Backyard “nitib” chicken

An iconic poultry breed which is now indigenous to the Southern Philippines but which was originally brought into the country by Arab missionaries in the 14th century, offers a bright hope for the revival of the dying backyard “native” chicken industry.

Variably called “Jolo” to refer to those coming out of Jolo, “Basilan” for those bred in Basilan Island or “Parawakan” for those bred in Maguindanao and Lanao Provinces, Mindanao’s giant chicken are actually progenies of the breed called Aseels which came from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and other East Asian countries.

They are kept as “prized possessions” by old Moro families who use them for a local sport where the roosters are fought in a naked heel bout which could last for hours. Roosters from the best fighting lines could fetch as much as P50,000 per head.

The roosters grow to as heavy as 3 to 6 kilos and are resistant to poultry diseases which often wipe out the local mongrel chicken like avian pest or New Castle Disease. The young ones could weigh 2 kilos at 6-months old.

The problem is the hens of this breed, while outstanding mothers to their chicks, are stingy in egg-laying. The hens produce an average of 10 eggs then they get broody. This makes it difficult to mass produce this breed.

Four years ago, my Muslim friends from Pikit, North Cotabato gifted me with a trio of the “Parawakan.”

Using the huge rooster, I started an experiment on how to improve the backyard chicken breed by breeding it with good-laying hens of different breeds.

What came out was an upgraded backyard chicken which grew fast, carried a huge mass of meat and tasted just like the native chicken.

They were corded to reach the weight of 1 kilo in 3 to 4 month and they also lay more eggs compared to the mongrel native chicken.

Since then, I have been gathering Aseel breeding materials even buying one huge rooster from Marawi City.

I am breeding them now and I have been using the younger ones in breeding with good-laying hens.

I have named my improved native chicken as “Manok Pinoy” and actually started marketing it earlier this year.

The name “Manok Pinoy” has been registered with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

The project almost ended in a when I became engaged in other activities. The chicks were weak and we had high moratlity and I almost lost the breeding materials.

Two months ago, when I decided to stay in the farm more often, managed everything hands on and things changed for the better.

I now collect an average of 170 eggs a day and I am breeding more laying hens to produce more Manok Pinoys for the market this year.

My next project is to train my neighbors on how to raise Manok Pinoy in their backyards in a project which I would call “Lay Out.” I intend to have at least 2,000 heads of layers but my farm could not accommodate that large number of chicken running around and laying eggs everywhere.

Under the “Lay Out Project” scheme, I will provide the first 10 families with 100 hens and 20 roosters with the condition that they sell the eggs to me which I will hatch in my big incubators and then raise these until they reach market size.

The first beneficiary of the “Lay Out Project” is my own cousin, Neri Sodusta, whose farm is adjacent to my farm in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato.

Together, we are also experimenting on different local herbs to address common poultry diseases with the help of another farmer leader, Ben Lao who is also an organic farming advocate, and we are making a headway.

Using a local concoction of herbs, we were able to produce healthy chicks with minimal use of vaccines.

Hopefully, the innovation that I am doing in my farm will contribute to the improvement of the backyard “nitib” chicken industry in the country and help other farming families in the future.

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