Poultry also includes other birds that are killed for their meat, such as the young of pigeons (known as squabs) but does not include similar wild birds hunted for sport or food and known as game. The word "poultry" comes from the French/Norman word poule, itself derived from the Latin word pullus, which means small animal.
Since their domestication, a large number of breeds of chickens have been established, but with the exception of the white Leghorn, most commercial birds are of hybrid origin. In about 1800, chickens began to be kept on a larger scale, and modern high-output poultry farms were present in the United Kingdom from around 1920 and became established in the United States soon after the Second World War. By the mid-20th century, the poultry meat-producing industry was of greater importance than the egg-laying industry. Poultry breeding has produced breeds and strains to fulfil different needs; light-framed, egg-laying birds that can produce 300 eggs a year; fast-growing, fleshy birds destined for consumption at a young age, and utility birds which produce both an acceptable number of eggs and a well-fleshed carcase. Male birds are unwanted in the egg-laying industry and can often be identified as soon as they are hatch for subsequent culling. In meat breeds, these birds are sometimes castrated (often chemically) to prevent aggression. The resulting bird, called a capon, has more tender and flavorful meat, as well.
Domestic geese are much larger than their wild counterparts and tend to have thick necks, an upright posture, and large bodies with broad rear ends. The greylag-derived birds are large and fleshy and used for meat, while the Chinese geese have smaller frames and are mainly used for egg production. The fine down of both is valued for use in pillows and padded garments. They forage on grass and weeds, supplementing this with small invertebrates, and one of the attractions of rearing geese is their ability to grow and thrive on a grass-based system. They are very gregarious and have good memories and can be allowed to roam widely in the knowledge that they will return home by dusk. The Chinese goose is more aggressive and noisy than other geese and can be used as a guard animal to warn of intruders. The flesh of meat geese is dark-coloured and high in protein, but they deposit fat subcutaneously, although this fat contains mostly monounsaturated fatty acids. The birds are killed either around 10 or about 24 weeks. Between these ages, problems with dressing the carcase occur because of the presence of developing pin feathers.
In free-range husbandry, the birds can roam freely outdoors for at least part of the day. Often, this is in large enclosures, but the birds have access to natural conditions and can exhibit their normal behaviours. A more intensive system is yarding, in which the birds have access to a fenced yard and poultry house at a higher stocking rate. Poultry can also be kept in a barn system, with no access to the open air, but with the ability to move around freely inside the building. The most intensive system for egg-laying chickens is battery cages, often set in multiple tiers. In these, several birds share a small cage which restricts their ability to move around and behave in a normal manner. The eggs are laid on the floor of the cage and roll into troughs outside for ease of collection. Battery cages for hens have been illegal in the EU since January 1, 2012.
In many countries, national and regional poultry shows are held where enthusiasts exhibit their birds which are judged on certain phenotypical breed traits as specified by their respective breed standards. The idea of poultry exhibition may have originated after cockfighting was made illegal, as a way of maintaining a competitive element in poultry husbandry. Breed standards were drawn up for egg-laying, meat-type, and purely ornamental birds, aiming for uniformity. Sometimes, poultry shows are part of general livestock shows, and sometimes they are separate events such as the annual "National Championship Show" in the United Kingdom organised by the Poultry Club of Great Britain.
In general, avian influenza is a disease of birds caused by bird-specific influenza A virus that is not normally transferred to people; however, people in contact with live poultry are at the greatest risk of becoming infected with the virus and this is of particular concern in areas such as Southeast Asia, where the disease is endemic in the wild bird population and domestic poultry can become infected. The virus possibly could mutate to become highly virulent and infectious in humans and cause an influenza pandemic.