Livestock, especially poultry, is a promising sector for poverty reduction in Bangladesh. Approximately 140 millions chickens are scattered throughout 68 000 villages in the country, mostly of indigenous, non-descript type. The production system for indigenous chickens is smallholder backyard scavenging in nature with each family keeping an average of 6–7 chickens to meet family requirements, and from which a cash income can also be derived when necessary. Indigenous chickens produce about 75% of the eggs and 78% of the meat consumed domestically. Among said indigenous chicken genetic resources, non-descript Deshi, Aseel and Naked Neck breeds are noteworthy
The non-descript Deshi chicken constitutes about 90% of the indigenous population. Also known as ‘Murghi’, they have undergone unknown periods of natural selection and are a reservoir of excellent genetic diversity. They show high levels of morphological and phenotypic variability and increased fitness under natural settings. Studies reveal that they may be regarded as one breed or population because of the small genetic distances among them. Deshi chickens are characterized by black (75%) and red (25%) plumage colour; black (39%), yellow (32%) and white (29%) shank color; black (99%) eye color; bright red (59%) and pale (41%) comb colour; white (82%) and yellow (17%) skin colour; no definite (61%) and lacing (17%) feather pattern; medium (70%) and large (19%) body size; single comb (97%) and rudimentary spur (98%); medium egg size (80%); light brown (67%) and white (27%) egg shell colour. Regarding production traits, Deshi chickens have average hatch weight of 29 g; body weight at 4, 8, 12 weeks; weekly weight gain (0–12 weeks) of respectively of 77, 175, 315, 24 grams; age at first egg (175 days); weight of pullet (0.9 kg); mature body weight (1.3 kg); hatchability (52%); fertility (83%); annual egg production (45 -50 eggs); 9% mortality up to 500 days of age.
The indigenous chicken population of Bangladesh has been undergoing genetic erosion since the 1960s, following the introduction of improved stock from developed countries. Efforts to sustain commercial hybrid broiler and layer chicken farming under intensive and semi-intensive production models have been tested, but efficiency of systematic characterization, screening, breed improvement and conservation programmes with the indigenous Deshi chickens at the smallholder village levels (in-situ) of Bangladesh are yet to be tested. Such an initiative may help to save these creatures from the grip of thethreat of extinction. This in turn may help to sustain village chicken production system in Bangladesh and could be a useful micro-economic strategy in the on-going poverty alleviation process in the country.