Agri - Kaleidoscope

Agri - Kaleidoscope - Poultry Genetic Resources of NEH Region

Dr. G. Kadirvel, Sr. Scientist, Animal Production

Gallus Gallus (Linn) commonly known as red jungle fowl is found in the north eastern region and its neighbouring areas. Modern poultry has originated from Gallus Gallus murghi. Indian breeds of poultry are Aseel, Kadakanath, Ghagus, Busra, Chittagong, Miri, Dawthigir, Brown Desi, Danki, Tirti, Haringhata black, Kashmir Faverolla, Lolasthi, Laiab, Naked neck, Punjab brown, Danidellichery. Ankleshwar and Nibobari.  North East India is famous for different groups of chicken and duck breeds reared by farmers under traditional systems of management. The total poultry population in NEH region is around 36.46 million with 27.79 million fowls and 8.67 million ducks. Similar to other livestock populations, the population of poultry is also highest in Assam with about 21.66 million birds in the state. With the exception of Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura, the poultry population has increased considerably from 1997 to 2003 indicating its growing popularity. NEH region is also native of some indigenous chicken/duck breeds. The indigenous chicken breeds include Miri and Chittagong while the ducks include Nageswari ducks, Pat/desi ducks, Chinahansh (Muscovy), Rajhansh and Sylhete meat duck. The other breeds of ducks are Khaki Campbell, Indian Runner and Brown water ducks. Duck farming is famous in NEH region especially Assam which stands second in the country with respect to duck population.

Miri fowl

Habitat and Distribution

The name of the breed is derived after the name of the tribal people (Miri or Mising) rearing them. Miri birds are found in Dhemaji, North Lakhimpur, Sibsagar and adjoining districts of Dibrugarh and Majhauliisland in upper Assam. These birds are reared by most of the tribal people and they play an important role in their socio-cultural activities. The local name of these birds in the area is “porog”.

Physical characteristics

Majority of the birds have white plumage followed by brown and black, however, some mixed coloured birds are also available. The most common pattern is solid, but few spotted and striped patterns are also found. Skin is white to yellow while the shank is white or yellow colour. The earlobes are mostly red with single comb and brown eyes.

Management practices

Miri birds are mostly reared as a backyard venture with birds remaining free and scavenging all through the day. The birds are provided housing only during night in the form of cages. A special type of paddy straw bedding called “Pekang” is given to laying hens. In each laying cycle, hens lay about 15-25 eggs which then brood to hatch out chicks. The next laying cycle starts after a gap of one month.


The birds are reared mostly for meat as well as eggs. The meat of these birds is considered as a delicacy by the tribal people. The dressing percentage ranges from 65-74%. The average weight at 6 and 12 months of age is 1.06±0.049 kg and 1.525±0.048 kg respectively. The average egg produced per year is around 60 to 70 (Vijhet al., 2005).

Chittagong fowl

Chittagong fowls are found to be distributed in Meghalaya and Tripura bordering Bangladesh. These birds are said to be native of Chittagong region of Bangladesh. Chittagong birds are dual-purpose type reared for both meat and egg. However, these birds are found to have reduced in number to a large extent.

Nageswari duck

Nageswari ducks are found to be distributed in the Barak valley of Assam bordering Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram and the neighbouring country Bangladesh. The Barak valley basin is an agriculture based area with abundance of surface water and paddy fields and hence very much suitable to duck farming. The Nageswari ducks are locally called as “Nagi” or “White breasted Nageswari”. The original homeland of this variety of duck is believed to be the erstwhile Sylhet district of Assam, which is now in Bangladesh.
The average flock size of Nageswari ducks is 18.91 with the range of 5 to 200 (Zamanet al., 2005). Adult ducks are usually kept under scavenging or free-range system of rearing, which forage in the rice fields all through the day and confined to the duck house made of bamboo (Ugartol) during night time. Ducks lay eggs inside Ugartol where paddy straw is usually used as bedding materials for laying eggs. The average age at first egg of Nageswari duck is around 188 days with a range of 174 to 198 days. The average annual egg production in Nageswari ducks is about 140 to 150 (Islam et al., 2002).  For hatching Nageswari duck eggs, farmers are entirely dependent upon broody ducks or hens.

Pati/Desi duck

Pati is the non-descript indigenous duck variety of Assam and constitute about 85.6% of the total duck population in Assam (Islam et al., 2002). The farmers of Assam mainly rear Desi ducks under natural conditions and they lay about 60 to 70 eggs annually. Desi ducks are not much suitable for economic meat production because of their poor genetic potential for growth and feed efficiency. However, they are more resistant to disease and better acclimatized to the local environmental conditions. The average age at maturity of Pati/Desi duck is 229.28±10.06 days while the average weight at 20 and 40 weeks are 969.95±24.41 gm and 1225.20±34.72 gm respectively. Recently the Desi ducks are subjected to crossbreeding with Khaki Campbell duck for better egg production under rural management practices. Now the farmers rear ducks of four genetic groups viz. Desi, Khaki Campbell and their reciprocal crosses (Kalitaet al., 2004).