Whether your ambition is to pursue a career in the poultry industry or raise a few backyard hens, there are college classes to meet your needs. Many colleges offer courses related to poultry production, and some schools offer a poultry science major. Due to the declining number of family farms and the growth of corporate farming, more job opportunities exist in agribusiness management than in small-scale farming, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, if you wish to be a farmer, you could start an organic farm to meet the small but growing market for organic eggs and free-roaming chickens, as suggested by CNN.
Course of Study
The College Board suggests that high school classes in biology, chemistry, accounting and business are helpful preparation for chicken farming, which is called poultry science in higher education. Most farmers and agriculture managers have a high school diploma, although the BLS reports that a growing number of farmers hold a bachelor’s degree in agriculture to help them manage the complexities of modern-day farming. Advanced degrees in poultry science are available for those seeking positions in research or top management.
Community College Classes
A two-year associate degree in poultry science is a pathway to an entry-level management job in the poultry business. Courses are vocationally oriented and focused on the principles of chicken farming. For example, students at Modesto Junior College in California take classes in agribusiness, basic accounting and computers along with 12 credit hours of poultry science. Similarly, Sampson Community College in North Carolina offers an associate degree in poultry science. SCC students wanting a shorter program can earn a poultry science diploma or certificate. Students at Wallace State Community College in Alabama who are majoring in poultry science can smoothly transfer to Auburn University to complete a bachelor’s degree in poultry science as part of a formal transfer agreement between the two schools.
A bachelor's degree in poultry science can lead to an agribusiness career with opportunities for advancement. General education classes typically include math, biology, chemistry, English and government, which provide a foundation for understanding the science and business aspects of the poultry industry. At Texas A&M, poultry science majors also study avian anatomy and physiology, meat production, poultry processing, nutrition, bacteriology, health codes, animal waste management, genetics, consumer trends, marketing and computer technology. The curriculum is similar for students majoring in poultry science at Stephen F. Austin University, Mississippi State University and Delaware State University. Students enrolled in animal science classes at the University of Iowa can attend hands-on classes at the UI research farm to learn about exotic breeds of chickens, principles of poultry care and feed-mill operations.
Students from different states can earn 18 college credits in poultry science over a 12-week period by participating in a summer program sponsored by the Midwest Poultry Consortium in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Classes cover the effects of nutrition on egg development, physiology of reproduction, hatchery operations, disease prevention, infection control, computer formulation of chicken feed and distribution of products in the marketplace. In a laboratory setting, students work with embryos, eggs and chickens.
Cornell University Extension is among the schools that offer online poultry classes. Cornell's six-week course covers poultry breeds, living quarters, equipment, egg incubation, selection of feed, common diseases, record keeping, food-borne illness, government regulations and production. Students at Redlands Community College in Oklahoma who do not have access to poultry can study virtual chickens and participate in simulated lab exercises developed by Auburn University. Simulated tours guided by scientists provide online students at RCC with an understanding of hatcheries and processing facilities.
Students can earn a master’s degree or a doctor of philosophy degree in poultry science from schools with well-established agricultural programs, such as the University of Arkansas or the University of Georgia. Graduate-level courses are rigorous and cover such topics as poultry management systems, egg and meat technology, biochemical nutrition, pathogens and vitamin deficiencies. Purdue University offers a doctorate in avian biotechnology with courses in genetics, nutrition and reproductive functioning. A strong math and science background is required for research proficiency.