Activities with fowls

Information about the approved activities that may be carried out using fowls in schools.

Fowls – introduction to activities

As required by the Animal Research Act, the Schools Animal Care and Ethics Committee have prepared a list of approved activities. These activities are those that may need to be carried out in the school setting and have been deemed appropriate, when carried out by a person with the appropriate skill and experience and educationally justified.

The activities have been organised into categories 1-5. The category reflects the potential impact on the animal and requires a greater justification and expertise of those carrying out the activity. Visit Categories of activities for further explanation.

Taking measurements from fowls.

Fowls – non-invasive measurement

Approved activities Category
body weight 2
growth 2
body proportions 2
pulse or bloodflow 2
respiration 2
temperature (non-invasive) 2
mild dietary effects — high/normal protein 3
mild dietary effects — high/normal energy 3
mild dietary effects — high/normal fat 3
palatability 3

Any feeding trial must provide the normal nutritional needs for the stage of growth/production of the bird(s). The trial period must not be longer than is necessary to achieve a clearly observable result.

Measuring body weight

Only birds accustomed to being handled should be used for measurement of body weight.

Young birds can be weighed directly on a triple beam balance. Older birds may need to be restrained in a cardboard box. (Weight of box can be subtracted from final weight).

For growers and adult birds a spring balance with a suitable scale is required for weighing. A small loop of rope can be attached to the shank of both legs and connected to the balance. Ensure the bird’s head is kept down to avoid flapping. Readings should be taken as quickly as possible and the bird returned to its normal position to avoid prolonged stress.

Weighing and recording provides an example of how this activity can be completed in the school environment.

Measuring growth

Growth is measured by body weight changes. Recording regular measurements of weight can give an accurate measure of a bird’s growth. Growth can also be shown by photographing or drawing a bird against an appropriate background scale.

Measuring body proportions

Two handlers are required for the measurement of body proportions. One handler is required to restrain the bird while the other measures. Do not distort a bird excessively to take measurements of body parts. A soft plastic tape measure can be used to measure different body parts of the animal.

Measuring pulse/blood flow

Due to birds very high pulse rate, pulse rate is difficult to measure and a stethoscope is required. One handler should restrain the bird while a second handler measures the pulse.


This can be measured by observing birds in warmer weather conditions as indications of respiration become more obvious. Observe and record a bird with its beak naturally open and tongue moving, recording the number of tongue movements.


Restrain a bird by the hand and arm method and insert a clinical thermometer into the vent or cloaca. Slide the thermometer in carefully and wash after each bird. Warm the thermometer in cold weather.

Measurement of mild dietary effects

A variation in diet can be achieved by using commercially prepared foods which use a different formula than the usual one provided. Any variation in the diet should be an enhancement to, rather than deprivation of, the diet. The minimum level of protein, energy or fat selected for the trial must be the minimum acceptable for the life stage of the particular bird type. The trial period should not be longer than is necessary to achieve a clearly observable result. Ten to fourteen days is sufficient for young birds, after which the birds should be returned to their normal diet.

Where comparative food trials are being undertaken, no less than the minimum protein levels should be fed to birds. The maximum amount of protein permitted is 20% above the minimum levels.

Schools should not keep broilers for more than 10 weeks. After this period, the likelihood of stress fractures and broken legs increases.


For adult birds, use a variety of commercially prepared layer pellets and mash, ensuring a plentiful supply of clean fresh water. Observe two adult birds in separate pens and record the food selection of the birds.

Collecting samples from livestock.

Fowls – collection of samples

Approved activities Category
3. Faeces (non-invasive) 2

For collection of faeces, place the bird in wire-floored pen, elevated off the ground, so that faeces can be collected. Do not force faeces from a bird.

Fowl husbandry practices.

Fowls – husbandry

The practices of dubbing and beak trimming to poultry are prohibited in schools.

Beak trimming

Beak trimming is a practice carried out when birds are kept in intensive conditions to reduce the chance of injury when birds peck at other birds. As schools are no longer permitted to keep hens in battery cages, without SACEC written permission, the need for beak trimming is reduced. The incidences of pecking should be managed by appropriate penning in more extensive systems.


Dubbing is carried out most commonly to male birds of Old English Game, Modern Game and Australian Pit Game breeds, where the birds are shown. The SACEC has decided that the practice is outdated, unnecessary and inhumane and has prohibited it from being carried out in schools. Schools are encouraged to keep and show other breeds of poultry.

Wing clipping

Wing clipping involves trimming the primary feathers of adult birds’ wings to prevent them from flying. Sharp shears can be used to trim off ONLY the first ten flight feathers of ONE wing. This causes the bird to lack adequate balance to be able to fly. A very experienced person should only carry out this procedure and inexperienced students should never do it unassisted as incorrect wing clipping can result in pain and severe injury to the bird. Wing clipping will allow birds to be kept in a pen or run without a roof, as they will not be able to fly out.

Image: Wing clipping involves trimming the primary feathers of adult birds’ wings to prevent them from flying.

Leg banding

Leg bands can be used for identification of birds. The school farm may use different coloured leg bands to identify birds born each year. Leg bands must be check regularly and loosened appropriately or removed if they begin to become too tight. Legs bands that become too tight can cause pain and severe injury to birds.

Spur trimming

The spurs on roosters may need to be trimmed if they become long and begin to affect the rooster's gait or are long enough to cause injury in the event of an attack. The rooster needs to be restrained by one person with another using sharp shears or clippers to take the point and desired length from the spur. Care should be taken to only remove the end section that does not have a blood supply.

Fowl breeding activities.

Fowls – breeding

Approved activities Category
27. Artificial insemination 5
28. Semen collection 5

The activity of removing a fertilised egg from the shell, with the purpose of incubating it within an artificial surround, e.g. plastic film wrap, is prohibited.

The holding of fertilised eggs over 10 days old with the intention of disposing of them prior to hatching is not permitted.

Semen collection and artificial insemination in poultry requires skill and experience. If the teacher or farm assistant wishes to demonstrate the collection of semen and/or artificial insemination to students, they must first seek approval from the SACEC to demonstrate these category five activities. This approval is conditional upon the operator being able to demonstrate appropriate qualifications and experience. Application is made by completion of Application form 4 and submission to the Schools Animal Welfare Officer.

Raising chickens

Although hens have the natural ability to become broody, hatch their eggs and raise their chickens, it is common practice to take the fertilised eggs away and hatch them using an incubator, raising the chickens by hand. This method ensures much higher success rates and an increased production level.

Image: Hens have the natural ability to become broody, hatch their eggs and raise their chickens.

While this is done for production purposes, many schools also choose to hatch and raise chickens by hand to provide students with an opportunity to observe the process and learn to raise and care for a baby animal.

Image: The period from hatching until the chickens no longer require supplementary heat is called the ‘brooding period’ and usually lasts for 3–6 weeks.

Hen eggs take from 19 to 21 days to hatch depending on the breed of the bird. Eggs are placed in an incubator, which keeps the eggs warm, at a suitable level of humidity and rotates them as the mother hen would turn her eggs to ensure warmth all over. The period from hatching until the chickens no longer require supplementary heat is called the ‘brooding period’ and usually lasts for 3–6 weeks. Chickens need supplementary heat when they first hatch, because they are unable to maintain their body temperatures. The heat can be supplied by a broody hen or when being hand raised, with a heat lamp.

Chick hatching programs

There are commercial companies that provide a clutch of fertile eggs, the necessary equipment to hatch and brood the eggs and information to support the activity within a school, in return for a fee.

Before engaging with a such a program, teachers need to consider the purpose, planning and management of these programs. Below are some questions to assist with this consideration:

  • What is the purpose of the chick hatching program for your students. Consider the curriculum links and where it will be used in your teaching and learning programs. You may wish to visit Educational justification.
  • What knowledge do you have about the care and management of chicks for their early days of life? You may find the information at Small scale poultry keeping – brooding and rearing chickens and Fowls – environment helpful.
  • Do you feel comfortable handling poultry and young chicks? Further information can be found at Fowls – handling.
  • How will the chicks be monitored over the weekend? Animal welfare legislation states that animals used for teaching must be monitored on a day to day basis.
  • What have you done to prepare your students for participation in the chick hatching program? You may need to consider that some students may be fearful of birds.
  • Have you considered alternatives to using live animals to meet the educational outcomes?
  • Have you considered the fate of the chicks hatched in this program, including the rooster chicks?
  • What biosecurity measures do you have in place around the chick hatching program? You may need to consider alternative activities for any student that lives on a poultry farm or has a parent working on a poultry farm.
  • If a chick dies during the time the time the program is running, what procedures do you have in place to manage the occurrence? This may include disposal and discussions with the students.
Image: Eggs are placed in an incubator, which keeps the eggs warm, at a suitable level of humidity and rotates them as the mother hen would turn her eggs to ensure warmth all over.

Humane treatment of sick, diseased and injured animals.

Fowls – euthanasia

Approved activities Category
Slaughter/euthanasia of stock 5

Where an animal has become so sick, diseased or injured that recovery is unlikely or undesirable on humane grounds, euthanasia must be arranged with a local veterinarian.

Students are permitted to watch a post-mortem of an animal provided there is no disease risk posed. They may also watch a dissection of an individual bird that has been euthanased by the teacher or farm assistant, not in the presence of students.

Humane killing of animals must not be demonstrated to, or carried out by, students unless it is required:

  • To achieve a curriculum outcome or competency, or
  • As part of veterinary clinical management of an animal, under the direction of a veterinarian.

In the case that the demonstration of euthanasia is justified, on the above grounds, the teacher or farm assistant must seek written approval from the SACEC prior to the demonstration. Application is made by completion of Application form 4 and submission to the Schools Animal Welfare Officer.


Fowls may be sold privately, at auction or consigned to an abattoir.

Carcases must be disposed of in accordance with local council regulations.

It is illegal to kill any animal and sell the meat for human consumption unless it has been slaughtered and prepared in a licensed processing facility.

Keeping clear and accurate records.

Fowls – record keeping

Teachers who use animals must keep clear and accurate records of:

  • The number of birds owned or kept at the school
  • Identification of individual show animals
  • The dates and sources of acquisition of each show animal or group of birds
  • Disposal details and dates for each show animal or group of birds
  • Complete breeding records
  • The dates and types of husbandry practices carried out
  • The name, dosage, batch number, expiry date, withholding period and dates of any chemicals administered
  • Any accident, illness or injury involving school poultry and the veterinary treatment provided (if required)
  • Any significant occurrences that adversely affect the welfare of school animals, such as vandalism, dog attack, outbreak of disease etc.

The type and format of the records maintained will vary from school to school and be dependent on the number of animals kept, number of staff involved in maintaining the records and the layout and location of the school farm.

The minimum requirement is a daily diary that is accessible to all staff involved in the care and use of the animals.

Where there are several staff members involved in the care of animals it is essential that there is a mechanism for each staff member to document notes about the general health status of school animals and that these notes are available to all other staff members who may be involved in animal care.

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