Zambia: Farmer boosts chicken health with better breeding and feeding
For years, Paul Lungu and his family lived in a small grass-thatched hut on the outskirts of Lundazi town, in eastern Zambia. The soil was sandy, but he couldn’t afford even a single bag of fertilizer. He couldn’t produce enough maize to feed his family, and his five children did not attend school.
To survive, Mr. Lungu and his wife Malingose started rearing local chickens in 2011. The chickens were small and laid few eggs. They provided some income, but brought a new challenge: Newcastle disease.
He recalls: “It was not easy to sell the chickens at a good price. To make matters worse, we experienced chipumphu [Newcastle disease], which wiped out all the chickens, and we had to start all over again.”
In July 2014, Mr. Lungu and his wife participated in a training in Lundazi, organized by the district farmers’ association. Along with other small-scale poultry farmers, they learned new methods for raising chickens.
Mr. Lungu says, “We learned many ways of keeping chickens healthy, and how to improve their breed and make them multiply very quickly.”
Mr. Lungu bought a male broiler from the market and put it among his chickens. His wife pounded soy, groundnuts, and sunflower cake. She mixed them carefully, then fed the mixture to the broiler and the other chickens three times a day. She also gave the chickens zundu, which she bought from the district farmers’ association. Zundu is a herb-based product that boosts growth and egg production.
The free-range broiler grew quickly and became strong. The hens produced a lot of eggs. Mr. Lungu sold all his young, local cocks and replaced them with two more male broilers. He wanted to breed a bird with the hardiness and good taste of local chickens, but the size of a broiler.
Mr. Lungu allows the chicks to stay with the hens for 21 days. Then he separates them from their mothers and puts them in an enclosed area, while his wife continues to feed them a combination of nutritious foods.
Mercy Musonda is the extension worker at the district farmers’ association. She tells farmers that, as well as helping with growth and egg production, zundu also protects chickens from disease.
Within a short time, the family had more chickens. Mrs. Musonda explains, “This is because of the feed that you give them … It makes your chicks grow very big and healthy, and the hens produce more eggs.”
Mrs. Lungu says she is happy with the results of her feeding plan. She adds: “I also break the leaves of the mulemu [a local plant] and put them in the water. It’s what my mother used to give her chickens to stop them from dying from Newcastle disease.”
Mrs. Musonda encourages farmers to use traditional plant remedies such as mulemu and Gliricidia sepium to protect the chickens. Gliricidia sepium is a leguminous tree. Mrs. Musonda says farmers can pound fresh leaves in a mortar and then roll them into small balls, and place them in the chickens’ sleeping area. She adds: “Gliricidia sepium has a chemical, and if you use this method regularly for a few months, you will get rid of the fleas from your chickens. Fleas are the major carriers of many diseases that attack chickens.”
Because Mr. Lungu has many chickens now, he built a larger chicken house. He used strong poles for the walls and made separate compartments for the bigger chickens, the brooding hens, and the young chicks.
His family now has more than 500 birds and is well known as a supplier of big, tasty local chickens to many lodges and restaurants in the Lundazi area.
Mr. Lungu explains: “We can sell 50 big chickens every week, and plan to increase our output. There is a big population of Zambians of Indian origin in Lundazi and Chipata who also want local chickens. We want to become their main source for local chickens.”
Using the profits from chicken sales, Mr. Lungu built a bigger house for his family, made of bricks with a corrugated metal roof. All five children now go to school.
He says: “I believe that, with basic knowledge and hard work, there is nothing that should be considered useless. Look, nobody wanted to settle in this place because the soil was poor for farming. But by introducing improved local chickens instead of crops, the useless land [is now productive].”