This publication presents the results of a field study on village chicken production and health and an analysis of their importance in household and national economies. The research was carried out under an FAO André Mayer Research Fellowship, granted to scientists whose research inputs may contribute to FAO's global work towards improved food security. Poultry is viewed within FAO's Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) as a crucial element in the struggle for sustained food production and poverty alleviation. In rural Africa, the poultry production systems are mainly based on scavenging indigenious chickens, which are found in virtually all villages and households. Over 70 percent of the poultry products and 20 percent of the animal protein intake in most African countries come from this sector. The author, with over 20 years experience in agricultural research and development in rural farming systems of Africa, promotes a holistic multidisciplinary approach to rural poultry production, embracing institutional and organizational capacity building. Gender issues are strongly emphasized. A model for village chicken production systems is presented, and the text is supported by a comprehensive review of the global literature on the subject. The study confirms that enhanced village chicken production forms the basis for transforming the rural poultry sector from subsistance to a more economically productive base. The material is particularly pertinent to countries participating in the SPFS, where village chicken production will have a special impact in increasing household food security and gender equity.