What Does a Poultry Scientist Do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A poultry scientist works with domesticated fowl and some game birds. Employment opportunities can include the areas of industrial agriculture, pharmaceutical development, and marketing. Some people in this field research topics like backyard flocks, hobbyist poultry, and the development of new strains of show birds displayed at exhibitions and similar events. Degrees in poultry or animal science are available through numerous colleges and universities, along with research opportunities in the field.

A poultry scientist studies chickens and other domesticated fowl.
A poultry scientist studies chickens and other domesticated fowl.

Some poultry scientists work directly with flocks. They assist farmers and food production companies in the development, maintenance, and processing of flocks raised for eggs and meat. Facility design, implementation of feeding programs, and creation of new poultry products are also aspects of poultry science. Animal welfare assessments and inspections of individual birds to determine if they are fit for market may be part of the work for a poultry scientist. When problems like diseases arise, the poultry scientist works with veterinarians and others to resolve the issue and preserve the flock.

A poultry scientist may study silkie chickens.
A poultry scientist may study silkie chickens.

Genetics is also a topic of interest for poultry scientists, who may use traditional breeding and genetic engineering to develop birds with desired traits. These can include rapid maturity, heavy muscle development to increase the yield per bird, and so forth. Work on animal genetics can also include the breeding of more hardy, robust specimens for commercial production.

Slaughtering, processing, and grading meat also falls under this career. Researchers may develop more efficient and safe processing techniques to protect workers and keep the meat safe for use. Others may be interested in care and feeding practices, and the development of products for poultry farmers to improve outcomes. These poultry scientists may work for feed and pharmaceutical companies to meet the needs of the industry.

While much of the work in this field takes place in the industrial agriculture sector, there are other pursuits for a poultry scientist. Some may work on the identification and conservation of rare breeds, including heritage birds. Others may be interested in aesthetic genetics and the breeding of unusual-looking birds for hobbyists and people who show poultry.

Public outreach and education for people with an interest in backyard flocks is another potential career for a poultry scientist. This can include activities like working with government officials to develop appropriate regional regulations for poultry keeping or individual consultations with people who want to start raising chickens, ducks, geese, and other birds. Education for members of the public who want to slaughter and process their own birds may be another aspect of the job.

Some poultry researchers work to develop safe processing techniques.
Some poultry researchers work to develop safe processing techniques.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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