Poultry farming is considered one of the largest forms of animal agriculture in the United States. Initially, it started with family farms in the mid-eastern states. The broilers were grown in small flocks and the main idea of doing poultry farming was eggs. Meat was then only a byproduct. The money that these farmers got was sufficient only for buying groceries and for the household. During the 1900 chicken was served for dinner during a weekend or special occasions. Poultry farming was considered very expensive during those times. During the mid 1900’s poultry was offered in two kinds, the broilers and spring chickens. Young male chickens were sold when they were young and tender and weighed below 3 pounds. Stewing hens generally kept for laying eggs and sold only after they stop laying eggs. Both these varieties were byproducts of the egg industry. Today, we don’t practice any of these and the chicken meat is a different breed all together.
Today, poultry farming has discovered vitamin D; hence the whole idea of poultry farming has a new evolution. The chickens are kept in confinement for one whole year. Lighting plays an important role in bird growth, development and maturity. During the winter the chickens find it very hard to strive due to bad weather. The sexual maturity of the birds requires sufficient amount of vitamin D therefore the birds are generally kept in Black-out houses. Hence, it allows the producer to provide sufficient amount of lights for the birds without the help of natural light.
When the bird reaches the age of maturity they are generally moved into the laying houses. These houses are generally wired and a litter is placed in the center, where the birds are allowed to mate. The cleaning process and nesting facilities are provided for the eggs to be safe from the other birds. This process helps the producer to collect the eggs easily. The feeding for birds like the ducks and turkeys are restricted to prevent these from getting obese. Obese not only limits the bird from laying eggs but also reduces the fertility of the egg that is laid. Therefore to prevent these birds from getting obese, two kinds of programs are followed under the restrictive feeding. In the first kind the birds are fed regularly on a daily basis. A limited quantity is fed to the birds or a lower content of nutrient food is provided, so that the bird can be fed specific quantity and still not get fat. The second type of program is every other day feeding program. The male broiler chicken generally grows faster than the females. Therefore they are taken separately and fed every other day until these broilers are moved into the breeder house. Specific ratios of male –to-females are kept inside the breeder house to ensure fertility of the eggs hatched.
Once the eggs are laid they are collected the from the breeders farm and taken to the hatchery, stored up to 10 days before they are kept inside the incubator. Once placed for incubation embryonic development takes place. The Chicken gets hatched generally in 21 days while other birds like the duck and turkey take about 28 days. Once hatched a lot of procedures are followed. The young ones are provided vaccination, gender sorted and from there transported to the commercial outlets. Here again the transporting takes only for few hours or within a day.
My cousin Mark transports about fifty chickens and 500 eggs daily from his poultry farm. I got an opportunity to visit his poultry last week, where he explained the process to me. An amazing fact is that he has installed security systems like the ADT security system, which are generally set up at homes, at various places in his poultry farm.