Raise poultry; on a large or small scale, at home or in the backyard

  • Raise poultry for meat, eggs, for breeding, or as pets
  • Follow a passion, or enhance your career or business opportunities
  • 100 hour self paced course

There are eight lessons as follows:

  1. Introduction: Terminology, Breeds
  2. Nutrition
  3. Diseases In Poultry
  4. Layers
  5. Broilers
  6. Incubation
  7. Brooding
  8. Record Keeping, Economics & Marketing

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

On successful completion of the course you should be able to do the following:

  • Select appropriate poultry breeds for use in different production situations.
  • Explain the techniques used in the management of condition, including both feeding, and pest and disease control, of poultry.
  • Explain the management of poultry as layers.
  • Explain the procedures for the management of poultry as broilers.
  • Explain the techniques used in the management of poultry incubation.
  • Explain the management of brooding poultry.
  • Develop management strategies for a poultry business.

Here are just some of the things you will be doing:

  • Distinguish between cross bred and pure bred poultry, being grown in your locality.
  • Categorise different breeds of poultry, including ducks, geese, chickens and turkeys; into groups, including: *Egg laying birds *Meat/Table birds *Dual purpose breeds.
  • Explain the advantages of cross breeding poultry for two different specified purposes.
  • Label the parts of a chicken on a supplied unlabelled illustration.
  • Evaluate ten different poultry breeds to determine the most suitable breeds for three different specified purposes.
  • Label on an unlabelled illustration, the parts of the digestive tract of a fowl.
  • Describe the function of different parts of the digestive system of poultry.
  • List the dietary sources of different nutrients for poultry.
  • Describe the function of five different ingredients in specified poultry feeds.
  • Explain how rations of feed are determined for poultry.
  • Describe the feeding of poultry stock in a specified situation.
  • Describe possible dietary disorders in poultry.
  • Describe commercially significant pests and diseases in poultry.
  • Develop a checklist to be used for regular inspections to detect signs of ill health in poultry.
  • Explain the treatment of six different pests and diseases in poultry.
  • Describe a poultry vaccination program for a specified property.
  • Explain the techniques for, and the value of, quarantine procedures for poultry.
  • Compare extensive (free range), semi-intensive and intensive production systems, in terms of: *management *production cost *product quality product quantity.
  • Describe different housing requirements for poultry.
  • Explain a commercially viable method of collecting eggs, used on a specific poultry farm.
  • Explain three procedures used in an egg production system which are critical to the efficient operation of a specified farm.
  • Develop a production plan for laying poultry, which includes details of; *birds required *facilities required *materials needed *a schedule of husbandry tasks *cost estimates.
  • Describe the brooding period for a typical fowl, on a specified property.
  • Explain how brooders are successfully fed, on a specific property visited by you.
  • Explain appropriate housing for broilers being provided at a poultry farm, as observed by you.
  • Explain how hygiene and health are managed in a broiler production system, as observed by you.
  • Evaluate the successful management of broilers in a specified situation.
  • Describe daily routine tasks carried out in farming of broilers at a poultry farm visited by you.
  • Describe the process of incubation, as observed by you on a poultry farm.
  • Compare natural with artificial incubation methods, to determine appropriate applications for each type.
  • List criteria for selecting eggs for incubation in a specified situation.
  • List five different reasons for poor hatchability.
  • Compare two different incubator designs with respect to cost and application.
  • Describe the management of a specific incubator which the learner has inspected.
  • Describe the characteristics which distinguish brooding poultry from other poultry.
  • Explain how to create an appropriate brooding environment for a specific situation.
  • Compare different types of brooders.
  • Describe the operation of different brooding equipment.
  • Prepare a timetable of husbandry tasks from hatching to maturity for a brooding fowl.
  • Explain problems that may occur during rearing, including: *crowding *cannibalism.
  • Develop a checklist for monitoring the condition of a brooding fowl.
  • List records which should be kept by a poultry farmer.
  • Analyse purchasing procedures for routine supplies, used by a specified poultry farm.
  • Explain the value of different records kept by a poultry farmer, including: *growth records *egg production records.
  • List the minimum machinery required for a specified poultry enterprise.
  • Calculate the cost of production, showing a breakdown of the costs, of one marketable produce item in a small poultry business.
  • List factors which may be critical to successful marketing for a poultry farm.
  • Explain any legal requirements which apply to a specified poultry enterprise.
  • List poultry products being marketed in your locality.
  • Write a job specification for one member of staff on a poultry property.
  • Prepare a report on innovations in the poultry industry being used in your locality.
  • Develop a detailed poultry production plan.
  • Describe a successful marketing strategy employed by one supplier of poultry products in your locality.
  • Recommend an innovative approach to marketing for a poultry enterprise which you are familiar with.
  • Match credit to business needs of a poultry farm to develop the most suitable strategy for the enterprise

What Do Chickens Eat?

Nutrition plays a major role in the farming of domesticated birds and this will specifically depend on the type of surrounding and environment they are kept in. For example, if they are cage free they will tend to move more than those birds kept in more confined areas or cages, so their nutritional diet and water requirements will vary depending on the type of place as well as the type of birds we are farming.  A healthy nutritionally balanced diet and the correct amount of water will help the animals thrive and succeed in the specific surroundings they are kept in.

The nutritional requirements for poultry differ greatly and depend on the species, class, age and its productivity. Requirements also are affected by exercise, weather or climatic conditions, general physical health and body size.  

The following information is an overview of nutrition requirements during maintenance, growth and reproduction stages. It is important to consider requirements according to growth rate, age, breed and sex. 

Feeding is different at different stages: Starter, Growth, Maintenance feeds can vary.

Starter Feeds

Starter feed is designed specifically for the needs of baby chicks from hatching to 5-7 weeks old. Started premix can be found any feed store or agricultural supplies store. Starter premix feed products may include antibiotics. Alternatively, and depending on the size of your poultry operation, you may decide to mix feed for yourself. 

Many starter mixes contain the ground up parts of many poultry including chickens. You may not be fond of the idea of feeding chicks that way and so you can seek out other mixes which provide a more natural feed – something more similar to the insects and grasses they would eat in the natural environment. Prices will vary depending on supplements and extras such as probiotics.  Starter feed should provide around 20% protein. 

No matter what type of starter you decide on, feed should contain the necessary nutrients, including minerals, needed for health and growth during the first few weeks of life. Kelp meal is a great addition to feed as it provides naturally chelated vitamins and nutrients. 

Phosphorus is required for proper development and in many agriculture practices where soil is over processed or farmed, phosphorus is lost and therefore is not always provided in feed or even in natural grazing. Protein structuring is enhanced with phosphorus supplementation which may be advantageous in meat poultry. 

Growth Feeds

During the growth stage bones, muscles, and internal organs all increase in size. Growth is influenced by nutrient intake. Again, the nutritive needs differ depending on lifestyle, breed, sex and disease. Larger breeds tend to grow more rapidly and have higher nutritional requirements. This stage is generally from 8 weeks to the point of lay (normally around 18-24 weeks variable).  Feed during this stage should provide 15-16% protein. 

At this point crumbs and pellets are compound feeds which can provide everything the growers need. Concentrates can be used to add specific minerals and vitamins or protein rich additives. Often it can be necessary to add oyster shell or limestone to the mix. Do not only feed concentrates as these do not provide a balanced diet. Do not give grower premixed feed to laying birds as the eggs produced may not be suitable for human consumption.  

Feed for Layers
By this stage the goal of feeding is to produce the highest number of eggs in the most cost efficient way. At this point at least 75% of the birds kept should be within 10% higher or lower of the desirable weight for their particular breed or species.  This can be a clear test as to whether or not the fowl have grown at normal rates.  

In order to ensure egg production is high it is wise to maintain temperatures between 21-24oC. Temperatures which drop below 12oC or rise above 30oC can reduce egg laying of some fowl. In cooler temperatures the layers will want need to consume more feed, in hot temperatures less feed will be consumed. Each layer needs approximately 125 g of food every day. Feed should 16-18% crude protein.