Many farmers in developing countries raise small animals as a way to supplement their income and to improve nutrition for their family. An important advantage of raising small animals is that they can thrive in relatively small spaces. Currently the most common animals used in the CHOICE model are chickens (layers and broilers), guinea pigs, and goats. In some places ducks and rabbits are also raised. Without refrigeration it is not feasible for families to have large animals for food. Therefore, they only consume larger animals if it is a family or community celebration.
Traditional practices often allow small animals to run free with farmers paying and little attention to the animals’ health. Free-range animals are more likely to wander off, get parasites or diseases, or be lost to predators or thieves. Under these conditions the animals produce only minimal amounts of eggs, meat, or milk.
When farmers learn and implement modern, scientific methods, the animals grow larger and faster, reaching reproductive maturity earlier. This results in more eggs or meat or milk for the family to eat and sell, and also the family can have more animals through breeding.
The CHOICE model helps farmers learn many improved practices such as the following:
- Choose breeds of animals that thrive in the particular region.
- Build cages, pens, or sheds from local materials to keep animals healthy and protect them from predators and thieves or from wandering off.
- Maintain the appropriate environment, to protect animals from extremes of temperature, wind, and precipitation.
- Raise or gather local crops for the animals’ diet, and add a nutrient supplement when necessary.
- Provide the appropriate feed and amounts for the animals’ age and maturity.
- Recognize symptoms of disease.
- Vaccinate animals when appropriate.
- Maintain good hygienic practices to keep the animals healthy.
- Manage timing and circumstances for effective breeding.
- Implement best practices for caring for the offspring.