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Poultry Production

Species & Breeds

Because the composition of Jeff and Cindy’s poultry flocks has been evolving as the farm business grows, a description of the numbers and types of birds they produce is necessarily a snapshot in time. For 2010, their production of laying hens (and males) is summarized in Table 2.

Jeff and Cindy chose Barred Plymouth Rocks because they forage well and lay well. Barred Plymouth Rocks lay large brown eggs, as do Buff Orpingtons, and both breeds do well in cold climates.

comparison of brown egg from Buff Orpington chicken and brown egg from Barred Rock chicken
As of 2011, however, Jeff and Cindy decided to discontinue production of Buff Orpingtons, because the hens tend to be broody and the roosters loud and aggressive toward younger birds when they are being integrated into the main flock. Ameraucanas are also hardy in winter; they lay medium-sized eggs that are blue, green, or turquoise two shades of green eggs from Ameracauna chickens

Jeff and Cindy mix eggs from the different breeds in their egg cartons and have found that customers love the variety of colors, especially around Easter.

basket of mixed colors of eggs: shades of green, blue, and brown

Table 2. Laying hen production in 2010


# Birds

How Acquired

Status at End of Season

Ameraucana hens


carried over from 20091

processed 9/27/10


hatched  on farm 9/28/101

carried over to 2011

Buff Orpington hens


carried over from 2009

processed 9/27/10

Buff Orpington males (for breeding)


purchased as day old chicks on 4/9/10

Barred Plymouth Rock hens


carried over to 2011

1For Ameraucana chicks hatched on the farm in 2010, the breeding male was carried over from 2009 along with the hens.

Ameracauna hen Buff Orpington hen Barred Plymouth Rock hen
Ameracauna hen Buff Orpington hen Barred Plymouth Rock hen

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Production of broilers and other poultry is summarized in Table 3. Cindy and Jeff raise Cornish Broilers for their fast growth rates and Red Broilers for their pasture foraging abilities and consequent flavor. They recognize there are trade-offs with their choice of broiler breeds; Red Broilers don’t grow as fast as Cornish, but Cornish Broilers are not good pasture foragers.

Like Cornish Broilers, Pekin ducks are the industry standard breed. Cindy and Jeff also liked how Pekin ducks grow much more quickly than other breeds and have white plumage, so there are no dark pin feathers on processed birds. Cindy and Jeff experimented with heritage turkey breeds in 2010, but were unhappy with their growth rates and finished sizes. In 2011, they switched to Broad-Breasted White turkeys and were very pleased with their growth rates and finished sizes as well as their easygoing disposition.

Table 3. Meat poultry production in 2010

Species (Breed)

# Birds

How Acquired

Processing Date

Chickens (Cornish Broilers1)


day old chicks on 6/11/10


Chickens (Red Broilers)



Ducks (Giant White Pekin)



Turkeys (mixed heritage breeds)2


day old poults on 7/23/10


1In 2009, Jeff and Cindy began raising only pullets of this breed, because of the higher mortality rates of males as they get older. In 2011, they planned to try raising males again and processing them at 6 weeks, instead of 8 weeks as they do for pullets.

2Cindy and Jeff don’t know which breeds they received; their understanding is that hatcheries sometimes offer “mixes” as a way to sell excess birds from a given breed. Cindy and Jeff believe their 2010 turkeys were mostly Bourbon Reds. See Heritage Turkeys and Game Birds for more information about regulations associated with wild turkeys.

5-week-old Cornish cross broiler chickens Red Broilers in Salatin-style pen
heritage breed young turkeys

Pekin ducks

Clockwise from top left: Cornish Broilers, Red Broilers, Pekin ducks, heritage turkeys.

Educator’s Perspective: Resource Tip

Heritage Turkeys & Game Birds

In Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources administers licensing of game farms. Some types of fowl used for meat production are classed as “game birds,” and farmers who raise them for sale are required to have a game farm license.

Eastern Wild Turkeys are classed as game birds. No other heritage breeds are considered game birds in Minnesota. The Broad-Breasted Bronze turkey has a similar appearance to Eastern Wild Turkey and in fact originated in the 1800s as a cross between Eastern Wild Turkey and European domestic turkeys; but the Broad-Breasted Bronze is not considered a “game bird” under Minnesota law.

Game birds, according to Minnesota Statute (M.S.) 97A.015 subd. 24, include: migratory waterfowl, ring-necked pheasant, ruffed grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, Canada spruce grouse, prairie chickens, gray partridge, bobwhite quail, wild turkeys, coots, gallinules, sora and Virginia rails, mourning dove, American woodcock, and common snipe. Note that turkeys other than wild turkeys, quail other than bobwhite quail, and pheasant other than ring-necked pheasant are not considered game birds.

Farmers can avoid game farm licensing and reporting requirements by raising species or varieties that are not classed as game birds. If a farmer does want to raise and sell game birds, however, here are the requirements:

  • Game birds must be purchased from a legal source, which is a licensed game farm.

  • Farmers need a game farm license if they plan to raise game birds to sell, breed, or keep longer than one year. “Selling” includes sale of live birds, birds processed for meat, or any parts of the birds.

  • Game farms need to keep the required records for ‘game birds.’ The recordkeeping and reporting that are required by the Minnesota DNR:

Sales receipt requirement.
For every sale or disposal of an animal, animal parts, or products, the game farm licensee must complete a sales receipt, provided by the commissioner, containing the following information:
A. name, address, and game farm license number of licensee
B. name and address of purchaser or person to whom sale or disposal is made
C. species, number, and kinds of animals, parts, or products sold or disposed of
D. identification numbers, if the animals sold or disposed of are marked with numbered tags, bands, or tattoos.

Routing of sales receipts.
The original sales receipt of a game farm animal must be mailed to the Division of Enforcement within 48 hours of completion of the transaction. A copy must be given to the purchaser at the time the transaction is made. A second copy must be retained by the licensee and be subject to inspection by the commissioner. A third copy must be submitted to the local conservation officer.

Individuals who do not have a game farm license can legally purchase game birds from a game farm, so long as they do not then sell those birds or keep them for longer than a year. Some feed and farm supply stores sell poultry and game bird chicks. Those stores are themselves licensed as game farms, and will require purchasers of game bird chicks to fill out a sales receipt and declare their intended use for the birds.

copy of Game Farm Sales Report form that is sent to the MN DNR

This is a copy of the Game Farm Sales Report form which an individual will receive if they purchase game birds from a game farm. A farmer selling live game birds or processed game birds for meat would be required to fill out this form for each transaction.

Further information about statutory requirements for game farms can be found in the Minnesota Statutes:

M.S. 97A.105 Game and Fur Farms

M.S. 97A.425 Record and Reporting Requirements for Dealers, Tanners, and Taxidermists

Information in this text box was provided by Julia Tayson and Pat Watts of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

A copy of the Game Farm Sales Report form was graciously provided by the L & M Supply Store in Grand Rapids, MN

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