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A survey of gastrointestinal parasites of chickens was carried out in Akure, Ondo state, Nigeria

between January and July, 2015. A total of three hundred and twenty seven (327) chickens of

  different breeds were examined for gastrointestinal infections. Faecal samples obtained from

  these chickens were prepared for microscopy using flotation technique. The results showed that

67 (20.5%) of the 327 chickens examined were infected with various gastrointestinal parasites.

It was further observed that the highest prevalence of gastrointestinal infection (36.7%) was

  recorded among the chickens that were kept in semi-intensive management system while the

  lowest prevalence was recorded among those kept in intensive management system. Laboratory

  screening  of  the  faecal  samples  for  parasites  revealed  three  types  of  protozoa: Eimeria spp.

(7.7%), Histomonas meleagridis (0.6%) and Giardia lamblia (0.3%). Five types of nematodes

were  also  observed  among  the  chickens,  these  included: Ascaridia  galli,  (7.0%), Heterakis

(1.8%), Capillaria spp.  (0.9%), Syngamus  trachea (0.6%)  and Trichostrongylus

(1.6%). Of all these parasites, Eimeria spp. was the most prevalent (7.7%) while Gardia

was the least prevalent (0.3%). The average parasite burden per fowl was found to be

2 and majority of the encountered parasites species were those of the subjects’ small intestines.








                                            - 11 -
                                      CHAPTER ONE


  Poultry farming is the practice of raising domesticated birds such as chicken, turkey, ducks,

  quails and geese, as a subcategory of animal husbandry for the purpose of farming meat or eggs

for food (Anon, 2011). Chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese are birds of primary importance,

while guinea fowl and squabs are chiefly of local interest. The term “poultry” is a collective

name given for a group of birds reared or hunted for useful purposes. It refers to domestic fowl

in general, e.g. chickens, turkeys, ducks or geese, raised for meat, eggs or feathers. It applies to

  them being generally alive or dressed (killed and prepared for sales). Domestic chickens, Gallus

  gallus domesticus
are one of the most widely domesticated fowls and by far the most developed

and profitable animal production enterprise. They are descended from the wild red jungle fowl

of South-east Asia belonging to the species Gallus gallus, which has, over thousands of years,

been subjected to extensive breeding for size, colour, conformation and egg-laying ability. The

poultry industry occupies an important position in the provision of animal protein (meat and

egg) to man and generally plays a vital role in the national  economy as a revenue provider.

  Poultry meat accounts for 34% of global meat consumption. The worldwide average per capita

  consumption has nearly quadrupled since the 1960s (11kg in 2003 compared with 3kg in 1963)

  (FAO,  2009)The  Food  and  Agriculture Organisation of  the  United  Nations (FAO)’s

  assessment of the worldwide average per capita poultry meat consumption for 2015 was 13.8kg,

of which around 12kg are chickens. Poultry is  by  far the largest  livestock group, consisting

  mainly of chickens, ducks and turkeys. The Nigerian agricultural sector is responsible for the

  production of food and livestock with poultry accounting for 80% of the production (Udoh and

Etim,  2007). This  means  that  the  poultry  subsector  is  the  most  commercialized  of  all  the

                                            - 12 -
  subsectors. The types of poultry that are of commercial or economic importance given the trade

in  poultry,  however,  are  chickens,  guinea  fowls  and  turkeys,  amongst  which  chickens

  predominate. Chickens constitute about 90% of the poultry population in Nigeria (Omodele and

  Okere, 2014).

The  breeds  of  chickens  are  generally  classified  as  American,  Mediterranean,  English,  and

  Asiatic. The American breeds of importance today are the Plymouth Rock, the Wyandotte, the

  Rhode Island Red and the New Hampshire. Chicken breeding is a controlled propagation of

  domestic animals in order to improve desirable qualities. It is an outstanding example of the

  application of basic genetic principles of inbreeding, line breeding, and crossbreeding, as well

as of intensive mass selection to effect faster and cheaper gains in broilers and maximum egg

  production for the egg-laying strains (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2013). All over the world, more

than three hundred breeds of the domestic chicken species (Gallus domesticus) exist. However,

there are basically three types of chicken: the layers, the broilers and the cockerels. Geographic

  Information System (GIS) analysis showed chicken production in Nigeria as: Broilers 15.2%,

  Breeders  6.77%,  Layers  75.3%  and  Cockerels  2.73% (Omodele  and  Okere,  2014).

  Consequently,  poultry  farming  is  generically  used  to  refer  to  chicken  farming  in  Nigeria

  because it provides the most poultry meat for delicacies and no tribe or religion in the country

  forbids  chicken  meat. Since domestic  chickens  are  sources  of  ready  cash  and  meat  to  local

  communities and  a  nation  as  a  whole, their  potential  could  be  enhanced  through  improved

  management  and  disease  control. Profitable  livestock  and  poultry  production in  Nigeria is

  majorly constrained by parasitism. Parasitic diseases come first among other diseases that cause

  reduction in productivity of rural poultry. However, these diseases are often overlooked because

                                            - 13 -
  clinical symptoms are rarely apparent (Adebisi, 2007). Gastrointestinal parasites which invade

the host birds possess morphological and physiological features which enhance their adaptation

to long living and existence in their hosts. These parasites constitute a major factor limiting

  productivity  of  the  poultry  industry  by  affecting  the  growth  rate  of  the  host  resulting  in

  malfunctioning of organs and eventually death (Soulsby, 1982).

1.1 Justification of Research

  Improved  poultry  management  practices  are responsible  for  the  reduction  in  incidence  of

  parasitic infections. The enormous expansion in the commercial poultry production sector has

been possible through improved management in terms of management procedures such as total

  separation between different age groups, introduction of the "all in - all out" system, efficient

  housing systems, routine vaccination programmes, proper feeding and avoidance of predators

  (Thrusfield, 1995). However, parasitic diseases continue to be of great importance in deep-litter

and free-range commercial systems. In traditional systems throughout the world a number of

  parasites are widely distributed and contribute significantly to the low productivity. The most

  commonly  mentioned  parasites  are Eimeria spp., Ascaridia galli and Heterakis gallinarum

  which are mainly due to the many studies carried out on these parasites. 

  Currently, there is a paucity of information regarding the prevalence of gastrointestinal parasites

of  chickens  in  the  study  area  despite  their  numerous importance.  This  is  rather  unfortunate

  because for  a  fast  growing  economy  like  Nigeria,  there  is  a  need  to  continually  revalidate

  existing data on the health of chickens at regular intervals. In addition, as co-factors in other

poultry diseases, the knowledge of the prevalence of these parasites is essential in understanding

                                            - 14 -
the epidemiology and control measures. The current study was carried out to investigate the

  prevalence of gastrointestinal parasites of chickens in the tropics of Southwestern Nigeria.

Research Questions 

The questions this research is meant to answer include:

    (i) Are  gastrointestinal  parasites of  domestic  chickens prevalent  among poultry in


    (ii) In which age range, breed and sex of chickens in Akure are gastrointestinal parasites

            most prevalent?

    (iii) In which poultry management system are gastrointestinal parasites most prevalent,

            intensive, semi-intensive or extensive?

    (iv) What activities of poultry owners contribute to the acquisition of infections in the

            study area?

1.3 Aims and Objectives of Research

The aims and objectives of this study are to:

    (i) determine  the  gastrointestinal  parasites  found  in  domestic  chickens  in  parts  of

            Akure, Nigeria. 

    (ii) evaluate the prevalence,  species  composition, and parasite  burden (intensity) of

            gastrointestinal parasites found in domestic chickens in Akure, Nigeria.

    (iii) evaluate, based on bird sex, breed, and poultry management system, the prevalence

            of gastrointestinal parasites of domestic chickens in Akure.



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