Breeding poultry for enjoyment or profit

Common Breeds   Common Ailments   The Downside

Rearing poultry is one of the most popular animal husbandry activities on the face of the planet. In virtually every country and every region poultry farmers can be found raising birds, primarily for meat and eggs but also for feathers and other uses. By far the most common type of poultry raised by farmers is the chicken. There are an estimated 24 billion chickens in the world. In other words, there are about four times as many chickens on the planet as there are humans. Many other types of birds are reared as poultry as well. Some birds that are generally used for their meat but not their eggs include turkeys and ostriches. Ostrich farms have recently had success selling ostrich skin for use in clothing as well, for it has a soft texture that consumers find pleasant when cured. Ostrich meat has also been applauded as being an excellent substitute for beef, as it is leaner and ostriches is often touted as a lower impact animal on the environment than cows.

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Humans have been rearing poultry for many uses for thousands of years. The raising of birds by humans in a controlled environment was practiced before Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. The earliest domesticated bird was probably a breed of chicken, as ancients texts in Asia reference a bird that lays eggs each day. Chickens were prevalent in Egypt as a human controlled population for the purposes of cock fighting by about 1400 years before Christ, although they did not become popularly domesticated as a food source until about 1000 years later in that part of the world. Today the common chicken is one the most populous animal species on the planet.

Chicken is extremely popular as meat, because of its low fat and high protein. The average American eats approximately 55 pounds of chicken per year according to one source, the equivalent of about 27 chickens. Although for much of our history with domesticated chickens they were raised in small to medium sized enclosures in close proximity to people by large segments of the population, today's commercial farm in America differs from traditional poultry farming methods. Caring for chickens has become more and more advanced as agricultural science has advanced. Chickens raised for meat are kept in temperature and light controlled indoor facilities that will favour maximum productivity. They live on the floor of their facility rather than in stacks as is sometimes claimed. Typically they are provided with a litter to simulate natural conditions, such as wood chips or rice hulls.

Chicken eggs are one of the most popular and enjoyed foods on the planet, especially for breakfast. The famous Leghorn breed is renowned for its egg laying capabilities. Leghorn hens average almost one egg per day over the course of a year, with each hen routinely laying 250-300 hens. The Leghorn species is so famous that one of the most recognized Looney Tunes characters of all time is a Leghorn chicken named Foghorn Leghorn. Foghorn Leghorn is instantly recognizable to audiences around the world. Most other breeds of chickens that lay large numbers of eggs have been interbred with Leghorn breeds at one point or another. Some of these other renowned egg laying breeds include the Rhode Island Reds, which lay large brown eggs and the Buff Orpington breeds, which is a golden brown chicken that works well for meat production or egg laying and is popular with smaller scale and hobby farmers.
 

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Copyright Peter Garrey 2009