In Africa, poultry farming is very important, as rural poultry provides a large percentage of the eggs and meat eaten by the local population. While many of the common African poultry breeds are used for eggs and meat, other breeds on the continent are used for something else entirely; gaming. In Africa, cockfighting is a common pastime, leading to the breeding of many chickens for sport.
Between chickens raised for food and those bred for sport, there are at least seven different chicken breeds native to Africa. Several more are used by commercial farms for meat and egg production, but these aren’t actually native to the continent. In this article, we’re going to take a look at the chicken breeds native to Africa, used for both sport and food production.
Chickens for Food
1. Indigenous African Chickens
While there are several standardized breeds in Africa, most of the chickens you’ll find being raised by rural poultry farmers won’t fit into any specific breed. Instead, they’re a mix of a variety of chicken genetics, created by the crossing of many indigenous birds over long periods.
In Africa, most of the poultry isn’t specified by breed. Instead, they’re characterized by their standout traits, such as frizzled feathers, naked necks, or the color of their plumage. Though there are many different genetics lumped together in this category, there are no breed standards to follow, so we’ll refer to all of these rural, breed-less chickens as indigenous African chickens.
Venda chickens share similar coloration with other indigenous African livestock, including goats and cattle. They display mottled coloration that’s predominantly black and white with some brown thrown in. These birds have a single comb and weigh roughly five to seven pounds at full size. It’s not uncommon for them to have feet with five toes, beards, or crests.
Venda is a region in northern South Africa, which is where this breed was first discovered; hence, the breed’s name. They lay large, tinted eggs and hens are known for brooding easily. Popular with both farmers and show breeders, Venda chickens have developed a hardy constitution that makes them ideal for the African environment.
Smaller than Vanda chickens and lacking the white coloration, Ovambo chickens are dark-colored and noticeably smaller. They can be a variety of colors, though they never have more than a few white feathers. This breed first originated in northern Namibia and Ovamboland, though they’re found through much of the continent now.
Despite the small size, these birds are known for being quite aggressive. Moreover, they’re very agile and are known to often eat mice and rats that they catch. Unlike many brees, Ovambo chickens can fly. They prefer to roost at the tops of trees, so they can avoid predators.
4. Potchefstroom Koekoek
This South African breed was created at the Potchefstroom Agricultural College. Professor Chris Marais created the bird as a dual-purpose breed, meant to offer excellent meat and egg production in a free-ranging bird ideal for the African environment. These birds have a very standardized appearance, with white and black barring covering their bodies.
The Potchefstroom Koekoek was created by crossing a black Australorp, a barred Plymouth Rock, and a White Leghorn. Also known as the Potch, this hardy breed doesn’t require much feed to be a large producer of eggs. Weighing in at five to nine pounds on average, they’re just as popular for their meat.
Boschveld chickens were created by crossing three indigenous African breeds: the Ovambo, Venda, and Matabele. Mostly known for their excellent production of large and delicious eggs, they’re also very colorful birds that are quite beautiful.
This breed was developed in South Africa by a local farmer named Mike Bosch. He created them to be robust and resistant to the South African climate, while also laying copious amounts of eggs and showing durability against local parasites. They’re also good as meat chickens, though they’re most often used for their eggs.
6. Naked Neck (Kaalnekke)
It’s believed that Naked Neck chickens originated in Malaysia many centuries ago. However, this particular type of Naked Neck chicken is considered a South African breed as they’ve been in the region for so long that they’ve developed certain traits not shared by all naked necks.
These birds are particularly popular with rural poultry farmers because they don’t have to devote as much energy to producing feathers, which means they produce a lot of eggs and meat for the amount of feed they require. Furthermore, they have about 30% fewer feathers than other chicken breeds, making them easier to pluck when it’s time to cook them.
7. Matabele (Ndebele)
Very little is known about the indigenous African breed of chickens known as Matabeles. They’re sizable birds that were used in the production of the Boschveld breed, but that’s about all of the information available on this rare African chicken.
Chickens for Sport
In Africa, chickens are raised for sport nearly as much as they are for food. While we do know some of the breeds that they raise for sport, not much is known about these breeds.
Breeds raised for sport in Africa include:
8. Madagascar Naked Neck
9. Natal Game
10. Reunion Game
There are many chicken breeds in Africa besides the ones listed here. However, not much is known about them as they are localized breeds with no standardization in place. Many of the chickens in Africa are simply a cross of different indigenous birds that have been in the region for a long time. But the most common and well-known breeds are included on this list; even the game birds used for sport, about which not much is known.
See other interesting chicken breeds and their orgins below:
- 16 German Chicken Breeds (with Pictures)
- 10 French Chicken Breeds (with Pictures)
- 6 Asian Chicken Breeds (with Pictures)