Poultry is the term used to describe birds that are domestic (not wild) and raised for their meat, eggs or feathers. Examples of poultry in the United States include chickens, ducks and turkeys. Poultry can be raised outside or indoors. Most poultry are raised indoors in big barns so the temperature can be controlled to keep the birds comfortable. Being inside also protects the birds from predators and airborne diseases. Inside they have access to fresh food and clean water. Some families choose to raise poultry in their backyard. Not every city or county allows chickens, so it is important to make sure you know the laws in your community about raising poultry and other animals. Caring for poultry is similar to caring for the family pet. The birds will require attention and care each day.

All poultry are oviparous, which means their young are hatched out of an egg. A hen, or female chicken, will lay eggs when she reaches maturity at around 22 weeks of age. Depending on her breed and age, the average hen will lay 265 eggs per year. That’s about one egg every 26 hours. The eggs we eat aren’t fertilized, which means there isn’t a baby chick in the egg. Most farmers keep roosters and hens separate unless they would like to raise baby chicks that they can use to replace hens that are no longer laying eggs.

Source - Indiana Poultry Association, www.incredibleegg.org

  • Poultry Vocabulary:

    • Broiler/Fryer: a chicken bred for meat.
    • Rooster: male chicken.
    • Hen: female chicken or turkey.
    • Chick: a young chicken.
    • Tom: male turkey.
    • Flock: a number of animals of one kind, that keep or feed together or are herded together.
    • Poult: a young turkey.
    • Snood: the long, red, fleshy growth from the base of the beak that hangs down over the beak of a turkey.
    • Caruncle/comb: the red-pink fleshy growth on the head and upper neck of turkeys and chickens.
    • Gizzard: a part of a bird’s stomach that contains tiny stones, which helps them grind up food for digestion.
    • Wattle: a bright red appendage at the neck of a turkey.
    • Beard: the black lock of hair found on the chest of a male turkey.
    • Incubator: a box which maintains a constant temperature

  • Poultry Facts:

    • Indiana ranks 6th in the US for raising turkeys, contributing millions of dollars to the economy each year.
    • There are 50 billion eggs produced each year in the U.S.
    • Egg size increases with the age of the hen; young hens lay pee-wee or small eggs and eventually lay extra-large and jumbo eggs.
    • 21 days are required for chicks to hatch from eggs, 28 for ducks and turkeys.
    • At 20 weeks of age, chickens will start laying eggs.
    • 4 pounds of feed are required to produce 12 eggs (1 dozen)
    • There is no nutritional difference between white and brown shelled eggs. White shelled eggs usually come from chickens with white ear lobes. Chickens with red colored ear lobes usually produce brown eggs.
  • Indiana Grown:

    The United States is the world’s largest poultry producer and the second-largest egg producer and exporter of poultry meat. U.S. poultry meat production totals over 43 billion pounds each year. U.S. famers produce more than 90 billion eggs each year. Over seventy-five percent of egg production is for human consumption (the table egg market). The remainder of production is for the hatching market. The top five egg-producing states are Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Texas. In 2012, Indiana was home to more than 25.5 million layer hens.

    #1 Duck Production #3 Egg Layers
    #4 Chicken Hatching #7 Turkey Production

    Source: Indiana Agricultural Statistics Service, NASS, Rose Acre Farms, American Egg Board.

  • Questions & Answers:

    Source: Texas Cooperative Extension

    Q: What is the average life span of a chicken?
    A: Laying hens are kept for up to 3 years. There are undocumented accounts of “yard chickens” living for more than 10 years.

    Q: From where do chickens originate?
    A: Chickens were domesticated from jungle fowl in Southeast Asia many centuries ago.

    Q: At what age do chickens begin to lay eggs?
    A: If all necessary conditions (day length, nutrition, etc.) are met, chickens should begin egg production at about 20 weeks of age.

    Q: How long will table eggs stay fresh?
    A: Fresh eggs can be stored in a refrigerator (at 40 to 45 degrees F) for 4 to 5 weeks after the packaging date on the carton.

    Source: Texas Cooperative Extension

Common Breeds

Rooster & Hens

Rooster & Hens A rooster, also known as a cockerel or cock, is a male gallinaceous bird, usually a male chicken.


Goose a large waterbird with a long neck, short legs, webbed feet, and a short broad bill.

Female Turkey

Female Turkey a large American bird that is related to the chicken and that is hunted or raised by people for its meat.

Male Turkey

Male Turkey a large American bird that is related to the chicken and that is hunted or raised by people for its meat.


Ducks are mostly aquatic birds, mostly smaller than the swans and geese, and may be found in both fresh water and sea water.