Livestock Research for Rural Development 25 (11) 2013 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Characterization of local chickens in selected districts of the Southern Highlands of Tanzania: II. Production and Morphometric traits

F S Guni, A M Katule* and P A A Mwakilembe

Tanzania Livestock Research Institute - Uyole, P.O.Box 6191 Mbeya, Tanzania
fadhili.guni@yahoo.com
* Department of Animal Science and Production, Sokoine University of Agriculture,
P. O. Box 3014, Morogoro, Tanzania

Abstract

A study was conducted in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania to describe the productive and morphometric characteristics of local chickens of the area. Three districts namely Chunya, Njombe and Songea were selected for data collection. A questionnaire was used to extract information from the farmers with respect to production attributes of their local chickens. Measurements on body weight, body length, circumference of the chest, shank length, thigh length, wing span, egg weight, egg length and egg breadth were taken on 693 mature chickens (538 females and 155 males). Egg measurements were taken from one hundred and fifty five freshly laid eggs. 

The results obtained indicate that there exists significant variation between districts with respect to some production attributes as well as body weight and other body measurements. The average age at sexual maturity, clutch size per hen, chicks hatched per clutch, chicks weaned per hatch and hatchability were 7.48 months, 13.7 eggs, 9.89, 6.89 and 88% respectively. Chunya district had the heaviest chickens (2021g) while Songea had the lightest birds (1622g). Overall, male chickens were higher than female birds with respects to all attributes studied. Body weight appeared to be highly positively correlated to all other body measurements considered in this study. For the purpose of implementation of selection for body size by farmers chest circumference and thigh length could be conveniently used in place of actual body weight which would be difficult to measure under village condition. Regarding external egg measurements it is apparent that chickens in Songea district had the smallest eggs. 

The observed variation in the present study suggests that there is a room for selection within and between the local chicken populations for both egg production and morphometric traits. There is a need to pay particular attention to the Chunya district chicken population for possible consideration for conservation. 

Key words: body measurements, body weight, clutch size, egg weight, mature age


Introduction

Local chickens are kept by the majority of households in rural areas as a source of protein and income. Findings from different studies in Africa revealed the existence of considerable variation among and within local chicken populations. Halima (2007) has reported the existence of variations between genetic groups of local chicken in Ethiopia as indicated by high heterozygosity values. Likewise, Ajayi (2010) reported that the heritability estimates for body weight in the Nigerian local chicken populations indicates that it has the dual potential for development into a meat or egg breed. 

During the past ten to sixteen years studies on Tanzania local chickens have been conducted with the aim of identifying and improving the performance of local chickens (Kabatange and Katule 1989; Katule 1990; 1998; Msoffe et al 2001; 2004; Lwelamira et al 2008a). Results from these studies have shown the existence of many genotypes, phenotypes and varied productivity potential within local chicken populations, indicating the possibility of improving the genetic potential through selective breeding within and between local chicken populations. Large variations in production and reproduction performance of local chickens have been reported by Msoffe et al (2004).  

To date, local chickens including the Kuchi from Mwanza, Singamagazi from Shinyanga, Morogoro medium and Chingw’eke from Morogoro appear to be the most prospective ecotypes under the traditional production systems. The performance of these ecotypes have been evaluated and documented albeit scanty. However considering the vast land expanse of Tanzania, coupled by the existence of diverse climatic and ecological zones there is a reason to expect that there might be many other chicken populations in the country with valuable attributes which need to be identified. The present study, therefore, was conducted to characterize the local chicken populations that are found in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania based on their production and quantitative traits. 


Material and Methods

Study area 

The study was conducted in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. The altitude ranges from 400 to 3000m above sea level while rainfall varies from 750mm in lower altitudes to 2600 in the mountains and along Lake Nyasa during November to April annually. The tropical and semi temperate climate of the area favours livestock and crop production which are the main activities. Three districts, that is Chunya, Njombe and Songea were selected for the study one in each of the Mbeya, Njombe and Ruvuma regions respectively. The location and climatic conditions of each district covered in the study has been described by Guni and Katule (2013). 

Data collection 

The wards and villages for data collection were purposely selected based on the information given by district livestock officers. The sampling frame consisted of three wards per district, three villages per ward and four households per village. Households were randomly selected from a list of households that had been keeping more than ten chickens for the last five years.

Two types of information were collected in the study. The first involved a questionnaire where data on productive and reproductive traits of chickens were collected from selected households.  The information collected included age at first egg for hens and age at first mating for cocks, clutch size, clutch length, eggs incubated per bird, eggs hatched per clutch, number of laying cycles/hen/year, total number of eggs/hen/year, chick survival rate to weaning, weaning age and hatchability. 

Secondly, physical measurements were taken on 693 mature chickens, (538 females and 155 males) and 155 fresh eggs. The measurements taken included body weight, body length, circumference of the chest, shank length, thigh length, wing span, egg weight, egg length and egg breadth. A normal tailor’s measuring tape was used to take the linear measurements as described by FAO (2012), while thigh length was measured as described by Adeleke et al (2011). Live body weights of chickens and egg weights were measured by using portable sensitive weigh balance, while egg length and breadth were measured using a stainless vernier caliper (15cm 0.02mm). Below is a list of definitions for some of variables measured; 

Body weight: individual live bird weight.

Body length: distance between the tip of the rostrum maxillare (beak) and that of the cauda (tail, exclusive of feathers) when chicken is fully stretched through its body length.

Chest circumference: circumference of the chest at the tip of the pectus (hind breast)

Shank length: length from the hock joint to the spur of any leg.

Wingspan: length between tips of right and left wings after both were fully stretched out.

Thigh length: the distance between the hock joint and the pelvic joint (Adeleke et al 2011). 

Statistical data analysis 

The General Linear Models procedure of SAS, version 9.1 (SAS 2003) was used to analyse the quantitative data, with the MANOVA option for calculating partial correlation coefficients among the variables. In addition the stepwise option of the SAS regression procedure (SAS 2003) was used to calculate constants for predicting body weight from other body measurements. 

The following model was used to analyse the data on egg production and other reproduction variables. 

Yijkl = + Di + W (D)ij + V(DW)ijk +  Eijkl

Yijkl = response from the lth farmer from the kth village within the jth ward of ith district;

= general mean common to all observations;

Di = effect of the ith district;

W(D)ij = effect of the jth ward of the ith district;

V(DW)ijk = effect of kth village within the jth ward of the ith district;

Eijklm = random effect peculiar to each farmer.  

For data based on individual bird body measurements the model used was: 

Yijklmn = + Di+ W (D)ij + V(DW)ijk +F(DWV)ijkl + Sm + (DS)im  + Eijklmn;

Yijklmn = observation/measurement on the nth bird of the mth sex from the lth farmer in the kth village within the jth ward of the ith district;

= general mean common to all observations;

Di = effect of the ith district;

W (D)ij = effect of the jth ward of the ith district;

V (DW)ijk = effect of kth village from the jth ward of the ith district;

F (DWV)ijkl = effect of lth farmer from the kth village within the jth ward of the ith district;

 Sm = Effect of the mth sex;

(DS)im = interaction between the ith district and mth sex;

 Eijklmn = random effect peculiar to each bird.  

In the case of measurements taken on egg the data was analysed on the basis of the following model 

Yij = + Di + Eij

Yij = measurements on the jth egg from the ith districts;

= general mean common to all observations;

Di = effect of the ith district;

Eij = random effect peculiar to each egg. 


Results and discussion

Production and Reproduction traits of local chickens 

Table 1 shows least square means for various production and reproduction performance variables of local chicken populations in the study area. The results of the present study show that the overall mean age at first mating of male chickens and the age at first egg of female chickens were 7.02 and 7.48 months respectively There were no significant differences between districts with respect to age at first mating whereas difference for age at first egg in females was significant. Age at first egg was higher for Chunya chickens than those from Njombe and Songea districts.  

The overall age at sexual maturity obtained in the present study is slightly higher than those reported from other studies in Uganda (5.5-7, Kugonza et al 2008), Ethiopia (5.9-7.1, Moges et al 2010) and Botswana (6.37, Moreki 2010). However the results of the present study are similar to those reported by Moges et al (2010) who stated that late maturity was an expression of low productivity of local chickens. Mwalusanya et al (2002) reported that the age at first egg ranges between 6 and 8 months for local chicken under village management conditions. While it is to be recognized that the variation observed both between and within districts with respect to age at first egg is attributable to both genetic and non-genetic factors the relative contribution of these factors cannot be ascertained at present.

 

Table 1. Least square means (SE) for productive and reproductive traits of local chickens summarized by districts

Trait

 

District

 

Overall Mean

 

Chunya

Njombe

Songea

 

Age at first egg (Months)

8.15 0.22a

7.00 0.22b

7.33 0.22b

7.48

 

Cock age at sexual maturity (months)

7.18 0.25a

6.94 0.24a

6.94 0.24a

7.02

Clutch size per hen

13.8 0.46a

14.1 0.45a

13.1 0.45a

13.7

Clutch length(days)

16.4 0.93b

19.6 0.91a

17.2 0.91ab

17.8

Inter clutch duration (days)

17.7 1.89a

11.9 1.85b

12.7 1.85ab

14.0

Eggs incubated per hen per clutch

11.9 0.40a

11.5 0.39a

10.4 0.39b

11.3

Chicks hatched per hen per clutch

9.92 0.37a

10.1 0.36a

9.61 0.36a

9.89

Hatchability (%)

83.2 1.20b

88.1 1.76ab

92.6 1.76a

88.0

Weaning age (months)

2.31 0.14b

2.51 0.14b

2.93 0.14a

2.59

Chick weaned

7.43 0.39a

6.89 0.39a

6.33 0.39a

6.89

Chick survival rate to weaning (%)

75.0 3.03a

68.2 3.00ab

66.4 3.00b

69.8

Cycles per hen per year

3.61 0.16a

3.16 0.16b

3.11 0.16b

3.30

Annual egg number per hen

51.1 2.55a

43.6 2.50b

40.8 2.5b

45.2

Least square means with no superscript letters in common within a column and trait are significantly different (p<0.05)

The overall number of eggs/hen per clutch in the present study was 13.7. However, there were no significant differences observed between districts with respect to this variable. These results were similar to those reported by Kugonza et al (2008), Assegie (2009) and Moreki (2010). Mwalusanya et al (2002) reported the mean clutch size to be 11.8 eggs, which was lower than the mean value of 13.7 eggs obtained in the present study. 

It was also observed that Chunya and Njombe district differed with respect to both clutch length and inter-clutch period. The observed difference was not significant between Songea and the other two districts (i.e. Chunya and Njombe). The mean values obtained in the present study were 17.8 and 14.0 days for clutch length and inter-clutch period respectively. These values were much lower than those reported by Moges et al (2010) for clutch length and inter-clutch period reported in Ethiopia, which were 26.2 and 25.6 days respectively. 

Differences were observed between districts with respect to number of eggs incubated per clutch per hen. The number of eggs incubated in Songea was relatively fewer than those of Chunya and Njombe districts. The average number of eggs incubated was 11.3 in the study area. It was also observed that there were no significant differences between districts with respect to number of chicks hatched/clutch/hen. 

Differences between districts were observed for hatchability where Songea had the highest hatchability (92.6%), followed by Njombe (88.1%), while Chunya district had the lowest hatchability (83.2%). Other authors (Kugonza et al 2008; Mengesha et al 2008) reported hatchability figures which were within the range observed in the present study. However contrasting results have been reported from Botswana (Badubi et al 2006) and India (Iqbal and Pampori 2008) where hatchability figures obtained were much lower than those obtained in the present study.  

Districts differed with respect to weaning age. Chickens from Songea district tended to wean their chicks at relatively higher age than those of the other two districts (i.e. Njombe and Chunya). The average weaning age observed in this study was closer to those reported by Ssewannyana et al (2008) who associated indigenous hens reared their chicks for quite some time with good mothering ability.The average number of chicks weaned was 6.89. No significant differences were observed between districts with respect to number of chicks weaned per hen. 

Differences in survival rate for chicks from hatch to weaning were observed between Chunya and Songea districts only. The survival rates were 75.0%, 68.2% and 66.4% for Chunya, Njombe and Songea districts respectively, with the overall mean survival rates being 69.8%. These results reflect high chick mortality rates of 25.0, 31.8 and 33.6% for Chunya, Njombe and Songea respectively, under the free range management system. Lwelamira et al (2008b) reported chick mortality rates ranging from 28.7 to 29.2% under extensive system. The apparent high chick loss implied in the present study might have been caused by diseases, predators and other factors as it has been reported from other studies on local chicken under extensive system in Tanzania (Mwalusanya et al 2002; Lwelamira et al 2008b), Ethiopia (Halima 2007), Namibia (Petrus 2011).  

The mean number of egg laying cycles and the estimated number of eggs per hen per year were 3.3 and 45.2 respectively. The results revealed that Chunya outperformed other districts with respect to both number of cycles per year and estimated total annual egg number/hen/year, and the difference was significant. The relatively large clutch size coupled by the large number of cycles/hen/year contributed to the larger estimated number of eggs per year for Chunya district than those for the other two districts. The observed mean number of 3.3 clutches per year in the present study is similar to those which have been reported from other studies (Mwalusanya et al 2002; Hossen 2010; Moreki 2010; Petrus 2011), but differs from the findings by  Mengesha et al (2008) and Iqbal and Pampori (2008) who reported 4.6 and 4 clutches respectively. Differences observed between countries with respect to number of clutches per year might be due to both genetic and environmental differences between populations. The estimated total annual egg number per hen reported in the present study is higher than those reported by Katule (1998) but similar to those reported from other studies (Halima 2007; Hossen 2010; Moreki 2010). 

Body weight and body measurements 

Both districts and sexes differed with respect to body weight. Chunya had the heaviest chickens (2021g), followed by those from Njombe (1786g) while Songea had the lightest birds (1622g). As expected, male chickens were heavier than female across the study area (Table 2).

 

Table 2. Least square means (SE) for body weights and other body measurements of local chickens summarized by districts or sexes

Effect

                                                             Trait

 

Body weight(g)

Body length(cm)

Chest circumference(cm)

Shank length(cm)

Thigh length(cm)

Wing span(cm)

District

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chunya

2021 29a

43.8 0.22a

26.3 0.17a

7.43 0.50a

15.5 0.11a

49.3 0.26a

Njombe

1786 29b

43.3 0.22a

24.6 0.17c

6.97 0.50b

14.8 0.11b

47.8 0.26b

Songea

1622 29c

41.8 0.22b

25.5 0.17b

6.82 0.51c

14.1 0.11c

45.7 0.26c

Sex

 

 

 

 

 

 

Male

2095 29.9a

45.7 0.23a

26.6   0.18a

7.96 0.05a

16.4 0.11a

51.5 0.27a

Female

1525 15.9b

40.2 0.12b

24.3 0.09b

6.19 0.03b

13.2 0.06b

43.8 0.14b

Least square means with no superscript letters in common within a column and effect are significantly different (p<0.05)

The average body weights observed in the present study falls within the range of 1030 and 2860g, and 1107.7 and 2915g reported by Katule (1998) and Msoffe et al (2001) respectively, but higher than those reported from other studies (Mwalusanya et al 2002; Dana et al 2010; Guye et al 1998; Olawunmi et al 2008).  

The observed heavier chickens from Chunya district than those of other districts might be due to both genetic and environment factors. Msoffe et al (2001) reported body sizes of Tabora chickens to be larger than those of the other ecotypes observed their study. Considering the neighbourhoodness of Chunya and Tabora, gene flow might have taken place between the two subpopulations. According to URT (1997) Chunya district shows a pronounced effect of immigration including Sukuma people from Tabora who move with their livestock. Hence the large size of Chunya birds relative to those of Njombe and Songea could be attributed to gene admixture between the much large Tabora birds reported by Msoffe et al (2001) and the much smaller birds like those of Njombe and Songea districts. The observed large variation in body weight between districts indicates the existence of divergent subpopulations within the local chicken population. Such variation gives room for genetic improvement between and within subpopulations.  

Results also revealed that both districts and sexes differed also with respect to other body measurements. As was the case for body weight, Chunya had higher values in all body measurements than Njombe and Songea. While Njombe district ranked the second in all parameters except for chest circumference, Songea district outperformed Njombe district with respect to this variable. The average measurements were 45.69 vs. 40.23cm for body length, 26.63 vs. 24.29cm for chest circumference, 7.96 vs. 6.19cm for shank length, 16.40 vs. 13.24cm for thigh length and 51.47 vs. 43.80cm for wingspan, for male vs. female chickens respectively in the study area. 

The average body lengths observed in the present study were much higher than those reported by Badubi et al (2006) in Botswana which were 20.2 and 18.1cm for male and female chickens respectively. Such difference might be due to description and measurement procedure for body length since there is more than one approach. The average shank length for both male and female observed in the present study falls within the range reported by Badubi et al (2006) and Dana et al (2010) from Botswana and Ethiopia respectively but shorter than those reported from Nigerian local chickens (Fayeye et al 2006). The average wingspan observed in the present study was much higher than those reported by Kibret (2008). 

The lower body measurement values observed for females than for male chickens in this study are consistent with the findings from other studies (Msoffe et al 2001; Alabi et al 2012; Semakula et al 2011; Guye et al 1998; Olawunmi et al 2008), suggesting that sexual dimorphism in chickens is manifested with respect to a large number of body attributes and in most breeds. This may be attributed to sex hormones which may promote larger muscle development in males than in females.  

Interactions between districts and sex 

There was no significant interaction observed between districts and sexes with respect to morphometric traits except for shank length and thigh length (Table 3). The reason for the appearance of interactions between districts and sexes for shank length is that whereas there were significant differences between Njombe and Songea in males, there were no such differences between the two districts in females.

 

Table 3. Least square means (SE) for shank length and thigh length of  local chickens summarized by districts and sexes

                Effect

                          Trait

Sex

District

Shank length (cm)

Thigh length (cm)

Male

Chunya

8.460.09a

17.30.19a

 

 

 

 

 

Njombe

7.850.09b

16.30.19b

 

 

 

 

 

Songea

7.560.09c

15.90.19c

 

 

 

 

Female

Chunya

6.390.05a

13.80.11a

 

 

 

 

 

Njombe

6.090.04b

13.40.09b

 

 

 

 

 

Songea

6.080.05b

12.60.11c

Least square means with no superscript letters in common within a column and effect are significantly different

On the other hand the observed significant interaction between districts and sexes with respect to thigh length was due to the fact that whereas the difference between Njombe and Songea was significant (at p ˂ 0.05) among males, the differences between the two districts were significant (at p ˂ 0.0001) among females. This phenomenon could be due to the differences between the two subpopulations with respect to the degree of expression of sex dimorphism for the traits. 

Relationships among body measurements 

All correlation coefficients between body weight and other body measurements were positive and significant Table 4. This implies that these body measurements are concomitantly linked to body weight. The correlations among the rest of the body measurements were also positive and significant. 

 

Table 4. Partial correlation coefficients among various body measurements of local chickens

Trait

Body weight

Body length

Chest circumference

Shank length

Thigh length

Wing span

Body weight

-

0.58***

0.69***

0.59***

0.47***

0.55***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Body length

 

-

0.41***

0.57***

0.53***

0.64***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chest circumference

 

 

-

0.37***

0.29***

0.36***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shank length

 

 

 

-

0.61***

0.56***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thigh length

 

 

 

 

-

0.54***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wing span

 

 

 

 

 

-

*** p<0.001

The highest correlation coefficient (0.69) was observed between body weight and chest circumference while the correlation between chest circumference and thigh length was the lowest (0.29). The positive and significant correlation between body weight and other body measurements imply that these easily measured parts can be used as criteria for estimation of body weight, and hence can also be used as selection criteria in order to improve body weight. The existence of positive and significant correlation between body weight and body measurement traits  have been reported also by Guye et al (1998) and Alabi et al (2012) from Senegal and Nigeria local chickens respectively.  

Predictive constants for estimation of body weights 

In table 5 are shown constants for predicting body weight of chickens within each of district studied as well as for all districts considered together. The results in the table reveal that the constant estimates for predicting body weights from other body measurements varied somewhat from one district to another. This could be the result of differences in body conformation among birds from different districts. For example birds from Chunya district tended to be a tall and long body structure, those from Songea tended to be rather plumpy and compact. This aspect can be better appreciated if the chest circumferences of the birds are divided by either body length or total leg length (i.e. shank and thigh length). Overall it is apparent that chest circumference is the most significant estimator of body weight, followed by shank length and thigh length, while body length and wingspan don’t seem to be important estimators of body weight. The R2 values obtained for the local chickens in this study were higher than those reported by Guye et al (1998) from Senegal but fall within the range of 0.14 and 0.84 reported by Alabi et al (2012) for three indigenous breeds from South Africa.

 

Table 5. Parameter estimates for prediction of body weight using other body measurements of mature local chickens presented by districts

 

                                                  Predictive constant estimates

District

Intercept(α)

Body length (b1)

Chest circumference(b2)

Shank length (b3)

Thigh length (b4)

Wing span(b5)

R2

Chunya

-3321

12.7 8.01

106 8.65

65.8 31.6

-

30.7 7.74

0.82***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Njombe

-2754

31.6 7.37

98.3 7.23

51.9 26.7

26.7 12.4

-

0.77***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Songea

-2401

24.4 6.79

63 6.82

62.5 24.1

-

21.4 6.11

0.71***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall

-2977

23.6 4.48

84.8 4.39

28.7 17.6

26.6 8.81

21.7 3.75

0.77***

*** P ˂ 0.001

External egg measurements 

The results in table 6 show that eggs from Chunya district had fairly similar measurements to those from Njombe but were larger than those from Songea.  The occurrences of relatively small eggs from Songea might be due the small sized birds of that area since body weight and egg weight are positively correlated (Alewi et al 2012). However eggs from Songea tended to have the highest index (72.1%).

 

Table 6. Least square means (S.E) for external egg measurements summarized by districts

 

 

Character

 

 

District

Egg weight(g)

Egg length(cm)

Egg breadth(cm)

Egg shape index (%)

Chunya

44.7 0.44a

5.04 0.05a

3.62 0.02a

71.9 0.67a

 

 

 

 

 

Njombe

44.3 0.55a

5.17 0.06a

3.65 0.02a

70.9 0.84a

 

 

 

 

 

Songea

42.7 0.55b

4.92 0.06b

3.54 0.02b

72.1 0.83b

Least square means with no superscript letters in common within a column and effect are significantly different (p<0.05)

The mean egg weights observed in the present study were within the range of 37.4 and 49.5g reported by Katule (1998), and 37.6 and 45.6g reported by Msoffe et al (2001) for medium and heavy ecotypes respectively. However, Melesse et al (2012) and Fayeye et al (2005) from Ethiopia and Nigeria respectively, reported mean egg weight of local chickens which were lower than those of the present study. The mean egg weight reported by Mwalusanya et al (2002) was 44.4g which was almost similar to that of the birds from Chunya and Njombe districts. 

Egg length and breadth are the determinants of egg shape index. Egg shape is a good indication of external egg quality. It is also an important aspect for uniform packaging of eggs during transportation. It also plays part in determining market preference. According to Isidahomen et al (2013) short and round eggs don’t make the best appearance while long eggs are more likely to be broken during packaging and transportation. Eggs with higher shape index percentages appeared to be more circular than those with lower shape index. The average egg shape index obtained in present study was nearly similar to the mean value reported by Alewi et al (2012) for Nigerian local chickens.  


Conclusion


Acknowledgements

The financial support from the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development through Agricultural Sector Development Programme (ASDP) in Tanzania is highly appreciated. Heartfelt gratitude is extended to researchers and assistant researchers of Tanzania Livestock Research Institute (Taliri) – Uyole, for their tireless assistance in data collection. Appreciation is also extended to District Livestock officers and farmers for accepting to be interviewed and for providing their chickens used in this study. Mr.  Nguluma A. S. from Taliri-West Kilimanjaro is highly appreciated for his constructive criticism and ideas. 


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Received 20 August 2013; Accepted 28 September 2013; Published 1 November 2013

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