Applied Poultry Science Professional Development Project - Phase II

2015 Annual Report for ENE14-131

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2014: $70,715.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Donna Coffin
UMaine Extension
Dr. Richard Brzozowski
University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Applied Poultry Science Professional Development Project - Phase II


In response to increasing consumer demand for local foods, many farm families have started or are very interested in integrating poultry enterprises in their operations to increase farm income.  Poultry are efficient converters of feed to meat or eggs, do not require much space and fit nicely as a complementary enterprise on many types of farms.

Agricultural service providers within Extension were recently surveyed in 2013 on the issue of poultry. Over 92% of the respondents felt they were not effectively serving poultry producers. Only one of the 40 respondents was confident in answering poultry related questions. At least 81% of the respondents were interested in gaining knowledge and skills in poultry science. 

This project will directly involve a minimum of 20 agriculture service providers in New England and poultry producers in the region as a secondarily audience. These service providers will come from a range of backgrounds and experiences related to agriculture, technology, education and service. Each service provider will have a solid history of working directly with farmers. Eligible project participants from the six New England states will submit an application to participate. Each applicant will have the written support of their immediate supervisor.

Participants will gain knowledge and skills in basic poultry science of egg production, meat production, nutrition, health, facilities, breed selection, biosecurity, processing, regulations, marketing, poultry business planning and management.   The project will also focus on the development of poultry-related educational materials. This project will involve an annual series of webinars and practical, hands-on training workshops.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Twenty (20) agricultural service providers in New England will provide technical assistance and economic and management advice to 100 farmers raising at total of approximately 50,000 poultry for meat or egg production, helping them enact management changes that improve production, poultry health, poultry nutrition, market development, sanitation and biosecurity, food safety, regulatory compliance, energy efficiency, and business management; these changes result in, on average, an additional $5,000 in income each year over the two-year period.


Twenty-three agriculture service providers, with representatives from all six New England states, submitted applications to participate in the professional development project in the summer of 2014. Applications were received electronically from personnel and categorized as follows: 11 Extension, 6 non-profit, 1 farmer, 5 state agency. As per state, the number of applications were as follows: 2 from Connecticut, 10 from Maine, 3 from Massachusetts, 4 from New Hampshire, 2 from Rhode Island, 2 from Vermont and 1 from Minnesota.

A project web site has been developed and is used to post information and tools for participants.

For the past year this website has had 4,129 page views.

Attachment 1: Analytics applied poultry science website

Milestone 1
Thirty (30) agricultural service providers will complete an online pretest in applied poultry science as a benchmark from which to measure growth and change in knowledge and skill levels.


Twenty-two individuals completed the pretest at the start of the 3-day poultry training in October 2014. The pretest was not administered online as previously planned but for logistical reasons was administered as a paper and pencil test. Four Extension poultry specialists, who comprise the instructor team for this project, submitted questions for the pretest. Since egg production is the focus in year-one of the project, all pretest questions pertained to eggs and egg-laying birds. This same test will be given in year-two of the project to determine a “snap shot” of knowledge gain. The pretest was completed by personnel as categorized as follows: 10 Extension, 6 non-profit, 1 farmer, 5 state agency. The pretest is attached. The average number of correct answers was 13 out of 20 or an average score of 64.


A post-test was administered in winter of 2015 to provide a “snap shot” of knowledge gained. Seven service providers completed this test and the results are attached. The average number of correct answers was 18 out of 20 or an average score of 89. This shows a 24% improvement in test scores.

Attachment 2: Applied Poultry Science Post-Test

Milestone 2
At least 20 agricultural service providers who participate in the project webinars, workshops, independent study and problem solving network will gain measurable knowledge and skills to assist sustainable poultry enterprises through efficient and well-designed educational programs.


  • A 3-day poultry science seminar was presented in Freeport, Maine from October 22-24, 2014. Twenty-three (23) agriculture service providers participated. The seminar included lectures, discussions, problem-solving activities and a hands-on activity of dissecting chickens. The seminar schedule is attached. An electronic survey of participants was performed to determine the usefulness of the seminar. When asked - As a whole, how useful was the training to you and your work as an agriculture service provider? Eighty-five percent (17 of 20 respondents) found the training “very useful”. One hundred percent said that the training provided them with a good start to the two-year professional development project. A summary report of the follow-up survey results is attached. To complement the seminar, participants were provided with a resource notebook, “The Virtual Chicken” dvd, the Chicken Health Handbook, an Eggcyclpedia and a curriculum notebook on eggs. The training was accomplished by personnel as categorized as follows: 11 Extension, 6 non-profit, 1 farmer, 5 state agency.
  • In the two months following the seminar, two 60-minute webinars were presented through the online educational presence “eXtension”. Dr. Kenneth Anderson of North Carolina State University presented a webinar on egg production systems on November 12. Based on an informal registration at the time of the event, this webinar was attended by personnel as categorized as follows: 7 Extension, 3 non-profit, 7 farmers, 2 state agency. Dr. Paul Patterson from Pennsylvania State University presented a webinar on feeds & feeding of pullets and layers on December 10. Based on an informal registration at the time of the, this webinar was attended by personnel as categorized as follows: 10 Extension, 5 non-profit, 23 farmers. These webinars were designed for agriculture service providers but were promoted across the country and open to any interested individual. The webinars were archived for repeated viewing.


  • Webinars: Three more sessions on egg production were presented through 60-minute “eXtension” webinars. Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky presented a session on Quality Eggs from Different Production Systems. Dr. Michael Darre, University of Connecticut presented a session on Health Concerns for Egg Layers and another on Managing Egg Laying Flocks. These sessions were viewed by 676 people. Also, a more extensive poultry health webinar series was presented in the first quarter of the year with the following topics: Problems with the digestive system, Problems with the respiratory system, Problems with the skeletal system and Immune system and vaccination programs for poultry flocks. An additional 252 folks viewed these sessions for a total of 928 folks accessed these webinars.
  • Due to the emerging threat of Avian Influenza additional webinars on Avian Influenza and the Backyard Flock and Biosecurity and the Backyard Flock were added.
  • On-site Training: A 3-day poultry science seminar was presented in Freeport, Maine from October 21-23, 2015. Nineteen (19) agriculture service providers participated. The seminar included lectures, discussions, problem-solving activities and tour of a poultry processing plant. The seminar schedule is attached. An electronic survey of participants was performed to determine the usefulness of the seminar. When asked - As a whole, how useful was the training to you and your work as an agriculture service provider? (64% -very useful, 18% - useful, 18% somewhat useful.) The training was accomplished by personnel as categorized as follows: 9 Extension, 5 non-profit, 5 state agency.

Attachment 3: 2015 APS Meeting Agenda

Attachment 4: 2015 APS Meeting Evaluation

Attachment 5: 2015 APS SARE Trainees Photo

Attachment 6: Poultry Processing Article in November Central Maine Farming Newsletter

Future Plans:

  • The 5-part webinar series for meat production is scheduled for the first Wednesday of each month, at 11:30 AM.

    • January 6 - Raising chickens for meat production
    • February 3 – Raising ducks for meat production
    • March 2 – Raising geese
    • April 6 – Overview of poultry-related equipment

  • A fall 2016 training session is planned to cover regulatory and marketing issues including understanding NPIP, organic vs. conventional practices, inspection process, alternative markets, ethnic markets and alternative products, economics and app development, as well as an over view of HACCP rules.

Milestone 3
At least 20 agricultural service providers will each design, adapt or create educational materials for poultry producers. Team leaders as well as other project participants will review these educational materials.


To date, three poultry-related fact sheets and one scholarly article were developed by team members.


Since the last report:

  • Four poultry-related fact sheets have been developed by team members including one that was developed by all 19 team members during the October training session.
  • Nine team members have presented a total of 29 programs to 569 poultry producers based on PowerPoint presentations they developed or adapted. Also, 1200 youth attended a field day session on poultry.
  • Sixteen team members discussed poultry management topics with 549 individuals to assist with care, health, housing, watering or marketing issues.
  • A 5-session webinar series on Egg Production was aired and archived through with a total of 676 views and a related series on Poultry Health had 252 views. Due to the type of sign in system the participants could not be categorized by was assumed to include APS team members, other agriculture service providers and farmers.

Milestone 4
At least 20 agricultural service providers will learn about poultry anatomy by dissecting a chicken. In teams of 2 and 3 individuals, participants will dissect a chicken to learn about disease, parts & functions, the digestive tract and the reproductive tract.


On the morning of Thursday, October 23, project participants traveled to a nearby farm in Freeport, Maine and learned about poultry anatomy and physiology. University of Connecticut Extension Poultry Specialist, Dr. Michael Darre served as the lead instructor. Working in teams, participants learned how to properly catch, handle, restrain, humanely euthanize and dissect chickens. The protocol for handling and euthanizing the birds for this educational activity was approved by the Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee (IACUC) at the University of Maine. Personnel as categorized as follows took part in developing educational materials in 2014: 10 Extension, 6 non-profit, 1 farmer, 5 state agency.

Milestone 5
At least 20 agricultural service providers will actively participate in the poultry problem-solving network to strengthen and apply their knowledge of poultry science. Participants will actively solve poultry-related problems by asking probing questions and gathering facts. Team leaders will help direct questions for self-discovery.


Soon after the October 2014 seminar wrapped up, a list serve email group of project participants was established. Participants from Phase I of this professional development project were also invited to continue with the list serve. To date, 38 agriculture service providers are members of this list serve. Personnel as categorized as follows took part in problem-solving in 2014: 19 Extension, 7 non-profit, 3 farmers, 7 state agency and 2 industry.


  • The list serve email group set up through Google groups had 107 topics shared with the 38 members (which include the agriculture service providers attending the training sessions.) Topics included new resources, upcoming webinars and online courses as well as a forum to respond to questions and concerns. The majority of the topics were focused on the progression of Highly Pathogenic H5N2 Avian Influenza across the country and what small-scale poultry producers could do to reduce their risk. Archived topics can be viewed at!forum/poultry.newengland
  • Members were encouraged to conduct self-study assignments including an assignment to research information on a poultry disease. One service provider has reported to have completed this assignment.

Milestone 6
Each agricultural service provider will work directly with five farmers per year with an existing or planned poultry enterprise. Participating farmers will be asked to provide production results and basic income statements via online reporting for the respective poultry enterprises to compare performance with similar enterprises. Case studies of participating farms will be assembled for educational purposes. Using the verification template, participants will gather data from the producers with whom they are working. Project team leaders will assist as needed.


  • To date participants have not reported any work with farmers in their respective states.
  • Applied Poultry Science Training Feedback Survey – October 2014


  • This past year seventeen service providers have conduced 29 programs presented to 1,769 individuals and consulted with an additional 549 individuals about poultry care. A total of 2,318 individuals learned more about keeping poultry. Those who keep birds had an estimated 94,046 birds and as a result of meetings and/or individual consultations with Applied Poultry Science trained staff, growers had an estimated increase in revenue of $454,886. [1] Personnel is categorized as following took part in these client contacts in 2015: 8 Extension, 2 non-profit, 1 farmer, and 6 state agency.
  • Specific examples include

    • Over the course of 18 months prior to October 2014, a little more than 20 of backyard farms culled their birds due to an infectious or contagious disease. In the last year, there was 1. So about 20 fewer farms had total losses due to improved biosecurity. With an average flock size of about 30 mature birds, it is estimated that a total of $40,000 ($20,000 per 20 farms that were total losses in a normal year.) Also, $34,000 in increased revenue estimated to be realized by 68 farms due to on-farm visits and/or discussions on health and biosecurity from APS trained staff. Total increased revenue for all birds was $21/bird.
    • Diagnostic information from the University of Maine Animal Health Lab was provided for 6,400 avian samples during 2014-2015. The majority were serum and environmental tests for salmonella (SE) and other common infectious diseases of chickens. As a result of this testing no SE has been detected in Maine poultry businesses since 2009. During the 2014-5, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) swept through the United States, the UMAHL provided information to producers through webinar, blog and workshops to prevent the spread of this disease. Testing for AI was provided by collaboration with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. To date, no HPAI has been detected in the Northeast.
    • One of the producers we worked with and provided training to was able to secure his state slaughter license from DPH and successfully use the Mobile Poultry Processing Unit this year to process over 300 birds for direct sale to consumers, resulting in new economic returns of $9,000.
    • Workshop/program topics included:

      • Backyard Poultry - Poultry breeds, housing, health, and nutrition for small-scale meat and egg producers. Post class evaluation indicated participants plan to make changes based on what they learned: 38% in one week, 5% in one month, 38% in one year and 19% did not plan to make any changes. So 81% of folks plan to make changes based on what they learned.
      • Getting started with chickens – flock management, breed selection, flock health, biosecurity and marketing eggs presented to farmers, 4-H members and the general public.
      • Backyard chicken basics
      • Chicken talks – basic husbandry, care of laying flock, pasture vs confinement of chickens, all about ducks, geese and turkeys; lighting the flock in winter, molting, nutrition, predator control, parasites (internal and external) and control, brooding, choosing birds, egg handling and safety, common disorders and diseases, carcass condemnation, and butchering.
      • Poultry Processing
      • Egg grading

    • Mailing topics included:

      • Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza out break updates


  • Establish a series of PowerPoint presentations on poultry care that others can use to present programs to clients.

Attachment 7: Backyard Poultry Post Class Evaluation Results


[1] When no actual financial impact was available, assumed 81% of clients contacted will make changes in their poultry care based on Backyard Poultry Post Class evaluation by poultry clientele. The financial impact from changes in poultry care was estimated at $5/bird. This increase could reasonably be expected if producers changed just one thing (ie. switched to nipple waterers from bucket waterers that would prevent bedding from getting wet which leads to decreased bedding costs and decreased losses from disease due to moist environment.) Actual financial impact would be much greater due to continued laying of birds not lost to disease.


Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes


  • The following journal article and poultry-related fact sheets are either under review or were published between October 2014 and December 2014:
  • Coordinating Effective Professional Development Projects – published in the Journal of NACAA December 2014
  • Selling Eggs in Maine – revised, reviewed and published by the University of Maine;
  • Winter Care of Your Laying Hens - revised, reviewed and published by the University of Maine;
  • The Pros and Cons of Poultry Swaps – under review (published in 2015)
  • Applied Poultry Science Pretest 2014
  • Applied Poultry Science Beneficiary Form 2014


Attachment 8: Working Draft APS Survey

Attachment 9: Applied Poultry Science Beneficiary Form 2015

Attachment 10: 2015 Applied Poultry Science Training Evaluation Form

Attachment 11: Cumulative Milestone Accomplishment Table