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Poultry—Who You Calling Chicken?

There is a lot of information you may not know about poultry. Let's find out more about chickens and other types of poultry!

Types of Poultry

Broiler Chickens

Broiler chickens are the chickens we find in the supermarket and cook for dinner.

These chickens are kept in large groups called a flock. They live to around 6 weeks of age and grow very fast.

Broiler Breeder Chickens

Broiler breeder chickens are the parents of the broiler chickens. There are approximately 10 hens (female) for each rooster (male).

They produce fertile hatching eggs that are taken from the chickens and are incubated in a separate location.

Layer Chickens

Layer chickens lay the eggs we eat for breakfast.

Only the hens are kept so these eggs are not fertile and will not produce chicks if they are incubated. The eggs are collected and washed before being placed in egg cartons for sale in the grocery store.


Quail are raised like chickens, until 6 weeks of age. They are smaller than chickens.


Ducks are also raised like chickens, until 6 weeks of age.


Turkeys are not only grown for Thanksgiving dinner. There are also turkeys that are specifically used to produce fertile hatching eggs, just like broiler chickens.

Male turkeys are called toms. They are grown separately from the female turkeys and for different lengths of time.

The females are called hens, just like chickens. The hens are kept until 14-16 weeks of age and the toms are kept until 19-20 weeks of age, before they are big enough to process.

Life Cycle of a Broiler Chicken

The fertile egg marks the beginning of a chicken's life. It takes 21 days for a fertile egg to hatch into a baby chick.

Chicks hatch from the egg able to see and walk and feed themselves. To prevent diseases that may affect the chick, vaccinations are given before they leave the hatchery. They are incubated in a separate location.

Large groups of chicks, called a flock, live together in a chicken house. This prevents them from being killed by wild animals. Over 20,000 chicks may live together.

They are raised on the floor covered in dry pine shavings. Here they freely move about, find food and water, and socialize. There is plenty of food! The chicks are allowed to eat as much, good quality feed as they want.

Heat is added to the house because the young chicks don't have enough feathers to keep warm. As they get older, feathers develop and the heat can be lowered to 70 degrees, which they find comfortable.

The chicken houses are equipped with large fans to provide fresh air to the chicks. Some houses are equipped with a cooling system, much like air conditioning. The chickens are kept until 6 weeks of age.

Chickens are ready for processing when they are large enough. Then they are caught and taken to the processing plant, where they are prepared for sale in the grocery store.

Georgia's Poultry Industry

Georgia is #1! The state of Georgia raises more poultry than any other state in the U.S. In fact, if the state of Georgia were a country, it would be the 4th largest producer of poultry in the world!

The Poultry Industry is the largest agricultural industry for the state of Georgia. Georgia produces more than 1 billion chickens; which equals over 6 billion pounds of meat, and an income over US$2 billion.

Consumers want chicken. The poultry industry has dramatically increased in size over the last few decades. Improvements in nutrition, management, and genetics allow us to produce protein rich meat, at a lower cost.

Chicken is currently the most frequently eaten meat in the U.S. The fast food industry's promotion of chicken has increased its popularity. Chains like Chick-fil-A, KFC, and McDonald's sell large amounts of chicken daily.


Last Updated April 10, 2007

The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the administration of the University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia.

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College of Veterinary Medicine
The University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602-7372
Phone: 706.542.8411
FAX: 706.542.5828

Note: Treatment of animals should only be performed by a licensed veterinarian. Veterinarians should consult the current literature and current pharmacological formularies before initiating any treatment protocol.

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