the majority (82.8%) provided an alternative means of shelter at night in human dwellings (60.7%) or in the kitchen (22.1%) as summarized in Table 3. This gives a picture of indigenous chicken production under extensive management system and it comply with the findings by Swai et al (2007), Dinka et al (2010), Olwande et al (2010) and Mlambo et al 2011 for local chickens in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi respectively.

Table 3. Housing management systems (N=140)

Housing pattern






Share with owners house



Chicken shelter






It was revealed from the study that, keeping chickens at residential houses was one of the strategies to prevent the chickens from both thieves and predators. However, absence of specialized shelter for chickens exposes the birds to bad weather condition, diseases and predations consequently leading to high mortality rates whereby chicks tend to be mostly affected. Similar contention was given by Dinka et al (2010), Olwande et al (2010) and Mlambo et al (2011).

With regard to disease management, the result showed that most of the farmers (82.1%) were not vaccinating their chickens against common viral diseases such as Newcastle diseases, Gumboro (Infectious bursa disease) and Fowl pox (Table 4). Among the reasons is poor knowledge on disease prevention, high cost of veterinary inputs and poor accessibility to extension services. It is also likely that farmers are reluctant to invest on chicken as they put less value in chicken compared to large animals such as cattle and goats. The findings of this study conform to other studies addressing the local chickens in rural areas including Mushi et al (2005) in Botswana,Swai et al (2007) in Tanzania and Olwande et al (2010) in Kenya.

Table 4. Health management systems N=(140)

Vaccination options



Vaccination practice



Absence of vaccination






Access to veterinary services



Inaccessibility to veterinary services






Roles of household members in chicken management

Labour in local chicken management in the study area was provided either by man, woman or children depending on the nature of activity. Less time was used in chicken related activities due to small flock which implies less competition with other production activities. However, majority of routine management were done by women and children (Table 5). Moreover, men and children (boys) played major role in poultry house construction and marketing of chickens to far markets. It is also very common that buyers visit the homestead and this lessens the additional cost of transporting chicken to far markets. Many studies have also reported that in rural areas, women play major role in the management of chickens (Guèye 2005, Dinka et al 2010, Olwande et al 2010, Mlambo 2011 and Tsadiket al 2015). This gender responsibility implies that support and delivery of local chicken technologies should be directed to mainly women for sustainable improvement of the local chicken sector.

Table 5. Role of household members in local chicken rearing


Household involvement




Provision of kitchen waste




Provision of other supplemental feeds




Provision of water




Chicken house construction




Chicken selling




Chicken owning




*** = Higher level of involvement in the activity; ** = Medium level of involvement in the
activity; * = Lower level of involvement in the activity; - = non-involvement in the activity.



The authors highly acknowledge the financial support from Africa RISING program through International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)-Nairobi Kenya. The support and cooperation from the local chicken farmers, district and village extension staffs as well as the Babati Local Government Authority is highly appreciated.


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Received 4 December 2017; Accepted 26 June 2018; Published 1 August 2018

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