Various types of poultry have been raised in Texas since the Spanish period, but commercial production did not begin until the 1840s and was extremely limited until the twentieth century. Most families raised their own poultry, and there was little market for any excess. The 1890 census shows 11,523,117 chickens, 535,916 turkeys, 528,140 geese, and 391,086 ducks on farms in Texas. A production of 32,466,433 dozen eggs was reported that year. In 1900 Texas ranked first among states in number of turkeys, third in geese, fourth in ducks, fifth in chickens, and ninth in eggs. In 1904 eggs averaged twelve cents a dozen, chickens twenty-two cents a pound, and turkeys twelve cents a pound (live weight). Many incubators were in use by 1904.
The Texas Co-operative Poultry Producers' Association was organized by 1914. A census of poultry on Texas farms that year showed 12,719,572 chickens, 363,666 turkeys, 74,910 ducks, 244,991 geese, 170,107 guinea fowls, 95,625 pigeons, 12 ostriches, and 762 of all other types of birds. More than twenty million chickens were produced in 1926, and egg production was estimated at over 65,000,000 dozen. By 1926 Cuero in DeWitt County was the established commercial turkey-raising center, though fourteen other Texas cities shipped carload lots. In 1933 Texas was still the largest turkey producer in the nation. Many large poultry-dressing and egg-breaking plants were in operation. In 1929 89,465,537 dozen eggs were sold, and 36,275,063 chickens were raised. Shipments of turkeys in 1932 included 1,574 cars of dressed and eighty-eight cars of live turkeys.
During the early 1950s Texas led the nation in the production of commercial turkey hatchery eggs. The leading turkey-raising counties during this time were DeWitt, Gonzales, and Fayette, but to a lesser extent turkeys were raised in all but three counties in the state. Eggs and chickens were produced in every county in the state in 1950; the leading counties were Fayette, Lavaca, Williamson, Washington, and Gonzales. The leading breed of chickens during the 1950s was the Leghorn, and the leading breed of turkeys was the broad breasted bronze. Many hatcherymen and poultrymen operated under the National Poultry Improvement Plan, which stressed the development of high-producing strains and pullorum-free flocks. There were approximately 640 hatcheries in the state during the early 1950s. Between 1953 and 1963 cash income from poultry, including chickens, broilers, eggs, and turkeys, ranged from $128 million to over $157 million annually. Commercial broilers normally exceeded 100 million birds per year. In 1960 126,885 farms raised chickens, 2,409 raised broilers, 49,620 sold eggs, and 11,297 raised turkeys. Leading counties in poultry sales during this period were Shelby, Nacogdoches, and Gonzales. The gross income from poultry production in 1963 was $163 million.
In 1968 Texas ranked fifth in the nation in turkey raising, eighth in production of chickens and eggs, and sixth in broiler production. In all, poultry and egg production amounted to just over 7 percent of the state's farm income in 1968. In 1972 the gross income of Texas producers was $4,700,000 from farm chickens, $75,404,000 from eggs, $93,790,000 from broilers, and $33,794,000 from turkeys. Sales from turkey hatching eggs, ducks, geese, quail, pigeons, and other poultry items grossed approximately $5,000,000 annually. In 1974 Texas ranked ninth among states in number of hens and pullets, seventh in broiler production, tenth in egg production, and fifth in turkey production. The value of Texas exports in poultry products in 1978 was $16,800,000. By the late 1980s poultry and eggs annually contributed 6 percent of the average yearly cash receipts of Texas farmers. In 1987 cash receipts from production of broilers, eggs, chickens, and turkeys totaled $591,561,000. In 1988 Texas ranked seventh among states in broilers produced, tenth in hens, and seventh in eggs produced. In 1988 the state produced 3.36 billion eggs, valued at $144,000,000; the leading egg-producing counties were Angelina, Camp, Brazos, Fayette, Lavaca, and Gonzales. Broilers numbered 266,300,000 in 1988 and were valued at $448,000,000. The leading broiler-producing counties were Camp, Caldwell, Panola, Shelby, Titus, Upshur, and Wood.