Livestock Research for Rural Development 14 (2) 2002

Rural poultry production and productivity in southern Senegal

A Missohou , P N  Dieye* and E Talaki  

 Service de zootechnie, Ecole Inter-Etats des Sciences et Médecine Vétérinaires (EISMV) BP 5077,
Dakar, Sénégal
Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles, Centre de Recherche Zootechnique de Kolda,
 BP 53, Kolda, Sénégal


This study was carried out to describe rural poultry production and productivity in Casamance, Southern Senegal. A survey was carried out in May 1999 in 150 households among which one third was chosen for a follow up from October 1999 to May 2000.

Chicken holders were mostly Fulani or Mandingue and predominantly (52 %) women. Chicken flocks (n= 22.7 ± 8.6 in size) were mainly associated with small ruminants. A few (22 %) of the holders had a hen house, scavenging being the main husbandry system. The stocking rate was low in females (3.5 %) while it was high in growers (19 %) and adult males (21 %). Egg number per clutch and egg weight were respectively 9.16±2.4 and 37.5±2.9 g. Hatchability was 77 % for a reproductive cycle of 92±19 days. The death rate was high (43 %)  in chicks, medium (16%) in growers and low (3%) in adult birds. Body weight was 31.7±5.3 g at one week  and 398±107 g (females) and 588±152 g (males) at 3 months of age.

It was concluded that rural poultry productivity could be significantly increased through the improvement of chick brooding.

Key words : Rural chicken, productivity, scavenging, women


Senegal is a country where livestock accounts for 7.4 % of the national GDP and 35.5 % of the primary sector. However the level of meat intake per capita decreased from 21.5 kg/year in 1960 to 13 kg in 1974 and to 11 kg in 1990. In order to alleviate this protein malnutrition a special emphasis was laid on short cycle animal production (ANON 1991), specially modern poultry. In spite of the important development of this sector during this last decade, rural poultry still represents 80% of the total poultry population (ANON 1990). Moreover, according to Buldgen et al  (1992),  village chickens are a flexible source of revenue and they play a key role in protein malnutrition alleviation since it is not common to slaughter cattle or small ruminants for guests and during traditional ceremonies. However, one of the main conclusions of the last meeting of the African Network for Rural Poultry Development was the lack of reliable information on the biological and socio-economic factors affecting the input - output relationships and the economic efficiency of the production systems.

The present work was undertaken to study rural chicken production and productivity in southern Senegal.

Material and methods

Working area

This study was carried out in Upper Casamance, southern Senegal, 700 km from Dakar. In this area the climate is sub-humid with one rainy season (May to October) and an annual rainfall and temperature of 1200-1500 mm and 28°C respectively. The vegetation is grassy, and the  main crops are millet, sorghum, rice, groundnut and maize.

Data collection

A survey was first carried out during May 1999 in 150 households to define the characteristics of the poultry production systems. The survey guide was a questionnaire related to socio-economic status of the holders, flock characteristics, management and use. From October 1999 to May 2000 a follow up was implemented in 52 of these households. During this follow up, flock size was checked weekly and any change (absence or introduction of chicken) was investigated (purchase, grant, mortality, sale consumption etc...).

The reproductive performance of hens (number of eggs per clutch, egg weight, hatchability, reproductive cycle) was recorded. The production cost (feeding, vaccination and deworming) was also investigated. Every fortnight, chicks were weighed using an electronic balance.

These data were processed using the Statistical Package for the Social Science (SPSS).

Results and discussion

Socio-economic status of holders

In Upper Casamance, poultry holders were mainly Fulani (69.3 %) and Mandingue (19.3 %) which are the main ethnic groups present in the area (Table 1).  They were crop farmers, stock breeders or both. In this study,  women owned a little more (52 %) chickens than men (48 %). This result confirmed previous reports (Kitalyi and Mayer 1998) which recognised the importance of village chickens for women. However the ownership pattern is not that simple because, if chicken watering and feeding were predominantly devoted to women, the decision to sell or dispose of the birds was made by men. 

Table 1: Rural poultry production characteristics in southern Senegal

Socio-economic status of holders: Ethnic groups

Fulani  (%)


Mandingue (%)


Others (%)


Women share in ownership (%)


Flock size and composition


22.7± 8.6

Number of chicks

16.7 ±7.3

Number of growers

2.23 ±1.2

Number of adult females

0.9 ± 0.9

Number of adult males

2.8 ± 1.5


Presence of hen house (%)


Presence of waterer (%)


Vaccination (%)


Chicken flock characteristics and management 

The flock size which was 22.7±8.6 was superior to results observed in most of West African countries where flock size ranged from 9 to 22 (Van Veluw 1987; Sonaiya 1990; Aklobessi et al  1992;  Buldgen et al 1992; Kitalyi and Mayer 1998). It was composed of 16.7 chicks, 2.23 growers, 0.9 adult male and 2.8 adult females. The ratio growers/chicks was low (13 %) and could be the consequence of an early use of the growers or a high death rate of the chicks. In disagreement with results observed by most of these authors no other poultry specie (guinea fowl, duck, turkey and geese) was encountered. Poultry production was however associated with small ruminants, the mean number of goat and sheep per household being respectively  7.6 and 2.8.

In 22 % of the households, a small hen house made with local material was observed (Table 1). In all the other cases the chicken were housed on the veranda, under mortar or in the kitchen. Scavenging was the major feeding system. Chicks fed on insects, worms, grains, food wastes and by products, mainly cereal brans that fall on the ground when women pound cereals. Watering was mainly done in cans hidden in the ground (43.3 %) or in a wooden locally-made drinker (44.1%). Although 22% of the holders declared during the survey that they usually vaccinated against Newcastle disease, during this first half of the follow up no vaccination was noticed. In these conditions production cost was very low, almost nil.

Flock performance

The number  of eggs laid per clutch was 9.1 ± 2.4 with an average egg weight of 37.5 ± 2.9 g and a reproductive cycle (laying, hatching, taking care of chicks, resting) of 92 ± 19 days (Table 2).

Table 2: Reproductive and growth performance


Mean ± SE

Reproductive cycle (days)

92 ± 19

Egg production



9.1 ± 2.4

Weight (g)

37.5 ± 2.9

Hatchability (%)


Weight chicks (g)

One week

31.7 ± 5.3

Weight growers at 3 months (g)



398 ± 107


558 ± 152

As a consequence, the number of clutches per year and the total number of eggs per hen and per year were respectively 3.96 and 36.1. These results are in agreement with reports from other developing countries (Table 3) where egg weight ranged from 30.7 to 49 g and egg number from 18.5 to 48.9. In addition to genetic effects, this low egg production could be improved and even doubled without any detrimental effect on hatchability through rational feeding as demonstrated by Buldgen et al (1992). Sonaiya (1990) suggested that the implementation of a mini-hatchery, which would buy fertile eggs and sell chicks to farmers, could be an alternative solution to this low productivity. The improvement of egg production could also be achieved by early weaning of the chicks but its effect on chick survival and female reproductive life needs to be known.

Hatchability as observed in this study compared favourably with that reported in Burkina Faso, Ghana and Mali but was lower than that obtained in Guinea and Sudan (Table 3). When analysed, most of the unhatched eggs were not fertilised. This could suggest an inadequate  sex ratio.

The death rate was high in chicks (43%) moderate in growers (16 %) and low (3 %) in adult birds. This low viability of young birds was acknowledged by previous studies (Table 3). For most of the authors it was mainly due to diseases.  

Table 3: Production coefficients of rural poultry in selected developing countries in Africa



Clutches per year

Egg per clutch

Egg weight (g)

Hatchability (%)

Chick mortality

Kitalyi & Mayer 1998








Buldgen et al 1992







Mourad et al 1997







Shanawany  & Banerjee 1991







Bourzat & Saunders 1990

Burkina Faso






Minga et al 1989







Van Veluw 1987







Wilson et al 1987







Wilson  1979







Thus in Guinea, typhoid and pullorum  (35.3%), Newcastle (25.3%) and fowl pox (18.2%) accounted for 79% of chick mortality. But our results demonstrated that infectious diseases (prostration and fowl pox) and external parasites (mainly argas) accounted for only 32 % of total mortality, the main causal agent (63%) being predation by sparrow hawks. It can be predicted that this aerial predation would increase during the dry season with the clearing of the bush. According to Aklobessi et al (1992), poultry holders found that a wicker basket cage shaped like a round-bottomed cone and made of split rachis of palm fronds (Sonaiya 1990) was effective in preventing sparrow hawk predation. It could be supposed that it was not commonly used for this purpose certainly because of the unavailability of a cost-effective chicks diet or complement.

The weights of one-week-old chicks confirmed results reported by Buldgen et al (1992) while at 3 months they were as heavy as chickens raised on station by the same authors.  

Role of the poultry

Almost  all of the holders interviewed declared that they didn't sell or consume eggs because they preferred to keep them for incubation. Abandoned or unhatched eggs were sometimes eaten but not by young women because, according to the farmers, it would have a negative impact on their reproductive career. A high proportion (77%) of the respondents obtained their chickens from market but grants (12%) and 'confiage' (7.9 %) were other means of chicken purchase.

The stocking rate was low in females (3.5%) and high in young (19%) and adult males (21%). Self consumption was the main (67%) cause of chicken use. Village chickens were mostly slaughtered for guests,  but also during naming ceremonies and weddings. In this way and in accordance with Buldgen et al. (1992) they largely contribute to protein malnutrition alleviation. They were also exchanged against goats, the modality being 2 males and 4 hens for a goat. Sale only represented 30 % of total use. This relatively low level of sale could be explained by the fact that the last rainy season was good and in this first half of the post harvest period farmers’ needs were small. Sale price was 450 F.CFA for growers, 1,100 F CFA for adult females and 2,200  F.CFA for males. Sale was often done at home (26.7%) or at market (30%) or both (43.3%) and was entrusted to the men.


This study shows that in Upper Casamance, there is an important small scale animal production system based on chickens and small ruminants. The chickens play a key socio-economic role and largely contribute to protein malnutrition alleviation. However, there still exists serious constraints to its development in terms of low egg production, hatchability and survival of chicks. Rural poultry production as a means to alleviate poverty could be highly increased if those constraints are properly targeted in terms of improvement of the rate of reproduction and reduction in mortality.


The authors are grateful to the International Foundation for Science (IFS) for funding this study (Grant B/2853-1)


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Received 19  November 2001

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