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Ovambo Chicken

Scientific name: Gallus gallus domesitcus

Country / Place of origin: Ovamboland in Northern Namibia

History: The Ovambo is a native Southern African chicken, typically with dark black and red plumage (though the plumage of the hens is often more variable). Like another South African native chicken, the Venda, they are known for associating with grazing cattle where they pick off ticks from the skins of the cows. It is believed that the early ancestors of this breed were introduced by the earliest European visitors to Namibia and the German colonists of the 18th century. The survivors of these earliest introductions survived and cross-bred to produce the Ovamba, a breed that could survive by scratching out an existence in the barren semi-desert.

Natural selection due to predators meant that birds with dark plumage and which could fly into trees to escape predators survived. Thus the Ovambo is a dark-plumaged bird which is small in size, aggressive and which roosts in the tops of the trees. In fact, the behaviour of the Ovambo is very similar to that of the native guinea fowl of the region.

The Ovambo is a very hardy breed and a true omnivore. They are adapted to surviving on insects, edible weeds, greens and household scraps. Despite being very wild in nature, they are valued as village birds as they will catch and consume vermin like mice and even rats. When food is scarce they can range over a 1 hectare area of land in a single day.

Ovambos reach sexual maturity in 143 days, they will lay up to 130 eggs a year with the eggs weighing, on average, 52.5g. Though not as broody as the related Venda the Ovambo chicken is still known to be a good mother.

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