Poultry occupies a unique position in the Nigerian livestock production possibilities for several reasons. The most important of these is the fact that poultry are relatively free from the many pathological ecological and economical constraints which affect the commercial production of other breeds and classes of livestock in Nigeria. Some of these are:
Pathological Constraints: A tsetse fly disease known as trypanosomiasis affects all breeds of exotic and most breeds of indigenous cattle, sheep, goats and pigs to a serious extent that commercial production of these breeds is limited to latitudes north of the Benue and Niger rivers. In spite of intense prophylaxis, therapy and biological control of the vector, commercial production of these breeds and importation of exotic ones are more successful in the tsetse-free belts of Nigeria which lie North of Rivers Niger and Benue or within the plateaux of Mambilla and Obudu. There is no documented evidence that poultry are susceptible to typanosomiasis in Nigeria. Thus poultry enjoy maximum ecological feasibility throughout the country hence, adaptation of a wide variety of exotic poultry breeds into Nigeria has been very successful. These exotic stock which are genetically improved and more productive than the indigenous chicken, provide the Nigerian poultry industry with superior genetic pool and excellent opportunities for commercial poultry production.
Climatic Constraints: Climate exerts constraining influences on livestock production through its associative effects of temperature, humidity, precipitation and air movement, and its indirect influences on crop and animal feed production. Although, all livestock are subject to environmental stress in the tropics, poultry appear to be less susceptible than mammals. Comparative data between the temperate and tropical environments indicate that poultry show the most comparative performance between the two environments than any other class of livestock, that is, they have the least reduction in productivity as a result of the tropical environment. One reason may be that with higher body temperature than mammals, birds spend less production energy than other livestock in homeostatic regulations (adjustments). Under suitable tropical housing and management practices, poultry performance in the tropics has in many instances approximated closely the performance standards of the same breeds reared in temperate environments.
Economic Constraints: The scarcity of farm credit has been blamed in part for the low agricultural production in Nigeria. Even with the establishment of more agricultural and industrial banks in the country, livestock farmers are still handicapped in obtaining adequate credits not only from lack of acceptable collateral and the general uncertainty and heavy risks associated with livestock farming but more importantly as a result of the short term nature of the loans which do not fit well with livestock enterprises in general. Poultry production does not suffer this economic constraint in that it requires far less amount of capital investment and takes a relatively less period of 30
time to recycle the invested capital. Because of this short turnover cycle, poultry business can derive investment capital from banks.
Technical Constraint: A number of other important constraints which affect poultry to a less extent than other classes of livestock can be lumped under technical constraints. Poultry make the least demand on such requirements as land, skill, labour and storage than any other class of livestock. Under the intensive system of production, poultry enterprise requires no more than 350 sq. metres of building space or 800 sq. metres of total land space for every 1,000 adult chicks. This amount of space can accommodate only 350 pigs, 50 cattle, 200 sheep or goats, excluding pastures or runs. Less management skill is required in keeping poultry than any other class of livestock. Poultry marketing blends itself well into the Nigerian and third world meat consumption habit. Due to the scarcity of modern abattoirs and cold storage, many Nigerian households have to purchase their meat from open slaughter stands which are generally fly infested. Households which have neither the resources nor the facilities to purchase, slaughter and store whole live cattle or goats have a reasonable alternative to purchase live chickens. Chickens are the most prolific or fecund farm animals as they give the highest turnover of animal protein per life cycle, and the highest number of offspring per female per year. Poultry enterprise requires less labour and utilizes labour more effectively than other livestock enterprises. Where deep litter is used substantial savings on cleaning can be made.