Search for Excellence in Livestock Production

Robyn Stewart
County Extension Coordinator
University of Georgia

Stewart, R.*1, , McCann, Z.2, , Ritz, C.3, , Dunkley, C4,
1 County Extension Coordinator, University of Georgia, Lincolnton, GA, 30817
2 Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, University of Georgia, Homer, GA, 30547
3 Poultry Specialist, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, 30602
4 Poultry Specialist, University of Georgia, Tifton, GA, 31793

In the United States from 2012 to 2017, there was a 16% increase in number of hobby flocks and 20% increase in number of backyard laying hens, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Backyard flock owners often lack essential knowledge and experience in poultry husbandry. The objective of this program was to develop and deliver hobby flock education to small flock owners. Two independent programs were held in 2020 to target hobby flock owners with educational opportunities. A four-week seminar series was developed and presented locally in Lincoln County, Georgia, followed by a five-week webinar series presented via Zoom. Lecture topics including but not limited to flock housing, nutrition, and bird health were presented by University of Georgia Extension Agents and Poultry Specialists. Seventeen residents attended the in-person program and the webinar series had 141 registrants from 10 states and 2 countries, with an average attendance of 40 individuals per session. All participants indicated an increase in knowledge across all topics. The virtual series was evaluated as excellent 70% of the time, with respondents indicating they learned something new in 95% of the sessions Ninety eight percent of participants intended to use the materials from the program in their operation. Six months after the program, participants were surveyed to determine resulting behavior changes and economic benefits. All respondents (n=23) indicated changing behaviors as a result of the series. Changes included improving coop design (35%), altering feeding programs (27%) and taking steps to improve bird health through biosecurity and vaccinations (13%). As a result of these behavioral changes, respondents reported increased productivity of meat and eggs (36%), reduced feed, health care, and replacement bird expenses (29%), decreased bird mortality (21%) and increased profit from meat and egg sales (7%).