Lesson # 11
Poultry Anatomy and Physiology
Core Area: Animal Science
Unit: Poultry Industry
Lesson # 11: Poultry Anatomy and Physiology
California CTE Standards (Agriculture):
D3.1 Understand the major systems and the function of the organs within each system.
C6.1 Know the names and locations of the external anatomy of animals.
C6.2 Know the anatomy and major functions of vertebrate systems, including digestive,
reproductive, circulatory, nervous, muscular, skeletal, respiratory, and endocrine
FS 4.6 Differentiate among, select, and apply appropriate tools and technology.
FS 6.5 Use tools and machines safely and appropriately.
FS 9.3 Understand how to organize and structure work individually and in teams for
effective performance and attainment of goals.
FS 11.0 Demonstration and Application.
California Academic Standards.
Investigation and Experimentation
1a Select and use appropriate tools and technology (such as computer-linked probes,
spreadsheets, and graphing calculators) to perform tests, collect data, analyze
relationships, and display data.
Student Learning Objectives. Instruction in this lesson should result in students
achieving the following objectives:
1. To understand the definitions of anatomy and physiology.
2. To understand anatomical terms to describe areas of the animal body.
3. To define and discuss the functions of major body systems of poultry.
List of Resources. The following resources may be useful in teaching this lesson:
Poultry Industry Lesson Plans Page 1
Recommended Resources. The following resource should be selected to accompany
9 Power Point Presentation
9 Anatomy Worksheet
Other Resources: The following resources will be useful to students and teachers:
List of Equipment, Tools, Supplies, and Facilities.
Lab Option 1: Dissection
9 One euthanized chicken, preferably fully intact.
Lab Option 2: Dissection Video
Terms. The following terms are presented in this lesson (shown in bold italics):
Poultry Industry Lesson Plans Page 2
With the guidance from the instructor have students list and discuss anatomical
differences between birds and mammals. Have the students explain how these
differences relate to unique physiological processes of birds.
SUMMARY OF CONTENT AND
Objective 1: Define Anatomy and Physiology.
Anticipated Problem: What is the difference between the location of an organ and its
A. Anatomy is the science of the structure of animals. The word is derived from
the Greek work "to cut up."
A. Physiology is the science that deals with the functions of the living organism
and its parts.
III. Anatomical Terms
A. The following terms are used to describe locations on the animal body.
1. Dorsal: pertains to the upper surface of the animal.
2. Ventral: relates to the lower and abdominal surface.
3. Cranial (or anterior): applies to the front or head.
4. Caudal (or posterior): pertains to the tail or rear.
Teacher notes: A handout is provided at the end of the lesson plan. Have students
complete the handout as you lecture about these terms.
Objective 2: To understand the anatomy and physiology of various avian
systems and to understand how they might differ from mammals.
Anticipated Problem: How does avian anatomy and physiology differ from mammals?
I. Integumentary System
A. The skin, or integumentary system, of poultry is similar to mammals, except
for feather production. They have a wattle, defined as the red skin
underneath the beak, and a comb, defined as the red skin located on top of
their head. Blood circulates between the wattle and comb and helps to
regulate body temperature.
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B. Poultry have plumage and beaks.
1. Plumage is defined as the outer covering of a bird's body. This
includes feathers, scales, and filoplumes, which are hair-like
structures located at the base of feathers. Scales are located on the
legs and feet. The plumage allows for altered shape to facilitate
necessary body cooling and heating for maintenance of body
temperature. Plumage shape is particularly important for cooling since
birds lack sweat glands. Although it is not common for production birds
to fly, plumage type and form is an important determinant in flight for
aerial species. Plumage protects against abrasions and bruises when
birds are in groups or lying on the ground.
2. Birds have beaks as opposed to lips and teeth. The beak is used for
eating and drinking, as well as in self-defense and protection from
II. Respiratory System
A. The respiratory system of poultry is vastly different than the mammalian
respiratory system. Unlike mammals, birds lack a diaphragm to inflate and
deflate the lungs. Instead, birds have nine air sacs located in the neck region
and body cavity that function to inflate the lungs.
1. Gas exchange occurs in the Avian lung and the air sacs function to
move air in and out of the respiratory system.
B. The breathing process has two phases: inhalation and exhalation.
1. Inhalation: when the bird breathes in, air bypasses the lungs and
enters the posterior air sacs. At the same time, air in the lungs from the
last exhalation phase exits the lungs and enters the anterior air sacs.
2. Exhalation: the bird releases air from the posterior air sacs, which
enters the lungs. The air that filled the anterior air sacs from the
inhalation phase is then released from the body through the trachea.
C. Nares are the nostrils located on the beak. Their purpose is the passageway
for air to be breathed in and out of the trachea.
III. Skeletal System of Poultry
A. Pneumatic Bones
1. Poultry have pneumatic, or hollow, bones. These bones connect with
the respiratory system and their light weight helps is an adaptation to
B. Medullary Bone
1. Medullary bone contains high amounts of calcium and this storage
source is used by the female hen when developing the egg shell during
C. Fused Bones
1. Bones in the foot, or shank, are fused and cause birds to walk upright.
2. Many vertebrate along the backbone are fused for the purpose of flight.
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IV. Digestive System:
A. The purpose of the poultry digestive system is to use nutrients found in feed
through the processes of digestion and absorption.
B. The digestive system begins at the oral cavity and ends at the vent.
1. Oral cavity
a. Tongue: the tongue functions to move food within the oral cavity
and initiates deglutition, or swallowing, of feed.
a. The esophagus is a flexible tube that carries food from the oral
cavity to the crop and proventriculus.
a. The crop is an outcropping, or pouch, of the esophagus.
b. The crop functions to store feed. No digestion of food takes place in
a. The proventriculus is the true stomach of the bird, similar to the
b. The proventriculus uses acid and other digestive enzymes to begin
the chemical breakdown of food.
a. The gizzard is also called the ventriculus.
b. The gizzard contains well-developed musculature and functions by
grinding and contacting to aid in the mechanical reduction of food
c. The gizzard may contain small pebbles or gravel from foraging to
aid in the reduction of food particle size.
6. Small Intestine
a. After passing the gizzard and being reduced to the proper particle
size, food enters the small intestine for further digestion and
b. There are three regions of the small intestine:
c. The small intestine has a very large absorptive area due to many
folds and finger-like projections located along its length.
a. Poultry have two ceca, while mammals have one (appendix).
b. The ceca are two dead-end pouches that contain microbes.
c. The microbes ferment any left over food particles and produce
molecules that the bird can use as an energy source.
a. Also referred to as the large intestine.
b. This a short section of the digestive tract that starts after the ceca
and ends at the cloaca.
c. The function of the colon is to absorb water.
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