Learn to raise chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese for commercial production or self-sufficiency. This course covers a variety of production methods, useful for small- and large-scale operations.

Course CodeBAG208
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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  • Learn about chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys or other poultry
  • Farm poultry commercially or keep poultry at home for eggs or meat
  • This is a substantial 100 hour course; providing a foundation for anyone serious about keeping poultry as a hobby, for greater self sufficiency or as a vocation
Comments from an ACS students:
"Pleased with all aspects of the course" K Houlden, UK
"[The course] was very useful because it helped me to learn more about Poultry, especially the business side of the industry. I really enjoyed working through the assignments over the last 12 months. They made me think and do lots of research." Aaron May 

Course Aim: 
To enable analyse and make decisions about the management requirements of poultry.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction, Terminology and Breeds
    • History of Poultry
    • Terminology
    • Contract Growing
    • Regulations
    • Management Factors
    • Small Scale Production
    • Breeds
    • Classifying Fowls (Egg Laying Breeds, Meat or Table Birds, Dual Purpose Breeds)
    • Cross Breed Poultry
    • Sex Linkage
    • Brooders
    • Skeletal System
    • Poultry Husbandry (Stock Selection, Feeding, Watering, Housing, Health)
    • Turkeys
    • Geese
    • Ducks
  2. Poultry Nutrition
    • Digestive System (Gullet, Crop, Proventriculus, Gizzard, Intestine, Caecum, etc)
    • Nutrient Sources (Carbohydrate, Protein, Minerals etc)
    • Rationing
    • Palatability
    • The End Product
    • Modern Feed Requirements
    • Phase Feeding
    • Limited Feeding
    • Consumption Feeding
  3. Diseases
    • Avoiding Stress
    • Viral Diseases
    • Bacterial Diseases
    • Mycoplasmosis, Fungal and Protozoan Disease
    • Non-infectious Diseases
  4. Layers
    • Extensive (Free-Range) System
    • Semi-Intensive System
    • Intensive Systems
    • Housing
    • Deep Litter System
    • Feeders
    • Battery Units
    • Feeding the Laying Hen
    • Replacing the Flock
  5. Broilers
    • Caponising
    • Brooding Period
    • Feeding Broilers (Starter Period, Finisher Period)
    • Housing
    • Hygeine and Health
  6. Incubation
    • The Natural Method (Using Broody Hens)
    • The Artificial Method (Using Incubators)
    • Selecting Eggs
    • Storing Hatching Eggs
    • Turning Eggs
    • Managing an Incubator (Temperature, Humidity, Testing, Hatching)
    • Reasons for Poor Hatchability
  7. Brooding
    • Heating
    • The Canopy Brooder
    • The Infra-red Lamp
    • The Battery Brooder
    • The Haybox Brooder
    • Feeders
    • Drinkers
    • Floor Space
    • Rearing
    • Problems during Rearing
  8. Record Keeping, Economics and Marketing
    • Growth Records
    • Egg Production Records
    • Small Scale Business
    • Compatible Ventures (Manure, etc)
    • Preparing a Farm Business Plan
    • Finance
    • Land Management
    • Analyzing the Market Place
    • Developing a Marketing Plan

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.


  • 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.

What You Will Do

  • 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 and 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 and 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.

Comment from one of our Poultry Course students
  "[The course] was very useful because it helped me to learn more about Poultry, especially the business side of the industry. I really enjoyed working through the assignments over the last 12 months. They made me think and do lots of research."
Aaron May, UK - Poultry course.


Chickens feature in art work of the ancient Egyptians (around 4000 BC) - when they were kept for religious purposes. The early morning crowing of cocks led the Egyptians to believe that they were announcing the Sun God. There are records of chickens being kept as domestic animals in India as long ago as 3200 BC. Chickens probably reached Europe about two thousand years ago where they were valued not only as food producers but for the sport of cock fighting.
Since the end of World War II, advances in both genetics and management practices have seen major improvements in the productivity of the domestic fowl, and it is now a very different bird from its ancestor. The modern layer bird now lays over three hundred eggs per year instead of one clutch of twelve eggs, whilst the modern broiler reaches a marketable weight of around 2.0kg live weight at around six to seven weeks. The desire to sit on eggs and hatch them has been bred out of the modern birds so that they seldom go broody. Young birds reach sexual maturity and begin to lay eggs at sixteen to twenty weeks of age unlike the wild jungle fowl who was only ready to lay at one year old.
Although the laying powers of chickens has been developed to a remarkable degree, birds stop laying once a year when they go into a moult (replace their feathers). Once they are over a moult, the birds will begin to lay eggs again but production during this second laying season will be about 20% below the production of the first season. However, the eggs from the second layer season will be larger.

Healthy hens can continue to lay eggs for many seasons, but the normal practice with commercial poultry is to keep the birds for one season's lay and then replace the birds with a new batch of pullets. Because modern layers have been bred specifically for their egg producing qualities, their carcass is of little commercial value, and is often used for soup or pet food.

Depending on the size of the poultry unit and the available housing, a supply of eggs can be maintained throughout the year by replacing the various flocks at different times of the year. Under natural conditions, egg production is highest in spring and summer which is the period of lengthening daylight.  

However, all modern laying facilities provide the birds with a constant period of day light using artificial lighting. This ensures optimum production throughout the life of the bird. Birds that are kept on free range will follow the natural pattern of the seasons unless some form of artificial lighting is provided. 

Poultry are economic converters of home grown food into both eggs and meat. Poultry manure is also a very valuable source of plant nutrients.



Chickens are most definitely a major part of what you study in this course, but much of what you learn about raising chickens is similar to raising any type of poultry.

Chickens are of course the most important commercial type of poultry; but there are some distinct benefits to be found raising turkeys, ducks, geese or other types of birds. The larger birds do produce larger eggs, and a single animal will give more meat.

Selection of Ducks to Raise

Choosing the best birds is important as feed is too expensive to waste on below average birds. The characteristic of a good layer is that she is active ‑ first to the food and last away, up and about early in the morning and last in the pen at night. Another sign to watch for is angularity in the bird's physical appearance, which generally denotes poor laying qualities.

There are many breeds to choose from. The major ones are the Aylesbury, the Khaki Campbell, the Indian Runner, the Cayuga, the Rouen, the Pekin, and the Orpington. The Aylesbury is the most popular table bird. It is mature by 8‑10 weeks and the flavour of the bird is very good. Its major disadvantage is low egg yield. However, crossed with a Pekin duck, egg production is improved considerably. The Aylesbury lays blue‑green eggs and their plumage is white.

The Khaki Campbell is a cross between an Indian Runner having good egg production, and a very hardy Rouen. It can lay up to 300 eggs per year but is small‑framed and therefore not a good meat producer. They are also quite nervous and tend not to sit on their eggs well. The drakes are a khaki colour all over except for the head and tail which are bronze green. The females are khaki all over with a few lighter feathers on their backs and wings.

The Indian Runner was formerly classed as the top egg layer. It has a high erect body with a flat skull. There are 5 varieties ‑ black, chocolate, fawn and white, and white.

The Cayuga combines good laying and table qualities. It has a deep greenish black plumage with the stature of an Aylesbury. Eggs are dark green.

The Rouen's plumage is very like the wild Mallard. The male undergoes colour changes from a bottle green head and stern with brown markings, to a drab mottled brown not unlike the female's colouring. The Rouen is an excellent table bird and is often crossed with an Aylesbury. It lays a blue egg.

The Pekin is a very hardy duck and a thrifty forager for food. Pekins develop into excellent table birds and dependable layers. It is often crossed with the Aylesbury to get the best of both breeds. Its colour is a uniform cream with a bright orange beak, shanks and feet. The Pekin lays a blue egg.

Orpington ducks are cream coloured. They are less popular than they used to be. They are a dual purpose bird laying a white egg. They also make very good free ranging birds.

If you want to breed your own ducks, the mating ratio is 1 drake to 4 ducks for Aylesbury flock, while the ratio for Pekins is 1:6. If you find that one of your ducks is not assuming its maternal role, then you can raise the ducklings under a broody hen or by using an incubator. Eggs have an incubation period of 28 days. Chick incubators are suitable for ducks however the temperature need not be quite as high. The eggs need to be turned 3 times a day and a liberal allowance of water is required. No artificial heat is required after the ducklings reach 3 weeks of age.


  • To advance employment or career opportunities
  • To improve a commercial poultry business you own, manage or work in
  • To raise and sell eggs as a part time small business
  • For a greater understanding of how to raise and care for poultry
  • To keep poultry at home as pets or to increase your level of self sufficiency
  • As a credit toward a certificate
  • To follow a passion you have for birds or agriculture

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