They came from the mountain forests of the Western Visayas. What were once red jungle fowls surviving in the wild have evolved into native chickens now called darag.
Darags are characterized by their unique comb, whitish earlobes, and gray shafts, which are the part of the leg above their claws. Male darag chickens have red and black feathers while females have yellowish brown feathers.
In the selection of breeding stock, give preference to pullets and roosters from a herd of good layers and large roosters. Brood stocks must be uniform in age and weight, and they must also be free of disease and abnormalities. The ideal weight for breeders is 800g while the ideal ratio is five hens to one rooster.
Outdoor Method of Feeding Darag Chickens
Free chickens are happy chickens. By giving them room to roam, darag chickens become more physically active, which helps them develop healthier meat and eggs.
To raise darag chickens using the free range method, the range area must have plants and vegetables that the darag chickens can eat. These plants include mani-mani (Desmodium triflorum), Kang Kong (Morning Glory)and kamote (Ipomoea batatas). Farmers can also grow azolla ferns (Azolla filiculoides), which is a viable source of feed for Darag chickens.
Farmers can also supplement the diet of darag chickens with corn, rice barn, commercial feed and other vegetables.
When building a cooker, make sure the area should be 10 square meters for each chicken. Additional considerations are the slope of the beach, which should be 20 to 45 degrees to avoid flooding and waterborne disease. A perimeter fence should also be erected to protect the chickens from snakes, dogs, cats and rats.
Caring for Darag Chicken Eggs
Darag hens begin laying eggs when they are between 18 and 20 weeks old and will continue to do so until they are 24 months old.
When the hens are ready to lay, place them in nest boxes, which should be located in a dark and quiet place. This will give the hens a sense of security, which will encourage them to lay eggs. Farmers can also place dried lemongrass or banana leaves in the nest box to deter mites, which like to live on the skin of chickens.
Once the hens start laying eggs can be collected daily. The ideal weight of an egg is between 40 and 50 g. Farmers wishing to sell the eggs can store them in the fridge at 16°C. If a refrigerator is not available, farmers can store the eggs at room temperature but must ensure that the eggs are protected from heat.
Farmers looking to raise more Darag chickens should consider synchronizing egg hatch from multiple hens to streamline the production process. There is a method called synchronized natural incubation in which the eggs from a group of hens are collected and only released to them when all the hens show brooding or a tendency to incubate their eggs.
Brooding hens stop laying eggs. They will tend to sit on their clutch of eggs and become protective of them. They will refuse to leave the nest box and may even peck at farmers who try to take them away. In an effort to look tougher, hens also fluff up their feathers to make themselves look bigger.
If farmers don’t want to depend on their hens to incubate the eggs, they can use artificial incubators instead. To synchronize the hatching of multiple eggs through this method, farmers can store eggs before placing a batch in an incubator. It is important to note that eggs can only be stored outside of an incubator for a maximum of ten days to ensure that they will continue to hatch.
The eggs hatch after 21 days. Place hatched chicks in a brooder to provide warmth and shelter. They should be kept in this environment until they are 20 days old. Next, the chicks need to be ‘hardened’, which means they need to be prepared for the farm environment before releasing them on the range. The chickens will continue to mature and will be ready for slaughter in their fourth month. At that time, they would weigh between 1 and 1.2 kg, which is the preferred weight of market players.
Health management and biosecurity measures
Caring for Darag chickens also means protecting them from disease. Prevention is always better than cure, which is why the following measures are aimed at preventing illnesses from occurring in the first place.
Darag chickens should be wormed every two months. Owners can use natural dewormers like the ethnobotanical dewormer developed by Capaz State University. This dewormer was designed to target roundworms and is made from a combination of betel nut (Areca catechu) and ipil-ipil seeds (Leucaena leucocephala). The dosage of this dewormer is two grams per kilogram of a chicken darag’s weight.
Natural alternatives for deworming darag chickens are papaya seeds, oregano, turmeric and garlic.
Farmers must also vaccinate Darag chickens against Newcastle disease (NCD) four months before they start laying eggs. Farmers can use an oil emulsion NCD vaccine, which can be ordered from the Department of Agriculture – Region 7 office.
Caring for the health of darag chickens also includes considerations for the ongoing bird flu. Biosecurity measures must be followed to prevent the spread of the disease. These measures include the isolation of sick and newly purchased chickens, the regular disinfection of facilities, and the proper disposal of dead birds.
Farmers are encouraged to raise Darag chickens if they seek to produce healthier chickens. Interested farmers can view and purchase breeding stock from Capiz State University, Western Visayas State University and the Panay Darag Breeders Association. Prices range from P500-600.
The information provided here is taken from a presentation titled “Raising and Breeding Native Darag Chickens” by Dr. Maryneth B. Barrios of Capiz State University. The presentation was part of the Native Chicken Technology Forum at the Native Animal Fair organized by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) – Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources (PCAARD).
Screenshots were taken from a darag native chicken newsletter prepared by DOST – PCAARD.
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