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Chapter 11 Poultry.

Chapter Objectives

* Describe how the poultry industry in the United States has evolved in the last 200 years

* Understand basic poultry management terminology

* Be familiar with the classes and breeds of poultry recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA)

Poultry (pol' tre) is a broad term used to describe a wide variety of birds that are used in production agriculture. Common types of poultry include chickens, ducks, and turkeys. The American Poultry Association, the first livestock association in the United States, was founded in 1873, to oversee and standardize the exhibition of poultry.

Chickens were first domesticated for cockfighting, a popular spectator sport that has fallen into disfavor over the centuries because it results in the death or maiming of participating birds. Chickens quickly spread across Europe, and many sailing vessels carried chickens to supply eggs and meat for the sailors and passengers. When the Jamestown settlers arrived in the New World in 1607, they brought chickens with them. All poultry were primarily raised on family farms into the twentieth century.

Technological breakthroughs of the 1800s, such as incubators and increased speed of postal delivery, created the poultry industry we see today. Starting in 1918, live chicks could be shipped anywhere in the United States by the U.S. Postal Service. The industry began moving from primarily family farms hatching and raising their own chicks toward a system of a few hatcheries shipping chicks to raisers throughout the country.

The poultry industry is a multibillion-dollar industry in the United States and across the world. In 2005, the poultry industry in the United States was valued at nearly $30 billion (see Figure 11-1). The largest segment of the U.S. poultry industry involves the production of chickens and chicken products. In 2005, the production of eggs was valued at an additional $5 billion dollars (see Figure 11-2). Other avian species that are used in production agriculture include turkeys, ducks, geese, ostriches, and emus.

Birds are also very popular as companion animals. Popular companion birds include parrots, canaries, and parakeets. Chapter 17 discusses these birds more.


All current breeds of domestic chickens are descended from the red jungle fowl (Gallus gallus), which still lives in the wild in part of Southeast Asia. The American Poultry Association has divided modern breeds of chickens into different classes, breeds, and varieties. Class indicates the region of origin, breed indicates a set of birds with similar characteristics, and variety indicates a subgroup within a breed, usually based on color or markings. Feather pattern and comb type are two features that may identify different varieties within a breed.



Feather Patterns

The following are feather patterns:

Barred (bahrd) Feathers with alternating stripes of different colors across the width (see Figure 11-3).

Laced (lasd) Feathers with a narrow border of a contrasting color.

Mottled (moth-ld) When some of the feathers are tipped in white. This differs from spangling in that not all feathers are tipped.

Penciled (pehn-sihld) Feathers with narrow uniform lines of contrasting color. Depending on the feather and breed, these may be single or multiple.

Spangled (spahng-gehld) Feathers with a contrasting color at the tip that may be black or white. This differs from mottled in that spangling occurs on every feather.



Comb Types

The comb (kom) is the fleshy growth on the top of the head of chickens. The following are the eight varieties of combs (see Figure 11-4):

Buttercup (buht-t r-kuhp) A cup-shaped comb centered on the head, with evenly spaced points all around.

Cushion A comb that is small and close to the head with no spikes, bumps, or other irregularities.

Pea A comb that is fairly close to the head with three ridges along its length.

Rose A wide, fleshy comb that is low to the head with a flat top and ends in a spike near the back of the head.

Silkie (sihl-ke) A round, lumpy comb that may be wider than it is long. This comb type is most often seen on birds with a crest.

Single A single blade-shaped comb centered on the top of the head, with five or six clearly defined points.

Strawberry An egg-shaped comb set close to the head.

V-shaped A comb with two hornlike sections that join in the center of the head and form a definite V shape.

Standard Chicken Breeds

The Standard of Perfection, published by the American Poultry Association (APA) since 1874, determines the characteristics for each class and breed of birds in the United States. The APA has determined that "in each breed, the most useful type should be made Standard type." Most standard breeds are of moderate to large size. All of the production birds in the United States are of standard breeds, and most of the bantam breeds have been developed by miniaturizing a standard breed. With the standard size classification, breeds have been divided into classes, based primarily on their place of origin. The following is a list of the classes and breeds of standard chickens, as defined by the APA Standard of Perfection.

American class Breeds primarily developed in the Americas. The following are American class breeds:

Buckeye Originally bred in Ohio, the Buckeye is a dark brown dual-purpose bird. Buckeyes were derived from dark Cornish, black-breasted red game, buff Cochin, and barred Plymouth Rock birds.

Chantecler (shahn teh kla-r) Originally bred in the province of Quebec in Canada, the Chantecler is a dual-purpose bird that was developed to withstand the Canadian climate. Varieties: white and partridge.

Delaware Originated in Delaware by crossing barred Plymouth Rocks and New Hampshires, Delawares are dual-purpose birds that grow quickly to broiler size and lay large brown eggs.

Dominique (dohm-ih-ne-k) With unclear origins, a Dominique is a slate-colored, dual-purpose bird that produces brown-shelled eggs.

Holland A heavy dual-purpose bird that lays white-shelled eggs. White Hollands are derived from white leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, New Hampshires, and Lamonas. Barred Hollands are derived from barred Plymouth Rocks, white leghorns, Australorps, and brown leghorns. Varieties: white and barred.

Java An ancient breed of poultry that originated in the Far East, the Java was admitted into the Standard in 1883. These dual-purpose birds produce eggs with brown shells. Varieties: black and mottled.

Jersey Giant The Jersey Giant was developed in New Jersey, with an emphasis on producing a large bird with excellent meat-producing qualities. These dual-purpose birds produce eggs with brown shells. Varieties: black and white.

Lamona (lah-mon-ah) A dual-purpose bird producing white-shelled eggs, the Lamona was developed in Maryland from silver gray dorkings, white Plymouth Rocks, and single-comb white leghorns.


New Hampshire Developed in New Hampshire from original Rhode Island Red stock, the New Hampshire is a dual-purpose bird that produces brown-shelled eggs. Some meat-type strains have been developed within the breed, and many commercial broilers are of New Hampshire bloodlines (see Figure 11-5).

Plymouth Rock One of the first breeds admitted into the Poultry Standard of Perfection, the Plymouth Rock is a dual-purpose bird that lays eggs with brown shells, and is used extensively in crossbreeding programs to develop commercial broilers. Varieties: white, buff, silver-penciled, partridge, and Columbian.

Rhode Island Red Originated in Rhode Island from crossing Red Malay game, leghorn, and Asiatic birds, this dual-purpose bird produces brown eggs (see Figure 11-6).

Rhode Island White Similar in type to the Rhode Island Red, Rhode Island Whites were developed by crossing partridge Cochins, white wyandottes, and rosecomb white leghorns. This dual-purpose bird produces brown eggs.

Wyandotte (wy ahn daht) Originated in New York State with the silver-laced variety, the Wyandotte is a dual-purpose bird that produces eggs with brown shells. Varieties: silver-laced, golden-laced, white, buff, black, blue, partridge, and Columbian.

Asiatic class Breeds developed in Asia. The following are Asiatic class breeds:

Brahma (brah-mah) With the original stock coming to the United States from China, and bred with an emphasis on heavy meat production, the Brahma produces brown-shelled eggs and has feathered legs.Varieties: light, dark, and buff.

Cochin (ko-chin) Cochins are of Chinese origin, and are known for their volume of soft plumage that creates an illusion of great size. Like the other birds in the Asiatic class, Cochins have feathering down the legs and produce brown-shelled eggs. Although originally a meat-type breed, Cochins are now bred primarily for exhibition. Varieties: buff, partridge, white, black, silver-laced, golden-laced, blue, brown, and barred.


Langshan (lang-shahn) Originally bred in China, this dual-purpose bird was developed for both meat and egg production. Langshans have feathering down the legs, and lay dark brown eggs. Varieties: black, white, and blue.

English class Breeds developed in Great Britain and the British Empire. The following are English class breeds:

Australorp (aw-strah lorp) Developed in Australia from the Orpington, the Australorp was bred with the focus on egg production instead of meat production, and was developed as a dual-purpose breed. Australorps produce lightly tinted eggs.

Cornish (korn-ish) Originally developed in Cornwall, England, this large bird is primarily a meat-producing bird, and is used extensively in production of crossbred market poultry. These birds lay brown-shelled eggs. Varieties: dark, white, white-laced red, and buff.

Dorking (dor king) One of the oldest breeds of domesticated poultry, Dorkings were introduced to England by the Romans. This dual-purpose bird produces white-shelled eggs. Varieties: silver-gray, colored, red, and white.

Orpington (ohr-ping-tehn) Originally bred in Kent, England, the Orpington is a heavy meat-producing bird. Varieties: black, white, buff, and blue.

Redcap Originating in Derbyshire, England, the Redcap is characterized by a very large rosecomb. They are known as good producers of white-shelled eggs.

Sussex (suhs-ihcks) Originating in Sussex, England, this breed produces dual-purpose birds with an emphasis on meat production. They produce eggs with brown shells. Varieties: speckled, red, and light.

Mediterranean class Breeds developed in countries around the Mediterranean Sea. The following are Mediterranean class breeds:

Ancona (ang-konah) An Italian breed similar in type to the Leghorn, Anconas are primarily egg producers, and lay white-shelled eggs.

Andalusian (ahn-dah-loozh-uhn) Developed in the Spanish province of Andalusia, this medium-sized bird produces white-shelled eggs. Variety: blue.

Catalana (kahd-ah-lahn-ah) Developed in Spain near Barcelona, the Catalana is a large dual-purpose bird that produces eggs with white to lightly tinted brown shells. Variety: buff.

Leghorn (lehg-ehrn) Originally from Italy, the leghorn is renowned for its egg-laying capacity, and most commercial egg-laying birds are leghorns. Many varieties of the leghorn were developed in England, the United States, and Denmark. Varieties: This breed has 16 varieties by color and comb type.

Minorca (meh-nhor-kah) The largest of the Mediterranean class of chickens, the Minorca is of Spanish origin and primarily produces white-shelled eggs. Varieties: black (single-comb and rosecomb), white (single-comb and rosecomb), and buff (single-comb).

Sicilian Buttercup (seh-sihl-yan) Developed in Sicily, the Buttercup is most noted for its unique, cup-shaped comb. Buttercups are primarily egg producers, and lay eggs with white shells.

Spanish Developed in Spain, this breed is one of the oldest in the Mediterranean class. The white coloration of the face is a unique characteristic of the breed. Variety: white-faced-black.

Continental class Breeds developed on the European continent. The following are continental class breeds:

Barnevelder (bar-neh-vehl-der) Originally developed in Holland for their brown-shelled eggs, these birds are reddish-brown in color with black accents.

Campine (kahm-pe-n) Originally developed in Belgium, the modern Campine is a blend of the two Belgian varieties. These birds are best known as producers of white-shelled eggs, and are popular exhibition birds. Varieties: silver and golden.

Crevecoeur (krev-ker) This crested French breed is very similar in type to the Houdan and the Polish. This dual-purpose bird produces white-shelled eggs. Varieties: black.

Faverolle (faveh-rol) This French breed was developed primarily as a meat producer. The Faverolle is the only bird in the French breeds that lays brown eggs. Varieties: salmon and white.

Hamburg (hahm-berg) This breed is Dutch in origin, despite its German name. The breed was considerably modified to its current form by breeders in England, where it was popular as a good producer of white-shelled eggs. Hamburgs are now primarily bred for exhibition. Varieties: golden-spangled, silver-spangled, golden-penciled, silver-penciled, white, and black.

Houdan (hoo-dahn) Native to the Normandy region of France, the Houdan is a dual-purpose bird raised for both meat and eggs. Like the Polish and Crevecouer, Houdans have a skull shape that gives the crested appearance. Varieties: mottled and white.

La Fleche (lah-flesh) A French breed with very high-quality meat, this black dual-purpose bird is also a good producer of white eggs. Varieties: black.

Lakenvelder (lah-kehn-vehl-dher) Developed in Germany, these striking birds have black heads and tails, and white bodies. These birds produce eggs that are white to lightly tinted in color.

Polish (po-lish) Developed in Eastern Europe, this bird is primarily an ornamental and exhibition bird. A unique feature of the Polish, Crevecouer, and Houdan breeds is the shape of the skull, which creates the crested appearance. In addition, some varieties of Polish birds have feathers around the face that may resemble a beard. Polish birds lay white eggs. Varieties: The Polish breed has 11 varieties based on the presence of the beard and color.

Welsummer (well-summer) Developed in Holland from partridge Cochin, partridge wyandotte, partridge leghorn, Barnevelder, and Rhode Island Red stock, this reddish-brown bird is best known for producing brown eggs with spots.

All other standard breeds Breeds that are recognized by the APA but do not fit in any of the other categories. The following are such breeds:

Ameraucana (ah-mehr-ah-cah-nah) Derived from the Araucana, this bird maintains the characteristic blue eggs, and is a dual-purpose bird. Varieties: black, blue, blue wheaten, brown red, buff, silver, wheaten, and white.

Araucana (air-ah-cah-nah) A South American bird also known as the "Easter Egg Chicken" because it lays blue-shelled eggs, this bird is a good dual-purpose chicken. Varieties: black, black red, golden duckwing, silver duckwing, and white.

Aseel (ah-se-hl) Developed in India, this is an old breed that is known for its aggressive temperament. The birds grow slowly, but produce good quantities of meat and brown-shelled eggs. Varieties: black-breasted red, dark, spangled, white, and wheaten (female).

Cubalaya (kyoo-bah-la-eh) A Cuban breed descended from Oriental stock, the Cubalaya is prized for its high-quality meat. Varieties: black-breasted red, white, and black.

Frizzle (frihz-ehl) An exhibition bird of unclear origin, the Frizzle is unique for its curling feathers. They are reasonable producers of brown-shelled eggs. Varieties: clean leg and feather leg.

Malay (ma-la) The Malay is originally from Asia and the birds are very large. Malays are long-legged and have contributed to the development of many other breeds in the Standard. The birds are primarily bred for exhibition, and lay dark brown eggs. Varieties: black-breasted red, spangled, black, white, red pyle, and wheaten (female).

Modern game An exhibition version of the original fighting game chickens of previous centuries, this bird is characterized by its extremely upright carriage and short, tight feathers. Varieties: black-breasted red, brown red, golden duckwing, silver duckwing, birchen, red pyle, white, black, and wheaten.

Naked Neck Developed in Eastern Hungary and Germany, the Naked Neck has less than half the feathers of a comparably sized bird. They lay brown eggs but were primarily developed as meat producers. Varieties: red, white, buff, and black.

Old English game The Old English game bird is the descendant of the birds used for cockfighting in past centuries in Britain. The Old English game birds are deeper-bodied than the modern game. Varieties: There are 13 varieties of Old English game birds.

Phoenix (fe-nihks) A Japanese breed that has been cultivated for nearly one thousand years, the most singular characteristic of the Phoenix breed is the extreme tail growth in the males. Tails have been known to grow in excess of 20 feet. Birds are primarily used for exhibition. Varieties: silver and golden.

Shamo (sha-mo) A Japanese breed that was used for cockfighting, and now is known as a meat-producing bird. These birds are very tall and lightly feathered, sometimes having exposed skin. Varieties: black, black-breasted red, dark, and wheaten (female).

Sultan (suhl-than) An ancient ornamental breed originating in Turkey, Sultans have unique feathering on the face, feathers down the legs, and five toes. Females lay white eggs. Variety: white.

Sumatra (seh-mah-trah) Discovered on the island of Sumatra, this breed has not been crossed with any others, and still appears much like it did at the time of its discovery. Males have long flowing tails, and females produce white or lightly tinted brown eggs. Variety: black.

Yokohama (yo-kah-hahm-ah) A Japanese breed similar to the Phoenix with the primary characteristic of an extremely long tail. Varieties: white and red shoulder.

Bantams (bahn-tehms)

Bantams are one-fourth to one-fifth the weight of standard birds, with disproportionately large heads, wings, tails, and feathers. In most breeds, weight is the only difference between the bantam and standard types. Dutch, Japanese, Belgian Bearded d'Anvers (de-ahn-vehrz), Rosecomb, Sebright (se' brit), Booted, D'uccle (de-oohkehl) and Silkie (silk' e) bantams do not have standard breed equivalents. For more information on these unique bantams, refer to the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection (see Table 11-1).


Turkeys (ter' kez) are the only domestic poultry species of North American origin. Early explorers took wild turkeys back to Europe, where they were domesticated in several European countries by the 1500s. When colonists settled back in North America, they returned the domestic turkey to its native land. The American Poultry Association classifies all turkeys as one breed with various varieties.

Turkey Varieties

The following are varieties of turkeys:

Beltsville small white A white turkey developed to meet the need for a smaller retail turkey. The male mature weight is 21 pounds, and female mature weight is 12 pounds (see Figure 11-7).

Black A turkey with solid black throughout. The male mature weight is 33 pounds, and female mature weight is 18 pounds.

Bourbon red A turkey that is dark chestnut mahogany in color with a white tail. Male mature weight is 33 pounds, and female mature weight is 18 pounds.

Bronze A turkey that is coppery bronze in color. The male mature weight is 36 pounds, and female mature weight is 20 pounds.


Narragansett (nar-ah-gahn-seht) A turkey that has black feathers with white and slate gray, creating a grayish appearing bird. The male mature weight is 33 pounds, and female mature weight is 18 pounds.

Royal Palm A turkey with distinctive white feathers tipped in black. The male mature weight is 22 pounds, and female mature weight is 12 pounds.

Slate A turkey that is slate blue color throughout. The male mature weight is 33 pounds, and female mature weight is 18 pounds.

White Holland The most common commercial breed of turkey, also known as broad whites or large whites. The male mature weight is 36 pounds, and female mature weight is 20 pounds.


Waterfowl are those birds that spend at least part of their life on the water. Ducks and geese comprise the waterfowl recognized by the American Poultry Association. Heavy, medium, and light classes are determined by mature weight of the breed. Ducks also have a bantam class, similar to the bantam class in chickens.

Duck Breeds

The following are the different duck breeds, broken into weight classes:


Birds in the heavyweight class range from 10 to 12 pounds at maturity for the drakes, and seven to nine pounds mature weight for the mature duck.

Aylesbury (alz-behr-rhe) A Large white duck (with a mature weight of 10 pounds for males) originally from England with a flesh-colored bill and white skin. This breed is very popular in England as a meat duck, but is behind the Pekin in popularity in the United States. Variety: white.

Muscovy (muhs-kohv-e) Originally from South America, the Muscovy duck has distinctive exposed knobby skin around the face that looks somewhat like red warts (see Figure 11-8). The Muscovy ducks are the only domestic ducks that are not descended from the mallard. Varieties: white, black, blue, and chocolate.



Pekin (pe kihn) A large white duck (with a mature weight of 10 pounds for males) with a bright orange beak. These ducks are originally from China, and are the primary ducks raised in the United States for meat. Variety: white (see Figure 11-9).

Rouen (roo-ahn) A large duck (with a mature weight of 10 pounds for males) developed in France, the Rouen is a brown duck with green accents, similar to the wild mallard.

Medium Weight

Birds in the medium weight class range from 7 to 8 pounds for mature drakes, and from six to seven pounds for mature ducks.

Buff Also known as the Buff Orpington duck, this bird is a medium-sized duck (with a mature weight of 8 pounds for males) with a uniform buff color throughout. Variety: buff.

Cayuga (ke-oogah) A medium-sized duck of American origin, the Cayuga is greenish black with a black bill and black legs. Variety: black.

Crested A medium-sized duck probably of Aylesbury and Pekin descent, this bird has the unique feature of a crest of feathers on the top of the head. Varieties: white and black.

Swedish A blue-feathered duck that is a good producer of meat, and that forages well. Their bills should be bluish in color. Variety: blue.


Lightweight ducks weigh between 4 and 5 pounds for both mature drakes and mature ducks.

Campbell A small duck (with a mature weight of 4.5 pounds for males) with a dark green bill and brown-to khaki-colored feathers (see Figure 11-10).Variety: khaki (kah-ke).

Magpie (mahg-pi) A small duck (with a mature weight of 5 pounds for males) with predominately white feathers. Depending on the variety, these birds have blue or black feathers on the top of the head, and on the back and tail. Varieties: black and white, and blue and white.

Runner Developed in India, this duck has a long, narrow, cylindrical body and moves with an upright posture. Varieties: fawn and white, white, penciled, black, buff, chocolate, Cumberland blue, and gray.

Bantam Ducks

Call Developed in England or Holland as live decoys for duck hunting, the Call duck has a distinctive loud voice, and is very round in style. Mature males weigh less than 2 pounds. Varieties: gray, white, blue, snowy, buff, and pastel.

East Indie This small duck is black to greenish-black with a black bill and black feet. Variety: black.


Mallard (mahl-ahrd) Developed from the wild mallard, the gray variety shows the classic mallard coloring of gray, brown, and green. Varieties: gray and snowy.

Geese Breeds

Geese are the largest of the domestic waterfowl raised in the United States. Although geese have commercial value for meat, feathers, and down, they are primarily raised in the United States for exhibition purposes.


African A large goose with a large knob on the beak where the beak joins the head. The color of the knob depends on the variety. Varieties: brown and white.

Embden (ehm-dehn) A solid white goose with a broad straight orange bill. Variety: white.

Toulouse (too-loos) A large goose descended from the French greylag, the Toulouse goose has a characteristic flat bill and a dewlap extending from the bottom jaw to the neck. Varieties: gray and buff.

Medium Weight

American buff A medium-sized goose with an orange bill and legs, and buff-colored throughout. Variety: buff.

Pilgrim Unique to the Pilgrim, the color is linked to the gender. Male Pilgrims are creamy white, and females are olive gray (see Figure 11-11). Variety: gender-linked.

Sebastopol (she-vahs-the-pohl) A medium-sized white goose with distinctive curling feathers on most of the body. Variety: white.


Canada This gray and black goose has a mature weight of 12 pounds, a black bill, and black legs. Variety: Eastern (common).


Chinese A small goose (with mature weight at 10 pounds for males) that is bred primarily as an ornamental. These geese have a short body, long neck, and a distinctive knob where the bill joins the head. Varieties: brown and white.

Egyptian This small goose is reddish-brown, gray, and black, and although widely bred in Africa, is less common in the United States. Variety: colored (brown).

Tufted Roman A white goose of small size (with mature weight at 12 pounds for males) first bred over 2,000 years ago with a distinctive tuft of feathers on top of the head. Variety: white.


The following species of birds are a smaller part of the American poultry industry and fit into niches in the industry. Others are raised primarily as hobby animals. Chapter 13 has more information on some of these birds.

Emu (e-myu) A large, fast, flightless bird of Australia, sometimes raised for meat and eggs.

Guinea fowl (gihn-e foul) The guinea fowl is a small, game-type bird raised primarily as a hobby. The guinea fowl is known for its distinctive shrill cry.

Ostrich (ohst-rich) A large (up to 6 feet tall and 300 pounds) flightless bird of Africa, the ostrich was originally domesticated for feather production. Ostriches are now also raised for meat, hide, and eggs. The use of their eggs is primarily decorative.

Peafowl A strictly ornamental bird, the peafowl is usually blue or green in color, with the most distinctive characteristic being the elaborate "eyed" tail of the male peacock.

Pigeon (pihj-ehn) A small bird with a round body and a small head, the pigeon is raised primarily for hobbies such as racing and showing. A wide variety of pigeons have been bred for specific qualities.

Quail (kwal) A small game bird raised for sale to specialty restaurants or for hunting.

Ratite (ra-tit) A class of large flightless birds including emus and ostriches that are raised for their meat and hides.


A wide range of products are created by the poultry industry. For clarity, they have been divided here by the species that produces each type of product.

Chicken Products

Production chickens are of two general types, egg-type chickens and meat-type chickens. Egg-type chickens are also known as layers. Female chickens, or hens, lay 250 or more eggs per year. The most common breed of commercial egg-laying chicken is the white leghorn. White leghorns lay eggs with white shells and are what people are most accustomed to seeing. However, some breeds lay brown-shelled eggs. There is no difference in the nutritional value of white-shelled versus brown-shelled eggs. Although all laying hens are of basic leghorn type, the commercial poultry industry is much more focused on using strains of breeds in their breeding programs than different breeds. Egg production occurs in most states in the United States (see Figure 11-12).

Meat-type chickens are very different from egg-type chickens. Although they do lay eggs, as do all chickens, they do not lay as many eggs as egg-type chickens. The emphasis in breeding and raising meat-type chickens is to raise chickens that are well muscled, quickly gain weight, and produce high-quality meat for consumption. The overwhelming majority of meat-type chickens are raised as broilers, and so we will refer to the broiler industry for the remaining discussion on meat-type chickens. Broiler production is concentrated in the southeastern part of the United States (see Figure 11-13). The broiler industry is one of a relatively small number of operations with a large number of birds on each operation. The broiler industry is one of the most vertically integrated in animal agriculture, with one company typically owning all aspects of the broiler production process, from breeding to marketing. The following are terms associated with the poultry industry:


Broiler Meat chicken approximately 8 weeks of age and 5.5 pounds.

Eggs Eggs are very high-quality sources of protein and nutrients, and are a staple in many U.S. households (see Table 11-2). Understanding the parts of an egg (see Figure 11-14), and how eggs are processed is important to safe food handling and determining if an egg is safe to eat. The following are the parts of an egg:

Air cell A pocket of air in the wide end of the egg that gets larger as the egg gets older.



Albumen (al-byu-mehn) The egg white, which is made primarily of water and protein.

Chalaza (keh-laz-eh) The pair of protein bands that hold the yolk in the center of the egg.

Germ cell The white spot on the yolk that contains genetic material.

Shell Made primarily of calcium, the outer part of the egg that protects the inside of the egg.

Vitelline membrane (vi--tehl-ehn mehm-bran) The thin layer of tissue that holds a yolk's shape.

Yolk (yok) The yellow part of the egg that contains nutrients.

Egg grading Eggs are graded to determine their freshness and quality. Many factors are considered when grading eggs, such as the condition of the yolk and albumen. The shell is also examined for flaws and dirt prior to grading the eggs. Eggs are divided into the following three major grades:

Grade AA Grade AA is the highest grade of egg. When viewed from the side, the albumen is firm and creates a raised platform for the yolk, which is also rounded and firm (see Figure 11-15). The Grade AA is the grade of egg that is consistent with being the most freshly laid egg.

Grade A Most eggs in the grocery store are Grade A eggs. Due to the amount of time that passes between the laying of the egg and its appearance in a grocery store, most eggs do not meet the qualifications for Grade AA. Grade A eggs are still very healthy and nutritious, and there should be no concerns about consuming them. In Grade A eggs, the yolk and the albumen are slightly more relaxed (see Figure 11-16), and when viewed from the top, the thick albumen will spread a little farther from the yolk than in Grade AA eggs.

Grade B Grade B eggs are the lowest grade, and are approved only for commercial use and further processing. They cannot be sold as fresh eggs. In Grade B eggs, the thick albumen has continued to relax, and it may be difficult to differentiate the thick and thin albumen. The yolk also has continued to relax, and is flat rather than rounded when viewed from the side (see Figure 11-17).




Fresh egg An egg produced and sold in its natural form to consumers. Fresh eggs must meet quality standards for commercial sale in the United States.

Roaster Meat chicken approximately 8 weeks of age and greater than 5.5 pounds.

Turkey Products

Turkeys are raised primarily for meat. In 2003, Americans ate 17.4 pounds of turkey per person, according to the National Turkey Federation. Although turkeys used to be eaten primarily at Thanksgiving, vigorous promotion of turkey products in the last 10 years has resulted in a year-round market. Turkeys are still considerably below chicken in the amount of meat consumed per year (see Figure 11-18), but progress is being made by the turkey industry. Turkey operations are more widely spread around the country than the comparable broiler industry (see Figure 11-19).

Waterfowl Products

Ducks and geese are raised primarily for meat for a niche market with a limited economic impact on a national level. There are a few very large duck operations; and the waterfowl industry is still far behind the rest of the poultry industry in regard to consumption and total value of products. However, their feathers and down (down)--small, soft fluffy feathers--are used to make pillows, comforters, jackets, and other products. Refer to Chapter 13 for information on the products of alternative poultry species.




All commercial poultry raised in the United States is managed in a similar style; therefore, the following terms will be differentiated by species only if a difference is present.

American Poultry Association Founded in 1873, the American Poultry Association oversees guidelines for exhibition of poultry, and publishes the Standard of Perfection, which describes the characteristics of breeds of poultry in the United States. All descriptions of chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese in this book come from the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection, 1998.

Average daily gain The amount of weight an animal gains over time. Calculated by taking a weight at the beginning and end of a period, and dividing the difference by the number of days in the period.

Battery cage A system of housing poultry in rows of cages in an environmentally controlled building. The size of cages and number of birds per cage is regulated by various federal organizations.

Beak trimming The practice of removing the tip of the beak on young chicks to prevent chicks from injuring each other (see Figure 11-20).

Bleaching The loss of pigmentation from the legs and beaks of laying hens that occurs naturally as hens move through the production cycle.

Brooder A housing unit that includes a heating device to keep young chicks warm.

Brooding/broody/broodiness Mothering behavior in hens when they are choosing to sit on eggs and incubate them.

Candling (cand-lihng) The practice of shining a strong light through eggs to evaluate their quality or determine the existence and condition of embryos within the eggs (see Figure 11-21).



Cannibalism (kahn-ih-bahl-ihz-uhm) The practice of one bird attacking another and causing injury. May be one on one, or groups of birds attacking an individual.

Confinement (kohn-fin-mehnt) The practice of raising birds in a restricted, climate-controlled environment.

Contract growers People hired by a company to raise a certain number of birds or produce a certain number of eggs for a contracted price.

Coop (koop) An enclosure to keep birds.

Dressed bird A bird that has had its feathers removed and is cleaned and ready for food preparation.

Feed efficiency A calculation of how much feed an animal is consuming to gain a pound of weight. This is calculated by dividing the weight gained over a period of time by the weight of the feed consumed over that period of time.

Flock (flok) A group of birds.

Force-feeding The practice of administering food to ducks and geese through a tube to encourage development of the liver for the product foie gras (fwagra).

Free-range The practice of raising birds in enclosed yards with shelters (see Figure 11-22).

Hatch (hahch) The emergence of a baby bird from the shell.

Hatchability (hahch-ah-bihl-ih-te) The percentage of fertilized eggs that hatch.

Hatchery (hahch-eh-re) A business that sells fertilized eggs ready to hatch, or hatches eggs and sells the chicks.

Hen-day production Daily rate of egg production reported as a percentage.

Hierarchy (hi-her-ahr-ke) Also known as "pecking order," hierarchy is a social ranking from most dominant to least dominant that can be linear or nonlinear.

Incubator (ihn-ku-ba-tehr) The mechanical device that is maintained at the optimal temperature and humidity for the development of embryos and hatching birds. Commercial incubators can hold hundreds of eggs.


Litter A combination of avian waste and bedding; the bedding before use is known as "fresh litter."

Molt (molt) The natural loss of feathers to allow growth of new feathers. Molting occurs at several stages throughout life. A forced molt is the practice of altering the environment to encourage molting, which increases egg production in hens.

Plucking (pluhck-ing) The process of removing feathers from a bird that may be done manually on a small scale, or mechanically in a large-scale processing plant.

Poults (polts) Baby turkeys until they are sexed and identified as young toms or young hens.

Preening (pren-ihng) A behavior in which birds run their beaks across their feathers to distribute beneficial oils throughout the body.

Standard of Perfection A publication of the American Poultry Association that describes classes and breeds of poultry for exhibition.

Strain (stran) A related group of animals within a breed. Birds within a strain are more closely related to each other than to other members of the breed.

Tom An intact male turkey.

Vertical integration A business practice in which one company manages all levels of production, from hatching through retail distribution.


The poultry industry is a diverse part of American agriculture with nearly $35 billion generated annually. Participants in the industry range from multinational, vertically integrated corporations that control all aspects of production, to hobbyist breeders and flock owners who raise smaller numbers of birds for personal enjoyment, use, or exhibition. The American Poultry Association recognizes nearly 400 breeds and varieties of poultry, most of which are now used more for exhibition and small flocks than in large commercial flocks.

Consumption of poultry and poultry products has been on a steady increase, and there is no reason to believe that this trend will not continue. Poultry is an affordable source of high-quality protein in the form of both meat and eggs. The poultry industry faces some challenges with animal rights organizations that have concerns about the level of confinement of the birds, and some common management practices. However, the poultry industry is proactively addressing many of these issues as it strives to satisfy consumers in regard to quality of product, as well as management of the birds.

Match the breed of bird with the class to which it belongs. One of the
listed classes is used twice.

1. Pekin                    a. Mediterranean
2. Khaki Campbell           b. Bantam duck
3. Call                     c. Heavyweight goose
4. Leghorn                  d. Continental
5. Orpington                e. All other standard
6. Embden                   f. American
7. Rhode Island Red         g. Heavyweight duck
8. Old English Game         h. Lightweight duck
9. Lakenvelder              i. English
10. Frizzle

11. Which of the following is a variety?

a. Embden
b. Bantam
c. Buff
d. Orpington

12. Which practice is used to reduce damage done through

a. Candling
b. Debeaking
c. Plucking
d. Molting

13. Which breed constitutes virtually all commercial laying hens?

a. Rhode Island White
b. Wyandotte
c. Ameracauna
d. Leghorn

14. What organization publishes the Poultry Standard of Perfection?

15. How many classes of geese are recognized in the Standard of
Perfection, and what are they?

16. What English class breed is used extensively in the production of
commercial broilers?

17. What is a bantam?

18. What breed of duck is popular for meat production in England?

19. Draw and label the primary parts of the egg.


20. The poultry industry is a common target for people opposed to
commercial farming. Identify a controversial topic in the
poultry industry, research both sides of the controversy, and prepare
a short report for your classmates.

TABLE 11-1
Breeds of Bantam chickens recognized by the American Poultry

Class              Breed                Varieties

Game bantams       Modern game          Birchen, black, black-breasted
                                        red, blue, blue-breasted red,
                                        brown red, golden duckwing,
                                        lemon blue, red pyle, silver
                                        duckwing, wheaten, white

                   Old English game     Birchen, black, black-breasted
                                        red, blue, blue-breasted red,
                                        blue golden duckwing, blue
                                        silver duckwing, blue
                                        brassy-back, brassy-back, brown
                                        red, Columbian, Crele, cuckoo,
                                        ginger red, golden duckwing,
                                        lemon blue, quail, red pyle,
                                        self blue, silver duckwing,
                                        silver blue, spangled, wheaten,

Single-comb,       Ancona               single-comb, rosecomb
other than game    Andalusian           Blue
                   Australorp           Black
                   Campine              Golden, silver

                   Catalana             Buff

                   Delaware             Single-comb

                   Dorking              Colored, silver-gray

                   Dutch                Light brown, silver, blue,
                                        light brown

                   Frizzle              All single-comb breeds

                   Holland              Barred, white

                   Japanese             Black, black-tailed buff,
                                        black-tailed white, brown
                                        red,  gray, mottled, wheaten,

                   Java                 Black, mottled

                   Jersey Giant         Black, white

                   Lakenvelder          Single-comb

                   Lamona               White

                   Leghorn              Barred, black, black-tailed
                                        red, buff, Columbian, dark
                                        brown, golden duckwing,
                                        light brown, red, silver, white

                   Minorca              Black, buff, white

                   Naked Neck           Black, buff, red, white

                   New Hampshire        Single-comb

                   Orpington            Black, blue, buff, white

                   Phoenix              Golden, silver

                   Plymouth Rock        Barred, black, blue, buff,
                                        Columbian, partridge,
                                        silver-penciled, white

                   Rhode Island Red     Single-comb

                   Spanish              White-faced black

                   Sussex               Light, red, speckled

                   Welsummer            Partridge

Class              Breed                Varieties

Rosecomb clean     Ancona               Rosecomb

Legged bantams     Belgian bearded      Black, blue, cuckoo, Mille
                   d'Anvers             Fleur, mottled, porcelain,
                                        lain, quail, self blue, white

                   Dominique            Rosecomb

                   Dorking              Rosecomb white

                   Hamburg              Black, golden-penciled,
                                        golden-spangled, silver-
                                        penciled, silver-spangled,

                   Leghorn              Black, buff, dark brown,
                                        light brown, silver, white

                   Minorca              Black, white

                   Redcap               Rosecomb

                   Rhode Island Red     Rosecomb

                   Rhode Island White   Rosecomb

                   Rosecomb             Black, blue, white

                   Sebright             Golden, silver

                   Wyandotte            Black, blue, buff, buff
                                        Columbian, Columbian,
                                        golden-laced, partridge,
                                        silver-penciled, white

All other combs,   Ameraucana           Black, blue, blue wheaten,
clean-legged                            brown red, buff, silver,
bantams                                 wheaten, white

                   Araucana             Black, black red, golden
                                        duckwing, silver duckwing,

                   Buckeye              Pea comb

                   Chantecler           Partridge, white

                   Cornish              Black, blue-laced red, buff,
                                        dark, mottled, spangled,
                                        white, white-laced red

                   Crevecoeur           Black

                   Cubulaya             Black, black-breasted red,

                   Houdan               Mottled, white

                   La Fleche            Black

                   Malay                Black-breasted red, black,
                                        red pyle, white, spangled,
                                        wheaten (female)

                   Polish               Beardedbuff-laced, bearded
                                        golden, bearded silver,
                                        bearded white, nonbearded
                                        buff-laced, nonbearded
                                        golden, nonbeardedsilver,
                                        nonbearded white, nonbearded
                                        white crested black,
                                        nonbearded white crested

                   Shamo                Wheaten, black, dark

                   Sicilian Buttercup

                   Sumatra              Black, blue

                   Yokohama             White, red-shouldered

Feather-legged     Booted               Nonbearded black, nonbearded
bantams                                 Mille Fleur, non-bearded
                                        porcelain, nonbearded, self
                                        blue, nonbearded white

                   Belgian bearded      Bearded black, bearded golden
                   d'Uccle              neck, bearded Mille Fleur,
                                        bearded mottled, bearded
                                        porcelain, bearded self blue

                   Brahma               Buff, dark, light

                   Cochin               Barred, birchen, black, blue,
                                        brown red, buff, Columbian,
                                        golden-laced, mottled,
                                        partridge, red, silver-laced,

                   Faverolles           Salmon, white

                   Frizzles             Feather-legged

                   Langshans            Black, white, blue

                   Silkies              Bearded black, bearded white,
                                        bearded blue, bearded buff,
                                        bearded gray, bearded
                                        partridge, nonbearded black,
                                        nonbearded white, nonbearded
                                        blue, nonbearded buff,
                                        nonbearded gray, nonbearded

                   Sultans              White

TABLE 11-2
Egg availability per year

             U.S. per capita egg availability

          Farm weight, number per capita per year

Year         Shell     Processed     Total eggs

2005         175.2       78.8          253.9
2004         179.9       76.2          256.1
2003         182         72.4          254.4
2002         180.1       74.5          254.6
2001         180         72.5          252.5
2000         178         73            251

Calculated from unrounded data.

Source: USDA/Economic Research Service. Last updated
Feb. 15, 2007.
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Author:Brady, Colleen
Publication:An Illustrated Guide to Animal Science Terminology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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