They came from the mountain forests of Western Visayas. What were once red jungle fowl surviving in the wild evolved to the native chickens now called darag.
Darag are characterized by their single comb, whitish earlobes, and gray shanks, which is the part of the leg above their claws. Male darag chickens have red and black feathers while females have yellowish-brown feathers.
In selecting breeder stocks, choose pullets and cockerels that come from a flock of good-laying hens and large roosters. Breeder stocks should be uniform in age and weight, and they must also be free from disease and abnormalities. The ideal weight for breeder stocks is 800g while the ideal ratio is five hens for every one rooster.
Free range method of feeding darag chickens
Free chickens are happy chickens. By giving them space to roam, darag chickens get to be more physically active, which helps them develop healthier meat and eggs.
To raise darag chickens using the free range method, the ranging area must have plants and vegetables which darag chickens can eat. Such plants include mani-mani (Desmodium triflorum), kangkong (Ipomoea aquatica), and kamote (Ipomoea batatas). Farmers can also cultivate azolla ferns (Azolla filiculoides), which is a viable source of feed for darag chickens.
Farmers may also supplement the diet of darag chickens with corn, rice barn, commercial feed, and other vegetables.
When constructing a range, ensure that the area should contain 10 square meters for every chicken. Additional considerations are the slope of the range, which should be 20-45 degrees to avoid floods and water-borne diseases. A perimeter fence must also be erected to protect chickens from snakes, dogs, cats, and rats.
Caring for darag chicken eggs
Darag hens start to lay eggs when they are between 18-20 weeks old, and will continue to do so until they are 24 months old.
When hens are ready to lay eggs, place them on nesting boxes, which should be in an area that is both dark and quiet. This will provide a sense of security to the hens, which will encourage them to lay eggs. Farmers may also place dried lemongrass or banana leaves in the nesting box to deter mites, which like to live on the skin of chickens.
Once hens start laying, eggs can be collected daily. The ideal weight of an egg is between 40-50g. Farmers seeking to sell the eggs may store them in a refrigerator at 16 °C. If a refrigerator is not available, farmers may store eggs at room temperature but must ensure that eggs are protected from the heat.
Farmers seeking to raise more darag chickens should consider synchronizing the hatching of eggs from multiple hens to streamline the production process. There is a method called synchronized natural incubation in which eggs from a group of hens are collected and only returned to them when all the hens display broodiness, or the inclination towards incubating their eggs.
Hens that are broody stop laying eggs. They will tend to sit on their clutch of eggs and become protective of them. They will refuse to leave the nesting box and maybe even peck farmers attempting to carry them away. In an effort to look tougher, hens will also fluff their feathers to make themselves appear bigger.
If farmers don’t want to depend on their hens to incubate the eggs, they may use artificial incubators instead. To synchronize the hatching of multiple eggs through this method, farmers may stock eggs before placing a batch in an incubator. It is important to note that eggs can only be stored outside an incubator for a maximum of ten days to ensure that they will still hatch.
Eggs will hatch after 21 days. Place the hatched chicks in a brooder house to provide them with warmth and shelter. They would need to be kept in this environment until they are 20 days old. Afterwards, chicks need to be ‘hardened,’ which means that they must be prepared for the farm environment before setting them free on the range. The chickens will continue to mature and will be ready for slaughter by their fourth month. By then, they would weigh between 1-1.2kg, which is the weight preferred by those involved in the market.
Health management and biosecurity measures
Caring for darag chickens also means protecting them from diseases. Prevention is always better than cure so the following measures seek to avoid diseases from happening in the first place.
Darag chickens need to be dewormed every two months. Owners may use natural dewormers like the ethnobotanical dewormer developed by Capaz State University. This dewormer was made to target roundworms, and is made from a combination of betel nut (Areca catechu) and seeds of ipil-ipil (Leucaena leucocephala). The dosage of this dewormer is two grams per kilogram weight of a darag chicken.
Natural alternatives to deworm 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 may be ordered from the office of the Department of Agriculture – Region 7.
Caring for the health of darag chickens also includes considerations for the ongoing avian influenza. Biosecurity measures must be observed to avoid the spread of the disease. Such measures include the isolation of sick and newly bought chickens, regular disinfection of facilities, and proper disposal of dead birds.
Farmers are encouraged to breed darag chickens if they are looking to produce healthier chickens. Interested farmers may consult and purchase breeder stocks from Capiz State University, Western Visayas State University, and the Panay Darag Breeders Association. Price ranges from P500-600.
The information provided here was taken from a presentation entitled “Breeding and Selection of Darag Native Chicken” by Dr. Maryneth B. Barrios of the Capiz State University. The presentation was part of the technology forum on native chickens during the Native Animals Fair organized by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) – Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD).
The screenshots were taken from an information bulletin about darag native chicken prepared by DOST – PCAARRD.