By Zac B. Sarian

Our native chickens have been with us for no one knows how long. Yet they have always been regarded as backyard fowls that are not produced in volumes that will approximate even just a small fraction of the white imported chickens.

But there is a great potential in paying attention to these indigenous resources because they can be harnessed to provide a decent source of livelihood for even the most ordinary farm families.

There are at least seven strains of native chickens we have listed. These include the Darag from Panay, Banaba from Batangas, Bolinao from Pangasinan, Boholano from Bohol, Camarines from Bicol, Paraoakan from Palawan, and Zampen from Zamboanga Peninsula.

Dr. Synan S. Baguio, OIC Livestock Research Division, PCAARRD.

Of the seven, government researchers have paid special attention to the Darag from Panay. PCAARRD has allocated funds for research to develop a package of technology that could improve production. And as reported by Dr. Synan Baguio, OIC of the Livestock Research Division of PCAARD, Darag has been purified after several years of breeding and selection.

The modern Darag is now more or less uniform in the color and pattern of its plumage, body conformation and size, predictability of growth, adaptability to natural environment (resilience to extremes of climate and foraging behavior), and other traits that contribute to predictabiity of performance. There is today a Darag chicken raisers’ association in Panay that could push the commercial production of the fowl to meet the big demand for its meat and eggs. Their production, however, is still short of the demand. This means there’s a very good business opportunity for investors big and small.

Research funded by PCAARRD had come up with a package of technology that is science-based, including judicious breeding techniques, hatchery system, natural feeds,
botanical dewormers, enhancement of the free range area and more.

There is a big demand for native chicken for one big reason – its unique taste that almost everyone is looking for. It could be raised as an organic chicken which appeals
to many people who are healthconscious and who are willing to pay a higher price than the white broilers. Even if it is not strictly organic, it is still a premium chicken meat.

These are mongrels that need purification.

Dr. Baguio has outlined at a recent forum a practical approach to making a viable native chicken project as a business. This starts with the acquisition of the right breeding stocks which should be products of organized selection and breeding. The initial stocks may be grouped into breeding families of 10 hens and two roosters. This will avoid inbreeding.

Dr. Baguio suggests the “like-to-like” breeding. This means that the birds of similar appearance and traits are crossed. This technique produces chickens that are uniform in plumage color and pattern, uniform body conformation, predictable reproductive and production performance, and consistent product quality.

Sustainable breeding, according to Dr. Baguio starts with selection of the eggs for hatching. Choose the eggs that are most prevalent in shape and color. Select the chicks that are healthy and of the same color patterns. The desired weight of day-old native chicks is 38-45 grams.

Breeding objectives

Dr. Baguio stressed during his presentation that there should be 80 percent uniformity in plumage color and pattern, and in body conformation. There should be predictability of growth (e.g. 880 grams to 1.2 kg at 14-16 weeks) and egg production at 110 eggs/hen/year). Adaptability to natural environment (e.g. resilience to extremes of climate and foraging behavior). Also docility.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s March 2019 issue.