Sign up for the
Weekly Harvest Newsletter!

Published every Wednesday, the Weekly Harvest e-newsletter is a free Web digest of sustainable agriculture news, resources, events and funding opportunities gleaned from the Internet. See past issues of the Weekly Harvest.
Sign up here

Sign up for the Weekly Harvest Newsletter

What Is Sustainable Agriculture?

Master Publication List

Search Our Databases

Urban Agriculture

Energy Alternatives

Beginning Farmer

Field Crops

Horticultural Crops

Livestock & Pasture

Value-Added Food Products

Local Food Systems

Food Safety

Marketing, Business & Risk Management

Organic Farming

Pest Management

Soils & Compost

Water Management

Ecological Fisheries and Ocean Farming

Other Resources

Sign Up for The Dirt E-News

Home Page

Contribute to NCAT


Newsletter sign up button

· Privacy Policy · Newsletter Archives

RSS Icon XML Feeds

RSS 2.0: Events, Breaking News, Funding Opportunities Atom: Events, Breaking News, Funding Opportunities


NCAT strives to make our information available to everyone who needs it. If you are a limited-access or low-income farmer and find that one of our publications is just not in your budget, please call 800-346-9140.


How are we doing?


Home > Master Publication List > Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) Farm Internship Curriculum and Handbook > 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)

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


«« Back to Intern Curriculum


Back to top

This page was last updated on: December 9, 2014