Livestock Research for Rural Development 21 (10) 2009 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD News

Citation of this paper

Upgrading the scavenging feed resource base (SFRB) for scavenging chickens: Part II. Non-preferred perennial species

I Simons

26 Trost Street, Helidon, QLD, Australia 4344


Poultry choice tests using the seeds of different perennial species were conducted. The tests were extended to cover berries from other perennial species. Those species which the chickens ate or ate avidly were listed in Part I (Simons 2009). The non-preferred or less-preferred species are listed in this second part.

Keywords: acacias, berries, cowpeas, poultry, preferences, seeds


Part I listed perennials which yielded seeds and berries which were preferred by chickens in a free-range environment. However, during the course of the study, many species emerged which were non- or less-preferred. For the sake of completion, these species are listed in the following.


Because of the potential value of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), further consideration is given to the results of the tests using this species.



The methods were described in Part I and so are only briefly covered here. Chickens’ eating preferences were recorded, and put into one of four preference indicators: “ate avidly”, “ate”, “ate reluctantly”, and “did not eat”. These indicators were determined according to the following schedule:

·               Ate avidly – sample completely eaten within 9 mins,

·               Ate – sample completely eaten within 90 mins,

·               Ate reluctantly (A.r.) – sample partially or completely eaten in greater than 90 mins, and

·               Did not eat – nothing eaten during the day.





Results for the species that recorded in the non-preferred range are given in Table 1. This includes the results of some later tests which were done after the submission of Part I.

Table 1.   Wattles in the non-preferred range

Species  name Common name Preference
Acacia adsurgens Warlpiri mulga A.r./ate avidly
Acacia ampliceps Salt wattle A.r./ate
Acacia auriculiformis Earpod wattle Did not eat/a.r.
Acacia calamifolia Wallowa A.r./ate avidly
Acacia celastrifolia Grey myrtle wattle A.r./ate
Acacia complanata Long pod wattle A.r.
Acacia confluens Wyrilda Did not eat
Acacia coriacea Dogwood Did not eat
Acacia craspedocarpa       Leather leaf acacia Did not eat
Acacia cyclops Western coastal wattle Did not eat/a.r.
Acacia dictophleba Desert wattle A.r./ate
Acacia farnesiana              Needle or Mimosa bush Did not eat
Acacia floribunda Sally wattle A.r./ate avidly
Acacia irrorata Green wattle A.r.
Acacia iteaphylla Flinders Range wattle Did not eat/a.r.
Acacia longifolia Sydney golden wattle A.r./ate avidly
Acacia macradenia         Zigzag wattle A.r.
Acacia maidenii Maiden’s wattle A.r./ate
Acacia microbotrya Manna wattle A.r.
Acacia murrayana Sand plain wattle Did not eat/a.r.
Acacia pendula Weeping myall, boree A.r.
Acacia prominens Gosford wattle A.r., ate avidly
Acacia retinoides Wirilda, swamp wattle A.r.
Acacia rhodophloia         Western red mulga Did not eat
Acacia salicina     Sally wattle A.r.
Acacia saligna Golden wreath wattle A.r.
Acacia stenophylla              Eumong, river myall Did not eat
Acacia vestita Hairy wattle A.r.
Acacia victoriae         Bramble wattle Did not eat

A preference result like that for Acacia adsurgens – “ate/ate avidly” is explained by the fact that successive tests were done, with results progressing thru categories “a.r.”, “ate”, “ate avidly”. On the other hand, a result like that for Acacia prominens – “A.r., ate avidly” meant that the chickens recorded only “a.r.” and “ate avidly” (no in-between categories). 


Other seed-producing perennials


The seeds of 102 other seed-producing perennial species were tested with 16 species in the preferred range (see Part I) and 86 in the non-preferred range. Table 2 below lists these species.

Table  2.   Seed-producing species in non-preferred range
Species name Common name Preference
Adenanthera pavonina Red sandalwood   Did not eat
Agave hartmanii Smallflower century plant Did not eat
Albizia julibrissin Silk tree                   Did not eat
Albizia lebbeck Siris tree Did not eat
Albizia lophantha Cape wattle Did not eat
Alnus glutinosa Black alder A.r.
Aloe vera Aloe vera Did not eat
Alpinia caerulea Native ginger A.r.
Alyxia ruscifolia Chain fruit Did not eat
Bauhinia variegata Orchid tree Did not eat
Bixa orellana Annatto Did not eat
Bombax costatum Red kapok tree Did not eat
Brachychiton acerifolius Illawara flame tree Did not eat
Brachychiton rupestre Narrow-leaved bottle tree Did not eat
Bursaria spinosa Blackthorn Did not eat
Caeselpinia spinosa Tara Did not eat
Cajanus cajan Pigeon pea A.r./ate
Cassia tomentella Velvet cassia A.r.
Cassine australis Red olive berry Did not eat
Celtis australis Hackberry A.r.
Ceratonia siliqua Carob Did not eat
Chionanthus ramiflora Native olive Did not eat/a.r.
Combretum imberbe Leadwood Did not eat
Cortaderia selloana Pampas grass Did not eat
Crotalaria grahamiana Rattlepod Did not eat
Croton sylvaticus Woodland croton A.r./ate
Daviesia mimosoides Narrow-leaf bitter pea A.r./ate
Dietes spp. Native lily Did not eat
Dodonaea lanceolata Hopbush A.r./ate
Dodonaea triquetra Large-leaf hop-bush A.r./ate
Dodonaea viscosa Native hop-bush A.r./ate
Elattostachys microcarpa Scrub tamarind Did not eat
Erythrina abissinica Red hot poker tree Did not eat
Erythrina haerdii Coral tree Did not eat
Erythrina lysistemon Lucky bean tree Did not eat
Erythrina poeppigiana Mountain immortelle Did not eat
Fraxinus velutina Desert ash Did not eat
Genista monosperma Bridal broom Did not eat
Gleditsia sinensis Soap pod tree Did not eat
Gleditsia triacanthos Honey locust tree Did not eat
Gliricidia sepium Mother of cocoa Did not eat
Gossypium spp. Cotton Did not eat
Grewia bicolor False brandybush Did not eat
Harpullia pendula Black tulipwood Did not eat/a.r.
Helianthus maximilianii Perennial sunflower Did not eat
Hibiscus cannabinus Kenaf Did not eat
Hibiscus sabdariffa Rosella Did not eat
Indigofera frutescens River indigo Did not eat
Ipomea spp. Morning glory Did not eat
Koelreuteria paniculata Golden rain tree Did not eat
Lagunaria patersonia Norfolk Island hibiscus Did not eat
Lawsonia inermis Henna Did not eat
Leucaena leucocephala Tree lucerne Did not eat
Leucaena trichodes Arabisco Did not eat
Lomandra longifolia Spiny-headed mat-rush Did not eat
Markhamia zanzabarica Bell bean tree Did not eat
Melia azederach White cedar A.r.
Melianthus comosus Tufted honeyflower Did not eat
Miscanthus sinensis var.  ‘zebrinus’ Zebra grass Did not eat
Mundulea sericea Silver bush Did not eat/a.r.
Niemeyera chartacea Smooth-leaved plum A.r.
Nolina recurvata Pony tail palm Did not eat
Phytolacca octandra Red ink plant Did not eat
Pistacia terebrinthus Cyprus turpentine Did not eat
Pithecellobium flexicaule Texas ebony Did not eat
Pittosporum augustifolius Gumby-gumby Did not eat
Pittosporum phylliraeoides Weeping pittosporum Did not eat
Punica granatum Pomegranate A.r.
Quassia amara Bitterwood Did not eat
Ruttya fruticosa Rabbit ears Did not eat
Sapium sebiferum Chinese tallow-wood A.r.
Schotia capitata Dwarf Boer-bean Did not eat
Senna alata Candle bush A.r.
Senna pendula Easter cassia Did not eat
Sophora tetraptera Kowhai A.r./ate
Sophora tomentosa Necklace pod Did not eat
Tipuana tipu Rosewood Did not eat
Ulmus parvifolia Chinese elm Did not eat/a.r.
Vigna unguiculata Cowpea – ‘Black seeded-Thai’ A.r.
Vigna unguiculata ‘Burkino Faso’ Did not eat
Vigna unguiculata ‘Crowdu butter pea’ A.r.
Vigna unguiculata ‘Purple hull’ A.r.
Vigna unguiculata Cowpea – miscellaneous sources Did not eat/ate avidly
Xanthorrhoea spp. Grass tree Did not eat
Yucca filamentosa Adam’s needle Did not eat
Zizania latifolia Manchurian wild rice A.r./ate

It is noteworthy, that windborne seeds usually recorded the lowest preferences. Examples are Fraxinus velutina, Markhamia zanzibarica, Nolina recurvata, and Tipuana tipu.


Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) is a variable species composed of annual and perennial forms (Singh 2002). It is included because it is potentially a very desirable food forest component. It is fast-growing and also heat, drought and particularly, shade tolerant (Mullen 1999, Mayet 2008).


Cowpea seeds are also a nutritious, high protein livestock feed (de J A Goncalves 2005). However, they contain an anti-nutritional component, principally trypsin inhibitor (Marconi et al 1993). This inhibitor is at a low level when compared with other leguminous peas and beans (Jaffe 1950). Also, depending on the variety or source, the trypsin content can have a high variability (Monti and Grillo 1983, Oluwatosin 1999).


Nevertheless, this anti-nutritional component appears to deter the chickens from eating the untreated seeds in many cases. The choice tests using seeds from a Western Australian source (Yilgarn Traders 2009) resulted mostly in poor preference indicators. On the other hand, seeds from various other sources, after an initial poor response, gave improved indicators. (See Table 2 above.) In Nicaragua, hens have been reported to eat the seeds in the fields without problem (Luna 2009). Apart from the anti-nutritional component, two further factors appear to influence cowpea’s acceptability by scavenging chickens.




Soaking the peas reduces trypsin inhibitor activity (Gatta et al 1989, Prinyawiwatkul  et al 1996). As a separate exercise during the present study, different samples of peas which were being rejected by the birds were sprayed with hose water. Within several minutes, the samples were eaten by them. It is highly likely, that the soaking made the cowpeas acceptable. In other words, soaking of the peas by natural rainfall could make all the difference to the scavenging chickens’ preference.




In Part I, familiarity was mentioned as a factor that skewed the results with some of the wattles with earlier tests recording lower acceptability than later ones. A hint of this skewing was also noted with some of the cowpea tests. One notable example occurred whilst testing a batch of seeds purchased at a local retail store, sourced from Colorado, USA. The results with progressive samples were as follows:

                       Sample 1: Did not eat

                       Sample 2: A.r.

                       Remaining 6 samples: Ate avidly.


Berry-bearing perennials


Results for the 28 species that recorded “ate avidly” were listed in Part I. Preference indicators for less-preferred species are included in Table 3 below, including species which recorded an “ate” indicator. Also included are the results of many later tests which were completed during the southern autumn, after the submission of Part I. (Autumn is a particularly bounteous season for berry crops.)

Table 3.  Chickens’ berry preferences in less-preferred range
Species name Common name Preference
Abrophyllum ornans Native hydrangea A.r.
Afrocarpus falcata Sickle-leaved yellowwood A.r./ate avidly
Alpinia caerulea Native ginger  
Alyxia ruscifolia Chain fruit A.r.
Archontophoenix alexandrae Alexandra palm Did not eat
Ardisia crenata Red coral berry Did not eat
Breynia spp. Nodding breynia Ate
Breynia oblongifolia Coffee bush A.r.
Callicarpa pedunculata Velvet leaf Did not eat
Chamaedorea seifrizii Reed palm Ate
Cinnamomum camphora Camphor laurel Did not eat
Cissus quadrangularis Veld grape A.r./ate
Cissus rotundifolia Peruvian grape Ate/ate avidly
Clivia miniata Clivia Ate
Cordia spp. (dichotoma?) (Fragrant manjack?) Did not eat
Cordyline terminalis Cordyline Ate
Cotoneaster spp. Cotoneaster Ate
Cotoneaster conspicuus Wintergreen cotoneaster Did not eat
Crataegus smithiana Red Mexican hawthorn A.r.
Dianella spp. Dianella Did not eat
Dracaena marginata Red-edged dracaena Ate
Duranta repens Duranta Did not eat
Ehretia rigida Cape lilac Ate
Elaeodedrum australe Red olive plum Did not eat
Emmenosperma alphitonioides Bonewood Did not eat
Euonymus japonicus Japanese spindle Ate
Eustrephus latifolius Wombat berry Did not eat
Ficus benjamina Weeping fig Did not eat
Ficus longifolia Long leaf fig Did not eat
Ficus obliqua Small-leaved fig Did not eat
Ficus virgata Figwood A.r.
Glycosmis trifoliata Orange berry A.r./ate
Hamelia patens Firebush A.r./ate
Ilex spp. Holly Ate
Ilex cornuta ‘Burfordii’ Burford’s or Chinese holly Ate
Lantana camara Lantana Did not eat
Liriope muscari Liriope Did not eat/ate
Mahonia aquifolia Oregon grape Ate
Maytenus mossambicensis Black forest spike-thorn A.r.
Micromelum minutum Lime berry Did not eat/ate
Morus alba White mulberry Ate
Murraya koenigii Curry leaf tree Did not eat/a.r.
Murraya paniculata Orange jessamine A.r.
Myrtus communis Myrtle Did not eat
Nandina domestica Sacred bamboo Did not eat/a.r.
Notelaea ligustrina Native olive Ate
Ochna kirkii Ochna Did not eat
Ochna serrulata Ochna Did not eat
Ophiopogan japonicas ‘Nigrescens’ Black mondo grass Ate
Palicourea courea   Did not eat
Photinia glabra Japanese photinia Ate
Polyalthia nitidissima Canary beech Did not eat
Polyscias australiana Ivory basswood Did not eat/ate
Polyscias elegans Celerywood Did not eat
Pyracantha angustifolia Firethorn Ate
Rapheolepis indica Indian hawthorn Ate
Rauvolfia ligustrina Venenito A.r.
Sabal minor Dwarf palmetto palm Did not eat
Sambucus nigra Black elder Ate
Sansevieria ehrenbergii Blue, sword sansevieria A.r.
Sansevieria forskaoliana   Did not eat
Schefflera arboricola Octopus tree Ate
Sideroxylon inerme White milkwood Ate/ate avidly
Solanum mauritianum Wild tobacco Did not eat
Solanum nigrum Black nightshade Ate/ate avidly
Tabernaemontana australis Pinwheel jessamine Did not eat/a.r.
Yucca spp. Yucca Did not eat

The results for four Ficus species showed that the chickens did not favor their fruits. Only Ficus hillii (Hill’s fig), reported in Part I gave a promising response. These findings do not support the statement made by Nugent and Boniface (1996) that the fruits of Ficus are generally good poultry feed.    



The significance of Part I of this work lay in the resulting lists of perennial species that could be planted to upgrade the SFRB. On the contrary, Part II lists species less-favored species. Those with preference categories “did not eat” or “a.r.” are suggested as candidates for omission from the chickens’ food forest.     



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Simons I 2009 Upgrading the scavenging feed resource base (SFRB) for scavenging chickens; Part I. Preferred perennial species. Livestock Research for Rural Development 21(7)


Singh B B 2002 Recent genetic studies in cowpea. In Fatokan C A, Tarawalii S A, Singh B B, Kormawa P M, and Tamo M (editors): Challenges and opportunities for enhancing sustainable cowpea production, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan, Nigeria: 3-13.


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Received 17 July 2009; Accepted 18 July 2009; Published 1 October 2009

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