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The study examined the Prevalence of Ectoparasites on poultry chicken in three selected poultry farms in Awka and Mgbakwu towns, Awka South and Awka North Local Government Area, Anambra State between the month of June and August 2017. A total of 300 chickens were examined in the three poultry farms namely; Aroma poultry farm, Chidoka poultry farm and Polytechnic Mgbakwu poultry farm. Both the skin and plugged feathers were thoroughly searched for the presence of ectoparasites, all the ectoparasites found were collected into specimen bottle and are identified using a stereoscopic microscope. The result indicates that (52.0%) of the chicken haboured ectoparasites infestation with polytechnic Mgbakwu poultry farm which recorded the highest prevalence, followed by Chidoka poultry farm (38.1%) then by Aroma poultry farm (9.7%). The result showed higher infestation in female (53.3%) than males (46.6%). Ectoparasite specie encountered most was Menacanthus stramineus (33.3%) followed by Echinophaga gallinacean (29.1%). The ages of the chicken ranges from chicks (1 week old) to layers (9 month old). The study also showed that at (p>0.05%) significance, the infection of the ectoparasite on the chicken were not dependent on sex but there were high significant difference on ages of the chicken at (p<0.05%). Therefore, application of integrated control strategy, good management practices and high level of proper hygiene practices were recommended.
Chicken production specifically plays important socio economic roles and significant contributions to human food production. Poultry production is an integral part of a balanced farming system; it has a unique position in the rural household economic supplying high quality protein to the family (Angiereyiri et al., 2015). The poultry population was estimated at around 150 million with a large majority of local chickens and a minority of exotic breeds (FAO, 2000). Following the outbreak, the poultry sector witnessed a brief decline before settling and today despite many problems, the poultry sector is again in expansion (Oscar Agricultural Consultant Limited, 2008).
Chicken constitutes about 70% of poultry production and Nigeria produces about 300,000 tons of poultry meat and 650,000 tons in egg per annum while Nigeria poultry association stated that Nigeria produces above 1.25 million tons of egg per year as against 650,000 tons, FAO (2013). It was as well surveyed that most cocks sold in Awka market were derived from the northern states of the country, a strong indication that ectoparasites of chicken may be country-wide problem (Ikpeze et al., 2008). Ectoparasites which are parasites that live on the surface of a host organism (chicken) are mostly invertebrate EG arthropod (insects and arachnids). They are common in the tropics because of the favourable climatic conditions for their development and the poor standards of poultry husbandry (FAO, 2013). Ectoparasitism has been identified as one of the major factors that threaten scavenging village chicken production systems in developing countries (Zumani, 2011). Reports have shown that mortality due to parasitic diseases is higher than those attributed to some poultry viral infectious disease such as New castle disease and fowl pox disease (Nnadi and George, 2010; Opara et al., 2014). Chicken population in Tanzania is estimated to be 56 million involving the free-range chicken and poultry chicken. The free-range production is characterized by low input and low output while the poultry keeping system is characterized by high mortality caused by factors such as ectoparasites, poor management and nutrition (Conroy et al., 2005). However, common ectoparasites of chicken range from lice, mites, fleas and ticks (Nnadi and George, 2010). They may constitute a clinical problem and transmit a number of infectious diseases and can also act as a transport to intermediate hosts of a range of helminth parasite (Firol et al., 2014). These external parasites compete for feed or cause distress to the chicken and hence cause anaemia, reduce growth, low egg production and may lead to death. The ticks and mites most especially acts as vector of poultry disease such as pastuerellosis, fowl pox, Newcastle disease and possibly Chlamydia. This has been known to result in immuno suppression especially in response to vaccines against some poultry disease. (Nnadi and George, 2010).
In addition, some species are blood suckers while others burrow into the skin or live in the feather and other parts of the chicken depending on their predilection sites e.g. lice (Liperus spp, Menopon spp), Soft ticks (Argas spp), Mites (Dermanyssus spp, Ornithonyssus spp), Fleas ( Echinophaga spp) are mostly found on poultry chicken. Mites have been recognized as the cause of the dermatitis and skin damage on all classes of poultry while lice has been reported to be the most common and widely spread ectoparasites of chicken (Hobennaghi et al., 2012).
The feeding larvae, nymphs, and adults of some of these ectoparasites causes dermatitis, imitation, restlessness and debility but in heavy infestation, anaemia may result, parasitism in poultry chicken consumes dead cells of the skin and tissue fluids, cause heavy morbidity by sucking blood while it adversely affects their economical productivity, drop in egg production and emancipation. (Mungube et al., 2006; Nyoni and Masika, 2012).
Meanwhile, adequate control of ectoparasitism of livestock (chicken) has mostly been concentrated on ticks and biting flies in ruminants because of economic significance of ectoparasite borne disease (Ohaeri and Ugwu, 2013; Obi et al., 2014). Sanitary management practices involving routine use of proven insecticide and acaricide have devastating effects on poultry chicken caused by these ectoparasites has received little attention in almost all production systems, hence study with regards to determining the prevalence of such parasites and identifying their types and effects is fundamental in devising appropriate control methods.
The aims of this research work is to identify species composition of ectoparasites of poultry circulating in the area of study, assess the prevalence and associated risk factors in the three selected poultry in Awka.
The specific objectives were to determine: