Bula from Fiji!

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Bula from Fiji!

Postby Austin » Thu May 30, 2013 12:37 pm

Hi, I am a board member for a community development NGO. We are concerned with food security and community prosperity in the rural areas of Fiji.

The only poultry available in Fiji are local chooks that are very small and roost in the trees, and some Muscovy ducks. There are meat birds but they are not a healthy breed and most develop arthritis ad are far too big for the hot weather here- they really suffer. The egg birds are ALL imported as fertile eggs from NZ "Hyline Brown" and so the egg industry is completely large farm based and dependent on overseas imports of fertile eggs to hatch as layers for Fiji! These commercial production birds are so badly over-bred that when they moult they continue to lay eggs daily and they do not have the energy to grow new feathers- it is cruel and the birds become naked and get sunburnt, cold at night, and mosquito bitten etc... they quickly sicken and die- it is cruelty. We think the Heritage breeds of chooks are exactly what the communities need for local production to increase protein consumption I children- especially in the interior areas.

What we want to do is introduce heritage chickens (and if possible geese and turkeys and guineas) to the communities and involve the youth and women in small scale backyard poultry farming. I have struggled for two years to get around Biosecurity regulations, but have finally made progress... New Zealand is the ONLY country that Fiji biosecurity will allow fertile egg imports from. They also require a vet to inspect the breeding farms there, and to write up a "zoosanitary certificate" stating that the farm is disease free at the time. New Zealand Biosecurity requires that all exports of anything live go through a registered exporter, but that costs 10-20K and a lot of time, and no one there would want to register for a one-off export! So the solution they suggested is for me to go to NZ and hand carry the fertile eggs back to Fiji with permits in hand! This I am intent on doing in the Spring or early Summer. But it would really help if I had some Kiwi contacts who can help me! Things like finding a veterinarian who is qualified to inspect the breeding farms and supply the forms, recommendations on how to keep the trip low cost, and perhaps people who are planning on coming to Fiji and who would not mind hand carrying some fertile eggs if we can get them the permits etc. We would want as diverse a breeding stock as possible, sourced from the major bloodlines around NZ for Rhode Island (and NH) Reds, Wyandotes, Australorps, Plymouth Rocks, Leghorns, and possibly others. Our main interest is ability to thrive in local conditions here in the villages and farms.

I have promised the NGO to keep the breeding flocks alive and well for at least a decade her on our "Sustainable Livelihoods Farm" in the Sigatoka Valley. We are yet to find a grant to support the work, so for now everything is coming out of pocket. Please share any ideas you might have

Thanks everyone!

Austin
Last edited by buzzard on Thu May 30, 2013 2:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: removed email address
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Re: Bula from Fiji!

Postby buzzard » Thu May 30, 2013 2:08 pm

HI Austin

welcome to the forum

I think this is a very sensible thought process you are going through and I commend you for going through/seeking out the right channels of importation

rather than people starting conversations directly with you via your email address that you have provided, I have removed it (your email address) for the time being, and hopefully this will become a thread of real value to you - I get the sneaky suspicion you will have a very sympathetic audience here (re the heritage breed vs commercial hybrid argument) and will get some very good feed back
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Re: Bula from Fiji!

Postby buzzard » Thu May 30, 2013 2:24 pm

Austin,

just to throw my 2 cents in here, consider, and please discuss with us the purpose of the breeds of chooks that you wish to import.

IMO in a temperate climate large heavily feathered rose combed birds may not be best suited ( ie wyandottes)
I know my leghorns handle the heat very well (which would be expected from the Mediterranean breeds)

but with that said, do you wish to have some breeds that are 'self replacing' ie have broody tendencies (leghorns generally aren't prone to get broody). Yet heavily broody breeds aren't top layers either

Do you wish to have 'dual purpose' breeds, or breeds that you can auto-sex at hatch (which one family could rear roosters for their table and another the females for egg laying)

Are there skin colour preferences in Fijian table birds (white vs yellow)

these are just some of the things that I think would be worth considering
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Re: Bula from Fiji!

Postby Marina » Thu May 30, 2013 8:46 pm

Hi Austin and welcome to PC.

This sounds like a very worth while project. I, too, think hand carrying fertile eggs is your only option as there is no large hatchery of heritage breeds here in NZ. Also it is very unlikely that you'll import diseases with fertile eggs. The only egg borne disease I know of which is present in NZ is lymphoid leucosis and most breeders know which of their strains are susceptible.

Buzzard has already mentioned that you may have to adjust your wish list. Our gene pool here in NZ is very small and some breeds have been bred for exhibition for decades and have lost most of their laying ability. Also your climate has to be taken into consideration.

My picks would be:

New Hampshire Red - early maturing, excellent layer, rarely goes broody

Leghorn

North Holland Blue - much better layer than the Barred Plymouth Rocks. Similar colouring as BPR.

Australorps are good here but I'm not sure whether the black colour is of advantage in a hot climate.

Buff Plymouth Rock - top notch layer

And for a breed that goes broody and is an excellent layer when not broody I'd recommend the Buff Cochin.

If families want to breed their own replacements they need good broodies who reliably hatch 2 or 3 clutches of eggs each season.

Your biggest limitation will be finding a supplier who has got several of the breeds on your wishlist.

What kind of facilities have you got to hatch imported eggs?
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Re: Bula from Fiji!

Postby roobz316 » Thu May 30, 2013 9:27 pm

Hi Austin, I don't own enough chickens to be of any help and I am nowhere near Auckland but think what you are doing sounds like a very worthwhile project and one that could benefit the communities in Fiji in the long run and perhaps change people opinions on chickens and how they are perceived once they see what tradition breeds are like when kept in conditions more suitable than just commercial egg farming. As Buzzard pointed out the breed that would most likely cope with the heat over there are Leghorns and other Mediteranian large combed breeds as the larger comb helps them to moderate their temperature when it gets hot, this would also be why perhaps rose combed breeds like the Wyandotte may not be as suitable. I hope everything turns out for your project. My uncle 15 years ago instead of retiring decided to move over to help the fijian dairy industry and moved all his equipment and most of his cows (shorthorns) over there and started up a dairy farm and helped to teach the locals how to milk cows and things to do with dairy farming, he wishes he had done it sooner!
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Re: Bula from Fiji!

Postby sewren » Fri May 31, 2013 11:45 am

Hi Austin - welcome to Poultry Central!

I think Buzzard and Marina have given you some things to think about, so I won't say too much more but I wanted to say that I think your project sounds amazing and really worthwhile.

I agree that the Mediterranean breeds would probably do better with the climate in Fiji - the Leghorn has already been mentioned, which is probably the best layer of that group, but other options include the Minorca, Ancona and Andalusian which are also meant to be good layers (I don't have personal experience, though).

Good luck with you project - I hope you manage to find some funding soon :)
Pea (?), Martha (Light Sussex), Bess (Australorp), Betty (Bv x BR), Elsa (Orpington), Petal (Barnevelder) and Dottie (Speckled Sussex)
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Re: Bula from Fiji!

Postby buzzard » Fri May 31, 2013 12:52 pm

My first thought after reading the brief, I thought; North Hollands, New Hampshires, Leghorns and Silver campines.

but all of the above breeds recommendations come with strain dependent caveats. (there is variation with -in breeds, from one strain to another), basically production/utility type strains of the above breeds

Im not so sure that a chook has to go broody 2-3x per season to replace herself, the numbers don't really stack up, 50% of a flock to go broody once per season would suffice. And if there is a 'feral' type population, these could well be good source of broodies

Also I don't want to dissuade you from your thoughts on geese and turkeys, but I wonder about the latters suitability to successfully co-exist with chooks -parasites- blackhead etc and considering the lower hatch of these birds eggs after transport, you may not get a critical mass of eggs to get a viable, stand alone population of either after your efforts. So, maybe a couple of good productive lines of Khaki Campbell, and Blue Sweedish ducks, these would compliment the existing Muscovy population well and even mule offspring could be raised for the table.
that's just some thoughts on breeds

but having been involved in a then novel export program of live animals from one country to another, I would highly recommend to keep the number of source flocks as low as possible, and preferably closed flocks - ones that don't have a lot of through traffic of human and birds (the 'hatchery' type outfits we have here in NZ, have a lot of people of different people 'on farm' this is a potential biosecurity nightmare IMO)
And flocks that can offer you a robust genetic base to start with, ones that have a 2 or more pen system at their place - so they can offer you somewhat genetically distinct eggs of the same breed - which will help you with in the future to set up a likewise system to manage future inbreeding depression
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Re: Bula from Fiji!

Postby Austin » Fri May 31, 2013 10:19 pm

Wow, thanks for all of response and positive energy. Lots of considerations and energy. I guess I will bullet point my thoughts and replies- I can't find a way to reply to each email, maybe I don't know how to use the site yet?

- Fiji does get cold in the Winter, down to 15C here on the farm on rare nights, but commonly 18C for June through September, highs of 25-28C. We are also on the Sigatoka Valley and the nights are cooler here even in the summer. The hottest it ever gets is 35C, but most summer days it is 32 high with a low of 27 day after day. Never so hot like Australia. I find that all living things acclimatise over time ( I need to put on a sweater when it drops below 20C). Because our weather is more stable and constant than NZ I think acclimation is a lot more strong- the extremes are not there to have to deal with. Egg production is the same pretty much year round. Fiji is super wet sometimes with 3-4 meters of annual rain over many places- so I thought feathered feet would be a no-go.

- I wanted to try silver laced Wyandottes mainly from the perspective of the feathers being so pretty and the women here make lovely feather fans and I they will just go crazy over the feathers! I also wanted to use them for crossbreeding to sex link the birds (with RIR or NHR) . Guineas also have vivid patterns on the feathers and I imagine they would do much better here than NZ.

- I don't want too much broodiness because we want good egg production, so we plan to raise some local wild-type chooks along with each flock and to replace their eggs with the better breeds... We are also planning on using the surplus roosters to improve the semi-wild village flocks.

- the breeds we need to be "smart"- able to fend for themselves part of the time, the project model has a small cool house (with ceiling to keep it cool and vets), an enclosed pen where we throw bulk garden waste etc for the chickens to pick through, and then they are let out every afternoon as well.

- There are lots of small farmers who have invested in these small cages for egg production (which I am against) but instead of the Hyline birds, leghorns could be used... at least they could be produced locally. BUT I will demonstrate that feed costs goes down with the more humane methods because you can throw all sorts of waste foods in: pumpkins, sweet potato leaves, whole coconuts cracked open, (they pick the flesh right out), fresh grass clippings, etc.

So I need some small productive breeds for egg production- but we are up against the Hyline which produce 340 eggs a year! I figured leghorn was the best option. For the communities who will be following our lower tech model dual purpose breeds will be more suitable I think. When I lived on Pohnpei, we had a cross breed between RIR and Australorps that performed wonderfully in even more hot and wet conditions. I was thinking for genetic diversity we could run some experiments with hybridization, as long as I maintain some pure stock. I read that the blue egg colour of Auracana was passed on through the male, and so i was also going to try to produce a good layer by crossing Auracana roosters with leghorn females to produce Fiji Blue eggs (like our flag and rugby team) Not sure if it will work well, but if it does it would be super and everyone would go wild on it! Whatever breeds I am able to get, I will need to keep them alive and distinct for a decade or so... and I imagine that tens of thousands of birds will be their descendants. Hopefully others will be able to keep them going. I don't think I can handle more than 8-10 distinct breeds at the farm, but I could potentially get other nearby farmers to take on a breed or two if I agree to buy some of the fertile eggs.

-Theft can be a major problem in some areas, so we had thought that a goose or two raises with the chicks in each pen might make sense.
- Fiji originally had the biggest dove species on the planet- bigger than the Dodo bird (same family too), but it was eaten to extinction long before the Europeans came. Mongoose have wiped out most of the ground dwelling species of birds and so I was hoping the turkeys would be able to resist them ad fill the niches left vacant for so many years. But that is another less important plan.

- New Zealand does not have any diseases that Fiji does not already have, so it is the only country that Fiji Biosecurity will allow us to import from. I think that if there is a lot of genetic difference between flocks that we had better get some of it- the vets say that Fiji might as well be considered part of NZ as far as diseases, we have everything you have and apparently the same strains of disease too.

- I plan on buying a 1,000 egg incubator as we will need lots of chicks... that will give us about 200-300 per week hatching. Any suggestions? I have found lots of models from China and one in Korea as well.

Well that is about all I can think of at the moment at this time of night. Thanks very much again and keep the ideas coming!

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Re: Bula from Fiji!

Postby Marina » Fri May 31, 2013 11:05 pm

Hi Austin,

very interesting information and I feel your enthusiasm about the project when reading what you write.

We still have very few White Shavers in NZ - they are a Canadian strain of White Leghorns. The males that are being used are from good laying strains of White Leghorns. No more White Shavers are being brought into NZ. The last hens are 5 or 6 years old now but there still are some around. So for smallfarmers who have invested in cages these could be an option where replacements can be bred in Fiji. They are the most economical layer available.

I can very well understand that people find the feathers of the Silver Laced Wyandottes interesting and you've obviously done your homework in regard to the autosexing first crosses. If you have a secondary use (feathers) then it won't matter if the SLWs aren't as productive in regard to egg laying.

Black Australorps x White Leghorn also can be feather sexed at day old. That's not quite as easy as colour sexing but it can be learnt quickly.
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Re: Bula from Fiji!

Postby Austin » Fri May 31, 2013 11:33 pm

Thanks Marina, I hope that someone there will keep the shavers thriving as a breed- even if in limited numbers if they are the most productive strain of leghorns, so that we can get some for Fiji!
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Re: Bula from Fiji!

Postby Austin » Sat Jun 01, 2013 11:40 am

PS: I was also very happy to hear about the North Holland Blue, if we could get our hands on that breed it would be super.
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Re: Bula from Fiji!

Postby sandrahip » Mon Jun 10, 2013 2:45 am

Hi, good luck with that ,i have a lot of fijian indians that call on me for Muscovy ducks and roosters and they don't want the dark skinned chooks for eating and i think aruacana's are dark skinned.They never want eggs just meat birds.The big breeds like Light Sussex and Plymouth Barred Rock are popular choices.
So for meat and eggs the Light Sussex would be my choice of breed for you.
You must take back some new blood in the way of Muscovies,those here don't seem to be burdened with lameness,but the Pekin duck does have issues with that i'm told as they carry a lot of weight,i myself have Pekins and only one waddles like her feet can't carry her weight, side to side she walks and she's a big girl but not lame yet.But DO THEY lay the biggest eggs.
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Re: Bula from Fiji!

Postby Marina » Mon Jun 10, 2013 9:25 am

Araucanas don't have dark skin - unless they have been crossed with a Silkie.
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Re: Bula from Fiji!

Postby sandrahip » Tue Jun 11, 2013 10:06 pm

Thanks marina that explains a lot silly me :lol: ,i have a bird with dark skin and i was assuming that she had aruacana in her from way back mainly due to the green legs and ears.I've never been able to fiqure out exactly what she has in her.
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