Poultry Management

Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education
(SARE) Farm Internship Curriculum and Handbook


Tom and Maud Powell and Michael Moss, Sustainable Farmers, Jackson County, OR.
Technical advisor: Tim Franklin, Jacksonville, OR.
Curriculum advisor: Peter O’Connell, Jacksonville, OR.
Web advisor: National Center for Appropriate Technology, Butte, MT.
Published 2007
Updated 2010


Poultry Management

Learning Objectives
The learner will…

  • Understand the role livestock (specifically poultry) in farm system
  • Learn how to care for chicks
  • Learn how to raise chickens for eggs, meat, and other
  • Learn about pasture-based production models
  • Gain a basic understanding of the legalities of pasture slaughter


Why Raise Chickens

  • Entertainment
  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Fertilizer
  • Bug and Weed Control
  • Breeding Stock


Chicken Terminology

  • Hen — mature female chicken > 1 year
  • Pullet — immature female chicken < 1 year
  • Cockerel — male chicken < 1 year
  • Rooster male — chicken > 1 year
  • Straight / hatchery run — unsexed
  • Molt — natural process of shedding feathers
  • Brood — to care for batch of chicks
  • Broody — hen that sets
  • Crop — pouch where chicken digests food
  • Vent — opening through which hens lay eggs



  • Equipment
  • Feeders
  • Waterers
  • Temperature
  • Litter
  • Nutrition
    • Grit critical – use stream sand – usually higher mineral content
    • Add hay chaff – seeds of perennials generally higher in nutrition than annuals (grains)
    • Fresh green vegetable matter – garden waste, grass clippings (not too much, especially meat birds – bred for hot feeds)


Chicken Breeds

  • Layers
  • Meat


Egg Production

  • Production layers: 250-280 eggs / year
  • Average brown egg layer: 150-200 eggs / year
  • Hens begin laying at about 5-6 months of age
  • Production falls off as hens age – replace every 2-3 years to maintain profit
  • Egg color:
    • White (Leghorns)
    • Brown (Barred Rock, Rhode Island Reds, Buff Ophington, Black Australorp, New Hampshire Reds)
    • Colored (Auracana/Americana) 1 egg every 3 days
  • Yolk Color – affected by plant pigments beta carotene and xanthophylls (green plant material or yellow corn will turn yolks orange)


Winter Production

  • Egg production will decline in the fall and may cease during Nov – Jan
  • Can sustain with lighting:
    • 40-60 watt bulb, 16 hours / day on timer
    • 15 watt bulb 24 hours / day


Egg Processing

  • Storage:
    • 1 month or more in the fridge
    • 2-3 months < 55 degrees at 75% humidity
    • Egg quality diminishes in storage


Chicken Coop Design

  • Stationary vs. Mobile
  • Should provide protection from weather, drafts
  • Need adequate ventilation
  • Feeders – 5-6 inches per bird
  • Waterers – 1-2 inches per bird
  • Roosts – 8 – 12 inches roost space per adult, 15 inches between roosts (sloping)
  • Nest boxes – 12″ x 12″ spacing, 4″ lip across front, 2 feet above floor, 1 box per 5 birds


Disease Prevention

  • Sanitation
  • Adequate space
  • Fresh air / ventilation
  • Proper nutrition
  • Cull as needed
  • Protect from predators


Pastured Poultry Production

  • Feed requirements drop 30 – 50%
  • Housing:
    • Eggmobile (henabago)
    • Hoop houses
    • Variations on the chicken tractor
  • Grass height important (too tall, will be trampled)
  • Rotation with other livestock


Pastured Poultry Processing

  • Requirements for Federal Inspection
    • FSIS overseas and licenses facilities
    • Inspects birds themselves
  • Exemptions from Federal Inspection
    • No more than 1,000 birds per year
    • All poultry must be raised on producer’s own farm
    • Producer may not buy or sell offsite birds
    • No poultry is distributed outside state
  • State of Oregon
    • Currently Oregon law does not allow open-air slaughter of poultry for sale. Producers wanting to slaughter their own birds, up to 20,000 per year, must build a state-licensed and-approved facility. (Contrary to what you may have heard, our state doesn’t recognize USDA’s 1,000 bird exemption, only the 20,000 bird exemption).
    • This might change. Lauren Gwin is working with the Oregon Department of Agriculture on a proposal to allow poultry producers to slaughter up to 1,000 birds (any poultry) per year on their farm, for on-farm fresh sales only. Exact requirement are still being discussed, but producers would likely be required to keep sales records and a customer list.



  • Eggs: Direct vs. Retail
    • Designations: certified organic, free-range, free-nested, cage free
  • Meat



  • What role can chickens play in an agricultural ecosystem?
  • What are the benefits of pastured poultry production models?
  • List important considerations for care of chicks.
  • What are the basic feed requirements of chicks? Chickens?



ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas)
Website: http://attra.ncat.org/.

The Chicken Health Handbook. Damerow, G. 1994, Storey Books, North Adams, MA.344 pp.

Pastured Poultry Profits. Salatin, J. 1993, Polyface, Inc, Swoope, VA.371 pp.

Diagrams of poultry and incubation charts:


Sources for Chicks

  • Phinney Hatchery, 1331 Dell Ave., Walla Walla, WA
  • Murray McMurray, Webster City, IA


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