Chicken-keepers can take advantage of classes at home
COVID-19 has been a real bummer for most of us in some way or another. In one respect, though, it appears that many people are choosing to raise poultry since they are spending more time at home or with family.
COVID-19’s effect has also been significant on many college campuses. Some have had to shut down, open up, shut partway down and now teach through remote means. Many college campuses have had to provide their students with remote learning opportunities in case they come down with COVID-19 or must quarantine due to potential exposure.
This is to your chickens’ advantage!
Learn from the best
Throughout my career, I have been asked repeatedly how a simple, average, backyard chicken owner can learn from the poultry experts. Well, simply put, you can audit a class. That means you would not be seeking a degree. Some universities call this a non-degree seeking applicant.
Ordinarily, that used to mean that you had to live close enough to come to class, but COVID-19 may have changed that situation at some universities.
There are six land grant university poultry science departments in the United States and some of them are ready to welcome you into their classes. Who and how, you ask? Well, the six departments are: Auburn University, Texas A&M University, University of Arkansas, North Carolina State University, Mississippi State University, and lastly, University of Georgia.
Getting in the class
There are hoops to jump through with any university system. The first hoop is admissions or the distance learning program, depending on the university that interests you. Keep in mind that that you will be paying fees, getting some form of an ID or access number, and getting permission from the instructors to audit their class. Let’s delve into this last point a little further.
Most of these poultry science university classes and programs are hands-on, have labs, or have never taught remotely before.
Professor comfort level with teaching remotely varies greatly. You will need to ask permission to enter their class, even if it is not for a grade. Some classes fill up fast and priority space must be given to students who must take the class in order to fulfill the requirements of their degree program. Ask kindly and explain why you are interested in taking the class and the professor may let you take it.
For many of the readers of this magazine, the joy of life-long learning is the goal, not credits, certificates, or a full-fledged degree. Additionally, you should inquire about taking exams or quizzes and what level of participation during lecture that your professor is going to require from you. Some courses have pre-requisites and professors may require that you have taken those classes prior to taking their course.
Let’s say you get into a class that is right up your alley. That is great news! You should understand that during each class, the professor is going to need to reach a certain goal with regard to material coverage. If a professor waives a pre-requisite in order for you to enter a class, then do not be surprised that there are terms or material that you will have missed.
Please understand that it is up to you to look up that information on your own. Professors may ask you to not take up valuable class time with questions on that material or at least speak with them through email or during office hours.
What classes and where are they?
After doing research at the six poultry science departments in the United States, here is what I have found.
There will be fees, and it varies GREATLY among the universities.
Also, not all of the universities know which classes will be offered in the spring semester. (It is already too late this fall to participate in courses, so I inquired about spring semester offerings.)
I will suggest that you contact the department which has a class that interests you and double check that it is going to be offered remotely this spring. Universities are not guaranteeing that all of their classes are going to be offered through the computer this spring so it will pay to check a couple time this fall before sending in your money.
Also, there are deadlines that you will need to follow, just like any other student.
Auburn University (AU)
There is a special program offered called the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) that charges $50 per year and it allows you to audit any classes offered by Auburn University during that year. (You can do more than one if you wish.)
Normally, you had to come by to pick up an AU Community ID card, but this fall, lots of steps have had to be reconsidered as students learn remotely, and that includes auditing students. OLLI was unsure if this procedure was going to be offered this spring or not, so be sure to inquire later this fall.
There is a special form you fill out, but it is easy. The process is not instant, but classes are easy to look up on their website under member benefits. You can’t beat the price!
So what is being offered this spring? Take a look at this line-up:
- Introduction to Poultry Science, (POUL 1000), no pre-requisites (Dr. Wallace Berry)
- Professional Development in Animal Agriculture, (POUL 2100), no pre-requisites (Dr. Bob Norton)
- Poultry Breed, Fertility, and Hatching (POUL 3060), BIOL 1020 is a pre-requisite (Dr. Wallace Berry)
- Poultry Physiology (POUL 3150), BIOL 1020 is a pre-requisite (Dr. Jessica Starkey)
- Principals of Animal Feed Manufacturing (POUL 5020), no pre-requisites (Dr. Charles Starkey)
- Advanced Commercial Poultry Production (POUL 5030), pre-requisites are POUL 3030, POUL 5050, POUL 3150, POUL 5110 (Dr. Jessica Starkey)
- Further Poultry Processing (POUL 5140), pre-requisites are CHEM 2030 or CHEM 2070 (Dr. Amit Morey)
- Principles of Food Safety (POUL 5160), pre-requisite is BIOL 3200 (instructor to be announced)
Texas A&M University (TAMU)
Now this university really understands remote learning and distance education. They offer a lot and have been doing so for a long time. They even have a dedicated person, Liz Herschler (979-862-7694), who helps you figure out what classes you want, helps contact the professor, and helps you get through the application process.
Each class is $450 regardless of whether you are going for one of their certificate programs or if you are auditing the class.
In spring 2021, they are offering the following classes:
- General Avian Science
- Breeder and Hatchery Management
- Commercial Egg Industry
- Nutrition – Pre-requisite is Biochemistry
- -Instincts and Behavior
- Animal Welfare
- Gamebirds & Ornamental Fowl
University of Arkansas (UArk)
This poultry science department does not offer quite as good of a deal as the previous two departments. You would be applying as a non-degree seeking student and pay substantially larger sums of money. First things first, and that is to apply to be a student. That fee is $60 and the deadline for spring semester is December 1, 2020.
Pre-requisite courses do exist for many classes so be sure to check on that before signing up. The tuition for a 3 credit class for an out-of-state student is $2,622.18 and the in-state tuition is $973.41.
The classes they offer for the Spring of 2021 are as follows:
- Breeder Management
- Poultry Nutrition
- Poultry Diseases
- Small Animal Farming
- Legal Issues in Animal Agriculture
North Carolina State University (NCSU)
With regard to egg production, NCSU has a big names in its list of professors. However, to get to those classes, you will need to take some pre-requisite classes first. You will need to apply as a non-degree seeking student and that comes with a $40 fee. The tuition for a 3 credit class for an out-of-state student is $2747.64 and the in-state tuition is $710.64.
After speaking with the department, the overall feeling was that their course offerings were not meant for distance learning, auditing for continuing education purposes, or learning for personal improvement. Although NCSU overall has the framework to accept distance education students, you might feel more welcome in another program.
The only class that they recommended for auditing was the PO201 or Poultry Science and Production course along with the PO202A which is the lab that goes with this class. This is an introductory class that covers the science of poultry and their management. Essentially this pre-requisite class is the gatekeeper to their Poultry Anatomy and Physiology, Poultry Nutrition, as well as the Incubation & Breeding classes.
Mississippi State University (MSU)
This poultry program also does not offer much in the way of remote or distance learning classes. The department emphasized that their course offerings are normally face-to-face and that is their preference. The only class they offer online is Commercial Poultry Production.
A plus with the distance education program at MSU is that no matter what state you live in, you will pay in-state tuition. You must first apply to become a student and that fee is $40. If you look at the cost per credit hour, then you pay $391.75 per credit hour for an online education class.
The MSU Poultry Science department does not allow auditing of their courses so you must enroll as a student in order to take a class.
The classes they offer for the Spring of 2021 are as follows:
- PO 3313 Commercial Poultry Production: 3 credits.
- PO 4324 Avian Reproduction: 4 credits.
- PO 4423 Feed Manufacturing: 3 credits.
- PO 4512 Poultry Products Safety and Sanitation: 2 credits.
University of Georgia (UGA)
The state of Georgia ranks as Number One in the United States for poultry production. If you want to take a class with them, either through distance education or in person, then you are out of luck entirely. You have to decide by mid-August if you want to take a class with them and so the deadline has passed for fall and spring semesters this year. This includes auditing classes that are now offered remotely due to COVID-19.
That makes this top-notch poultry science institution inaccessible to those who want to audit classes taught by Georgia poultry experts. Maybe next year? That is, if they do remote learning next year.
Love lifelong learning?
So now you are aware of the opportunities that exist out there for your learning enjoyment.
Raising chickens is a lot of fun. If you would like to combine a desire to learn more about your chickens with your passion for poultry, then you are in for a great treat. I hope you will take advantage of this unique opportunity and increase your knowledge of your chickens in a whole new way.
Maybe you will gain a new skill in designing your own chicken diets or come away with a good understanding of chicken anatomy and physiology. I know I am interested in taking the Gamebirds & Ornamental Fowl class at TAMU. Will you be joining me?
About the author
Dr. Brigid McCrea, PhD, is a poultry scientist who has worked with small flock owners for more than a decade. Her expertise is being utilized at Auburn University in the development of curriculum for 4-H Youth Development's Animal Programs.