Assessing Nutrient Adequacy from the Crop Contents of Free-Ranging Indigenous Chickens in Rural Villages of the Venda Region of South Africa
The aim of the study was to evaluate the nutritional status of scavenging chickens by assessing the composition of their crop contents. The study was conducted on 288 free-ranging indigenous chickens from six adjacent rural villages in Venda region of South Africa over three seasons (autumn, winter and spring). The chickens consumed grains, kitchen waste, seeds from the environment, plant materials, worms and insects, and some undistinguishable materials. Household waste accounted for 78.6%, 91.1% and 75.8% and materials of animal origin, including insects and worms, accounted for 7.4%, 10.4% and 16% of the crop content in autumn, winter and spring, respectively. Grains and kitchen waste consumption and macro- and micro-nutrient concentrations varied with season. The crude protein (CP) level of the crop contents of adult chickens in all seasons and the calcium and phosphorus levels in winter corresponded with the requirements of poultry for maintenance and growth, but not egg production. Supplementation of CP to young birds in all seasons and calcium and phosphorus in autumn and spring might be necessary to improve their growth. Concentrations of copper, manganese, zinc and cobalt were above the requirements of poultry, but below their maximum tolerance levels (MTL). Iron concentrations ranged from 2907 mg/kg DM to 6424 mg/kg DM, which are well above MTL, suggesting potential detrimental effects on the birds if the iron in the crop contents is bioavailable. Aluminium concentrations ranged from 2256 mg/kg DM to 4192 mg/kg DM, though aluminium is considered non-toxic. It was concluded that the birds would not suffer from micro-mineral deficiencies, and that a risk of toxicity would depend on the bioavailability of the consumed element.
Keywords: Chemical Composition, Heavy Metals, Household Waste, Nutritional Status