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Trop Anim Health Prod (2009) 41:13631370

DOI 10.1007/s11250-009-9323-x

ORIGINAL PAPER

A survey of village poultry production


in the Solomon Islands
T. Jansen & P. C. Glatz & Z. H. Miao

Accepted: 6 February 2009 / Published online: 26 February 2009


# Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2009

Abstract A total of 84 farmers in 31 villages of


Guadalcanal, Western, Malaita and Central Provinces
of the Solomon Islands were surveyed to obtain
baseline information on the current feeding practices
and farmer attitudes to village poultry production.
Farming of village chickens in the Solomon Islands is
conducted on a small scale. Most surveyed farmers
thought chickens were easy to care for, provide food
for the family and was a good cash income enterprise.
Some farmers were interested in keeping local
chickens, but found it difficult to obtain the birds.
The main feed sources are fresh coconut, copra meal,
fish meal, mill run, food scraps and forage sources
from the range. Some villagers believe that chickens
only need to eat household scraps and did not provide
drinking water. Many villagers lacked the knowledge
of managing a village poultry enterprise. Some
chicken houses were built by using bush materials
or by purchasing construction materials. Farmers
indicated they would like the government to provide
funds for establishing a smallholder poultry enterprise
and to provide information on feeding and management of birds.
T. Jansen
TerraCircle Inc.,
Honiara, Solomon Islands
P. C. Glatz : Z. H. Miao (*)
South Australian Research and Development Institute,
Roseworthy, South Australia, Australia 5371
e-mail: miao.zhihong@saugov.sa.gov.au

Keywords Village chickens . Feed ingredients .


Production and market

Introduction
Village poultry is still an important economic activity
and a source of food in developing countries (Alders
and Pym 2008). Reducing the cost of poultry feeding
by using local feed resources was identified as the
highest priority in Pacific Island countries by the
South Pacific Islands consultation in December 2003.
The smallholder village poultry sector in the South
Pacific comprise about 113,000 families with an
average of 10 birds producing eggs and meat for local
consumption and for sale in local markets. Improving
the use of local feedstuffs is seen as the best option to
improve current low levels of production that are
unable to meet the increasing demand for eggs and
chicken meat. Feed ingredients for use in poultry diets
represent the greatest single production cost.
The Pacific Country smallholders keep chickens
for selling eggs and live birds in local markets. The
sale of chickens is one of the major sources of
income. For example, in the Solomon Islands (SI)
21,000 families (about 40% of the rural population)
(estimated) currently keep birds for eggs and chicken
meat. There is a wide variety of local feed resources
which could be more effectively utilised to improve
the productivity of these village poultry production
systems. With an average of 30% of infants under-

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weight due to poor nutrition, the regular addition of


eggs and meat, combined with more green leafy
vegetables in family diets, has the potential to reduce
infant malnutrition that has a much wider cost to society.
The aim of this study was to establish village
farmers current knowledge of poultry feeding, obtain
information on current feeding practices that are being
used, consumption of eggs and meat and income being
generated from village poultry enterprises in the SI
(refer to Map).

Trop Anim Health Prod (2009) 41:13631370

Nusamaheri, Tanhuka, Nusamahiri, Tanuhuka, Damidami and Nusamari in Western Province and Fuliauladoa, Gwunafiu, Busurata, Lalita, Bialau and Kwalo
in Malaita Province.

Materials and methods


A total of 84 farmers in 31 villages of Guadalcanal,
Western, Malaita and Central provinces of the SI were
surveyed to obtain baseline information on the current
feeding practices and farmer attitudes to village
poultry production. Survey questions were aimed to
collect information about ownership, size of village
poultry operations, reasons for keeping village chickens, aspects of management and disease, marketing
and social problems, attitudes to farming of village
chickens, main problems faced, types of assistance
farmers needed and farmers future intentions regarding village poultry production.
The survey questionnaire was developed through a
series of meetings between personnel from the South
Australian Research and Development Institute
(SARDI), SI Department of Agriculture and Lands
(DAL) and the Kastom Gaden Association (KGA).
The survey form was tested in the field at Avuavu
(Guadalcanal Province) during the first survey field
trip and some changes and adaptations to the survey
question were made. The same team of personnel
carried out the survey between August and November
2005 at the three selected sites (Kolombangara,
Malaita and Guadalcanal) accompanied by translators
from KGA farm schools.
Three sites were chosen as they are in the same
area as KGA farmer schools that have established
models of village poultry production. Some training
activities by KGA have already been underway in
these areas for some years and so the results may not
represent the average rural area. The survey covered
the villages of Veranoli, Namoku, Haemarao, Moku,
Botuvua, Lualua, Bubuvua, Haimarao, Pubuvua, Vera
Chiria, Boliu, Salakulikuli, Haemaro and Vatuli in
Guadalcanal Province; Sauboro, Sausama, Tanahuka,

Data collection and analysis


During the interviews, farmers who had not kept village
chickens in the last 12 months and those who were only
planning or preparing to go into chicken production
were required to respond to certain questions. Those
who kept village chickens in the last 12 months and/or
are currently keeping village chickens had to respond to
a greater number of questions to provide more detailed
information on their chicken operation. The answers
were grouped into categories and given a score and
analysed to determine if there were any statistically
significant differences in the answers provided. The
differences in categories within a question were
assessed with ANOVA in Systat software (Wilkinson
1996). Bonferronis post hoc was used to separate
means only if significant main effects were detected by
analysis of variance. Bonferronis post hoc test is a
multiple comparison test based on Students t statistics
and adjusts the observed significance level when
multiple comparisons are made.

Results
Sex and Age For the 84 surveyed farmers, 56% were
male and 44% were female. The ages of surveyed

Trop Anim Health Prod (2009) 41:13631370

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farmers ranged from 1850 years with more farmers


(38.2%) aged between 25 to 35 years of age and fewer
farmers (12.4%) aged between 3550 years of age.

Table 1 Reasons why Solomon Island villagers were not


keeping village chickens
Reason

Percentage (%)

Main sources of household food The garden is the


most important source of food for 94% of households.
The other sources of food include fish (10%), food
purchased from the store (7%), chicken eggs (4%),
chicken meat (4%), food purchased from the market
(3%), pork (2%) and others (6%).

No access to feed and birds

27

Do not know how

22

Finance and market

16

Predators

11

Stealing

Disease
Other (no house, no fence or no chickens)

Income from keeping chickens Sale of chicken products is a secondary source of income for 41% of
households while eggs were 21%. However, for 33% of
households who earn income from eggs only, 2% found
it an important source of income, while 21% said it was
an occasional source of income.
Keeping village chickens In the previous 12 months,
62% of the surveyed farmers had kept village chickens.
The reasons for farmers not keeping chickens were
listed in Table 1.
83% of surveyed farmers would like to start
keeping village chickens, 8% of the farmers had no
interest while 9% of the farmers did not respond.
Number of birds kept Production was very difficult to
ascertain because 98% of the farmers did not keep
records. Total numbers of chickens kept by the
respondents ranged from 153, number of hens kept
ranged from 030, rooster numbers ranged from 010
and young chicks kept ranged from 041. The
numbers of chickens kept were increasing for 60%
of households and decreasing for 32% of households.
The number of chickens sold in the year of the survey
ranged from 020. Numbers of chickens shared with
others ranged from 012.
Housing Use of houses for keeping chickens was
high (67%). Other areas where chickens spent time
were in trees (13%), in the kitchen (4%) and under the
house (4%). When asked where the chickens roost,
the surveyed farmers said chickens roosted in the
trees (38%), in the chicken house (20%) and a
combination (25%) of two of these locations (chicken
house, trees, in home and on the ground).
Building of poultry houses was generally not a
cash cost for households. Most raw materials (79%)
to build a poultry house were collected locally by

3
13

villagers. Villagers did not know how much it cost for


feeders, drinkers, buckets, pipes and litter materials.
Most (88%) chicken houses were built from local
materials including sago palm leaf as thatching; some
houses were moveable (6%). Some farmers (6%) of
surveyed farmers had not built a chicken house as
they were just starting. Leaf is considered the superior
material for the roof because it keeps the poultry
house cooler compared to using tin (Table 2).
A majority of households with a chicken house are
using some kind of dry organic matter for litter. Litter
materials were grass (41%), leaves (12%), sawdust
(12%), sand (6%), paper (6%) and other (27%). A
total of 50% of the surveyed farmers said they never
replace litter, 21% said they replace litter every 1
2 months, 13% said 12 weeks, 8% said 12 days and
8% said after 6 months. Most surveyed farmers (57%)
did not respond on how they use litter; 17% said it
was used in the garden, 17% gave it away, 5% sold it
and 4% said other.
Places eggs are laid 22% of surveyed farmers said
chickens lay eggs in the family house, 13% in the
chicken house, 13% in the kitchen and 11% in the
bush. A combination of two or three of these places
(the chicken house, the family house, the kitchen, the
bush) made up 31% of the responses.
Brooding system Care of chickens is split between
those who do nothing (31%) and those who
observe carefully (31%). A total of 17% said they
were confined so chickens were protected, while 15%
gave extra food. Most the surveyed farmers (86%) did
not use a brooding system while 14% of the farmers

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Table 2 Materials used for building village chicken houses


Roof material

Percentage (%)

Wall material

Percentage (%)

Floor Materials

Percentage (%)

Leaf

59

Bamboo

36

Earth

50

Tin

14

Bush sticks

14

Timber

20

Cement

43

Bamboo

Bamboo

Wire

Cut timber

Other materials

Bush sticks

Palm trunk

Other materials

Other materials

used paper cartons for brooding. The length of the


brooding period ranged from 14 weeks. A total of
32% of farmers covered the brooder at night, 31% use
no cover and 8% said a cover was used sometimes.
Only 17% of surveyed farmers provided heating for
brooders, 17% said sometimes and 67% of surveyed
farmers did not respond. The main source of heat was
kerosene (50%), the other heat sources were electricity (25%) and a generator (25%).
Water 64% of surveyed farmers do not provide
drinking water for chickens; 32% said water is
provided in containers while 4% did not respond to
this question. Common containers were bamboo
(45%) and plastic dishes (25%). Other containers
included coconut shells (20%), commercial drinkers
(5%) and clamshells (5%). The main water source
was from the village water supply (56%); other
sources included the river (8%), rain water tank
(11%), pool (11%) and other (8%).
Feeding The main feeds for chickens are food scraps
(32%) and fresh coconut (54%, either with the milk
squeezed out for cooking or as fresh wet coconut). A
few households use a wide range of other locally
sourced feeds with the most common being white ants

5
20

(3%). Other local feeds mentioned include cooked


and uncooked kumara, pawpaw, cassava leaf, cabbage
and greens, rice, cassava and worms. Less than 2% of
households used purchased feed ingredients fish
meal and mill run. A slightly larger number used
purchased copra meal (3%). Villagers reported that
chickens had been observed foraging on grass and
insects (92%), worms, left over food/compost (2%),
rice and chilli (2%), white ants and coconut (4%)
(Fig. 1).
The majority of the surveyed farmers did not need
to transport feed; only 16% of the farmers transported
feed with help from family members or paid labour.
Only a small percentage of farmers transported feed
using public transport (3%), river or sea (7%). No cost
was given by farmers for transporting feed. The
majority (72%) of surveyed farmers did not store
feed, 15% stored feed and 11% of respondents did not
respond. The main method used to prepare feed was
by scraping and chopping (Table 3).
Reason for keeping village chickens The main reason
for keeping village chickens was a combination of
home consumption, social status and cash income
indicated by other (85%) on Fig. 2.

Table 3 Methods used to prepare feed for village chickens


Percentage (%)

60

Method

Percentage (%)

30

Scrape and chop feed

42

20

Cook

13

10

Mix

50
40

0
Food
scraps

Coconut
- fresh

White
ants

Free
ranging

Copra
meal

Fish
meal

Mill run

Fig. 1 Main sources of feed ingredients in the Solomon Islands

Dry

Other

Did not respond this question

27

Percentage (%)

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90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0

(7%) helped to clean the chicken house as well. When


asked who cares for the sick birds, 50% of the
respondents did not respond.

Home
consumption

Social status

Cash income

other

Fig. 2 Reasons why farmers keep village chickens

39% of surveyed farmers began to keep chickens


in 2004, 36% of respondents have been keeping
chickens for 24 years and 13% of respondents have
kept them for 510 years or over 10 years. Respondents were asked if they received any help to get
started with raising poultry. A majority (53%)
received no help, while 47% did receive help. The
main source of assistance was from family members
(67%). Extension workers from DAL and NGOs had
provided support (12%) to villagers as had friends
(6%) and neighbours (6%).
Mortality and Disease: The mortality per brood of
chicks ranged from 0 (17%), 12 (35%), 35 (26%),
69 (9%) and all dead (4%); 9% of the respondents
did not respond to this question. Many of the
respondents (29%) could not recognise when a bird
was sick. Others knew the bird was sick by its
appearance (37%), if it was not eating (26%), had
diarrhoea (5%), or a combination (3%) of two of these
reasons (appearance, not eating and diarrhoea). Farmers (49%) noticed that the eyes of sick birds tended to
close. Farmers also notice scabs on the comb and
legs, lice under feathers and scaly legs. However,
28% of the farmers provided no treatment for sick
birds, 22% killed them, 22% ate them, 14% said they
used their own traditional medicine to treat the sick
bird, 4% asked a relative or friend for help, 2% asked
help from an extension officer, 2% sold them and 6%
did not respond.
Workload The task of feeding village chickens carried
was out by male (43%) and female (47%) members of
the family and sometimes by relatives (6%) and hired
help (2%). Female members of family are more
responsible for providing water than males (44% vs
16%, p<0.01). Relatives (3%) and hired help (3%)
also provided water. Female members of family did
more cleaning of chicken sheds than males (21% vs
7%, p<0.01). Relatives (4%), parents (7%) and other

Females (27%) and males (23%) did a similar amount


of work looking after sick birds. When ask who buys
feed and chicks, 88% of the villagers did not respond;
8% of the males bought feed and chicks compared to
4% of the females. When ask who sells the chicks,
37% of the farmers did not respond. However, 37% of
females and 26% of males sold the chickens. When
asked who transports poultry, 88% of the respondents
did not respond; while 4% of males, 4% females and
4% hired help to transport birds. When asked how
they paid the hired help, 70% of the respondents did
not respond. The ways the hired help were paid
included giving labour exchange (9%), paying for
labour (4%), in-kind giving of chickens (4%), giving
garden products (4%) and other (9%).
Marketing 81% of households believe there is strong
demand for village chickens in the local market and
within the village. Chicken meat is mainly produced
for consumption (94%), fewer people bought eggs
(2%), or bought both meat and eggs (2%). The price
for a local rooster ranged from SI$2050, SI$1040
for a local hen, SI$110 for local chicks. Other
villagers are the main customers (61%), but sales to
schools (18%), local companies, rural training centres
are also important. Only 3% were used for home
consumption.
Selling of birds was done mainly by females
(42%), but males (22%), other family members and
relatives also sold the birds. Family members are the
main people who make decisions on the price, but the
tribal chief (3%) and relatives (3%) are also play a
part. The price depended on size and market.
However, a few other factors influenced the decision,
including size of product, current market price,
competition with other producers, comparison with
supermarket frozen chicken, as much as buyers are
willing to pay, family opinion and other.
Time to sell birds was based on several factors,
including weight of birds (24%), market demand
(27%), price (4%), need for cash (4%), age (2%) and
other (18%). Village chickens were sold mainly from
home or in the village (60%). The other places
included the local market (15%), provincial centre
(6%) and other (6%). Majority (69%, p<0.01) of the

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Trop Anim Health Prod (2009) 41:13631370

respondents did not pay for transportation of birds to


market, only 3% of them paid for the transport cost.
Farmers normally went to market not just for selling
chickens, but they also did other things such as sell
garden products (37%). The income from selling the
chickens was mainly spent on buying family essentials
and only a small amount was saved (3%, p<0.01).

needs. The reasons for not keeping birds included


not willing, no proper housing, theft problems and
too busy.

Attitudes towards village poultry production The


majority of farmers interviewed thought keeping
village chickens was a good source of income
(50%). They also thought village chickens were easy
to manage (45%). A few farmers thought keeping
village chickens was good for meat consumption
(3%). However, 43% of the surveyed farmers thought
village chickens created a mess around the home
(43%). The other problems included predators (11%),
birds roaming around the village (2%), damage to
crops (15%) and were difficult to manage (15%).

The aim of this survey was to obtain basic information on the current village poultry production system
in SI and farmer attitudes to assess the possibility to
use local feed to reduce feed cost and increase the
profitability. Results showed that village poultry
production in SI has low production and low input,
a similar result reported by Dessie and Ogle (2001) in
Ethiopia. The most important income for farmers in
SI was from garden products; less important was
chicken and egg production. This indicates that
village poultry production is still conducted on a
small scale (Parker 2008; Aklilu et al. 2007). This
may be because of lack of training and support, access
to feed, market and chickens and lack of skill to
manage chickens. The most frequent problem of no
access to feed and birds appears to relate to problems
with breeding/multiplication of poultry and lack of
start up stock in the SI. There was also a desire to
import broiler or layer chickens fed on commercial
feed as this has been the most prevalent model of
poultry improvement to date although it has not
generally been successful away from urban centres
due to the difficulties of transport of inputs and the
cash flow required. The second most important reason
for not keeping poultry was lack of skill (22%).
However, village poultry enterprises require less
space and lower inputs such as cheap housing
materials and reduced requirement for labour. Common house material is leaf, but it may not be suited
for some areas. For example, on the Weather Coast
and in bush areas of Malaita leaf rots faster and is less
readily available than in many other areas of SI. This
factor may partly account for the increased desire to
use iron roofing despite it having a much higher cost.
There is a high (67%) rate of use of poultry housing
but good management of birds is lacking. For
example 64% do not provide water and only 17%
confine chickens for brooding. This indicates that
more training is required by villagers in management
and husbandry skills rather than financial support for
establishing a poultry house. Most poultry houses

Requirements to start chicken farming The needs of


farmers to start a farm are better access to feed, chicks
and markets to start keeping chickens, credit, fencing,
housing and controlling theft and predators. Other
farmers need information on how to make feed. Most
information was needed in feeding management.
Other information included disease recognition and
treatment.
Social problems Most farmers faced some social
problems (87% vs. 13%, p<0.01). These problems
included demands for gifts (52% vs. 48%, p>0.05),
jealousy (18% vs. 82%, p<0.01), theft (64% vs. 36%,
p<0.01), disease (30% vs. 70%, p<0.01) and predators
(96% vs. 4%, p<0.01). The predators were rats (2%),
dogs (23%), snakes (2%), birds (11%) and a combination of two (30%), or three (17%) or four (11%) of
these predators (rats, dogs, snakes, birds and cats).
Future plans More farmers would like to expand
the numbers of chickens (86%) compared to
undecided (9%), stay the same (3%) and stop
keeping chicken (2%, p<0.01). The target size of
the operation ranged from 1 to 300 birds. The
main factor for farmers making a decision about
keeping village chickens was income and food
(72%). The other reasons for keeping chickens
included increasing sales, kaikai/selling, income for
breeding, gift for relatives and money for family

Discussion

Trop Anim Health Prod (2009) 41:13631370

have only one room (67%). This shows the influence


of the broiler model where large numbers of chickens
of uniform age are raised in one room. The KGA
model which promotes more than one room (ideally at
least 3) was also evident with 22% of farmers having
3 rooms and 11% had two rooms.
Chickens are mainly kept in scavenging systems
which allows birds to freely range around village with
some supplementary feed provided but minimal care of
birds. The main source of feeds available in the SI for
chickens was fresh coconut, food scraps, white ants and
copra meal. Less than 2% of villagers purchased feed
ingredients such as fish meal and mill run; 98% of feed
ingredients were locally available feed. Similar result
was reported by Mapiye and Sibanda (2005), who
found 96% of the feed ingredients were produced
locally in Zimbabwe. Overall different types of grasses
and insects are considered the preferred foods of
poultry. In this survey, generic response by farmers on
what chickens ate perhaps reflects those who are less
observant about what the chickens eat than those who
gave more detailed responses. Further interviewing on
this topic could help to add detail of specific insects and
grasses that might be used in feeding trials. The survey
showed that 18% of respondents provide low care or
no care to their village hens and only feed birds every
few days or only occasionally. These poultry are
probably in a semi wild system. The most common
feed provided to birds is coconut. The use of coconut is
a reflection of the situation that coconut is used by the
village family in most meals and dry coconut meal is a
by product from family food preparation. Clearly there
are a group of village poultry farmers who are a mix of
low care and high care households i.e. those who
throw away some food scraps and dry coconut left over
from the kitchen versus those who actually prepare
coconut, white ants and other foods for their poultry.
In this survey, men and women share the work load
for managing chickens. This result was different from
Africa results reported by Gueye (1998) and Ethiopia
results reported by Dessie and Ogle (2001) and
Halima et al. (2007), where over 70% of chickens
were owned and managed by women. However, the
high number of no responses on who looks after the
sick birds indicates that this task is often not done at
all making poultry fairly gender neutral in the no
care system of management. However, most of the
villages would like to keep chickens indicate two
possibilities: 1) A high desire to keep poultry but are

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faced with constraints that prevent them from starting;


2) The intermittent nature of raising poultry in the
village i.e. they raise them occasionally, then stop
for periods, and then raise them again. The small
number of farmers who keep chickens more than 5
years again indicates that poultry raising is an
intermittent household livelihood strategy with most
households not persisting beyond 4 years and then
perhaps restarting again after a period of time.
There is a demand for poultry meat in the villages.
However, egg consumption is low. This may be
because farmers keep eggs for reproduction or due to
lack of fencing and night shelter, birds have no regular
place for laying eggs. This management could result in
birds laying eggs in bush areas around the village
where eggs are difficult to find. Proper management is
needed to improve production of layers, hence more
eggs could be produced and consumed. Village poultry
is an important source of income and nutrition for the
household (Alders and Pym 2008). In the surveyed
areas poultry is a more important source of income
than copra and cocoa (41% for chicken meat followed
by 31% for copra and cocoa). Village poultry is also
very important protein source since there is lack of
other animal protein available.
The main assistance needed for village chicken
production was feeding management (76%), others
require knowledge on housing and fencing, feed types,
disease recognition and treatment of health problems.
Currently there is little help available for farmers. To
improve village poultry production systems and increase
production a number of problems need to be solved.
These include a lack of knowledge to manage the chicks,
lack of proper housing and fencing, lack of record
keeping on poultry diseases which makes it hard to
control or administer preventative health programs. Small
improvements in management including better nutrition,
disease control and shelter from predators will improve
the production of village poultry in the Solomon Islands.
Acknowledgement The authors are grateful to the Australian
Centre for International Agriculture Research for providing
funds to undertake the survey in the Solomon Islands.

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