Thursday, September 27, 2012

Small flocks feed India

This article appeared on World Poultry. It documents the importance of small farms in feeding large populations. Thanks to Frank Reese of Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch for bringing it to my attention.
Backyard farmers are still the most important providers of food in India. An important part of the poultry meat and eggs consumed in the country comes from these small scale producers. In the production process they make use of a variety of native breeds.
By Dr K. Ravvi Kumarr , Director, Central Poultry Development Organisation, Chandigarh, India
Rural poultry farming in India contributes to about 40% of the national egg production. The state sector has been taking care of backyard poultry units and the capital requirement of its co-operatives. Backyard farming has over the years contributed to a great extent to the agrarian economy of India. In the same way, rural backyard poultry production plays a vital role in the rapidly growing economy. It provides livelihood security to the family in addition to securing the availability of food. Unemployed youth and women can also earn an income through poultry farming.
Photo caption:  Aseel meat is highly valued by rural and urban dwellers, rich and poor alike.
Indian native breeds are well known for their tropical adaptability and disease resistance, while their colour plumage helps in protecting themselves against predators. The first priority of today’s rural poultry farmer is not only having birds which lay just more eggs but also birds which early lay eggs with an optimum size as well as birds which grow to an optimum body weight and show a good feed efficiency. Producers hereby have a choice out of a number of native breeds.
Aseel, the woman’s choice
The Aseel has a short and broad breast, straight back and a close setting strong tail root. Its outstanding feature is its thick and long neck, long and slender face without feathers, short beak, short and small comb, ear lobes and the absence of wattles. Its legs are long, strong and straight and the bird has an upright and majestic gait. It has been traditionally bred for its meat with the average weight of a two year old adult male ranging between 3-4 kg and the average weight of a hen is 2-3kg. With 36-60 eggs laid per year; the Aseel is not a prolific layer. The hen matures and begins to lay eggs between 5-6 months of age, and lays 3-4 clutches per year, with each clutch having 10-12 eggs. Women are primarily interested in producing live birds, and not eggs. Studies have indicated, 95-100% of the total annual eggs laid by a bird are kept to hatch. Of the live birds that hatch and survive, between 60-70% are sold, 15-20% are consumed at home and the remaining 10-15% are kept as breeding stock to increase the flock.
The Cornish inherited from the Aseel its meaty, well-muscled body, sturdy frame and yellow skin and legs. Aseel meat is highly valued by rural and urban dwellers, rich and poor alike, with prices per kg live weight being 50-100% higher than the broiler because of its superior taste and texture. Moreover with demand outstripping supply, indigenous poultry meat is hard to access and is a niche commodity. CPDO (NR) Chandigarh supplied a significant number of Aseel cross in and around Punjab.
Kadaknath is all black
The Kadaknath is an Indian breed of chicken, which is local to the Madhya Pradesh area. Here it is known as “Kali masi” (“fowl having black flesh”). The Kadaknath is popular mainly for its adaptability, and the well-tasting black meat, which is believed to infuse vigour. Kadaknath is the only Black Meat chicken (BMC) breed in India. It is a native bird reared mainly by the tribal communities of Bhil and Bhilala in the Jhabua and Dhar districts of Western Madhya Pradesh. Its colour stems from the deposition of melanin pigment.

The commonly available varieties of Kadaknath are jet-black, pencilled and golden. The bird is very popular mainly due to its adaptability to the local environment, disease resistance, meat quality, texture and flavour. The Kadaknath eggs are light brown. The day-old chicks are brownish to black with irregular dark stripes over the back. The adult plumage varies from silver and gold spangled to bluish black without any spangling.

The skin, beak, shanks, toes and soles of feet are slate-like. The comb, wattles and tongue are purple. Most of the internal organs also show intense black colouration which is also seen in skeleton muscle, tendons, nerves and blood. The meat is repulsive to look at but delicious. The weight of cocks is about 1.5 kg and that of hens is 1.0 kg. The hens are medium layers and they are not good broodies. The CPDO (NR) Chandigarh created awareness for the Kadaknath in the north, where many small farmers have been supplied Kadaknath to take up rural poultry.
Dual purpose Naked Neck
The Naked Neck is a breed of chicken that is naturally devoid of feathers on its neck and vent. Naked Neck is a dual-purpose utility chicken. They are very good foragers and are immune to most diseases. Naked Neck roosters carry a single comb, and the neck and head often become very bright red from increased sun exposure.
This breed has approximately half the feathers of other chickens, making it resistant to hot weather and easier to pluck. They are preferred in India not only for their relatively good egg production but mostly for their excellent meat quality coming from the foraging of these birds, scratching for food regardless of hot or cold weather. They became strong, resistant to diseases and the costs of keeping them were very low. The birds are capable of tolerating the tropical stress. It lays the largest sized eggs among all the Indian native breeds of chicken.
Frizzle fowl
Frizzle fowl is described as a heavy breed, having a single comb, is clean legged, and has the size of the Plymouth Rock. They come in large fowl and bantams; in addition, frizzle can also be a version of any recognised breed, such as frizzled Japanese, frizzled Cochin. They are kept mostly for their ornamental value.
Frizzles actually makes good multipurpose chickens with the cockerels reaching a very good weight in 7-8 weeks and hens are reliable layers. Frizzle plumage helps in fast heat dissipation due to which birds are better adapted to the tropical climate especially the amid zones. Frizzle fowl doesn’t require vaccination. It is a dual purpose bird suitable for backyard production.
Synthetic species
Krishna J fowl was a replica of indigenous fowl adopted into the family poultry keeping scavenger system for high egg productivity and acceptability as meat fowl. Krishna J is basically a carried sex-linked dwarf gene and has been subjected twice to crossing with coloured broiler to improve its body size than crossed with the light coloured breeds of high egg productivity to sustain egg production.
Kalyani DK is a synthetic hybrid prototype which resemble indigenous fowl in body conformation, and has multi coloured plumage, dull shanks, pink skin and single combs. It has generated new opportunities for poultry production in rural areas. Satpuda Desi chickens were introduced in 2002. They have multi colour feathers, dull bluish shanks, pink skin and a single comb. It has an indigenous fowl body confirmation for meat and egg production. The Satpuda Male Desi attained 1.0 kg body weight in 8-9 weeks with 2.45kg feed. Satpura – Desi chickens, have been able to capitalise on its acceptance as an indigenous breed in the local meat markets.
Well adapted birds
These indigenous poultry birds are well adapted to harsh Indian environment of free range and they produce egg and meat at the least possible cost. The birds require no scientific feeding, health care, housing and management and thus make the indigenous birds suitable for backyard poultry farming. The raising of synthetic hybrid replicas of indigenous chicken ensures more monetary return than the traditional Desi fowl.
A reasonable livelihood is earned by small scale poultry farmers, with these birds. The bird is acceptable to the local inhabitants since it suits their socio-cultural beliefs. These small scale producers together produce more food than large farmers. They do not have the headache from the massive problems that go with intensification practised by larger producers. The crowded conditions of intensive industrial poultry meat production is contributing to more frequent and dangerous recombinant pathogens, which are not seen in backyard production. On the other hand intensive poultry production systems are beyond the reach of the common man and poor farmers in India.
Indian terminology.
Jungli Murgi - Jungli murgi (Gallus Gallus) Red Jungle fowl is progenitor of the domestic chicken. Jungle fowl commonly known as Jungli Murgha is facing threat of extinction.
Broiler - The term broiler goes back to the turn of century and literally means a young chicken that can be boiled, fried, baked or roasted.
Kuroiler - (Kegg+Broiler) Chicken which is custom bred chicken for small farmers. A female kuroiler gives 200 eggs in 18th month cycle; a male kuroiler reaches 1kg weight in 6-7 weeks. Kuroiler adult male weights maximum 2-2.5 kgs. They survive on scavenging, foraging and remainings from kitchens. Kegg refers to Kegg farms Gurgaon.
Croiler - It is a mediocre broiler breed cross between broiler and layer as higher demand and higher market return.
Desi chicken - Desi chicken is good brooder for ages and efficient mothers. They are known for adaptability to local climate and geographical condition. Desi chickens with hold on their own in low or no input conditions. They vary greatly in their plumage pattern, comb type and body confirmation.
by Dr K. Ravvi Kumarr , Director, Central Poultry Development Organisation Sep 13, 2012 last update: Sep 13, 201

Monday, September 17, 2012

Not always music to their ears...

Bill Morem, columnist at the San Luis Obispo Tribune, asked for some information about roosters for his column:

Dick Winiker and his neighbors are fit to be tied. For the last few months a rooster in their south Morro Bay neighborhood around Piney Way and Driftwood has been letting loose its (self-imagined) glorious crows morning, noon and night — sometimes twice a minute, other times every two minutes. Call it a case of a cock-a-doodle-don’t.
Now, in my quest to flesh out all things fair and fowl with regard to topics in this space, I contacted one of the world’s leading authorities on chickens, Christine Heinrichs, who happens to live in Cambria.
Christine writes books, articles and travels widely in pursuit of expanding consciousness à la chicken. Here’s what she had to say: “Chickens are descended from Junglefowl, which live in Southeast Asian jungles. Roosters crow to attract mates, to warn other roosters that they are there, to distract predators from the broody hen and chicks on the ground.
“With domestication, this has become less functional. Some roosters do crow all night. I remember talking on the phone to a friend back East, where it was after midnight. I could hear one of his roosters crowing over the phone. ‘Oh, it’s because I turned the light on and he can see it through the window.’ ”
Great. We can now add voyeur to a rooster’s list of testosterone-fueled kinks and quirks.
“There are chicken breeds known for the long and beautiful crows of the roosters, called, appropriately, Long Crowers,” Christine adds. “Denizli Long Crowers are reputed to crow as long as 25 or 30 seconds.
“The crowing rooster,” she notes, “is an important Christian symbol (as it’s been from Animism to Zoroastrianism), cited by Christ to Peter in Mark 14:30 and fulfilled in 14:72: ‘Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.’ ”
“We haven’t always had alarm clocks to wake us up,” Christine explains. “The rooster’s crow was an important farm sound, calling the farmer to his chores. However, it is very annoying to have a rooster who crows all night. When do they sleep? The fate of such birds is usually the stew pot.”
Author David Feldman says ornithologists believe crowing is a marking of territory, much like a dog hiking its leg only noisier and easier to clean up after.
That’s slim satisfaction for Winiker and neighbors in Morro Bay. One neighbor, in making a complaint to the city, said he and his wife had to buy a “sound machine” to block the incessant sound of crowing through the night. Winiker has recorded the crows and played them for Morro Bay City Council members (one tape caught the rooster crowing every 18 seconds for 3 minutes).
The city has received at least four complaints; the Morro Bay Police Department has been notified of the nuisance. Suffice it to say, patience is not a virtue in the world of the sleep deprived.
And here’s the deal: Any rooster older than 4 months old is pretty much banned from living within the confines of the county’s incorporated and unincorporated cities and towns — including Morro Bay.
Under the city’s Municipal Code 7.16.030, “No rooster over 4 months old shall be kept on any premises in the city, unless the premises involved is operating on a commercial basis (it’s not) or is on an agricultural zone parcel in conformance with existing zoning regulations and state statutes governing such commercial operation (it isn’t).”
What makes this code violation so odd is that you’d think the city’s police department, or at least its code enforcement officer, would step in to enforce it. Well, the city has decided to pass the cluck to County Animal Services.
So, the question arises: How many more sleepless nights must the taxpayers of this south Morro Bay neighborhood endure while the crow must go on? It’s beginning to feel like a case of fowl indifference, of municipal cock-a-doodle-don’t bother us.
Bill Morem can be reached at or at 781-7852.

Read more here:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Nash Farm

While visiting Texas in July, we found Nash Farm in Grapevine. It’s a living history site, not yet fully developed. The site itself is open every day, but there aren’t any interpreters. The house was closed the day we were there, so we didn’t get to go inside. We looked through the windows, though. It’s furnished with antiques that reflect its history, around 1859.

They keep a flock of Speckled Sussex there. The Nash Family kept about 50 chickens and sold around 200 dozen eggs a year. They might have kept Dominiques and Dorkings back then. Speckled Sussex are another good choice, with their dappled feathers and eager foraging. They might have come along with the English settlers who brought Hereford cattle to the West.

This picture of the actual chicken coop is from 1880. Today the coop and its residents looks like this.

 Someone has taken quite a bit of care to make it attractive, functional and accessible. Thanks, Nash Farm, for preserving your history and keeping this lovely flock.

 The nest boxes have a hinged roof that allows eggs to be collected easily. No coop entry necessary!
 The flock has two roosters and about a dozen hens.

The glass walls on the nest boxes allow visitors to see the hens at work. The hen doesn't seem to mind this loss of her privacy. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

ABA 2012 Yearbook

My American Bantam Association 2012 Yearbook arrived recently. What a treasure chest! I'll pick this up throughout the year.

It's got all the relevant documents that I don't need every day, but occasionally come up: the constitution and by-laws, the Code of Conduct. Every now and again a question comes up that sends me back to the documents to find official policy. All in one place, easy to find.

All ABA judges are listed, with mailing addresses. Many are listed with photos, phone numbers and emails. What a resource for a poultry writer who often needs to confirm details of showing or breed requirements! The Standard has it in print, but the judges can interpret what it means and what they see in the show ring. It makes it easy for clubs to locate judges for their shows, too.

The ads play a similar role. Finding an expert on a breed isn't always easy. It's a sure thing that the people who advertise in the Yearbook are serious about what they're doing. Contact information, easy to find. They even index the breed clubs, so you can turn right to the page you need.

Karen Unrath has done a super job of selecting articles on subjects that help bantam breeders refine their breeding and show their best. This year, Dr. Don Monke has written about The Development of the White Bearded Japanese Bantam, followed by a detailed explanation of The Genetics of Muffs and Beards. Where else would we find this kind of documentation? Thanks Don, and thanks Karen for sharing this with the membership.

Special to Don: Thanks for sharing your beautiful photo of a White Wyandotte with me for publication in the 2013 edition of How to Raise Chickens. That's the kind of chicken Robert Frost memorialized in his poem, A Blue Ribbon at Amesbury, and the poem is now illustrated with Don's Wyandotte in the new edition which will be available in Spring 2013. I'm glad to see that Frost's poem has inspired Howard J. Kogan to poetic expression. I hope he found it in my book!

In short, this Yearbook is indispensable. Thanks, Karen and the ABA for this service. Get yours by joining ABA.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Festival of the Animals

Buchanan Art Center will hold its annual Festival of the Animals day September 29th, 10am - 3 pm. Rainbow Tracks 4-H will host the event in the Buchanan Commons area. This picture is from the first festival last year.

Leaders are encouraging the members to bring all kinds of animals. This club has lots of rabbits, goats and cavies as well as chickens. Dogs will be plentiful, at the dog groomer and dog treat booths.

Leader Sue Glossinger reminds them, "People will want to pet and touch the animals, so be sure the animals will let them."

Sounds like a fun day and a great opportunity for kids who don't have an animal in their lives now to see some. Thanks to the Art Center for holding this event!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Coastal Chickens

Pat Foreman reminded me that she brought her Buff Orpington hen Oprah to visit the Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas when she came to visit last year. Here she is with one of the interpretive signs.
 And here she is with Oprah!
It was a windy day --- as it usually is out there. I was bundled up in my elephant seal docent jacket. I blog about my experiences out there.

Pat and I also visited a community garden in Santa Barbara. Get your Have You Hugged Your Chicken Today t-shirt from Backyard Poultry magazine.