This study was carried out by Mr. Kiplagat Ngeno, a PhD student at Wageningen University. A high performing ecotype was identified amongst many other characteristics. This included studies on:
A. Genetic Diversity and MHC Region Variability in Indigenous Chicken
A study was conducted to investigate genetic diversity and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) region in indigenous chicken (IC) ecotypes in Kenya.
Blood samples were collected from eight counties of Kenya, namely; Kakamega and Siaya in the Western region, West Pokot and Turkana in North Rift, Bomet and Narok in South Rift, Lamu and Taita-Taveta in coastal region.
Blood samples were genotyped with twelve microsatellite markers. In total, 140 alleles were detected.
All markers were polymorphic with 11.58 (range: 6 to 46) mean number of alleles per markers. Inbreeding coefficients for over-all population (Fit) was 0.056. Pair-wise coefficient of inbreeding between populations (Fst) estimates varied between 0.001 and 0.1 with an average of 0.03.
AMOVA revealed a high within ecotype variation (97%).
The chicken MHC marker LEI0258 revealed 46 alleles and this indicates that IC host many and highly diverse alleles which are associated with disease and parasite tolerance.
Therefore their conservation needs to be prioritized to maintain such a diverse MHC gene pool for the current and future development of chicken. Clustering analysis indicated a clear ecotype subdivision into three genetically distinct groups.
Two main population clusters indicated by ad hoc statistic ΔK, posterior probability (Ln P (D)) of the data and PCoA are Lamu (one cluster), Taita-Taveta (second cluster) and populations from Kakamega, West Pokot, Turkana, Bomet, Narok and Siaya a third cluster.
Quantification of genetic diversity is useful to policy makers and other stakeholders in determining priorities for conservation, utilization, management and genetic improvement.
B. Consumers’ Preference and Behavior Towards Indigenous Chicken Meat and Eggs
A study was conducted to determine consumers’ preferences and behaviour towards indigenous chicken (IC) meat and eggs.
Survey data obtained from consumers from three regions of Kenya were analysed to identify consumers’ preferences towards IC meat and eggs.
A principal component analysis technique was used to extract principal components that explained the maximum variance within the data.
Consumer clusters were defined in accordance with their preferences and behaviour using cluster analysis.
Results indicated that sex of the chicken, bodyweight, tenderness, flavour, juiciness, salt content, meat colour, smell, fat and price were the most important sources of variation influencing the preferences and behaviour of IC meat consumers.
Based on magnitude and sign, five meat preference clusters were non-specific, fat, weight, sex-tenderness and meat-quality sensitive consumers.
For eggs, two clusters were egg size and egg yolk colour sensitive consumers.
Through identification of the IC meat and egg preferences, producers and breeders can understand and respond to consumer preferences more efficiently and allow segmentation of market as well as increasing competitiveness.
C. Morphological Features and Attributes of Indigenous Chicken Ecotype Population of Kenya
A study was carried out which characterized indigenous chickens (IC) ecotypes morphologically and described attributes of their different body plumage colours towards disease resistance, mothering ability, camouflaging, broodiness and meat, and egg production.
Five IC ecotypes were studied; Kakamega, Siaya, West Pokot, Narok and Bomet. Data on morphological features and attributes of different body plumage colours were collected from 1580 chickens.
Results revealed that, proportion of black, black-white striped, brown and red body plumage colours were significantly different (P<0.05) between the ecotypes.
Normal feathered chickens were dominant (>90%) over frizzled. However, statistical analysis revealed that feather morphology between the ecotypes is not significantly different. Distribution of body feathers were significantly different (P<0.05) between ecotypes.
Results showed that majority of IC population have different shank and skin colours. Comb types across ecotypes varied significantly (P<0.001) and dominated by single comb (>83%).
Eye colours varied significantly (P<0.001) within ecotypes unlike between the populations.
The widely distributed eye colour was orange (>62%).
Zoometric measurements were significantly different between ecotypes (P<0.05).
Body plumage colours were attributed to disease resistance, mothering ability, camouflaging and broodiness, meat and egg production difference, depending on the region.
In conclusion, IC ecotypes studied are heterogeneous population with huge variability in morphological features without standard phenotypic characteristics.