1. K-State home
  2. »College of Agriculture
  3. »ASI
  4. »Research and Extension
  5. »Poultry
  6. »Heritage Poultry/Small Farm
  7. »Poultry Husbandry

Animal Sciences and Industry

Poultry Husbandry

The Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines husbandry as the scientific control and management of a branch of farming and especially of domestic animals. I can say with confidence that most small poultry operations fail due to poor husbandry. Poultry, even free range, require good management practices to ensure the best economic production and best health and welfare of the birds. Producers who take good husbandry techniques for granted risk economic disaster or they may not enjoy a profit margin that's large enough to merit the effort they put forth on their farm. Improper bird management, poor disease prevention strategies, and a lack of understanding good management practices could lead to a disease outbreak which goes beyond small flocks causing a loss of jobs and income if diseases spread to the commercial industry.

Growing birds organically or on free range presents special challenges. Producers must practice strict biosecurity measures and when that fails, they must have a plan to treat the birds and make the flock healthy again. Birds raised outdoors are exposed to diseases from indigenous birds like migratory waterfowl or nuisance birds that may transmit diseases to the flock. Foraging birds are exposed to worms and parasites that birds held in confinement will seldom encounter and thus require different management and treatment.

Facilities are important too. The way you chose to construct your facility will affect your farm management techniques. Before you do anything, make sure your plans consider the welfare of the birds and your daily labor requirements.

The first thing to do is educate yourself. You can't read enough about the subject. And you can't stop educating yourself either. Contact your local extension office - you'd be surprised at the information they might be able to provide. Experience is helpful too. try starting on a small scale and then expand after you've smoothed out some of the wrinkles.