Today, poultry is one of the fastest growing segments of the agricultural sector in India. Poultry plays an important role in the Indian economy and is an important sub-sector of livestock. Backyard poultry production is an age-old practice in rural India. 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. 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.
There is plenty of evidence to demonstrate the role of rural backyard poultry husbandry in elevating the food and nutrition security of the poorest households and reducing the livelihood insecurity (Otte, 2006). Backyard poultry is a potent tool for the upliftment of poor because it requires hardly any infrastructure set-up. Besides income generation and poverty reduction, rural backyard poultry can provide better nutrition in the form of valuable animal protein. Impressive growth has been achieved in the intensive poultry farming, but the rural poultry sector lack behind rather stagnant. The native chicken varieties adopted in free-range backyard conditions for centuries contribute about 11% of total egg production in India (Kumaresan et al., 2008). Due to their low productivity (annual egg production average: 50-60 nos.), their contribution to the total egg output was almost static for the last few decades. Therefore, the consumption of eggs in rural areas is far below the national average egg consumption.
Backyard poultry production system is a low input or no input business and is characterized by indigenous night shelter system, scavenging system, with little supplementary feeding, natural hatching of chicks, poor productivity of birds, local marketing, and no healthcare practice (Mandal et al., 2006).
Advantages of backyard poultry farming
A lot of advantages are there for which rural poultry farming should always be backed up by Government and non-government organizations. Some are listed here;
A low initial investment but higher economic return.
A unit can be started with as low as two chickens to a large flock.
It is free ranging system so feed cost is negligible due to better utilization of agricultural by-products and leftover feed and grains.
Egg and birds can be sold in the local market with a high price because there is a growing demand for local chicken.
Boost up in family income for better utilization of family laborers who are not able to perform other agricultural works like old family member or children.
Backyard poultry farming acts as an ‘ATM’ because as per family needs the birds and eggs can be sold at anytime anywhere with cash in hand.
Quality of chicken and egg is better in terms of organic farming as the birds are raised in stress less environment with natural input. It is eco-friendly approach.
Gives employment to the rural small-scale and marginal farmers.
Aids in enhancing the soil fertility in backyards (15 chickens produce 1- 1.2 kg of manure/ day).
Products from rural poultry farming fetch high price compared to those from intensive poultry Farming.
Birds reared under free-range conditions give eggs and meat of low cholesterol concentration compared to those produced under intensive poultry farming.
Desi Indian chicken
Desi or indigenous birds are generally poor performers in egg and meat production. To obtain maximum profit from backyard poultry farming there is an urgent need in the country to improve the status of backyard poultry farming with an improved strain, which performs an excellent result when raised in the backyard with low inputs. Understanding the importance of backyard rural poultry farming in India, several research organizations have developed different backyard chicken varieties which have successfully been reared by farmers from many parts of the country. These improved varieties include CARI Nirbheek, CARI Shyama, CARI Upkari, CARI Hitcari, CARI Debendera, Gramapriya, Vanaraja, Giriraja, Swarnadhara, Nandanam Chicken I, Nandanam Chicken II, Nandanam Chicken IV, Narmadanidhi, Himsamridhi, Pratapdhan, Jharsim, Srinidhi, Kamrupa, Kaveri, Rajasri, Kuroiler, Gramalakshmi and Gramasree. These birds combination of native and exotic blood and possess other characteristics essential for backyard/scavenging poultry production. Phenotypically these birds look like their original native breed with two or three times more egg production with bigger size and weight, better tropical adaptability and disease resistance along with the capability of bearing the stress of sub-optimal feeding and management. Backyard poultry system is a common practice all over the country, so government of India funded bodies like ICAR-CARI, State agricultural universities, veterinary colleges, etc. have developed new improved varieties of chicken suitable for backyard system with more productivity in both eggs and meat quality.
Good practices followed for backyard poultry farming
Disease-free, improved strain, dual-purpose poultry birds may be procured for backyard poultry farming.
Periodical vaccination should be done on regular basis.
Clean drinking water and fungus free feed should be supplied to the birds.
The poultry shed should be regularly cleaned and free from moisture and humid condition.
Overcrowding should be avoided.
If possible there should be separate space for the different age group of birds.
The sick bird should be immediately separated/ culled from the healthy flock.
Poultry equipment particularly waterer and feeder should be regularly cleaned and disinfected.
There should be a restriction for outsider into the poultry shed or farm.
The birds should be free from predators and should not be scared by other animals.
Before procuring new flocks the shed should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
There should be provision for footbath in front of poultry shed.
During summer and winter months the shed should be protected from the hot or cold wind by hanging curtain around the side of the wall or shed. In summer months water sprinkling also can be done.
In order to increase poultry production at the farmer’s level, a systemic training program should be organized specifically for rural tribal women. Furthermore, adequate arrangements should be made for disease prevention and control. Additionally, extension and motivational work along with technical support should also be conducted in the villages to en-courage farmers to rear and consume more backyard system of poultry production. Since this means for the sustainable livelihood of poorer sections of the society and also contribute to social food security, gender equity and rural employment to women. Improvement of local breeds and their conservation for future can be done hand in hand by Government and farming community.
1,2,4,Ph.D scholar, Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar, Bareilly, U. P.
3,M.V.sc scholar, Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar, Bareilly, U. P.
Kumaresan A., Bujarbaruah K.M., Pathak K.A., Chhetri B., Ahmed S.K. and Haunshi S. (2008). Analysis of a village chicken production system and performance of improved dual-purpose chickens under a subtropical hill agro-ecosystem in India. Tropical animal health production. 40(6):395-402.
Mandal A.B., Tyagi P.K. and Shrivastav A.K. (2006). Research Priorities in Poultry Nutrition and Feed Technology to 2020. In: Sasidhar, P.V.K. (Ed.). Poultry Research Priorities to 2020, Proceedings of National Seminar, November 2-3, Central Avian Research Institute, Izatnagar, 96-114.
Otte J. (2006). The Hen Which Lays the Golden Eggs: Why Backyard Poultry are so Popular? PPLPI Feature, www.fao.org/ag/pplpi.html.