Livestock Research for Rural Development 22 (9) 2010 Notes to Authors LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Health management in village poultry in Kalabo and Mongu Districts in the Western Province of Zambia

S Simainga, F Banda*, N Sakuya** and J C Moreki***

Provincial Agricultural Coordinator, Ministry of Agricultural and Cooperatives P.O. Box 9100 Mongu, Zambia
* Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Mongu P.O. Box 910034 Mongu, Zambia
** Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Kalabo P.O. Box 910022 Kalabo, Zambia
*** Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Animal Production, Private Bag 0032, Gaborone, Botswana


Village poultry play an important role in household nutrition, food security and economic empowerment of the economically vulnerable members of the society, especially women. Hence, flock health management should be improved in order to raise the productivity of the birds. Therefore, a study was conducted in Mongu and Kalabo districts in the Western Province of Zambia. The objective of the study was to gather and document information on health management practices of village poultry in the two districts. Data were collected using a structured questionnaire which was administered randomly to 243 households in Mongu and Kalabo, which represent both rural and urban areas. Also, 100 chickens were obtained and examined for the presence of parasites. Thereafter, the birds were sacrificed and examined for body condition. Furthermore, 47 faecal samples were obtained from birds from Kalabo district and were analysed for internal parasites at a laboratory at the University of Zambia.


The results of this study showed that 99% of households kept poultry. Chickens accounted for 80.13% of poultry followed by ducks (17.2%) and guinea fowl (2.65%). In the present study, poultry were kept mainly for meat, cash and egg production. Ninety-seven percent of households reared chickens extensively (free range). In order of importance, predation, diseases and theft accounted for 98%, 84% and 52% of losses, respectively. Seventy-five percent of the respondents mentioned that of all the diseases, Newcastle disease (NCD) was the major cause of mortalities in village poultry. Only 16.46% percent of the respondents used veterinary drugs, indicating that disease control was mainly through the use of traditional remedies. The results of the faecal analysis showed that birds tested positive for ascaridia ova, heterakis ova, coccidian oocysts and capillaria ova. It was apparent that extension service was inadequate across the districts. These results demonstrated that diseases and parasites are the major constraints in village poultry. The results show that health management is lacking in the two districts.

Keywords: Diseases, health management, Newcastle disease, village chickens


Poultry production in most developing countries is based on the village chickens which derive their nutrition from scavenging in the village surrounds. Hence, this production system is referred to as low-input-low-output compared to high-input-high-output system in the case of modern commercial chickens. According to Pandey (1992) and Bagust (1999), the low-input-low-output system is ascribable mainly to diseases, lack of supplementary feeding and suboptimal management. About 80% of chickens in Africa are reared in these (village) systems (Guye 1998). FAOSTAT (2000) estimated village chickens in Africa to be 1.1 billion.


Chickens are of great importance to African households. Generally, village producers keep small flocks of between 5 to 20 chickens per household and women and children play a key role in their management. In general, chickens are raised in a free range system, scavenging around the village surrounds, feeding on the locally available resources such as earthworms, household refuses and harvest wastes (Guye 1997). In Zambia, Zulu (1999) reported that indigenous chickens provide the mainstay of the rural economy and contribute to food security and agricultural development.


There is little information on health management of village chickens in Zambia. As a result, a study was carried out in Kalabo and Mongu districts of the Western Province to gather and document information on health management practices (diseases and parasites) of village poultry. Figure 1 shows the map of Zambia with all the provinces including the Western, which is one of the largest and least densely populated.

Figure 1.  Map of Zambia showing the nine provinces

Materials and methods 

Data were collected using a structured questionnaire that was administered randomly to 243 respondents (123 in Mongu and 120 in Kalabo) across the districts. The two districts represent urban and rural areas. Furthermore, data were collected from six camps (three from each district) which were selected based on the location on flood plains or upper land in order to have a representative picture of the households. Data were also collected from focused groups and key informants.


A total of 100 chickens (50 chickens from each district) were procured to check for endoparasites and ectoparasites. The birds were later sacrificed and examined to check for body condition. Adult worms found on the birds were collected and sent to the laboratory for identification and characterisation at the University of Zambia. In addition, 47 faecal samples were obtained only from Kalabo district and sent to the University laboratory for analysis. Data were analysed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPPS). Descriptive data such as mean, range and percentage were used to summarise and present results.


Results and discussion 

Livestock rearing


All households kept livestock and over 99% of them kept poultry of which chickens were the majority (Table 1). Across the districts, poultry represented  50.7% of livestock reared followed by cattle (35.4%), pigs (7.76%) and goats (6.08%)   Of all poultry species reared, chickens accounted for 80.1% followed by ducks (17.2%) and guinea fowl (2.65%).

Table 1.  Livestock species reared across the districts








169 (35.4%)




37 (7.76%)




29 (6.08%)




302 (50.7%)

Village chickens were used mainly for meat, sale for cash and egg production. Manure produced was used to fertilize gardens. The study showed that 97% of the rearers practised free range system and 60% of them said their chickens did not get enough nutrition from scavenging. This implies that supplementary feeding could have been practised. Generally, birds searched for water though in some cases households provided water for their chickens.


Age and body condition of birds


The age of birds sampled for parasites is presented in Table 2. In this study, the majority of birds were aged 7 to 9 months (Table 2). In Mongu and Kalabo districts, the birds that were aged 7 to 9 months constituted 56% and 66%, respectively. Table 2 shows that the birds aged over 12 months are the minority across the districts.

Table 2.  Age of chickens sampled





≤6 months

12 (24%)

2 (4%)

14 (14%)

7 to 9 months

28 (56%)

33 (66%)

61 (62%)

10 to 12 months

7 (14%)

13 (26%)

2 (20%)

>12 months

3 (6%)

2 (4%)

5 (5%)

The body condition of the sampled chickens is illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2.  Body conditions of sampled chickens

It is clear from Figure 2 that the majority of birds from the two districts had moderate to poor body conditions. Only few birds had very good body condition with the highest number coming from Mongu. These results indicate poor feeding and lack of health management on the part of rearers.


Main causes of losses in village poultry


As shown in Figure 3, losses were due to predation (93%), followed by diseases (84%), theft (52%), and others (2%). Others include accidents, unfavourable weather conditions and malnutrition, especially undernutrition.

Figure 3.  Causes of losses in village poultry

These results are inconsistent with Kampeni (2001) in Malawi who reported that the major constraints in village chickens in order of priority were NCD, predation and parasites. Buza and Mwamuhehe (2001) in Tanzania also reported the major constraint in rural chicken development to be NCD, which causes 90% mortality rates and sometimes kills whole flocks during outbreaks. Of those that suffered mortality due to diseases, NCD accounted for 75%, making it the major cause of mortality in village poultry. Furthermore, 40% of the respondents mentioned that endoparasites were the major cause of losses, 48.5% did not attribute bird losses to endoparasites while 11% had no comment. Additionally, 65% of the respondents said ectoparasites were a major cause of losses, 23% did not believe so while 11% had no comment.


Diseases and control


In the current study, three diseases of poultry were NCD, chronic respiratory disease (CRD) and fowl pox. As mentioned earlier, 75% of the respondents ranked NCD as a major cause of mortality in village chickens. On the other hand, two percent of the respondents experienced losses due to other diseases; four percent suffered losses due to CRD, two percent due to eye infections and 0.4% to fowl pox. The result on NCD in this study is consistent with Alexander (1991), Spradbrow (1994), Songolo and Katongo (2001), and Buza and Mwamuhehe (2001) who reported that NCD is the main cause of mortality in village poultry, which causes high mortalities nearly worldwide, and can, eliminate the entire unprotected flocks.


About 16.46% of the respondents used conventional drugs, 36% human drugs, 20% a mixture of conventional and ethnoveterinary drugs, two percent removed bursa of Fabricius to control diseases (in case of Gumboro), 4.5% did nothing and 20% did not respond. These results clearly show that few rearers use veterinary drugs indicating that the use of traditional remedies is wide across the districts and/or birds are left unprotected. The low use of veterinary drugs may be attributable to the lack of cold chain usually required for vaccines, lack of knowledge of vaccine use, high expense of vaccines, as well as, unavailability of vaccines in the districts. In agreement with these results, Moreki (2010) in Botswana reported that only two percent of the rearers in Serowe-Palapye sub-district used vaccines, indicating that EVM was widely used by the rearers.


Sixty-two percent of the respondents said that the Department of Veterinary Service (DVS) is addressing the disease situation, 37% said that DVS does not address disease situation while 1% did not comment on the issue. Furthermore, 20% said DVS is addressing the disease situation through advisory services, 12% through a combination of advice and vaccination, 28% through vaccinations, one percent said it was through ethnoveterinary drugs, whereas 37% did not comment. To control disease, one percent of the respondents said they purchased drugs, one percent sought veterinary advice, 15% used ethnoveterinary medicines (EVM), 2.5% used a mixture of EVM and conventional veterinary medicine, 2.5% did not take any action, four percent had no experience of diseases and 72% had no comment on the issue. The response given by the rearers that DVS is not addressing the disease situation points to the inadequacy of extension service.


Parasites and control


The common parasites (external and internal) of village chickens are presented in Tables 3 and 4. According to Table 3, the ectoparasites (external parasites) of poultry are fleas, mites and lice. In both districts fleas were predominant compared to mites and lice. Mongu had slightly high prevalence (44%) of fleas than Kalabo (40%).

Table 3.  Ectoparasites and prevalence

External Parasites




22 (44%)

20 (40%)


1 (2%)



1 (2%)


Negative for external parasites

26 (52%)

30 (60%)

The internal parasites of village poultry in Mongu and Kalabo districts are nematodes and tapeworms (Table 4). Across the districts tapeworms had higher prevalence than nematode. Furthermore, Kalabo had slightly higher (38%) prevalence of tapeworms than Mongu (34%).

Table 4.  Endoparasites and their prevalence






15 (30%

13 (26%)

28 (56%)


17 (34%)

19 (38%)

36 (72%)

Negative for endoparasites

25 (50%)

25 (50%)

50 (50%)

Faecal sample analysis


Only faecal samples from Kalabo were collected and forwarded to the Univesity of Zambia for laboratory analysis. Forty-seven out of 50 samples submitted were examined as the other three samples were mixed up (spoilt). The results of faecal analysis are illustrated in Figure 4.

Figure 4.  Endoparasites in faecal samples

It is clear from Figure 4 that faecal samples tested positive for ascaridia ova, heterakis ova, coccidia oocysts and capillaria ova. The highest response was recorded for coccidia oocysts and ascaridia ova. According to Figure 4, 61.7% of the faecal samples did not contain ova oocysts.



Alexander J D 1991 Newcastle Disease in Ruwyamamu, Newcastle Disease Vaccines for Rural Africa Debre Zeit, Ethiopia. Pan African Veterinary Centre 7-45.


Bagust T. 1999 Village and Free Range poultry in health and Disease. Commonwealth Veterinary Association: Regional Workshop on livestock production in the Pacific Islands 27.30 October 1999.


Buza J J and Mwamuhehe H A 2001 Country Report: Tanzania. In, Alders R G and Spradbrow P B (Editors) SADC Planning Workshop on Newcastle Disease control in village chickens. Proceedings of an International Workshop, Maputo, Mozambique, 6-9 March 2000. ACIAR Proceedings No. 103. 38-42.


FAOSTAT 2000 Statistical Database. Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations.


Guye E F 1997 Diseases in village chickens: control through ethnoveterinary medicine. ILEIA Newsletter – July 1997. 20-21.


Guye E F 1998 Village egg and fowl meat production in Africa. World’s Poultry Science Journal 54: 73-86.


Kampeni F L 2001 Country Report: Malawi. . In, Alders R G and Spradbrow P B (Editors). SADC Planning Workshop on Newcastle Disease control in village chickens. Proceedings of an International Workshop, Maputo, Mozambique, 6-9 March 2000. ACIAR Proceedings No. 103. 15-19.


Moreki J C 2010 Village poultry production in Serowe-Palapye sub-district of Botswana. Livestock Research for Rural Development 22(3). Retrieved March 02, 2010, from


Pandey V S 1992 Epidemiology and economics of village poultry in Africa: An overview. Proceedings of a Workshop, May 7-11, Morocco, 124-129.


Songolo A and Katongo J C 2001 Country Report: Zambia. In, Alders R G and Spradbrow P B (Editors) 2001. SADC Planning Workshop on Newcastle Disease control in village chickens. Proceedings of an International Workshop, Maputo, Mozambique, 6-9 March 2000. ACIAR Proceedings No. 103. 38-42. 43-45.


Spradbrow P 1994 Newcastle disease vaccine takes hold. Partners in Research for Development Number 7, May 1994. 2-7.


Zulu F A 1999 Current state of management of farm animal genetic resources in Zambia. A paper presented at the National Co-ordinators meeting of SADC/FAO on management of farm animal genetic resources (FanGRs, 5-8 July 1999. Pretoria, South Africa.

Received 12 May 2010; Accepted 24 June 2010; Published 1 September 2010

Go to top