A professor of Animal Breeding and Genetics in the College of Animal Science and Livestock Production (COLANIM), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Olufunmilayo Adebambo, and her poultry-breeding team, have developed a new breed of chicken.

The breed, named ‘FUNAAB-Alpha’, finally came through after over 20 years of continuous research.

She said she started the project in 1994, with the first generation of chickens, collected randomly all over south-west, Nigeria.

 Recalling her experience, Professor Adebambo noted that the different types of local chickens (Normal Feathered, Frizzle Feathered and Naked Necks), were collected all over Nigeria by students in the Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics (COLANIM). They were screened for conservation and multiplication by her first PhD student, late Dr. (Mrs.) Josephine Adenowo, during which, eggs were taken to Oyo town, Oyo State, for hatching.

Professor Adebambo said she started the second generation of the birds after screening and selection from 1,000 birds, out of which only 27 got into the cage.

 This, she said, was done to screen against diseases and upon getting into the cage, the birds were further screened against brooding, because as local chickens, they had the tendency to brood after egg laying, which is usually in clutches, after which the chicks were reared.

These activities, therefore, rendered them unproductive like imported birds. Since motherhood is not allowed for commercial poultry business, only 17 non-broody birds formed the foundation stock in the cage, she explained.

“From these 17, we started multiplication, cross-breeding, back-crossing and criss-crossing, which brought us to where we are today.  We presently have a Gene Pool of seven lines from which the Alpha lines were generated.

“The birds are presently on test across the country, by rural farmers, as we are in the process of registering the breeds as FUNAAB-Alpha, the first indigenous chicken for Nigeria and which was developed by Nigerian scientists from the local scavenging chickens, viz: FUNAAB-Alpha indigenous birds (FIn-Alpha Birds).

“The FIn-Alpha birds comprise FIn-α Pullets and FIn-α Broilers, selected over 12 and six generations, respectively. The FIn-αP are the dual purpose chickens, meant for meat and egg production, while the FIn-α B and the broilers are the meat type only,” the research team leader said.

 She noted that to develop the meat line, two of her post graduate students had to work critically on the genomics aspect, which could aid selection, using the blood group and genetic polymorphisms, to select for higher body weight in the birds. The result is that with the six generations of selection, the broiler line attained the 1.5 kg weight at eight weeks.

Professor Adebambo, who likened birds to human beings, said while human beings have A, B and O blood groups, chickens have A to Z blood groups, as well as the immune response genes used in selection for disease resistance/tolerance.

She added that “presently, the chickens are being tested, all over Nigeria on our linkage with the African Chicken Genetic Gain (ACGG), sponsored under the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Ethiopia.

This is to enable the farmers to decide on the two most preferred breeds under rural scavenging conditions.  With the ACGG project, our birds are presently distributed across the five agro-ecological zones of the country. They are being reared by farmers in Rivers, Imo, Kwara, Nasarawa and Kebbi states by 2,500 rural farmers.”

Professor Adebambo explained that Sasso chicken was imported from France, Kuroiler chicken from Uganda for the test, along with Shika Brown, the chicken breed developed by the National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, while the Fulani chickens are from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.

These were being evaluated alongside the FUNAAB Alpha with some of the results generated, she said.