Whether it’s a Thanksgiving turkey, scrambled eggs for breakfast, or a roast chicken for Sunday dinner, humans use poultry for many occasions. Poultry is defined as domesticated birds used for their meat, eggs, and feathers. We typically automatically think of chickens and turkeys but there are several other types of poultry birds often underutilized. Discover seven birds kept on poultry farms and learn about their uses.
Chickens account for over 94% of the world’s poultry population. We use meat and eggs from chickens more than any other bird on earth, making them one of the most abundant birds in the world. These birds are an excellent lean source of meat, and they are great egg producers. But people also use chickens for fertilizer, lawn maintenance, and pest control. These birds readily eat weeds and pest species, like ticks and caterpillars. Most farm animals need plenty of space to roam, but chickens are popular because they don’t need as much room. Many people keep these birds in their backyards. However, there are some drawbacks to raising chickens. Be sure to check your city’s zoning laws.
Domestic turkeys are large fowl native to North America. They belong to the same order as chickens and are another popular form of poultry, especially in the United States. However, wild turkeys are different from domestic turkeys. Many you find on farms are selectively bred to produce the most amount of meat in the shortest amount of time. And while people keep turkeys for meat and eggs, some like to keep them around as pets. Turkeys are curious and have unique personalities, making them a worthy addition to a small homestead.
Ducks are also raised for meat and egg production. But people also use them for pest control, hen protection, and ornamentals for their ponds. These birds don’t do well in large-scale agricultural processes, so we don’t see many duck options in U.S. grocery stores. However, countries like China, Viet Nam, and France consume significant amounts of duck. Duck meat is rich in iron and copper, but it’s not as lean and easy on the stomach as chicken.
The goose is not as common on farms as chickens, turkeys, and ducks, but they still fall within the farm animal and poultry category. These birds have been domesticated for centuries and make an excellent addition to farms and homesteads. They are excellent foragers, weeders, and guard animals. But you can also use them for meat or down. Goose meat is fatty and dark, and many people describe it as tasting more like beef than chicken. Additionally, their feathers provide fluffy material for blankets, pillows, jackets, and gloves. Interestingly, these birds are great guards for chicken coops. They may not be able to fend off predators, but they can alert farmers to intruders with their constant, unrelenting call.
Pheasants are often mistaken for wild chickens, and while they appear similar, they are a separate species. Pheasants are game birds, meaning they are typically produced for hunting and meat consumption. Their meat is very lean and white, similar to that of a chicken. But it actually has more protein, less cholesterol, and less fat than chicken and turkey meat. Many farmers raise these birds for consumption and to introduce them into the wild for hunting.
Many people keep quail as a substitute for chickens because they are easier to process and have a similar taste. Their meat is tender and flavorful, though slightly gamey. However, they are more expensive to raise and are smaller birds, so they don’t yield as much meat as other poultry. The most common reason for raising quail is to produce meat and eggs, but some people also breed them for training hunting dogs.
Guineas are related to pheasants and are used as domestic poultry. Guineafowls are popular on farms and homesteads because they keep down pest populations like ticks and slugs. They are also known for attacking snakes! But you can also process guineas for their meat and eggs. Consumers describe guineafowl as tasting similar to pheasant meat.
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