A poultry farmer raises chickens, ducks or turkeys and their eggs for sale to wholesale and retail buyers. She may sell only eggs or only the poultry for food. A farmer in this professional may also only breed and sell poultry that is used strictly for egg production.
Poultry farms are commonly owned and operated by individuals or families. The remainder are often corporately owned and operated by professional poultry farmers. The latter have frequently been formally trained and schooled in poultry production techniques.
Commercially owned farms often employ farm managers to oversee the daily operations and supervise workers in the care and feeding of the poultry. On family farms, all these tasks are normally performed by the family members. If a farming family has a contract with a corporate poultry or egg production company, they may only be permitted to use the chicks and feed provided by that company.
Poultry farmers under contract with commercial producers are also commonly bound to sell their eggs and chickens exclusively to that company. Independent family farmers typically sell their eggs and poultry on the open market to the highest bidder. They frequently make deals with retailers who agree to buy both their eggs and poultry from them and no one else.
Fresh egg processing is generally a time-consuming process that demands excellent attention to detail. Almost immediately after the chickens have laid their eggs, the poultry farmer collects them for washing. She carefully places them on a conveyor belt rack and they are run through an automatic washing process.
To determine its viability and stability of the yolk, each egg is held against a bright light to examine its interior. If it looks healthy, the egg is rolled down a ramp with dozens of others to be automatically sorted into sizes and grades. At this point, the eggs are crated and refrigerated by the poultry farmer in preparation for their trip to market.
A poultry farmer may choose to market chicks instead of eggs or fully-grown birds. In this case, the eggs are generally hatched in trays inside incubators. The incubators imitate the moisture and warmth of hens’ undersides and cause the eggs to hatch. This process is generally more efficient than waiting for the hens to hatch them.
There are no formal educational requirements to become a poultry farmer. Many people who choose this profession gain knowledge and experience through working on poultry farms while they are still in high school, or by working on their family's farm. Many colleges, technical institutes and universities offer classes on poultry and animal husbandry or farm management. This training is generally considered helpful in contributing to the success of a poultry farmer.