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Vanaraja - A Prospective Dual Purpose Bird for Rural and Tribal Areas

S.V. Rama Rao, N.K. Praharaj, M.R. Reddy, G. Shyam Sunder, V. Ayyagari
Project Directorate on Poultry, Hyderabad .

The rapid growth of poultry sector in our country during the last 3 to 4 decades has been almost exclusively dependent on appearance of intensive or commercial type poultry enterprise, often located in urban or periurban areas. Rural and tribal areas have received little attention in this sector, creating a large gap in the availability of highly nutritious egg and chicken meat between urbanites and malnourished rural / tribal people. Only the solution is backyard farming in rural and tribal areas.


The backyard farming will certainly improve the economic status of a large majority of tribal rural" families from lower socioeconomic strata in the rural / tribal areas. Backyard farming fulfills a wide range of functions - e.g. the provision of meat and eggs, food for special festivals, chicken for traditional ceremonies, pest control and petty cash-while requiring minimal external inputs, minimal human attention, and causing minimal disruption to the environment.

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Genesis of Vanaraja:

Having realized the importance of backyard farming, a long-term program has been initiated at Project Directorate (PD) on Poultry to develop a suitable germplasm for backyard / free range farming. Project Directorate on Poultry (Indian Council of Agricultural Research), Hyderabad has developed a multicolored germplasm (Vanaraja) which can thrive well in village conditions. The genetic stocks used for this purpose were specially developed at PD on Poultry. It is a multi colored, medium weight, and dual purpose bird. The male and female parents for this bird are the strain crosses, evolved by blending of genes responsible for egg and meat production from both indigenous and exotic sources. The male parents have been developed for the traits like high juvenile body weight, better feed efficiency, better fertility and hatchability, high immune competence and good shank length. The female parents have been developed for good production, appealing plumage color, high immune competence and better feed efficiency. While developing such bird for rural poor. due attention has been given to improve the immune status of the bird to allow the bird to thrive well under frequent challenges with disease causing agents under backyard farm conditions. For attractiveness, due importance has been given to have a blend of various color combinations, which is observed in most of our Desi fowl. The genetic architecture of the bird along with high immune status for common poultry diseases makes me Vanaraja the best choice for Rural / Backyard farming. Other than its majestic look and high disease resistance potentialities, the young male Vanaraja is able to attain a good weight for table purpose and the pullet is able to produce good number of eggs with locally available feed and management inputs. Due to its respectively lightweight and long shanks, the birds able to protect itself from predators, which is otherwise a major threat to the birds in backyards.

Promising features of Vanaraja:

  • Natural color combination in this bird is more attractive than the Desi hen.
  • Can thrive well and perform better even in adverse environmental conditions.
  • Sturdy and resistant to most of the common poultry diseases because of its high immune competence.
  • It has better feed efficiency even with diets containing low energy and protein which are based on common feed ingredients available in rural tribal areas like rice bran, broken rice, ragi, bajra. korra, sorghum, podo millet, til cake, groundout cake, cotton seed cake etc.
  • It can perform better in backyard conditions by eating green grass and insects available in the fields.
  • It starts producing eggs between 195 to 205 days of age and produces about 150 to 160 eggs in a year.
  • Vanaraja eggs are heavier (55 to 63 g) and their color is more attractive than the eggs of Desi hen.
  • An adult hen weighs about 3 to 4 kg, and cock weighs about 3.5 to 4.5 kg at 6 months of age.
  • Broodiness is absent in Vanaraja, however. Vanaraja chicks can be hatched out from fertile eggs from Vanaraja bird by brooding the eggs with Desi hen. Fertility and hatchability of eggs are 87 and 80 % respectively.
  • The performance of Desi hens can be improved by crossing the Vanaraja males with Desi hen, thereby the progeny of this cross is much better man Desi birds.

Propagation of Vanaraja germplasm:

Vanaraja chicks are being propagated among the rural / tribal farmers by the PD on Poultry through different development programmers in Ranga Reddy, Medak, Cuddapah, Srikakulam districts in AP and Other states of Orissa. TamilNadu and Karnataka.

Management of Vanaraja:

Basically Vanaraja chicks are very sturdy in terms of immunity against common poultry diseases; therefore they can thrive well under open backyard farm conditions. However, they need warmth ness during initial 4 to 6 weeks of age to maintain me required body temperature. Therefore Vanaraja chicks need conventional brooding up to 4 - 6 weeks depending on the environmental temperature. If the chicks are to be maintained for egg production they need to be vaccinated for Marek's disease and for Ranikhet Disease. For table purpose the chicks are to be vaccinated only for Ranikhet disease. The vaccination schedule is given in Table 1. After four weeks, they can be let loose for scavenging. Vanaraja chicks can be let out in the backyard after 4-6 weeks of age. During initial acclimatization, care needs to be taken to make them to learn to reach the nest in the evening for night shelter. Night shelter should provide good ventilation and protection from % predator's attack. Availability of plenty of clean and fresh water is essential to avoid occurrence of any disease, therefore to avoid cross contamination from the other birds, keep the feeders and waterier on a metal / wooden stand of about 1 - 1.25 feet height from the ground. Since the chicks are moving in free range, there is a possibility of parasitic infestation during scavenging; therefore it is suggested to follow periodical de worming at 2 - 3 months interval.

Feeding of Vanaraja:

Vanaraja is able to search for its feed in the backyards once they learn to scavenge in the fields. Vanaraja chicks can scavenge well on grasslands for insects, waste grains, green grass, grass seeds etc. Supplemental feed during brooding and subsequent rearing mostly depends on the purpose of its rearing. If the farmer is interested in rearing Vanaraja for meat purpose, feed the birds with commercial broiler starter (1 to 5 weeks) and finisher (6 to 8/10 weeks) feeds. If the purpose of rearing is for egg production, feed the Vanaraja chicks with layer chick starter feed up to 6 weeks, then provide either complete feed / grains (like bajra, ragi, jowar, korra, broken rice, with equal parts of rice polish or rice bran) depending on the foraging conditions available for the bird. Care should be taken not to allow the pullets (female) to grow beyond 2.2 to 2.5 kg at 6.0 -6.5 month of age (i.e. at the age of sexual maturity). If the hen grows beyond 2.5 kg at sexual maturity, the egg production will be decreased correspondingly. Wherever it is possible to feed white ants, additional feed requirements can be reduced or can be avoided considerably by providing white ants. White ants can be produced at any place by adopting the following procedure. Dip pieces of old gunny bags in cow dung slurry for a while and leave them in open area for over night, within a day or two white ants will develop on the pieces of gunny bags. White ants are excellent source of proteins, vitamins and minerals in addition to fat. When the Vanaraja pullets are reared for egg production, supplementation of the feed or grains with calcium source (i.e. lime stone powder, stone grit, marble chips or shell grit) @ 4 - 5 g / bird / day is required during laying period.

Table 1. Vaccination Schedule






Marek's Disease




Ranikhet Disease (LaSota)

One drop

Eye drop


Ranikhet Disease (LaSota)

One drop

Eye drop


Ranikhet Disease (R2B)



Table 2. Performance of Vanaraja in comparison to indigenous fawl

Economic trait

Body weight, (g)Day old

Vanaraja Indigenous


Six weeks



Eight weeks



Eight weeks (restricted feeding)



Eight weeks (restricted feeding)



28 weeks

42 -44


40 weeks



Age at first egg, (days)



Egg production, No.

280 d



500 -d



Fertility, %



Hatchability, %



Su rvivability,%( up to 8weeks)



Dressed weight, %




Supply of Vanaraja chicks:

Fertile eggs: Fertile eggs of Vanaraja can be obtained from the Directorate. The cost of a fertile egg is Rs. 4/-. Since, a broody hen can brood up to a maximum of 10 eggs; every person will be given 10 fertile eggs. Eggs should be stored in cool place till they are set for hatching. These eggs should be brooded under desi hen within 2 to 4 days to get better hatchability.

Day old Vanaraja chicks: Day old Vanaraja chicks can be obtained from the Directorate on advance payment @ Rs. 9/- per bird. Payment can be made as DD in favor of "Project Director, PDP". The DD should be addressed to 'The Director, Project Directorate on Poultry, Rajendranagar. Hyderabad 500 030".

Grownup Vanaraja chicks: About 4-7 weeks age Vanaraja chicks are available at the Directorate and these can be obtained from the Directorate on payment. Care should be taken to acclimatize the bird to the backyard.