Dr Mukhtar Ahmad
Before commercialisation of poultry we were wholly dependent on backyard poultry farming for eggs and meat. But during transitional period the backyard poultry stepped out of the homes. One reason behind was low production of eggs and meat by indigenous breeds and easy availability of both at cheaper rates. But due to increasing prices of poultry products and income of rural people, it is impossible for poor people to relish these products ( egg and meat) regularly in their diet. Nowadays people are also concerned about management of kitchen wastes. At this juncture, backyard poultry play a great role in the availability of these protein-rich products (meat and eggs) to people and management of kitchen wastes. Today many dual purpose breeds which are developed for backyard purpose by different institutions can give more than 200 eggs per year and good meat production also. From last few years backyard poultry had shown steep growth in rural and urban areas. Many people are approaching regarding availability of these type of bird in valley.
Importance of backyard poultry
Backyard poultry makes substantial contributions to household food security throughout the developing world. They are used as sources of meat and eggs for consumption. It is a source of income and thus represents a major contribution alleviating poverty. The demand for backyard poultry is increasing day by day in urban areas also. It is an alternative source of animal protein due to the fact that they can be slaughtered and consumed as a single meal and thus need no special storage facilities. Backyard poultry is also meant for the welfare of women and children in developing countries. Besides rural households, these low-input, low-output poultry-husbandry systems are an integral component of the livelihoods of most rural, peri-urban and urban households.. Backyard poultry rearing is based on low input low output management. Flocks are hardly more than 30 adult birds per household and minimal care with no supplementation is needed for their maintenance.
Regarding their housing, night shelter is given during summer in order to prevent them from predators. Night shelters include rudimentary coops. They are left in morning to consume available insects, fallen grains and kitchen waste around the house and take care of themselves. Backyard poultry birds are excellent foragers. Scavenged feed mainly comprise insects, food waste, green grass, leafy vegetables and grains. They also help in pest control and with their help, waste material (insects, ants, fallen grains, green grass, kitchen waste and vegetable waste etc.) can be efficiently converted into the egg and chicken meat for human consumption.
Backyard poultry provides supplementary income in shortest possible time with little or minimum capital investment, simple in operation and ensures availability of egg and meat even in remote areas. It is the type of organic farming with no harmful residue in eggs and meat. It is thus an eco-friendly approach. Further, these are very active in pest control and provide manure to a farmer. Poultry manure contains all the essential nutrients for plant growth and offers a rich source of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous. Because of the high nitrogen level and nutrient balance, chicken manure is considered the best type of manure for garden use. It is an environment friendly alternative to chemical fertilisers and good for the earth. As local breeds are used mostly, they got better adaptability and protect themselves from predators and diseases. Backyard poultry birds fully digest weed seeds, so no need to worry about those weed clippings sprouting back up as you would from a horse or steer manure.
Other benefits of backyard poultry
Some of the other benefits of backyard poultry rearing are as follows:
- It alleviates protein malnutrition in vulnerable groups viz. expectant women, feeding mothers and children.
- It minimises environmental pollution per unit poultry produce, which is otherwise a major problem with the intensive poultry farming.
- There is integration with other agricultural operations like crop farming or fish farming which results in the addition of income by utilizing the waste product of each farming.
- It has been reported that eggs and meat from birds reared under backyard conditions have low cholesterol concentration compared to those produced under intensive poultry farming.
Women in backyard poultry production
Socially, we are having a male centred family system; obviously, all income from agriculture produce is in the hands of male farmer. It is observed that there is always a shortage of money in the hands of rural farm women. Poultry raising is a very familiar activity among rural women in many developing countries like India. Women have been considered to be the predominant owners of backyard poultry. Most women in the rural areas rear backyard types of domestic fowl in an extensive system of poultry production. Backyard poultry production serves as a small-scale business for income generation that is controlled by women themselves. This small enterprise provides regular income using little inputs and the production can be solely managed by women in the household. Although rural poultry production cannot contribute any large income, it represents a very familiar skill to most of the poor women and it can help them in moving into a positive spiral of events that may lead them for the elevation of their socio-economic status. The backyard poultry production will also play a role in the availability of standard protein to rural women as well as their children which will in turn help in combating the malnutrition conditions faced by rural women and children due to their low income.
The growth in the poultry sector so far could not be able to contribute much to poverty reduction and improved nutrition. However, the growth of the backyard poultry sector can definitely contribute to poverty alleviation in our conditions. It is very much necessary to raise awareness about the backyard poultry rearing among the masses. Besides the reduction of poverty, it will help in food and nutritional security, especially in vulnerable groups. It can not only give employment to the rural small-scale and marginal farmers but can also play an important role in women empowerment.
Dr Mukhtar Ahmad is a veterinarian, and founder Vet Junction YouTube channel.