Livestock Research for Rural Development 14 (1) 2002

Production performance of backyard chicken under the care of women in Charsadda, Pakistan

          M Farooq, N Gul, N Chand, F R Durrani, A Khurshid,
J Ahmed*
, A Asghar** and Zahir-ud-Din

Poultry Science Department,
NWFP, Agricultural University, Peshawar, Pakistan
*Veterinary officer (Health) Charsadda
            ** Senior Social organizer, Sarhad Rural Support Program, Haripur



Information from 400 randomly selected female farmers was obtained during the year 1997 to assess the production performance of backyard chicken in Charsadda district, North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Pakistan.  

Only 16.3% of the farmers were regularly vaccinating their flocks. The majority of the farmers initiated immunization only at the time of disease onset (29.7%) followed by those (28.5%) who did not vaccinate. A high proportion (53.3%) provided no housing, 29.8% provide night shelters and 17% had no housing. Average flock size was 22.0 birds, comprising 8.86 chicks, 2.03 pullets and 11.1 layers. The local Desi chicken dominated the flocks (10.2 birds) followed by Fayumi (6.76), Rhode Island Red (4.20) with White Leghorn least popular (0.83 ). Average mortality in a flock was 23.6%. Mortality was higher in layers (28.1%) than in pullets (18.7%) and chicks (24.2%). Significantly higher losses were found in White Leghorn (35.6%) than in Desi chicken (17.5%). Similarly, higher mortality was found in chicken without housing facilities (26.7%) than in those with access to houses (21.6%). Regular vaccination was associated with higher productivity than vaccination at the onset of disease or no vaccination. Average annual egg production was 76.4 for Desi, 109 for Fayumi, 169 for Rhode Island and 153 for White Leghorn. Mean hatchability was 61.2% with an annual frequency of 4.6 settings and 15.1 eggs set per broody hen.

Farmer preference for the “local” Desi chicken reflected their greater capacity to survive and adapt to scavenging management systems. Fayumi and Rhode Island chickens appear to merit further studies as breeds that could improve the productivity of scavenging systems, as they had higher egg production and only slightly higher mortality than Desi chicken.

Key words: Breed, chicken, eggs, housing, mortality, rural, scavenging, women, vaccination.


Backyard chicken production is a subsistence activity, providing eggs and meat for family consumption and, to some extent, cash income. Annual  household egg production per household from backyard chickens in Mardan Division, NWFP, Pakistan ranged from 108327 to 162938 eggs (Farooq et al 2000). The eggs were a source of food and cash income for the households with no additional expenditures in terms of time and capital investment. Flock sizes of backyard chicken in rural Pakistan  have been reported as 10 to 12 birds (Qureshi 1985) and 18.71.27 to 30.81.9  birds (Farooq et al 2000). Losses can be as high as 17.80.79 to 41.81.38% according to Farooq et al (2000). Naila et al (2001) reported 27.01.1% mortality due to Newcastle disease.

The present study was an effort to characterize the production performance of backyard chicken in Charsadda district, North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Pakistan and pinpoint appropriate interventions for strengthening production in the area.

Materials and methods

Information from 400 randomly selected women farmers in Charsadda  district, North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Pakistan. was obtained during the year 1997. Twenty different villages and from each village 20 female farmers were selected at random and interviewed. The chickens were managed in a scavenging system with the only vaccination being against Newcastle disease. Chicks were usually hatched through natural incubation. Expenditures were almost negligible and, if any, were obtained from sale of eggs, chicks, pullets and layers.

Information was collected regarding:

        type of household
flock size
eggs produced, consumed, and used for hatching
mortality in chicks, pullets and layers
        health coverage/vaccination programs
housing facilities

The data were analyzed using a General Linear Model (GLM) program (Steel and Torrie 1981), Chi-square test and Univariate analysis. The following statistical model was constructed.

                                    Yijklm = + ai + bj + ck + dl + ejklm

Where, Yijklm was the observed parameter in chickens of “i” type having “j” age produced in “k” housing under “l” health coverage program,

= population constant common to all observations,

ai = the effect of “i” type of chicken (i= Desi (nondescript indigenous chicken), RIR (Rhode Island Red), WLH (White Leghorn) and Fayumi chicken,

bj = the effect of “j” age of  the chicken (j= chick, pullet and layer),

ck = the effect of “k” housing (k = night shelter only, no house and proper house according to the requirements of the chicken),

dl = the effect of “l” health coverage program (l= regular vaccination [at day 7, 21 and after every 03 months), partial vaccination [during winter and summer season], vaccination at the time of disease onset and no vaccination),

eijklm =  the residual term associated with each Yijklm, assumed to be normally, independently and identically distributed with mean zero and variance 1.

For comparison of the numbers of farmers following activities such as housing and vaccination/health coverage program the following form of Chi-square test was used:

x2 = ------------------

 Where "E" were expected events and "O" were observed events.

Results and discussion

Flock size

The average flock size (Table 1) was similar to what was reported by Shakir et al (1999) for households in Chitral and higher that than was found by Qureshi (1985) who reported a flock size of 1 to 12 birds. The findings suggest an increase in flock size from 1985 onwards, which could be attributed to public awareness about backyard chicken production and the importance of poultry products.   

Table 1.  Production statistics of backyard chicken in Charsadda district                                                                                                           



Flock statistics



Flock size









Adult birds



Egg production and uses



Total egg production per flock



Eggs produced per bird



Total egg consumption



Total eggs for hatching purpose



Hatching performance



Hatchability (%)



Frequency of eggs set per year



Number of eggs set per hen



Mortality (%)



Overall mortality in a flock



In chicks



In pullets



In adult birds



abc Means with different subscripts are significantly different at P = 0.05.

The local Desi chicken was the most numerous breed, followed by Fayoumi, Rhode Island Red and White Leghorn (Table 2). Shakir et al (1999) reported fewer local chickens (6.83 birds) per flock than exotic chickens (8.04 Saso birds) in Chitral. However, exotic chickens were distributed in Chitral by the Agha Khan Rural Support program (AKRSP) along with incubators with the aim of increasing egg production. The exotic birds were distributed at no cost to the households, which could be the reason for the higher number of exotic chicken in Chitral. Egg production of the Desi chicken was less than for the exotic breeds, but the fact they were kept in larger numbers could be attributed to their greater resistance to infectious diseases and their ability to hatch the chicks required for regular replacement. 

Table 2. Production data of backyard chicken according to breed, housing and health coverage

  Flock size


Total egg production

Eggs /bird



























Proper houses





Night shelter only





No house





Health coverage (vaccination against Newcastle)











At disease onset










abcd Means with different subscripts within columns / criteria are different at P= 0.05.

Household flock size was in direct proportion to the quality of the housing. Charsadda usually suffers severe winter conditions and birds having no housing facilities are adversely affected, causing severe death losses in the area as was reported by Naila et al (2001).  In a similar fashion, the size of the flock was also directly related to the quality of the vaccination program. Shakir et al (1999) also reported higher flock sizes (27.4 birds) for households that vaccinated their birds than those not vaccinating (18.9 birds). The implication from the findings of the present study is that the unvaccinated flocks could have been infected with diseases, thereby resulting in higher death rates and reduced flock size, or that the farmers may have sold the birds as and when there was an onset of disease.


The average mortality in the flocks was 23.64.87%. Mortality was highest in layers, followed by chicks then pullets. Shakir et al (1999) reported a lower mortality (13.6%) in Chitral and Farooq et al (2000) a higher one (29.8%) in Mardan division. The high mortality in the present study  could possibly be related to a minimal health coverage program and poor management practices.

Losses were highest in White Leghorn followed by Rhode Island, with no difference between the Desi and the Fayhoumi. Shakir et al (1999) also reported higher mortality in exotic than in local chicken in Chitral. Mortality was higher in flocks that had no housing than in those with shelter. As was to be expected, regular vaccination against Newcastle reduced the mortality rate. There appeared to be no advantage in vaccinating at the onset of the disease as compared with no vaccination. Shakir et al (1999) also reported higher mortality in non-vaccinated versus vaccinated flocks. Newcastle and Fowl pox are the main diseases that affect backyard chicken, however, no farmer in the area vaccinated their chickens against fowl pox.

Egg production and consumption status of a household

Annual average household egg production was 14075.15, representing 1275.15 eggs produced per bird (Table 1). Household consumption was 65869.  A higher production of eggs per household (2976 eggs) and a higher consumption (1255 eggs) was reported in Chitral by Shakir et al (1999). By contrast, Farooq et al (2000) reported much smaller household annual egg consumption (212 eggs). Backyard chicken production is more intensively practiced in Chitral than in other parts of the NWFP, as it is the only developed livestock production activity there. However, the relatively high household annual egg production and consumption in Charsadda could probably be related to heightened interest of the women in chicken production for that area. A majority of the female farmers in the area were eager to develop backyard chicken production and try out new innovations. They were enthusiastic in establishing groups and receiving training in chicken and other livestock production activities. 

Egg production per Desi chicken was only half of that for Rhode Island and White Leghorn with production from Fayoumi being intermediate. A higher egg production by exotic (Saso) than local chicken, even under scavenging conditions, was reported by Shakir et al (1999). There have been no attempts to improve egg production in Desi chicken through selection and breeding practices.

Egg production per bird was 50% higher when proper housing was provided compared with only shelter at night or no shelter. Regular or partial vaccination had a similar positive effect on egg production, but as with mortality, vaccination when the disease occurred had no effect on egg production.    

Hatching performance

The annual average of eggs used for hatching by a household was 69.612.0. Shakir et al. (1999) in Chitral reported a figure of 56.3 eggs while in the study of Farooq et al (2000) in Mardan division the number was only 4.5. Average hatchability was 61.210.% in the present study which can be compared with 73.6% reported in Mardan division by Farooq et al (2000). The lower hatchability in the present study could possibly be attributed to lack of experience in selection of eggs for hatching. The average annual frequency of egg setting was 4.61.38 and the average number of eggs set under a broody hen was 15.12.42 (Table 1). Farooq et al (2000) reported similar data for eggs per broody hen (15.0) but with a smaller annual frequency of sets (3.01).

Management practices

A high proportion (53.3%) of farmers provided no housing facilities for their chickens (Table 3).  The reason would appear to be a lack of knowledge about this issue, since the survey data showed significant advantages for most production traits when some form of housing was provided.  

Table 3. Proportion of farmers in housing and health categories

Proportion of farmers (%)


Proper houses


Night shelter only


No house


Health coverage (vaccination)





At the onset of disease




abc Means with different subscripts in each category are different at ? = 0.05.

The fact that most farmers (29.8%) only vaccinated their flocks at the time of disease onset would also indicate a lack of knowledge of when to vaccinate, since all the production data indicated advantages from regular vaccination at the prescribed intervals. The reason for not vaccinating could also be partly because of unavailability of the vaccine.  Many of the farmers expressed complaints about limited vaccine availability.



Farooq M, Shoukat K, Asrar M, Shah Mussawar, Durrani F R, Asghar A and  Faisal S 2000 Impact of female livestock extension workers on rural house-hold chicken production. Livestock Research for Rural Development 12 (4) 1:

Naila C, Farooq M, Durrani F R, Asghar A and Pervez 2001 Prevalence and economic ramification of Newcastle disease in backyard chicken in Charsadda, NWFP, Pakistan. Online Journal of  Biological Science.  1(5):421-424.

Qureshi M S 1985 Annual report of Poultry Research Institute. Rawalpindi.  Pakistan. pp. 26.

Shakir M K, Mian M A, Syed M and Farooq M  1999 Contribution of backyard chicken to household economy in Chitral, NWFP, Pakistan. M.Sc. (Hons) Anim. Husbandry, NWFP, Agricultural University, Peshawar, Pakistan (unpublished).

Steel R G D and  Torrie J H 1981 Principles and procedures of statistics; A biometrical approach. 2nd. Ed. McGraw-Hill, Singapore.

20 October 2001

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