Fifty five (55) experimental birds were randomly replicated into 5 deep litter pens in the ratio of 1 cock: 10 hens. Like to like random mating was ensured to raise 200 chicks in the F1 generation. Chicks were subjected to measurements like body weight, body length, shank length, shank colour, beak colour, feather colour, feed conversion ratio, mean feed consumption, egg colour, egg fertility, egg hatchability, dead embryo and mortality at hatch and subsequently at 4 weekly intervals.
Data obtained from these traits at ages of 0 (day old) - week, 4-weeks, 8-weeks,12-weeks 16-weeks and 20 weeks were subjected to analysis of variance (ANOVA) in a nested or hierarchial design and in a paternal half sib analysis using SAS (2004) statistical procedure.
Body weight was significantly different among the progeny and ranged from 30.33g at day old to 1334.67g at 20 weeks of age. Sire had no significant effect in average body weight gain (ABWG), expect at 8-12weeks of age. ABWG ranged from 85.05g at 4 weeks to 441.20g at 20 weeks of age.
There was significant (p<0.001) difference in feed conversion ratio (FCR) at 12 weeks of age. Sire had highly significant (p<0.001) effect on average feed consumption (AFC) from 4-20 weeks of age.
Sire had significant (p<0.05) effect on body length (BL) at 12 and 20 weeks of age. Sire had significant (p<0.05) effect on shank length at 0 week of age.
Sire had highly significant (p<0.001) effect on shank colour at day old and it ranged from cream colour to cream black colour.
Sire had highly significant (p<0.001) effect on the beak colour at 0 week, which ranged from cream to cream hazenut.
There were highly significant differences (p<0.001) in the number of white, light brown and brown eggs laid by the hens mated to the sires. With respect to the down feather colour of the progeny, sire did not make any difference. Sire used made no differences (p>0.05) in the number of infertile eggs laid throughout the experiment. Sire significantly (p<0.001) influenced the hatchability of eggs laid, the number of embryos that died in the shell and the number of chicks that died after hatching.
The heritability estimates of body weight (BW) ranged from 0.05 at 4 weeks to 0.54 at 12 weeks of age. The body length (BL) heritability estimates ranged from 0.06 at 4 weeks to 0.80 at 0 weeks. Heritability estimates of shank length (SL) ranged from -0.12 at 16 weeks to 0.80 at 0 week of age. Heritability estimates for shank colour, beak colour and feather colour were 1.38, 0.80 and 0.17 respectively. The average feed consumption heritability estimates ranged from 0.16 at 4 weeks to 2.00 at 8 weeks. Heritability estimates for feed conversion ratio ranged from -0.15 at 4 weeks to 1.15 at 12 weeks. Heritability estimates ABWG ranged from -0.10 at 16 weeks to 1.16 at 12 weeks of age.
The phenotypic correlation (rP) was in the range of -0.0178 between BW and BC at hatch to 0.6496 between BL and SL at 20 weeks of age.
The genetic correlation, rG (sire) ranged from -0.22 between BW at 8 weeks and BW at 20 weeks of age to 1.7298 between BW and SL at hatch.

The data on all the traits studied indicate that the heavy ecotype could form a foundation stock for layer, meat and dual purpose breed development in Nigeria.

Evidence abounds that Nigeria as a Nation is endowed with surplus natural resources that will make her self-sufficient in animal protein production and even become main exporters of all kinds of food items. According to Nigerianet (2003), Nigeria, being the largest geographical unit in West Africa, has a land area of 923,768 square kilometers. According to Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN (2002), Nigeria population was reported to be 129.9 million in 2004 based on the projected annual growth rate of 2.8% of the revised 1991 census. At this given growth rate Nigeria population is estimated to be 141.1 million in 2007. Nwosu (1989) reported that of the one hundred and thirty three million (133,000,000) chickens in Nigeria, one hundred and twenty-three million (123,000,000) are local chickens. RIM (1992), reported that the native chickens constituted 80% of the one hundred and twenty million (120,000,000) chickens in Nigeria. This showed that ninety-six million (96,000,000) were native chickens.

The fact that some developed countries with far less natural resources can still boast of self sufficiency and their ability to export poultry products call for sober reflection among Nigerians. Frommer (2006), the Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, reported that Nigeria’s geographical territory is 30 times bigger than that of Israel and it’s population is 20 times larger than that of Israel. Annual rainfall in Israel ranges from 28 inches (70cm) in the north to less than 2 inches (5cm) in the south. Despite the obvious disparity in natural resources between Nigeria and the State of Israel, it is believed that the Israel model of agricultural and research development with some necessary modifications could be applied in Nigeria. Israeli livestock output for instance, in 2004 was worth US $1.4 billion (39%) and crops US $2.5 billion (61%). Israel produced almost 70% in monetary terms of its food requirements. The recent purchase of twenty five thousand (25,000) day old broiler chicks from Israel by the Animal Science Department of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in her HUJII broiler project, to a large extent, substantiates the Israeli Ambassador’s claims.

Moreover, the records of numerous poultry breeds genetically developed in other continents as far back as the nineteenth century is equally interesting. According to the New Encyclopedia Britannica (1995) the Barred Plymouth Rock, the American breed of importance today was developed in 1865 by crossing Dominique with the Black Cochin. The Wyandotte (an America breed) developed from five or more strains and breeds has eight varieties. Rhode Island Red (RIR) developed in 1857 was from red Malay game fowl crossed with reddish coloured shanghais with some brown leghorn, Cornish, Wyandotte and Brahma blood. It is good for meat production and one of the top meat breeds for the production of egg. It has bright red feather. New Hampshire was developed in US in 1930 from Rhode Island Red. It is a meat and early maturing breed. The white Leghorn especially developed in the USA, is one of the 12 varieties of the Leghorn breed which originated in Italy, a Mediterranean breed. The white Leghorn is the leading egg producer of the world. Cornish, an English breed, developed for crossbreeding programmes for broiler production was developed in England before 1893. It is a poor egg producer. The white Plymouth was registered in USA in 1888. Brahma is the only Asiatic breed of significance today developed in India. It has three varieties. The breeds of chicken are classified into American, Mediterranean, European and Asiatic, depending on the regions of the world where they were developed. The shika brown breed has been developed in NAPRI, Shika, Zaria. That means there is no African class of chicken. This buttresses the fact that while the Europe, America and Asia have for over a century been milking great income from their developed poultry breeds and other developed natural resources, Africa including Nigeria has been sleeping and groping in the dark due to many technical, socio-economic, organizational, constitutional and institutional problems.

These considerations pose some urgency on animal scientists and the entire nation of the need to put into motion every programme and action that will make it possible for our nation, Nigeria, to consolidate its claim as the “giant of Africa”. Nigeria would have to fulfil the proverb, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”, by developing breeds of poultry for Africa that will be called truly African breeds. It could be observed with some confidence that the various studies carried out on gene characterization; improvement potential for meat and egg production; biometric, allometric and anthropometric indices of the Nigerian local chicken in cited works of Hill (1954), Nwosu (1990); have served enough background work to justify actual breeding plans for breed development in Nigeria in the 21st century. These studies done in the past laid a foundation for the recent findings that the light and heavy ecotypes both genetically and phenotypically differ (Momoh 2005). Management and nutrition affect the performance of both the heavy ecotype and the light ecotype. Heavy ecotype performs better than light ecotype and the battery cage performance has an edge over that in the deep litter (Tule 2005). The local chicken by nature is rugged and would require a feed of intermediate standard rather than depending on/or adopting the standard form from improved breeds put forward by NRC (Tule 2005). The relevance of the ongoing Ph. D research works of Ogbu, Cosmos and Ewa, Vivian, who are supervised by Professor Emeritus Dr. C.C. Nwosu on selection for growth and egg laying parameters on the heavy ecotype and light ecotype of the Nigerian local chicken is indisputable in the characterization of the local chicken of Nigeria. The researches and findings so far carried out on the Nigerian local chicken put the goal of breed development in Nigeria on course. The findings will provide the basis for the development of a poultry breed in Nigeria.

Great care, therefore, must be taken to equally develop the best plan that can maximally utilize the information found on the Nigerian Heavy and Light ecotype chicken for the purpose of developing a new breed at a minimal cost and shortest possible time. According to FAO (2004), strategies to develop poultry breeds suitable for family poultry in tropical countries must differ from those used in intensive production and should focus on improving indigenous breed, while also making use of pure, exotic and crossbred chickens where appropriate. FAO (2004) and Nwosu (1989) recommended the following rules in improving the Nigerian breed (i) Germplasm in the traditional condition should not be modified until management and housing have been improved, even then selection should be restricted to local breed, FAO (2004). (ii) When technical conditions are optimum and a ready market exist for the products, then the improved breeds, crosses and hybrid that have been selected for high performance can be introduced into the peri urban system even at small scale level (FAO, 2004). Hence according to Nwosu (1989) (an unpublished research work) care....

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