Duck, Duck, Goose: Choosing the Right Farm Poultry

Read these poultry breed facts and tips to pick the right species of poultry for your farm.

| January 2018

An Introduction to Heritage Breeds (Storey, 2014) by The Livestock Conservancy explores the origins of livestock and poultry species and the benefits of having each species on your farm – or not having them. In this excerpt, they discuss the benefits of having chicken, ducks, or geese on farms, giving facts about each species to help you decide which species is best for your farm.

Which Species Is Right for You?

Each species of poultry has its own unique combination of physical and behavioral characteristics. That means that each has specific needs for environment, space, and physical support such as fences and barns. Take time to figure out which species most fits your budget, space, facilities, and interests.

Below we discuss the specific needs of each species, in order of size from smallest to largest. Just about anyone can manage the smallest species. As size increases, so does the complexity of managing and housing the animals.


Chickens are a good introductory poultry species for many beginners, with many breed options to appeal to a wide variety of tastes. Their prolificacy and short generation interval make them nearly ideal for learning the basics of selection and seeing the results quickly.

Size: Generally small, but variable. Bantams are as small as 1 pound; the largest Brahma roosters are up to 14 pounds.

Average life span: 5 to 7-plus years. (Phil Sponenberg’s grandmother had a pet hen that lived 23 years!)

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