Distance education study course in poultry management, studying and learning poultry breeds, feed, poultry diseases, layers, broilers, incubation, brooding, record keeping for amateur and commercial poultry chicken farming.

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

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Learn to Keep Poultry

A course that is equally relevant for
  • Commercial farmers and farm workers
  • Breeders and hobbyists
  • Permaculturists and urban farmers
  • Anyone else with a passion for poultry
This course covers all aspects of poultry care and management. Content and principles of poultry husbandry contained in this course are relevant to any situation.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction: Terminology, Breeds
  2. Nutrition
  3. Diseases In Poultry
  4. Layers
  5. Broilers
  6. Incubation
  7. Brooding
  8. Record Keeping, Economics & Marketing

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.
  • Explain three procedures used in an egg production system which are critical to the efficient operation.
  • 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.
  • Explain how brooders are successfully fed.
  • Explain appropriate housing for broilers.
  • Explain how hygiene and health are managed in a broiler production system.
  • Evaluate the successful management of broilers in a specified situation.
  • Describe daily routine tasks carried out in farming of broilers at a poultry enclosure or farm.
  • Describe the process of incubation, as observed by you.
  • Compare natural with artificial incubation methods.
  • 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.
  • Inspect and describe the management of a specific incubator.
  • 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
    • cannibalism.
  • Develop a checklist for monitoring the condition of a brooding fowl.
  • List records which should be kept by a poultry grower.
  • Analyse purchasing procedures for routine supplies used by a specified poultry operation.
  • Explain the value of different records kept by a poultry grower, including:
    • growth records
    • 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.
  • Recommend an innovative approach to marketing for a poultry enterprise.

Do You Know Poultry Terminology?

Brooding The period during which the newly hatched chicks require to be kept warm

Broody The condition of a mature hen when she will sit on a nest of eggs in order to incubate them

Broiler A chicken reared to provide meat and killed at eight to ten weeks old

Capon A male de-sexed chicken

Cockerel A male chicken from one day old to sexual maturity

Comb Growths on the head of a cock or hen which are used as signs of a pullet coming into lay (erect and red) or poor health in a bird (limp and pale) (See figure 2)

Cull To remove and destroy sick or aged fowls from a flock

Day old chick A young chicken immediately after hatching

Feathering The period during which the down of the young chick is replaced by feather. This happens at about four weeks old.

Hen An adult female laying hen over the age of fifteen months

Incubation The period during which the embryo is growing inside the egg prior to hatching

Moult The period when a mature hen stops laying and her feathers fall out to be replaced by new growth

Point of Lay A young hen just about to come into lay

Poussin A meat bird weighing less then a spatchcock (see below)

Pullet Another term for a young hen from about twenty weeks old, (point of lay) to fifteen months old, when it has completed its first year of laying.

Stag A rooster over the age of two

Spatchcock A broiler at between 4-7 weeks of age weighing about 1kg live weight

Wattle Fleshy appendages on the throat and chin of some breeds of fowl



Chickens are generally "easy care" and hardy pets, but can have occasional problems as with any animals, particularly in very cold or hot conditions.

They can adapt to a range of environments, but like most animals they still require special care in the colder conditions. In winter we see a reduction in the daylight hours and chickens will naturally reduce their laying. Commercial egg producers use a variety of methods to ensure they have egg production all year round, for example they use lighting to ‘trick’ their hens into laying. Most of these methods however will not be feasible or necessary for the average backyard flock. So be prepared for periods of time when you will have reduced or no egg production. If you care for your chickens well though, you may be able to help them to continue to lay eggs (even if quantities are reduced) during winter.

Winter Essentials

Well insulated and ventilated coop.

  • Fresh water – check water frequently to ensure it hasn’t frozen.
  • Proper, complete and balanced nutrition.
  • Warm, fresh bedding such as straw for them to nest in.
  • In extreme cold - supplementary heat (heat lamp or heater) may also be needed.  
  • Check your birds frequently. 

Cold Hardy Breeds
If you live in an area that has particularly cold winters it may be best to start with a cold hardy breed. Some chicken breeds are hardier than others. Cold hardy breed usually have smaller combs, wattles and thicker plumage. Some of the popular cold hardy breeds include:

  • Ameraucanas: they come in a variety of colours and have blue eggs.
  • Black Australorp:  these excellent layers are hardy in cold and hotter climates. They are a large and impressive looking chicken.
  • Buff Orpingtons:  these big gentle birds are very cold hardy.
  • Rhode Island Red: are hot and cold hardy but can be a little more susceptible to frostbite on the comb.
  • Sussex: calm, gentle birds: Very cold hardy.
  • Isa Browns: this hybrid is a good layer and hardy in hot and cold conditions.


Your knowledge and understanding of chickens, ducks, geese and other poultry will gradually develop as you move through this course.

By the time you graduate, your awareness of different breeds and different ways of keeping poultry will have expanded to a point where you ca make far more enlightened decisions about what birds to keep according to the situation you are considering. As an amateur, you will do a better job of raising your own birds; and as a professional, your expertise will be at a point where you can advise others with greater accuracy and in greater depth.

The course can be of real benefit for:

  • Families who wish to keep a few birds at home as pets and for eggs.
  • Breeders, retailers or others who supply birds, feed, cages or other needs to poultry owners.
  • Service professionals such as veterinary assistants, who wish to learn more about caring for poultry.
  • Anyone else with a passion for, or business interest in poultry.

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Barbara Seguel

Teacher and Researcher, Marine Scientist, Tourism and Outdoor recreation guide, Health and Safety Coordinator & Production Manager for Fisheries, National Park Staff/Farmer, Laboratory technical aide, Zoo, Wildlife and Marine Park assistant. Barbara has w
Dr. Gareth Pearce

Veterinary scientist and surgeon with expertise in agriculture and environmental science, with over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand
Alison Pearce

Alison brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to ACS students. She has worked as a University Lecturer, has also run a veterinary operating theatre; responsible for animal anaesthesia, instrument preparation, and assistance with surgical techniqu
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