ICAR-National Organic Farming Research Institute (formerly ICAR Research Complex for NEH Region, Sikkim Centre) distributed free of cost day old Vanaraja chicks produced at ICAR hatchery, Tadong to the tribal farmers of Sikkim. Directorate of Poultry Research, Rajendranagar, Hyderabad has developed, Vanaraja chicken variety; a dual purpose improved chicken variety for rural/backyard poultry farming keeping in view the needs of rural and tribal people. Vanaraja is similar in appearance to desi chicken with multi color feather pattern/plumage and produce brown shell egg like desi hen and meat is also as tasty as local chicken. Moreover, Vanaraja grows faster and produces more eggs than desi hen. Vanaraja adult birds weight ranged from 2.25 to 3.0 kg in female and 3.0 to 4.5 kg in males. Adult female layer lays 110 to 150 eggs up to 1.5 years of age.
The performance of Vanaraja is satisfactory and well accepted by the farmers. However, the high altitude of North Sikkim is characterized by intense cold and remoteness and the backyard poultry farming with Vanaraja was not highly anticipated. With a view to assess the performance and adaptability of Vanaraja, a tropical bird, at high altitude in North Sikkim, Mrs. Sacho Lhamu Lachenpa, a lady farmer at Rabom (at an altitude of 2049 m amsl, latitude N 27 ̊39.85, longitude E 088 ̊36.223) was given 50 nos. of Vanaraja day old chicks and briefed about brooding, feeding and housing management of chicks. For brooding the day old chicks, the cardboard box from old cartons were used and provision for heating by hanging 200w electricity bulbs was ensured and later on birds were shifted to floor. After 6 weeks of age chicks were allowed to move out under restricted fencing area and after 12 weeks they were in completely free range condition. Because of her good managemental procedures, ad constant monitoring by Scientists of ICAR-NOFRI, mortality was quite low i.e., only 4 birds died at the age of 20 weeks and birds started laying eggs by the age of 26 weeks and attained the body weight of 2.0 to 2.50 kg. She started selling the male of weight 3.5 to 4 kg @ Rs. 1000/- and earned a total Rs. 16000/- by selling the 16 males and she also earned Rs. 20,000/- from sale of eggs @ Rs.10/ egg. Further, she earned Rs.16, 000/- from sale of culled birds @ Rs.800/bird. Finally, from 50 day old chicks Vanaraja she earned Rs.52,000/- within one and half years and also self propagated the flock and raised around 45 F1 Vanaraja chicks by setting the eggs with Naked Neck fowl and other desi hens. Therefore, by seeing the Vanaraja adaptability and performance at high altitudes of high rainfall and intense cold conditions it could be inferred that Vanaraja is quite successful even at higher elevation and wet humid climate of upper North Sikkim, provided special attention to brooding and health management is ensured. The success of Mrs. Bhutia revealed that backyard poultry and small scale semi-intensive poultry farming with Vanaraja has great potential in the area which experiences massive tourist inflow especially in Lachen and Lachung. The strong presence of army will also provide a ready market for poultry and its products. Adopting back yard poultry and small scale semi-intensive poultry farming with Vanaraja in surrounding areas will reduce cost of meat production and help in nutritional and livelihood security of resource poor remotely located farmers of North Sikkim especially since agricultural activity is very low due to limited arable land and harsh climate which permits only one cropping season per year.