Poultry have existed for over 150 million years on Earth, dating back to the original wild jungle fowl. Now, the list of species under poultry include ducks, geese, turkeys, pigeons, chickens and so on...
There are many benefits of raising poultry. Poultry provides companionship to humans, serves as a source of food in the form of eggs and meat. Besides that, farmers also like to show their chickens at poultry shows. Some people like to raise chickens at their backyards as pets or for fresh eggs everyday. There is also a large commercial poultry industry which provides us eggs and meat for our consumption.
Globally, the production of primary poultry products (meat and eggs) has been rising rapidly as shown in Table 1. This reflects on consumer's preference for high quality products and the relatively low price due to efficiency in production. From Table 1, it is shown that over the 10 years (between 1995 and 2005, there is an increase in production globally for chicken meat (53%), turkey meat (13%), duck meat (67%), goose meat (53%), chicken eggs (39%), and other eggs (27%).
Table 1.World and selected nation production of poultry meat and eggs (in million metric tons) for 1995 and 2005
Poultry breeding is where it all begins. Selected males and female breeds are chosen to mate and eggs are collected and incubated. The chicken eggs are incubated for 21 days. Newly hatched chicks are then brooded in temperature controlled rooms until they are either sent off as broilers or roasters for consumption as poultry meat or grown further as laying hens or breeders.
For birds that are grown into broilers, they are reared on average for 6 - 7 weeks and then are processed as cut-up parts such as drumsticks or breast meat. Roasters on the other hand are grown for 8 - 14 weeks and are sold as whole birds. Approximately 25 - 30% of broiler meat goes into further processed products such as chicken nuggets, sandwiches or hot dogs.
Chickens that are grown as laying hens are usually reared in growing houses until they are about 16 - 18 weeks which they are then moved into caged laying facilities. The birds will usually start laying eggs at around 20 weeks of age and continue to do so until 76 weeks of age. Some birds are molted and they continue to lay eggs for another 6 months while the rest are processed as fowl meat and are used for products such as chicken soup.
The interest in poultry and poultry related products have grown tremendously for the past 20 years. Almost every country has a poultry industry of some kind. Japan has been steadily increasing their domestic production of broilers and egg producing birds. Countries belonging to former Soviet Union have always been producing poultry and eggs and they are continuing to increase their output in order to meet demand. Other places such as China, Middle East and Africa are also increasing their production for poultry and poultry related products in order to meet demand.