By Terry Maphosa
For the past five years, Zimbabwe has seen a sharp rise in the chicken farming business and in particular the farming of “improved roadrunner chickens”.
A lot of people have questions whether the business is lucrative, viable or it is a matter of finding something to do, but without a return of investment. As an award-winning farmer, I will tackle key issues with regards to roadrunner farming.
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Why roadrunner farming?
A roadrunner is a free-range chicken variety that scavenges for food and the meat is tougher – and tastier – than the cage-raised broiler variety. As its popularity grows, roadrunner chicken offers a healthier food option and business opportunity. A lot of people are moving from eating broilers for health reasons and that is why there is a noticeable increase in eateries that sell traditional food. Many people are now health conscious and prefer eating roadrunners over broilers and this gives a chance to farmers to scale up production as there is a ready market.
The success or failure of a roadrunner project is usually rooted on the choice the farmer makes on breeds. There are breeds that are good at laying eggs, but without a big body such as the Rhode Island Red and White Leghorn. Then there are some breeds that lay eggs and have a considerably big body such as the Black Australorp, New Hampshire and Koekoek.
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The advantage of the former is that it consumes less feed, but when the farmer decides to sell them for meat, they usually do not produce weight whereas the latter is a combination of meat and eggs which makes them a more desirable breed for a farming business.
There are some breeds that grow big and consume more feed, but do not lay much eggs. Farmers are discouraged from buying those breeds as it does not make business sense unless if they are to be kept as pets. For roadrunners to thrive, they need to be kept healthy and in a clean environment with proper maintenance and a clear vaccination programme should be put in place.
An ideal fowl run should have at least two openings that allows free movement of air so as to avoid keeping diseases in the fowl run.
Care for chicks
Care of birds is critical in the sustainability of the business. A farmer should understand the sounds that chicks produce. These sounds are produced for various reasons. Chicks produce a particular sound when they are eating, hungry or when they are feeling a discomfort. A serious farmer should maintain good temperatures, proper vaccination and making sure chicks are drinking clean water. Supplementary heat is needed for chicks and the full-grown birds, especially in winter so as to get the desired results. The good part is that roadrunner chickens are much more resistant to diseases and also record much lower mortality rates.
After realising the importance of the sector, the government last year introduced the Presidential Poultry Scheme, where thousands of chicks were distributed across the country as part of the Second Republic’s drive to alleviate poverty and boost incomes in line with the policy of leaving no one and place behind.
The livestock value-chain is a pivotal sub-sector within the agricultural industry and a key income-generating enterprise for farmers and is likely to play an important role in the attainment of Vision 2030.
Terry Maphosa is a roadrunner, goat farmer and owner of KwaTerry Restaurant.
Word from the market is a column produced by the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) to promote market driven production of agricultural crops. Feedback firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp +263781706212.