University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

Poultry 101

 

A general introduction to all things poultry.

 

Content:

Chicken

Turkey

Duck

Goose

Pigeon

Pheasant

Partridge

Guinea fowl

Peafowl

Quail

Ratites:

Ostrich

Emu

Rhea

Others

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poultry is a term for domestic fowl raised for:

  • Meat (For example: chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, guinea fowl, pigeons, ostrich, emu, partridge, pheasant, etc.)
  • Eggs (For example: chickens, ducks, ostrich, emu)
  • Feathers (For example: chickens, Ostrich)
  • Work (For example: Homing and racing pigeons, guard animals)

CHICKEN

Development of chicken breeds

All the different breeds of chickens today can trace their origins back to the Red Jungle Fowl of East Asia.

Through generations of genetic seleciton, specialized breeds have been developed for meat (broilers) and eggs (layer). There are also dual-purpose breeds that are reasonably good in both meat and egg production, but not as good as the specialized breeds. There are also breeds develop strictly for exhibition.

Vocabulary

  • Chicken is singular; chickens is plural
  • Chick = young (baby) chicken
  • Pullet = immature female chicken
  • Cockerel = immature male chicken
  • Hen = adult female chicken
  • Cock/Rooster = adult male chicken
  • Capon = castracted male chicken (requires surgery since the reproductive organs are internal)

Note: Some people incorrectly believe that 'chicken' is the plural form of chick, as oxen is to ox. This is not the case - The word comes from the Anglo-Saxon word cicen, for which the plural is cicen-u. "Chick" is simply a contraction of chicken. Chicken can also refer to the meat coming from the bird so it is okay to say "I eat a lot of chicken" rather than "I eat a lot of chickens," which would change the meaning somewhat.

Photo of a pair of chickens A common question is "How can you tell the difference between a male and female chicken?" In the photo the male (rooster) is the chicken on the left and the femaile (hen) is hte one on the right. Notice the different in the size of comb and wattles and the tail feathers. Males have a larger comb and wattles. Their tail feathers are pointed while those of the female are rounded. In addition, males crow while females do not.
  • Bantam = chicken breed that is one-third to one-half the size of a standard breed. There are several breeds which have both standard and bantam breeds. There are also banta-only breds
  • Bantie = non-technical term sometimes used in place of 'bantam'
  • Biddy = nontechnical term for a laying hen that is over one year of age
  • Broody = a hen that is sitting on eggs (hers or someone else's) with the intent of hatching them
  • Chicken tractor = portable cage for chickens on pasture. The chickens are allowed to scratch for bugs and weeds and to fertilze the area with their manure, and then they are moved to fresh pasture.
  • Chook = Australian term for chicken. It has been used in the U.S. for chickens in a small flock.
  • Cull = to remove a chcken from the flock because of productivity, age, health, or personality issues (i.e., overly aggressive or timid, egg eating, etc.)
  • Mounting = term for when a rooster maes with a hen
  • Peep = term for chick sometimes used by small flock owners

Chicken trivia: About 4 million pounds of feathers are produced each year by the U.S. poultry industry. Ever wonder what happens to all these feathers?

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Turkey

There is actually only one breed of turkey with several varieties, although many people do refer to these varieties as breeds.

Turkeys are raised for meat, but not eggs. There are no varieties of turkeys that have been developed for egg production (as with chickens, ducks, and quail). As a result, turkeys do not produce many eggs.

Vocabulary

  • Turkey is singular; turkeys is plural
  • Tom = adult male turkey (also often referred to as a 'gobbler')
  • Hen = adult female turkey
  • Poult = young (baby) turkey
  • Jake = young male turkey
  • Jenny = young female turkey
  • Caruncle = brightly colored growths on the throat region. Turns bright red when a tom is upset or during courtship activities.
  • Snood = flap of skin that hangs over the turkey's beak. Engorges and turns bright red when a tom is upset or during courtship activities.
  • Wattle = flap of skin under the turkey's chin. Turns bright red when the turkey is upset or during courtship
  • Beard = stiff hair-like projections from the top of the neck of a tom (male turkey)
drawing of a pair of turkeys

As turkeys get older it is easier to tell the males (toms) form the females  (hens).

  • Toms are typically larger than hens
  • Toms have a larger snood (the fleshy material that hangs from their head) than hens
  • Toms have larger caruncles (the fleshy bumps on the top of hteir necks) than females
  • Sexually mature toms will grow a beard (stiff hair-like projects from the top of their neck)
  • Toms will strut

Broad-breasted white is hte most common type of turkey raised commercially in the United States. It has a larger breast than the other varieties of turkeys.

The term heritage turkey refers to naturally mating turkey breeds indigenous to the Americas. These varieties date back to early colonial times. They are Beltsville Small White, Bourbon Red, Jersey Buff, Narragansett, Royal Palm, Slate, Standard Bronze and White Holland. Heritage turkeys grow at a much slower rate than Broad-Breasted Whites. The result is a smaller bird but one with a more balanced dark-to-white meat ratio; a more intense, sometimes gamey, flavor; and a thick layer of fat surrounding the breast.

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Duck

Pair of mallard ducks showing male sex feather All the different breeds of ducks (except for Muscovy's) are descendant from the wild mallard. This is based on the presence of the sex-feather in the tail of the male mallard as well as the males of the domesticated duck breeds. The mallard is the only wild duck that has this type of tail feather.
Description of muscovy ducks Although we call the muscovy a duck it is technically not a duck. The muscovy is a South American waterfowl that has a body like a duck, behavaes like a goose in that it hisses rather than quacks, has a breast like a turkey, and roosters like a chicken. The incubation period for a muscovy is 35 days, instead of the typical 28 days for ducks. Although muscovies will breed with domestic ducks, the resulting offspring are infertile and are called 'mule' ducks. The term 'moulard' duck is sometimes used for the offspring of a muscovy male and a pekin female. Again the offspring are infertile. The term 'magret' refers to the breast from the moulard duck and it is sometimes aged out to 7 days to augment flavor.
Genetic selection of duck breeds As with chickens, there are meat, egg and exhibition breeds of ducks. Some of the egg-laying breeds can lay more eggs per year than many chicken breeds. Some of hte meat breeds of ducks are also used to produce foie gras, which is a delicacy made from the fatty liver of ducks or geese.

Vocabulary

  • Duck is singluar, Ducks in plural
  • Duck/Hen = adult female duck
  • Drake = adult male duck
  • Duckling = young (baby) duck
  • Foie gras = French for 'fat liver' and is a food product made form the liver of a duck or goose that has been specifically fattened.

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Goose

Products from geese Geese are raised commercially for meat, feathers, down and foie gras (a delicacy made from the fatty livers of ducks or geese). Some geese are also kept as guard animals since they readily detect sounds that are not normal to the area in which they are kept. Geese have been known to chase away wild cats such as a lynx.

Vocabulary

  • Goose is singluar, Geese is plural
  • Goose = adult female goose
  • Gander = adult male goose (Do you remember the old saying 'What is good for the goose is good for the gander"?)
  • Gosling - young (baby) goose
  • Down = layer of fine feathers found under the tougher exterior feathers. Very young birds are clad only in down.
  • Foie gras = French for 'fat liver' and is a food product made form the liver of a duck or goose that has been specifically fattened.

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Pigeon

Diagram showing the parts of a pigeon

There are different types of pigeons:

  • Utility: Raised for meat production (e.g., Carneau, Kings, Hungarians, Mondains)
  • Rollers: Most will perform intricate maneuvers (roll or spin) in th eair.
  • Tumblers: Able to tumble or roll over backwards in flight.
  • Homers: Powerful flyers that will rapidly return to their home over distances as far as 600 miles away. They are NOT 'passenger pigeons'
  • Exhibition/Fancy: Raised for particular physical features and typically exhibited at poultry shows (e.g., Fantails, Frills, Jacobins, Modenas, Owls Pouters)
Painting of the now extinct passenger pigeon

Passenger pigeon: An extinct migratory bird (Ectopistes migratorius) abundant in eastern North America until the latter part of the 19th century.

The passenger pigeon was a species of pigeon that was once the most common bird in North America. They lived in enormous flocks and during migration it was possible to see flocks of them a mile wide and 300 miles long, taking several hours to pass, and containing up to a million birds. It is estimated that there was as many as five billion passenger pigeons in the United States at the time that Europeans arrived.

During the 19th century the species went from being one of hte most abundant birdes in the world to extinction. Some reduction in numbers was the result of habitat loss when the Europeans started settling father inland. The primary factor relating ot their extinction, however, was commericalization of pigeon as a cheap food for slaves and the poor, resulting in hunting on a massive scale. 'Martha,' thought to be the world's last passenger pigeon, died at 1PM on September 1, 1914, at the age of 29, in the Cincinnati Zoological Garden in Ohio. This may be the only animal species for which the exact day of extinction is known. For more information check out the Smithsonian website.

Vocabulary

  • Pigeon is singluar; Pigeons is plural
  • Hen = adult female pigeon
  • Cock = adult male pigeon
  • Squab = young (baby) pigeon still in the nest. May also refer to the meat sold since pigeons are usually marketed before they leave the nest.
  • Squeaker = young pigeon in the year of its hatch
  • Pigeon milk = The cottage-cheese looking crop substance produced by both cock and hen to feed the young from hatch till about 10 days of age. Its production is hormonally controlled, being stimulated by the hormone prolactin. [ Fact of interest: Prolacin also stimulates mammalian milk production, but was first identified in pigeons.]

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Pheasant

Drawing of a pair of ring-necked pheasants

The term 'pheasant' is technically a term for a group of large species of fowl in the family Phasianidae which includes the partridge, guinea fowl, peafowl, quail and francolins. Typically, however, the term pheasant is used for birds such as the ring-necked pheasant. These pheasants are raised commercially for meat and/or for release in hunting preserves.

Vocabulary

  • Pheasant is singluar; Pheasants is plural
  • Hen = adult female pheasant
  • Cock = adult male pheasant
  • Pullet = young female pheasant under one year of age
  • Cockerel = young male pheasant under one year of age
  • Chick/Poult = young (baby) pheasant

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Partridge

The most commonly raised partridge include the Hungarian partrdige and the chukar redleg partridge (often referred to simply as a chukar). The main purpose for raising partridge (and chukar) is for release in hunting preserves.

Vocabulary

  • Partridge is singular; Partridges is plural
  • Hen = adult female partridge
  • Cock = adult male partridge
  • Chick/Cheeper = young (baby) partridge

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Guinea fowl

Diagram showing the parts of a guinea fowl Guinea fowl are typically raised for meat. They can also be kept as guard animals since they are very vocal when anything new enters the farm yard. Guinea fowl have also been used as a natural method for controlling ticks, especially in areas where Lyme disease is a problem.

Vocabulary

  • Guinea fowl is both singular and plural. 'Gunea fowl' is the correct name for the species though they are frequently referred to as 'guinea hens', which would be only the females of hte species.
  • Guinea hen = adult female guinea fowl
  • Guinea pullet = female guinea fowl under one year of age
  • Guinea cock = adult male guinea fowl
  • Guinea cockerel = male guinea fowl under one year of age
  • Keet = young (baby) guinea fowl

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Peafowl

Peafowl are usually kept for ornamental purposes although they are sometimes raised for meat.

Vocabulary

  • Peafowl is both singular and plural. As with guinea fowl, 'peafowl' is the correct name for the species though they are frequently referred to as 'peacocks' which would be only the males of the species.
  • Peahen = adult female peafowl
  • Peacock = adult male peafowl
  • Peachick = young (baby) peafowl

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Quail

There are a number of different species of quail raised commercially:

  • Bobwhite quail - raised primarily for meat production or for release in hunting preserves, especially in southeastern United States
  • Coturnix (Japanese) quail - rasied for either meat or egg production depending on the strain used
  • Button and Chinese-painted quail - these two small species of quail are sometimes raised for aviaries or as companion birds

Vocabulary

  • Quail is both singular and plural
  • Hen = adult female quail
  • Cock = adult male quail
  • chick/Cheeper = young (baby) quail

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Ratites

Drawing explaining the term ratite The term 'ratite' refers to birds which are unable to fly, basically because they do not have a keel (bone that filight breast muscles attach).

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Ostrich

Ostrich are raised commercially for meat, leather, and feathers (and sometimes their eggs) depending on the market available.

Vocabulary

  • Ostrich is singular; Ostriches is plural
  • Hen = adult female ostrich
  • Cock = adult male ostrich
  • Chick = young (baby) ostrich

Photos of ostrichOstrich products

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Emu

Emus are native to Australia. They are raised commercially around the world for oil, meat, leather, and feathers (and sometimes their eggs) depending on the market available.

EmuEmu products

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Rhea

Rhea are native to South America. They are raised around the world for their feathers, hide and meat (and their eggs) depending on the market available. The feathers are used for feather dusters. The hide is converted to leather and used to produce a variety of products.

Unlike most birds, rhea have only three toes on each foot (instead of the common four toes per food). They also store urine separately in an expansion of the cloaca.

Rhea products

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Others

A number of avian species, although not typically considered poultry, are raised domestically by some people. For example, swans are closely related to geese and can be raised as an ornamental bird, typically for ponds. Pet birds are not considered poultry.

Vocabulary

  • Swan is singular, Swans is plural
  • Pen = adult female swan
  • Cob = adult male swan
  • Cygnet = young (baby) swan

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