Poultry (chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and other fowl) can be kept by enthusiastic individuals in a back garden or on an allotment, or intensive farming production systems with a large acreage and high turn-over. However, the knowledge needed for looking after the birds in any number is generally the same, whether they are housed or free-range. While many intensive operations concentrate on just one or two breeds of bird, for the enthusiast there are a wide number of broiler (birds raised for meat) and egg-laying breeds available including rare breeds such as the Welsummer and the Plymouth Rock.
Poultry farm managers are responsible for the day to day running of the farm, which includes monitoring the welfare of the birds, feeding them and ensuring fresh drinking water is always available. They may also be managing staff in order to compile work rotas, pay and holiday entitlements. Managers are also responsible for maintaining the site, ensuring it is kept clean and tidy at all times and that it complies with the relevant heath and safety regulations. The health of the flock is most important, and managers need to be vigilant and able to act on any health issues that may occur.
This type of work is carried out in all weathers, both indoors and outdoors, and can involve long and unsociable hours. Managers will often need to be available for shifts that include weekends and bank holidays. The work can be seasonal, particularly with turkey flocks. The housing of indoor flocks can be dark, smelly and very dusty. Managers will need business skills as well as animal husbandry experience.
Example areas of study
Courses in agriculture often include modules that cover livestock management and production systems. There are also specialist poultry courses and weekend or day-long workshops and courses that focus on particular aspects of poultry keeping. The Poultry Club of Great Britain organises school education sessions, including the Junior Certificate of Proficiency in Poultry Husbandry which is an examination open to those aged under 16 free of charge. Modules may include:
- Business studies
- Livestock production
- Poultry housing
- Feeding systems
- Quality systems
- Handling and showing
- First aid
Some career possibilities
Most poultry breeders start small with a handful of birds. Experience and qualifications can mean progression to working with commercial flocks and in time, managing a poultry farm. Those who prefer to focus on the business side may become sales and distribution managers or company directors.
What do I need to get on a course?
Entry requirements for agriculture and animal husbandry courses vary from institution to institution but those listed below will give you a general idea of the kind of qualifications and grades you may need. It is worthwhile checking with the institution at which you wish to apply before submitting an application.
- UCAS Tariff: 80-200 points
- A-level: C - CCD including a science subject
- BTEC National Diploma: M in a relevant subject
- SQA Highers: BBBBC including a science subject
- SQA Advanced Highers: CCC including a science subject
- Irish Leaving Certificates: BBBBB including a science subject
- Mature students will require evidence of experience with poultry
- 4 GCSEs at grade C or above including English, mathematics and a science subject (rural science is often acceptable)
For your application or interview the following may be useful:
You will need to show evidence of experience in handling and/or looking after poultry, and should have a current tetanus inoculation
To find out more about the typical subjects you will study, potential career paths and further information useful for your application log-on to Course Discover at www.coursediscoveronline.co.uk*
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