Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Roger Taft, grandson of Milo Hastings,
Jim Tinsley, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
[Transcriber's Note: This printing had more than its share of typographical
errors. Obvious typos, like "tim" for "time", have been corrected.]
THE DOLLAR HEN
MILO M. HASTINGS
FORMERLY POULTRYMAN AT
KANSAS EXPERIMENT STATION;
LATER IN CHARGE OF THE COMMERCIAL
OF THE UNITED STATES
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
NATIONAL POULTRY MAGAZINE
NATIONAL POULTRY PUBLISHING COMPANY
WHY THIS BOOK WAS WRITTEN
Twenty-five years ago there were in print hundreds of complete
treatises on human diseases and the practice of medicine.
Notwithstanding the size of the book-shelves or the high standing of
the authorities, one might have read the entire medical library of
that day and still have remained in ignorance of the fact that
out-door life is a better cure for consumption than the contents of
a drug store. The medical professor of 1885 may have gone
prematurely to his grave because of ignorance of facts which are
to-day the property of every intelligent man.
There are to-day on the book-shelves of agricultural colleges and
public libraries, scores of complete works on "Poultry" and hundreds
of minor writings on various phases of the industry. Let the
would-be poultryman master this entire collection of literature and
he is still in ignorance of facts and principles, a knowledge of
which in better developed industries would be considered prime
necessities for carrying on the business.
As a concrete illustration of the above statement, I want to point
to a young man, intelligent, enterprising, industrious, and a
graduate of the best known agricultural college poultry course in
the country. This lad invested some $18,000 of his own and his
friends' money in a poultry plant. The plant was built and the
business conducted in accordance with the plans and principles of
the recognized poultry authorities. To-day the young man is bravely
facing the proposition of working on a salary in another business,
to pay back the debts of honor resulting from his attempt to apply
in practice the teaching of our agricultural colleges and our
The experience just related did not prove disastrous from some
single item of ignorance or oversight; the difficulty was that the
cost of growing and marketing the product amounted to more than the
receipts from its sale. This poultry farm, like the surgeon's
operation, "was successful, but the patient died."
The writer's belief in the reality of the situation as above
portrayed warrants him in publishing the present volume. Whether his
criticism of poultry literature is founded on fact or fancy may,
five years after the copyright date of this book, be told by any
I have written this book for the purpose of assisting in placing the
poultry business on a sound scientific and economic basis. The book
does not pretend to be a complete encyclopedia of information
concerning poultry, but treats only of those phases of poultry
production and marketing upon which the financial success of the
The reader who is looking for information concerning fancy breeds,
poultry shows, patent processes, patent foods, or patent methods,
will be disappointed, for the object of this book is to help the
poultryman to make money, not to spend it.
HOW TO READ THIS BOOK
Unless the reader has picked up this volume out of idle curiosity,
he will be one of the following individuals:
1. A farmer or would-be farmer, who is interested in poultry
production as a portion of the work of general farming.
2. A poultryman or would-be poultryman, who wishes to make a
business of producing poultry or eggs for sale as a food product or
as breeding stock.
3. A person interested in poultry as a diversion and who enjoys
losing a dollar on his chickens almost as well as earning one.
4. A man interested in poultry in the capacity of an editor, teacher
or some one engaged as a manufacturer or dealer in merchandise the
sale of which is dependent upon the welfare of the poultry industry.
To the reader of the fourth class I have no suggestions to make save
such as he will find in the suggestions made to others.
To the reader of the third class I wish to say that if you are a
shoe salesman, who has spent your evenings in a Brooklyn flat,
drawing up plans for a poultry plant, I have only to apologize for
any interference that this book may cause with your highly
To the poultryman already in the business, or to the man who is
planning to engage in the business for reasons equivalent to those
which would justify his entering other occupations of the
semi-technical class, such as dairying, fruit growing or the
manufacture of washing machines, I wish to say it is for you that
"The Dollar Hen" is primarily written.
This book does not assume you to be a graduate of a technical
school, but it does bring up discussions and use methods of
illustration that may be unfamiliar to many readers. That such
matter is introduced is because the subject requires it; and if it
is confusing to the student he will do better to master it than to
dodge it. Especially would I call your attention to the diagrams
used in illustrating various statistics. Such diagrams are
technically called "curves." They may at first seem mere crooked
lines, if so I suggest that you get a series of figures in which you
are interested, such as the daily egg yields of your own flock or
your monthly food bills, and "plot" a few curves of your own. After
you catch on you will be surprised at the greater ease with which
the true meaning of a series of figures can be recognized when this
graphic method is used.
I wish to call the farmer's attention to the fact that poultry
keeping as an adjunct to general farming, especially to general
farming in the Mississippi Valley, is quite a different proposition
from poultry production as a regular business. Poultry keeping as a
part of farm life and farm enterprise is a thing well worth while in
any section of the United States, whereas poultry keeping, a
separate occupation, requires special location and special
conditions to make it profitable. I would suggest the farmer first
read Chapter XVI, which is devoted to his special conditions. Later
he may read the remainder of the book, but should again consult the
part on farm poultry production before attempting to apply the more
complicated methods to his own needs.
Chapter XVI, while written primarily for the farmer, is, because of
the simplicity of its directions, the best general guide for the
beginner in poultry keeping wherever he may be.
To the reader in general, I want to say, that the table of contents,
a part of the book which most people never read, is in this volume
so placed and so arranged that it cannot well be avoided. Read it
before you begin the rest of the book, and use it then and
thereafter in guiding you toward the facts that you at the time
particularly want to know. Many people in starting to read a book
find something in the first chapter which does not interest them and
cast aside the work, often missing just the information they are
seeking. The conspicuous arrangement of the contents is for the
purpose of preventing such an occurrence in this case.
WHAT IS IN THIS VOLUME
IS THERE MONEY IN THE POULTRY BUSINESS?
A Big Business; Growing Bigger
Less Ham and More Eggs
Who Gets the Hen Money?
WHAT BRANCH OF THE POULTRY BUSINESS?
Various Poultry Products
The Duck Business
Squabs Have Been Overdone
Turkeys not Adapted to Commercial Growing
Guinea Growing a New Venture
Geese, the Fame of Watertown
The Ill-omened Broiler Business
South Shore Roasters
Too Much Competition in Fancy Poultry
Egg Farming the Most Certain and Profitable
THE POULTRY PRODUCING COMMUNITY
Established Poultry Communities
Developing Poultry Communities
Will Co-operation Work?
Co-operative Egg Marketing in Denmark
Corporation or Co-operation
WHERE TO LOCATE
Some Poultry Geography
Availability of Water
A Few Statistics
THE DOLLAR HEN FARM
The Plan of Housing
The Feeding System
Equipment for Chick Rearing
Twenty-five Acre Poultry Farms
Five Acre Poultry Farms
Fertility of Eggs
The Wisdom of the Egyptians
Principles of Incubation
Moisture and Evaporation
Searching for the "Open Sesame" of Incubation
The Box Type of Incubator in Actual Use
The Future of Incubation
Conventional Food Chemistry
How the Hen Unbalances Balanced Rations
Don't Doctor Chickens
The Causes of Poultry Diseases
Chicken-pox, Gapes, Limber-neck
Lice and Mites
POULTRY FLESH AND POULTRY FATTENING
MARKETING POULTRY CARCASSES
Farm Grown Chickens
The Special Poultry Plant
Suggestions From Other Countries
Cold Storage of Poultry
Drawn or Undrawn Fowls
QUALITY IN EGGS
How Eggs are Spoiled
Egg Size Table
The Loss Due to Carelessness
Requisites of Producing High Grade Eggs
HOW EGGS ARE MARKETED
The Country Merchant
The Produce Buyer
The City Distribution of Eggs
Cold Storage of Eggs
Preserving Eggs Out of Cold Storage
Improved Methods of Marketing Farm-Grown Eggs
The High Grade Egg Business
Buying Eggs by Weight
The Retailing of Eggs by the Producer
The Price of Eggs
N.Y. Mercantile Exchange, Official Quotations
BREEDS OF CHICKENS
The Hen's Ancestors
PRACTICAL AND SCIENTIFIC BREEDING
Breeding as an Art
Scientific Theories of Breeding
Breeding for Egg Production
EXPERIMENT STATION WORK
The Stations Leading in Poultry Work
The Story of the "Big Coon"
Important Experimental Results at the Illinois Station
The Egg Breeding Work at the Maine Station
POULTRY ON THE GENERAL FARM
Best Breeds for the Farm
Keep Only Workers
Hatching Chicks with Hens
Incubators on the Farm
Feeding Laying Hens
Farm Chicken Houses
THE DOLLAR HEN
IS THERE MONEY IN THE POULTRY BUSINESS?
The chicken business is big. No one knows how big it is and no one
can find out. The reason it is hard to find out is because so many
people are engaged in it and because the chicken crop is sold, not
once a year, but a hundred times a year.
Statistics are guesses. True statistics are the sum of little
guesses, but often figures published as statistics are big guesses
by a guesser who is big enough to have his guess accepted.
A Big Business; Growing Bigger
The only real statistics for the poultry crop of the United States
are those of the Federal Census. At this writing these statistics
are nine years old and somewhat out of date. The value of poultry
and eggs in 1899, according to the census figures, was $291,000,000.
Is this too big or too little? I don't know. If the reader wishes to
know let him imagine the census enumerator asking a farmer the value
of the poultry and eggs which he has produced the previous year.
Would the farmer's guess be too big or too small?
From these census figures as a base, estimates have been made for
later years. The Secretary of Agriculture, or, speaking more
accurately, a clerk in the Statistical Bureau of the Department of
Agriculture, says the poultry and egg crop for 1907 was over
The best two sources of information known to the writer by which
this estimate may be checked are the receipts of the New York market
and the annual "Value of Poultry and Eggs Sold," as given by the
Kansas State Board of Agriculture.
[Illustration: Plate I. Page 14. Graph - Is There Money in Poultry?]
In plate I the top curve a-a gives the average spring price of
Western first eggs in the New York market. The curve b-b gives the
annual receipts of eggs at New York in millions of cases. Now, since
value equals quantity multiplied by price, and since the quantity
and values of poultry are closely correlated to those of eggs, the
product of these two figures is a fair means of showing the rate of
increase in the value of the poultry crop. Starting with the census
value of $291,000,000 for the year 1899, we thus find that by 1907
the amount is very close to $700,000,000. This is represented by the
The value of the poultry and eggs sold in Kansas have increased as
1903 $ 6,498,856
The dotted line e-e represents the increase in the national poultry
and egg crop estimated from the Kansas figures. Evidently the
estimate given in Secretary Wilson's report was not excessive.
Now, I want to call the reader's attention to some relations about
which there can be no doubt and which are even more significant. The
straight line c-c in Plate 1 represents the rate of increase of
population in this country. The line b-b represents the rate of
increase in egg receipts at New York. As the country data backs up
the New York figures, the conclusion is inevitable that the
production of poultry and eggs is increasing much more rapidly than
is our population.
"Over-production," I hear the pessimist cry, but unfortunately for
Friend Pessimist, we have a gauge on the over-production idea that
lays all fears to rest. When the supply of any commodity increases
faster than the demand, we have over-production and falling prices.
Vice-versa, under-production is shown by a rising price. That prices
of poultry and eggs have risen and risen rapidly, has already been
"But prices of all products have risen," says one. Very true, but by
statistics with which I will not burden the reader, I find that
prices of poultry products have risen more rapidly than the average
rise in values of all commodities. This shows that poultry products
are really more in demand and more valuable, not apparently so.
Moreover, the rise in the price of poultry products has been much
more pronounced than the average rise in the price of all food
products, which proves the growing demand for poultry and eggs to be
a real growing demand, not a turning to poultry products because of
the high price of other foods, as is sometimes stated.
Less Ham and More Eggs.
Certainly we, as a nation, are rapidly becoming eaters of hens and
of hen fruit. Reasons are not hard to find. Poultry and eggs are the
most palatable, most wholesome, most convenient of foods. Our
demands for the products of the poultry yard grows because we are
learning to like them, and because our prosperity has grown and we
can afford them.
Another reason that the consumption of eggs is growing is because
the condition in which they reach the consumer is improving. The
writer may say some pretty hard things in this work about the
condition of poultry and eggs as they are now marketed, but any
old-timer in the business will tell you stories of things as they
used to be that will easily explain why our fathers ate more ham and
Yet another reason why the per capita consumption of hens as
measured in pounds or dollars increases, is that the hen herself has
increased in size; whereas John when he was Johnnie ate a two-ounce
drumstick, now Johnnie eats an analogous piece that weighs three
ounces. Perhaps, also, we have a growing respect for the law of
Moses, or may be vegetarians who think that eggs grow on egg plants
are becoming more numerous.
Our consumption of pork per capita has, in the last half century,
diminished by half, our consumption of beef has remained stationary,
but our consumption of poultry and eggs has doubled itself, we know
not how many times, for a half century ago the ancestor of the
industrious hen of this age serenely scratched up grandmother's
geraniums and was unmolested by the statisticians.
Who Gets the Hen Money?
Seven hundred millions of dollars is a lot of money. Who gets it?
There are no Rockefellers or Armours in the hen business. It is the
people's business. Why? Because the nature of the business is such
that it cannot be centralized. Land and intelligent labor, prompted
by the spirit of ownership, is necessary to succeed in the hen
business. Land the captains of industry have not monopolized, and
labor imbued with the spirit of ownership they cannot monopolize.
The chicken business is, in dollars, one of the biggest industries
in the country. In numbers of those engaged in it, the chicken
business is the biggest industry in the world--I bar none. Why is
this true? Primarily because the hen is a natural part of the
equipment of every farm and of many village homes as well. It is
these millions of small flocks that count up in dollars and men and
give such an immense aggregate.
More than ninety-eight per cent. of the poultry and eggs of the
country are produced on the general farm. The remaining one or two
per cent. are produced on farms or plants where chicken culture is
the cash crop or chief business of the farmer. It is this business,
relatively small, though actually a matter of millions, that is
commonly spoken of as the poultry business, and about which our
chief interest centers. A farmer can disregard all knowledge and all
progress and still keep chickens, but the man who has no other means
of a livelihood must produce chicken products efficiently, or fail
altogether--hence the greater interest in this portion of the
The poultry business as a business to occupy a man's time and earn
him a livelihood, is a thing of recent origin and was little heard
of before 1890. Since that time it has undergone a somewhat painful,
though steady growth. Many people have lost money in the business
and have given it up in disgust, but on a whole the business has
progressed wonderfully, and now shows features of development that
are clearly beyond the experimental stage and are undoubtedly here
The suggestion has been made by those who have failed or have seen
others fail in the poultry business, that success was impossible
because of the destructive competition of the farmer, whose expense
of production is small. Herein lies a great truth and a great error.
The farmer's cost of production is small, much smaller than that on
most of the book-made poultry farms--but the inference that the
poultryman's cost of production cannot be lowered below that of the
farmer is a different statement.
The farm of our grandfather was a very diversified institution. It
contained in miniature a woolen mill, a packing house, a cheese
factory, perhaps a shoe factory and a blacksmith shop. One by one
these industries have been withdrawn from general farm-life, and
established as independent businesses. Likewise our dairy farms, our
fruit farms, and our market gardens have been segregated from the
general farm. This simply means that manufacturing cloth, or cheese,
or producing milk, or tomatoes can be done at less cost in separate
establishments than upon a general farm.
The general farm will always grow poultry for home consumption, and
will always have some surplus to sell. With the surplus, the
poultryman must compete. His only hope of successful competition is
production at lower cost. Can this be done? It is being done, and
the numbers of people who are doing it are increasing, but they
spend little money at poultry shows, or with the advertisers of
poultry papers, and hence are little heard of in the poultry world.
The people whose names and faces are in the poultry papers are
frequently there only while their money lasts. They write long
articles and show pictures of many houses and yards to prove that
there is money in the poultry business, but if one should keep their
names and put the question to them five years hence, a great many
could say, "Yes, there is money in the poultry business; mine is in
Such people and such plants do not get the cost of production down
below the farmer's level. Between these two classes of poultry
plants, the writer hopes in this work to show the distinction.
WHAT BRANCH OF THE POULTRY BUSINESS?
The chicken business is especially prone to failure from a disregard
of the common essential relation of cost and selling price necessary
to the success of any business. That this should be more true of the
poultry business than of any other undertakings is to be explained
by the facts that as a business, it is new, that many of those who
engage in it are inexperienced, but most particularly because
practically all the literature published on the subject has been
written by or written in the interest of those who had something to
sell to the poultryman. As a result the figures of production are
generally given higher than the facts warrant. The investor, be he
ever so shrewd a man, builds upon these promises and when he finds
his production lower, is caught with an excessive investment and a
complicated system on his hands, which make all profits impossible
and which cannot readily be adapted to the new conditions.
Estimates of poultry profits are quite common, but there are few
published figures showing the results that are actually obtained
under practical working conditions. In this volume I will try to
give the facts of what is being and can be actually accomplished.
Various Poultry Products.
In considering the poultry industry we must first get some idea of
the various articles produced for sale.
It is common knowledge that the large meat packer can undersell the
small packer because the by-products, such as bristles, which are
wasted by the local killer, are a source of income to the large
packer. Now, this does not infer that the small packer is shiftless
and neglects to save his bristles, but that on the scale on which he
operates it would cost him more to save the bristles than he could
realize on them.
So it is with poultry farming. For illustration: A visionary writer
in a leading poultry paper, not long ago, advised poultrymen to
store eggs. In reality this would be the height of folly, unless the
poultryman had his own retail store. In the first place profit on
cold storage eggs, when all expenses are paid, will not average a
half a cent a dozen; in the second place, the small lot would be
relatively troublesome and expensive to handle, and in the third
place, small lots of cold storage eggs are looked upon with
suspicion and do not find ready sale. So we see that cold storage
eggs are not a suitable product for the small poultryman to handle.
A second illustration of an ill-chosen combination might be taken in
the case of a duck farmer who attempts to produce broilers. The
principal difficulty of the duck business is that of getting
sufficient intelligent labor in the rush season. The chief expense
of investment is for incubators and brooder houses. If the duck
farmer now tries to add broilers, he will find that the labor comes
at the same time of the year, that the chief equipment required is
that which is already crowded by the duck business, and that of the
men who have succeeded moderately well in caring for ducks will fail
altogether with the young chicks, which do not thrive under the same
On the other hand, let us take the example of an egg farm man who
has resolved to combine his attention wholly to the production of
market eggs. He succeeds well in his work and is visited by the
poultry editors. His picture, the picture of his chickens and of his
chicken houses, are printed in the poultry papers. For a reasonable
sum invested in advertising and in exhibition at the shows, this man
could now double his income by going into the breeding stock
business. To refuse to spread out in this case would certainly be
The following classification of the sales products of the poultry
industry is given as a basis for farther consideration.
For food purposes:
Hens, after laying has been finished.
Cockerels, necessarily hatched in hatching pullets for layers.
(Sold as squab broilers, regular broilers, springs,
roasters or capons.)
Both sexes as squab broilers, broilers or roasters.
For stock purposes:
Eggs for hatching.
For table--green or spring ducks.
By-products, old ducks and duck feathers.
Food, Feathers, Breeders.
Squabs, Breeding Stock.
Broilers, Mature Fowls.
I will now discuss these products more in detail. Poultry, other
than chickens, I do not care to discuss at length, because it is not
for the purpose of the book, and because the demand for other kinds
of poultry is limited and the chance for the growth of the business
The Duck Business.
The duck business is the most highly commercialized at the present
time of any branch of the poultry business. The duck is the oldest
domestic bird and was hatched by artificial incubation in China,
when our ancestors were gnawing raw bones in the caves of Europe.
The duck is the most domestic of birds and will thrive under more
machine-like methods and without that touch of nature and of the
owner's kindly interest so necessary to the welfare of the fowls of
the gallinaceous order. The green duck business is about twenty
years old and has become an established business in every sense of
the word. The largest plants now produce about one hundred thousand
ducks per annum. The profits at present are not large even for the
most successful plants, because the demand is limited and the
production has reached such a point that cost of production and
selling price bear a definite relation as in all established
businesses. The green duck business is not an easy one for the
novice because the margin between cost (chiefly food cost) and
selling price is low, and unless the new man can reduce the cost of
production or raise his selling price in some way, he will have no
advantage over the old and successful firms.
Squab Business Overdone.
The business of producing pigeon squabs resembles the duck business
in the sense that it has been reduced to a successful system. The
production of squabs has grown until the demand is satisfied and the
price has fallen to just that figure that will continue to bring in
a sufficient number of squabs from the plants which are already
established, or which continue to be established by those who do not
stop to investigate the relation between the cost of production and
the prevailing prices.
Turkeys Not a Commercial Success.
In the case of turkeys, we find exactly opposite conditions. The
price of turkeys has risen with the price of chickens and eggs,
until one would think that there would be great money in the
business, and there is, for the motherly farm wife who has the knack
of bringing the little turks through the danger of delicate
babyhood. But just as the duck is more domesticated than the
chicken, so the turkey, which yet closely resembles its wild
ancestor, is less domestic and has as yet failed to surrender to the
ways of commercial reasoning, the chief factor of which is
The presence of a disease called blackhead has done vast injury to
the turkey industry in the northeastern section of the country. In
the South the industry has been booming. Especially in Tennessee and
Texas, I found great local pride in the turkey crop. I certainly
would advise any farm wife, in sections where blackhead does not
prevail, to try her hand at turkey raising. As to her advisability
of continuance in the business, the number of turkeys at the end of
the season will be the best judge.
Guinea Growing a New Venture.
The guinea growing business is the newest of the poultry industries.
In fact, it may be said of guineas, as of our grandmother's
tomatoes, "Folks had them around without knowing they were of any
use." The new use for guineas is as a substitute for game. Guinea
broilers make quail-on-toast and older ones are good for grouse,
prairie chicken or pheasant. The retail price in the large cities
runs as high as $1.50 to $2.00 a pair. It will probably not pay to
raise them unless one is sure of receiving as much as 50 cents each.
As for the rearing of guineas, they may be considered on a parallel
case with turkeys, if anything they are even more difficult to raise
in large quantities. I would also advise this additional precaution:
Look up the market in the locality before attempting guinea rearing.
Geese--the Fame of Watertown.
As for the goose business, the writer must admit that he doesn't
know much about it. In fact, the most of my knowledge concerning
this business was acquired by a visit to Watertown, Wis., which is
the center of the noodled goose industry
The Watertown geese are fed by hand every two hours day and night.
They sell to the Hebrew trade at as much per pound as the goose
weighs, and have brought as high as $14.00 apiece. All of this is
interesting, but I hold that the reader who is willing to take
instruction will do better to be guided toward those branches of the
poultry industry for the products of which there is a great and
increasing demand. So we will leave the goose and guinea business to
the venturesome spirits and consider the various branches of the
The Ill-omened Broiler Business.
The broiler business stands to-day as the ill-omened valley in the
poultry landscape. As a rule broiler production has not and probably
will not pay. I know of a few exceptions--about enough to prove the
Most poultry writers, when they make the statement that broilers do
not pay, insert the phrase "As an exclusive business" after the word
broilers. This is merely a ruse to take the rough edge off an
unpleasant statement, for it certainly hurts the poultry editor to
admit that a much exploited branch of the industry is a failure.
Nevertheless it is a failure and the more frankly we admit the fact,
the less good capital and good brains will be wasted in the attempt
to produce at a profit something which is, and probably always will
be, produced at a loss.
The reason the broiler is produced at a loss is that 95 per cent. of
the broilers produced are a by-product of egg, fancy and general
poultry production, and as such their selling price is not
determined by the cost of production, or the supply determined by
the demand. That the broiler business received the boom that it did,
is due to plain ignorance of the cost of production, or to the
appreciation that the ability to rear young chicks could find a more
profitable outlet than in broiler production. Let us take an
analogous case. Suppose a city man should discover the fact that
there was a demand for dried casein from skim milk. With pencil and
paper he could easily figure profits in the business. If this
dreamer would attempt to keep cows for the production of casein and
throw away his butter fat, we would have an analogous case to the
broiler raiser who does not keep his pullets for egg production.
The young cockerel, like skim milk, is a by-product and may pay over
the cost of feeding, or some other specific item, but that he does
not pay the whole cost, including wages for the manager is proven by
two facts: First, every large broiler plant yet started has either
failed flatly or shifted its main line to other things; second, egg
farmers would be only too glad to buy pullets at the price for which
they sell the cockerels--a confession that it costs more to produce
broilers than they will bring.
The conception of the broiler business when it was boomed twenty
years ago was to produce broilers in early spring, when other folks
had none. It was, like the early watermelon, or the early strawberry
business--to make its profits in extreme prices.
This idea received several severe blows from the hands of modern
progress. One is the development of poultry fattening and crate
feeding in this country. This has resulted in supplying the consumer
with choice chicken-flesh that can be produced more economically
than broilers. Formerly it was a case of eating old hen--rooster,
age unknown, or broilers--now we have capon, roaster, crate-fattened
chickens and green ducks, all rivals for the place formerly occupied
exclusively by the broiler.
Again, the improvement of shipping and dressing facilities, the
universal introduction of the refrigerator car and the introduction
into the central west of the American breeds, has flooded the
eastern market with a large amount of spring chickens--by-products
of the egg business on the farm--which are almost equal in quality
to the down-eastern product.
The most prominent reason of the lessened profit in broilers is the
development of the cold storage industry. Cold storage destroys the
element of season, and allows only that margin of profit that the
consumer is willing to pay for a fresh killed broiler from a Jersey
broiler plant, as compared with last summer's product from the Iowa
farms. From a summer copy of Farm Poultry, I quote the Boston
Fresh killed Northern and Eastern:
Fowls, choice 15c
Broilers, choice to fancy 23-25c
Western, ice packed:
Fowls, choice 14c
Broilers, choice 20-22c
Fowls, choice................. 14c
Nearly fancy.................. 26c
To complete our comparison I turn to the previous winter and find
that the best storage eggs are quoted at 19c, when the best fresh
are selling at 35c. This was a poor storage season and a quotation
of 22c and 25c would perhaps be a fairer comparative figure. We find
the per cent, of premium on the local product to be:
Fowls, local over fresh western........... 7 per cent.
Fowls, local over frozen western.......... 7 per cent.
Broilers, local over fresh western........14 per cent.
Broilers, local over frozen western.......26 per cent.
Eggs, local over fresh western............30 per cent.
Eggs, local over storage western..........37 per cent.
I consider these general facts concerning the failure of broiler
production, and the logical explanations given, as far more
convincing than any figures I could give concerning the detailed
cost of production. Nor am I capable of giving as accurate figures
as I can in the case of poultry keeping for egg production, for I
have had neither the desire nor the opportunity to look them up. The
following suggestive analysis I submit for the purpose of pointing
out why the cost of production is too great to allow a profit. We
may consider the chick marketing as May, the weight as 1-1/4, and
the price as 35 cents a pound, or, putting it roundly a price of 50
cents a bird.
Now, May broilers mean February eggs. If the reader will refer to
the tables of hatchability and mortality he will see that for our
northern states this is one of the worst seasons for hatching. A
hatchability of 40 per cent, times a liveability of 50 per cent,
gives a net liveability of 20 per cent. Now, anyone with the ability
to produce high grade eggs at that time a year, could get about 40c
a dozen for them, which raises the egg cost per broiler to about 17
cents. The feed cost per broiler is small, usually estimated at 12
cents, and this makes a cost of 29 cents. Now, let us allow a cent
for expense of selling charges and forget all about investment, fuel
and incidentals, we have left a margin of 20 cents.
Before going farther let us look at the labor bill. Suppose it is a
one-man plant. Suppose the owner sets a value on his services of
$1,200 per annum. That is pretty good, but few men who set a lower
value on their services will have accumulated enough capital to go
into the business. At 20 cents each it will take 6,000 broilers to
make $1,200. That will take 30,000 eggs and at three settings will
require 40 240-egg incubators, which, of a good make, will cost
$1,260. To spread the hatching out over a longer period is to run
into cheap prices on the one hand, or a still impossible egg season
on the other. It will take upwards of a hundred brooders to house
There is no use of going farther till we have solved these
difficulties. First we have more work than one man can do; second,
we require a number of hatchable eggs that cannot be bought in
winter without a campaign of advertising and canvassing for them,
that would make them cost double our previous figure. To produce
them oneself would require a flock of 2,500 hens. When a man gets to
that point in the business he is out of the broiler business and an
egg farmer, and will do the same thing, hatch the chicks when eggs
are cheap and fertile, selling his surplus cockerels for 25 cents
each and permit the storage man to freeze them until the following
spring to compete with the broiler man's expensively produced goods.
The effort at early broiler production was a natural result of the
combination of the idea of artificial incubation with our
grandmother's pride in having the first setting hen. But in the
present age the man who attempts it is rowing against the current of
economical production, for the cheaply produced broiler can be
stored until the season of scarcity, with but slight loss in
quality. To produce broilers in the season of scarcity, necessitates
the consumption of a product (eggs) which cannot be so successfully
stored, with a lesser quantity of that same product in its season of
plenty. We will give the production of broilers no further attention
save as a by-product of egg production.
South Shore Roaster.
The production of South Shore soft roasters in a local section of
Massachusetts, offers a successful contrast with the broiler
business and is, so far as the writer knows, the only case in the
United States where pullets are profitably diverted from egg
production. The process of roaster production is essentially as
The incubators are set in the fall or early winter, and the chicks
reared in brooder houses. As soon as the tender age is past, the
chickens are put in simple colony houses where, with hopper fed
corn, beef scrap and rye on the range, they grow throughout the
winter and spring. They are sold from May 1st to July 1st and bring
such prices that the cockerels are caponized yet not sold as capons,
showing them to be the highest priced chicken flesh in the market
save small broilers. Now, the income of roasters is two to five
times as much per head as that of broilers. The added expense is
only a matter of feed, which bears about the same ratio to weight as
with broilers. The great advantage of the roaster business over that
of the broiler business comes in the following points:
1st: The initial expense of eggs, incubation and brooding are
distributed over a much larger final valuation.
2nd: The incubation period, while perhaps in as difficult a
season, can be distributed over a longer period of time.
With 8 pound roasters at 30 cents, we have an expense account about
as follows: cost of production to broiler stage, 30 cents as
previously given. An additional food cost of 10 cents per pound of
chicken flesh would still leave a margin of $1.40, so, for an income
of $1,200, only about 860 birds need be raised, a proposition not
beyond the capacity of one man to handle.
Allowing a spread of five hatching periods, the number of eggs
required at once would be one-twelfth that demanded by the broiler
farm. As it is, the roaster grower finds trouble in getting good
eggs and is obliged to pay 50 cents a dozen for them, but his want
is within the region of possibility.
The South Shore roaster district is an example of an industry built
up by specialization and co-operation. But in this sense I do not
mean co-operation in production, but that the product is handled by
a few dealers and has become well known so that the brand sells
readily at an advanced price. To a beginner in the South Shore
district, the numerous successes and failures around him cannot help
but be of great benefit. The South Shore roaster district of
Massachusetts is the best example of specialized community
production of poultry flesh that we have in the United States. It is
only rivaled by the districts in the south of England and in France.
In Chapter III the writer takes up fully the community production of
eggs. The reason I have gone into this matter in regard to eggs
rather than roasters, is because the egg production is much the
greater industry, and, whereas the soft roaster is at a premium only
in a few Boston shops, high grade eggs are universally recognized
and in demand. Many of the economies, especially concerning
incubation, would apply equally well in both communities. I expect
to see the time when chicken flesh shall be produced with these more
advanced methods in many "South Shore" communities.
Too Much Competition in Fancy Poultry.
The various types of chicken farming are classified by what is made
the leading sales product. This will depend wholly upon what is done
with the female chicks that are hatched. If they are sold as
broilers it is a broiler plant; if as roasters, it is a roaster
plant; if as stock, it is a fancy or breeding stock business, but if
kept for laying the proposition is an egg farm, and all other
products are by-products. These by-products are to be carefully
considered, and sold at the greatest possible price, but their
production is incidental to the production of the main crop.
Of the fancy poultry business as a main issue it must be said that
it is certainly a poor policy to start out to make a living doing
what hundreds of other people are only too glad to spend money in
doing. Just as a homeless girl in a great city is beaten out in the
struggle for existence by competition with girls who have good
homes, and are working for chocolate money, so the man starting out
as a poultry fancier is certainly working at great odds in
competition with the professional men, farmers and poultry raisers
whose income from fancy stock is meant to buy Christmas presents and
not to pay grocery bills.
To enter the fancy poultry business, one should take up poultry
breeding in a small way, while working at another occupation, or he
may take up commercial poultry production, learn to produce stock in
large quantities and at a low productive cost, after which any
breeding stock business he may secure will be added profit. The
fancier will find the cost of production as given for commercial
purposes very instructive, but if he operates in a small way he
should expect to find his productive costs increased unless he
chooses to count his own labor as of little or no value. That every
chicken fancier also has in a small way commercial products to sell,
goes without saying. These, indeed, together with his sales of
high-priced stock, may pull him through with a total profit, even
though his production cost is great, but every fancier should take a
pride in making the sales at commercial rates pay for their cost of
If the reader has received the impression from the present
discussion that fancy poultry breeding always proves unprofitable,
he certainly has failed to get the key-note of the situation. There
are numbers of fancy poultry breeders making incomes of several
thousand dollars per year, but these are old breeders and well-known
There is another type of poultry fancier who is more commercial in
his methods, but whose work lacks the personal enthusiasm and
artistic touch of the regular fancier. I refer to the band wagon
style of breeder who gets out a general catalog in which are
pictured acres of poultry yards with fences as straight as the
draughtsman's rule can make them. Such men do a big business. They
may carry a part or all of the breeding stock on a central poultry
plant and farm out the eggs, contracting to buy back the stock in
the fall, or the poultry farm may be a myth and the manager may
simply sell the product of the neighboring farmers who raise it
The system is naturally disliked by the higher class fanciers, but
the writer must confess that any system which gets improved stock
distributed among the farmers is worthy of praise. These types of
poultry farms have been more largely carried on in the West than in
the East, owing to the fact that true fanciers are thicker in the
East. There is undoubtedly still plenty of room for band wagon
poultry plants in the West and especially in the South.
As adjuncts of this business may be mentioned the sale of a line of
poultry supplies and the handling of other pet stock, such as dogs
or Shetland ponies. In this case the advantage of such additions
depends upon the fact that the greatest cost is that of advertising,
and, if anything that will be associated in the buyer's mind with
the main article be added to the catalog, it will result in
additional sales at a low rate of advertising cost.
Egg Farming the Most Certain and Profitable.
We have now discussed all the branches of the poultry business save
that of egg production, and the result of our review indicates that
most of these fields are either of limited opportunities or that
they present obstacles in the very nature of the work that prevent
their being conducted on a large scale.
Egg production is undoubtedly the most promising and profitable
branch of the poultry industries. The chief reason that this is true
is to be found in the fact that the most difficult feature in
chicken growing is the rearing of young stock through the brooding
period. Now, as the eggs laid by a hen are worth several times the
value of her carcass, it stands to reason that once we succeed in
rearing pullets, egg farming must be the most profitable business to
For each hen that passes through a laying period there is her own
carcass, and at least one cockerel, that are necessarily produced
and that must be marketed. Now, the pullet is worth more for egg
producing than can be realized for her as a broiler or roaster, and
her extra worth may be considered as counter-balancing the price at
which cockerels must be sold.
The egg crop represents about two-thirds of the value of all poultry
products, and the demand for the high grade goods has never been
satisfied. Egg farming cannot easily be overdone, whereas any other
type of poultry production must compete with the cockerels and hens
that are a by-product of egg farming.
Egg farming by no means relieves one from the difficulties of
incubation and growing young stock, but it does throw these
difficult parts of the business at the natural season of the year
and results in a distribution of work throughout a longer period of
In the remainder of the volume we will consider the poultryman as an
egg farmer. We will also, unless otherwise stated, assume that he is
a White Leghorn egg farmer, who is hatching by artificial
incubation. Such reference to the marketing of poultry flesh or to
other breeds will be made only in comparison of this type of the
business or in relation to the production or handling of farm-grown
THE POULTRY PRODUCING COMMUNITY
The builder of air castles in Poultrydom invariably starts out with
a resumé of the specialization of the world's work and the wonderful
advances in the economy of production of the large corporate
organization, compared with the individual producer.
The lone blacksmith hammering out a horseshoe nail is contrasted
with the mills of the American Steel Company. The fond dreamer looks
upon the steel trust, the oil trust, the department store, the
packing house, the chain groceries, the theatrical trust, and the
colossal enterprises that dominate every field of industry save
agriculture. Here, then, lies the neglected opportunity for the
industrial dreamer to hop over the fence, awaken the sleeping
farmer, and fill his own purse with the wealth to be made by
applying modern business methods to agriculture.
The knowing smile--the farmer may be asleep and he may not be.
Suppose that he is, does the fond dreamer dream that he is the first
man from the industrial kingdom of great things to look with hungry
eyes at the rich field of agricultural opportunity, basking in last
century's sun? Alas, fond dreamer, your name is legion. Every farmer
who has sent a son to college has known you and the Hon. William
Jennings Bryan has met you, called you an agriculturist and defined
you as a man who makes his money in town and spends it in the
But the dreamer is right in his first premise--great economies in
production are the result of specialization and combination. Why not
then in agriculture? I'll tell you why. There is a touch of nature
in the living thing that calls for a closer interest on the part of
the laborer than the industrial system of the mine and factory can
Why is combined and specialized production more economical? It may
be because it gets more efficient work out of labor, it may be that
larger operations make feasible the employment of more efficient
methods and machinery. The cost of production may be lowered, by
either or both of these means, or it may be lowered by an increased
efficiency in machinery, even with a decreased efficiency in labor.
Combination and specialization so commonly cut down expenses because
of large operations and the use of better tools, that we may take
this saving for granted. When it comes to labor there is a different
story. The negro working with boss and gang, or the machine-tender
in the factory work as well or better for large than for small
concerns, but the labor of a poultry plant is different. It is made
up of a great many different operations well scattered in space and
time. For the most part it is simple labor, but it is essential that
it be performed with reasonable concern for the welfare of the
In other industries, as with men working at a bench, the presence of
a foreman keeps them busy and their work may be daily inspected. To
have foremen in poultry work would require as many foremen as
laborers, and even then they would be as useless, for when the last
round of the brooders is made at night a foreman standing three feet
away could not know whether the laborer who had placed his hand in
the brooder had found all well or all wrong.
It is useless to carry the argument farther. The labor bill is one
of the biggest items of expense in poultry production. With a system
where the efficiency of the labor decreases with the size of the
business, large industrial enterprises are impossible. Such savings
as will be made in buying supplies, selling, etc., will be wasted in
the reduced efficiency of labor.
The bulk of labor in poultry work must be self-reliant labor and the
only test for such efficiency is number of chicks reared and the
weight of the egg basket. Even this will not be a complete test
unless from the income be subtracted the feed bills.
A system of renting or working on shares that will gain the
advantages of centralization without losing the individual interest
of the laborer, will go a long way toward making the poultry
business one wherein large capital and large brains can find a place
to work. I expect to see in the future some such system evolved. In
fact we have to-day a profit-sharing plan between owner and foreman
on many of our best plants. To extend such to each laborer requires
more system and better superintendence, but it is feasible and must
come. But, better still is it for the worker to own the stock. Best
yet if he owns both stock and land, leaving to larger capital only
such phases of the business as involve great saving when done on a
Just as the manufacturer of farm machinery, the packing of meat and
the manufacture of butter have successfully been taken out of the
control of the individual farmer and placed under corporate or
co-operative organization, so the writer expects to see certain
portions of the process of poultry production removed from the hands
of the farmer and controlled by more specialized and expert labor.
Far from meaning the lessening of the earning power of the farmer,
every one of such steps means larger production and more profits.
The ideal of agricultural economics is to give the farmer the
smallest possible proportion of the work of agricultural production
in order that the most may be produced and the farmer's share along
with the others may be largest.
Established Poultry Communities.
In a previous chapter we spoke of the South Shore roaster district
of Massachusetts. Here is a community where, in lots of from a dozen
to four or five thousand, are annually produced seventy-five or one
hundred thousand market fowls of one particular type. While this
business was not built up by the efforts of a corporation or
individual who planned definitely the entire project, yet we find a
central influence at work in the person of the firm of Curtis Bros.,
who for years have bought the majority of South Shore roasters, and
who have done a great deal to advertise the product and encourage
their neighbors to a larger and more uniform production.
At Little Compton, R. I., is a very similar parallel of the South
Shore district in the shape of egg farms. Here we find within a
radius of two miles about one hundred thousand Rhode Island Red hens
owned in flocks of two thousand or less. The methods used throughout
the community are all alike and are simple in the extreme. There are
no incubators, no brooders, no poultry houses, no long houses, no
dropping boards to be scraped every morning, nothing in fact, but
board-walled, board-roofed, colony houses, scattered over the grass
fields and similar though smaller fields covered with coops for hens
and chicks. Feeding is equally simple; a mash of meat, vegetables
and ground grain mixed once a day and hauled around in a one-horse
cart and hoppers of whole corn exposed in the houses. The houses are
cleaned twice a year. Little Compton is, indeed, a community where
all the rules of the poultry books are regularly violated, and yet a
larger number of successful egg farms can be seen from the church
spire at Little Compton Corners than most poultry writers have ever
seen or read about. Strange it is, as Josh Billings puts it, that
"some folks know things that ain't so."
An illustration published in a recent issue of the World's Work
tells a remarkable story. A pile of egg shells as big as a straw
stack certainly indicates "something doing" in the chicken business,
and it is a very proud monument to Mr. Byce who, some twenty odd
years ago, established an incubator factory at the town of Petaluma.
Petaluma is in Sonoma County, California, forty miles north of San
Francisco. In the census year of 1899, Sonoma County produced more
eggs than any other county in the United States. To-day there are in
the Petaluma region close to one million hens.
Like the Little Compton district, Petaluma is a one-breed community,
White Leghorns being the breed used. The individual flocks range
larger than at Little Compton, chiefly because the milder climate,
smaller breed, and establishment of the central hatchery enables one
man to take care of more birds.
When I asked Mr. Byce for a list of the people in his neighborhood
keeping over one thousand hens, he replied by sending me a list of
twenty-two men who keep from 8,000 down to 2,500 each, and said that
to give those keeping from one to two thousand, would practically be
to take a census of the county. The methods of housing and feeding
used are simple and inexpensive like those at Little Compton.
The chief reason why Petaluma shows a more advanced development in
the poultry community than the eastern poultry growing localities,
is to be found in the climatic advantages which favor incubation
(see Chapter on Incubation) and the consequent development of the
central hatchery. Outside of this, the location is not especially
favorable. The temperature is milder in the winter than in the East,
but the Petaluma winter is one of continual rain which develops roup
to a greater extent than we have it in the East. The prices received
for high grade eggs in San Francisco is in the winter about equal to
the top prices in New York. In the spring and summer New York will
give more for fancy goods. The cost of corn on the Pacific Coast is
about 40 cents a hundred more than on the Atlantic Coast. Wheat,
however, is cheaper than in the East, but not cheap enough to
substitute for the more staple grain.
The eggs from the Petaluma region are at present marketed largely
through a co-operative marketing association.
Developing Poultry Communities.
I have shown why the large individual poultry farms with hired labor
have not proven profitable fields for the investment of capital.
Again, I have shown that in a few localities where the business was
incidentally started, communities of independent poultry farmers
have grown up which are very successful, and that there is no
apparent reason why similar communities elsewhere, if intelligently
located, could not do as well or better.
This looks like an excellent field for corporate enterprise.
Certainly there is no more reason why the poultry community cannot
be as successfully promoted as an irrigation project, or a cheese
factory, or a trucking community. In such a community there are many
functions that can be better performed by a capitalized body managed
by experts than by individual poultrymen acting alone.
These functions are:
First, the selection of a location and the purchase of the land in
Second, laying out this land into suitable individual holdings, with
regard to economy of water supply and the collection of the product.
Third, the partial or complete equipment of these farms at less
expense and in a more suitable manner than could or would be done by
the individual holders.
Fourth, the sale or rent of these places to poultrymen at a
reasonable profit on the investment, but at a rate which will still
be below the cost at which the individual could have acquired the
land. Fifth, the selection of the stock that would not only be
better adapted to the enterprise than that which would be acquired
by the individual farmer, but would possess the uniformity necessary
to the maintenance of a standard grade in the product.
Sixth, the centralized hatching of the chicks by which means chicks
can be more cheaply hatched and better hatched than by the imperfect
methods available to the small poultryman.
Seventh, the purchase of all outside supplies with the usual savings
involved in large purchases.
Eighth, a teaming system of delivering such supplies.
Ninth, a general protection against thieves and predatory animals by
an organized war on all "varments."
Tenth, maintenance of the best methods in feeding and care by the
employment of skilled advisers, or the operation of demonstration
farms under the direction of the central management.
Eleventh, the enforced daily gathering of all eggs and their
lodgment that same evening in a clean, dry cooler, with a
thermometer hovering around 29 degrees Fahrenheit.
Twelfth, the strict enforcement of penalties against the man who
attempts to sell bad eggs.
Thirteenth, the prompt dispatch of the product to its final market.
Fourteenth, the final sale of the eggs with opportunities for fancy
prices made possible by an absolutely guaranteed product in
quantities sufficient to permit of a regular supply and of
advertising the product.
Fifteenth, the conduction of breeding operations along any desired
line, with the opportunity of combining the principle of great
numbers for selection with the comparison of all progeny from
ancestry, a method that will bring results a hundred times more
quickly than the efforts of the small breeder.
Sixteenth, the advantage of the sale of breeding stock to be
acquired from the free publicity which is showered on all unique
In these sixteen functions there is ample opportunity for capital,
backed by ability in organization, to reap an ample reward. Is it a
dream? In a sense yes, but a dream made possible by the observation
of the actual results achieved in similar lines, and of the present
tendency in the poultry producing world.
Why has not this thing been done before? Because no one knew enough
to do it. Why did not the wonderful trucking regions develop earlier
in the South, and why does it still take northern settlers, backed
by railroad advertising, to develop the wonderful modern industries
which enables every city dweller in the North to have strawberries
in February and fresh vegetables any day in the year?
Why did the California fruit trade develop? Did anyone suppose forty
years ago that the unsettled valley around Pasadena would ever
produce one thousand dollars per acre in one year? These orange
groves, too valuable for agricultural purposes to be used as town
sites, were precarious experiments until the trans-continental
refrigerator car and the California Fruit Growers' Exchange paved
the way and put each day in every eastern and northern city just the
quantity of oranges that the people could consume at a profitable
Mr. Harwood, in the World's Work for May, 1908, after describing the
"City of a Million Hens," raises the question, "If in Petaluma, why
not anywhere?" I would like to answer that question by saying that
while anywhere is a little broad, the reason the industry has not
developed elsewhere has been because of the diversion of interested
capital towards impractical large individual poultry plants, manned
by hired labor. Another reason has been the lack of the technical
knowledge necessary to construct and operate efficient hatcheries.
The poultryman has been a disciple of the poultry papers and poultry
fanciers of the day. The poultry papers and poultry literature has
generally been supported by poultry fanciers and manufacturers of
incubators, patent nests and portable houses. The good folks have
vied with one another in complicating the business. They have built
steam-piped houses, with padded walls and miniature railways with
which daily to haul away the droppings. A few famous fanciers
selling eggs at $10.00 per setting have made such business pay, but
alas for the luckless investor in what the visiting poultry editor
would style a "handsomely equipped modern poultry plant."
A few years ago a Government poultry expert paid a visit to
Petaluma. He came back and reported, "It is a great disappointment,
the methods are very crude." The case is most pathetic. Here was a
man employed by the people to teach them how to make poultry pay.
His carfare is paid across the continent that he might visit the
only community in the United States where at that time any
considerable number of people were making their living from poultry,
and because he did not find lightning rods on the poultry houses, he
came back with the look of Naamen who, when he was requested by
Elisha to bathe seven times in the river Jordan, replied, "It is
Will Co-operation Work?
That magic thing, "Co-operation," while utterly lacking in the
Utopian qualities with which the word artist paints it, is a
decidedly bigger factor in American affairs than the average man
The chief difficulty with co-operation is that the manager, if not
incompetent, has an excellent opportunity to be a grafter. In Europe
co-operation in agricultural and mercantile enterprise is older and
better developed than in this country. Perhaps the Europeans are
less inclined to be grafters, but a more likely explanation is that
the members of such associations as these have learned how to
prevent and detect graft, just as our business men have learned to
avoid losses from the dishonesty of employes. That this is the true
explanation is substantiated by the fact that when co-operation once
becomes established in this country, it succeeds even better than in
When the creameries were started in the West several years ago,
there was much complaint of swindlers, fake stock companies, and
co-operative ventures in which the manager absconded with the butter
money. To-day more than half of the American creameries are
co-operative and the number is constantly increasing. They are
efficient and successful in every way, and to-day make the finest of
butter and pay the highest prices to the farmer for his cream. But
their way was first paved and the business developed by successful
Co-operation is entirely feasible and successful where the people
behind the movement have enough interest in the enterprise and good
enough business sense to run the proposition as efficiently as
similar private enterprises are run. The idea that co-operation must
always result in a big saving is a misconception. Employes will not
work any harder for an association than for a private employer,
sometimes not as hard. Certainly no employee will work as hard for an
association as he will for himself.
Why people should expect to buy out the grocery store and hire the
grocer to run it and save money for themselves, is a thing I could
never understand. But if there is some great waste that co-operation
will prevent, as where seven milk wagons drive every morning over
the same route, or where the market of perishable crops is glutted
one day and starved the next, centralization, corporate or
co-operate, will pay.
I know of no better way to impress the reader with American
co-operation in actual practice than to quote from a brief account
of the California Fruit Growers' Exchange.
The Exchange was founded upon the theory that every member is
entitled to furnish his pro rata of the fruit for shipment through
his association, and every association to its pro rata to the
various markets of the country. This theory reduced to practice
gives every grower his fair share, and the average price of all
markets throughout the season.
Another cardinal provision of the plan was that all fruit should be
marketed on a level basis of actual cost, with all books and
accounts open for inspection at the pleasure of the members. These
broad principles of full co-operation constitute the basis of the
The Exchange system is simple, but quite democratic. The local
association consists of a number of growers contiguously situated,
who unite themselves for the purpose of preparing their fruit for
market on a co-operative basis. They establish their own brands,
make such rules as they may agree upon for grading, packing and
pooling their fruit. Usually these associations own thoroughly
equipped packing houses.
All members are given a like privilege to pick and deliver fruit to
the packing house, where it is weighed in and properly receipted
for. Every grower's fruit is separated into different grades,
according to quality, and usually thereafter it goes into the common
pool, and in due course takes its percentage of the returns
according to grade.
Any given brand is the exclusive property of the Local Association
using it, and the fruit under this brand is always packed in the
same locality, and therefore of uniform quality. This is of great
advantage in marketing, as the trade soon learns that the pack is
There are more than eighty associations, covering every citrus fruit
district in California, and packing nearly two hundred reliable and
guaranteed brands of oranges and lemons.
The several local Exchanges designate one man each from their
membership as their representative, and he is elected a director of
the California Fruit Growers' Exchange. By this method the
policy-making and governing power of the organization remains in the
hands of the local Exchanges.
From top to bottom the organization is planned, dominated and in
general detail controlled absolutely by fruit growers, and for the
common good of all members. No corporation nor individual reaps from
it either dividends or private gain.
So far we have dealt almost exclusively with the organization of the
Exchange, its co-operative aspects, and general policy at home.
Equally important is its organization in the markets.
Seeking to free itself from the shifting influence of speculative
trading, by taking the business out of the hands of middlemen at
home, the Exchange found it quite as important to maintain the
control of its own affairs in the markets.
For this purpose the Exchange established a system of exclusive
agencies in all the principal cities of the country, employing as
agents active, capable young men of experience in the fruit
business. Most of these agents are salaried, and have no other
business of any kind to engage their attention, and none of the
Exchange representatives handle any other citrus fruits. These
agents sell to smaller cities contiguous to their headquarters, or
in the territory covered by their districts.
Over all these agencies are two general or traveling agents, with
authority to supervise and check up the various offices. These
general agents maintain in their offices at Chicago and Omaha, a
complete bureau of information, through which all agents receive
every day detailed information as to sales of Exchange fruit in
other markets the previous day. Possessing this data, the selling
agent cannot be taken advantage of as to prices. If any agent finds
his market sluggish, and is unable to sell at the average prices
prevailing elsewhere, he promptly advises the head office in Los
Angeles, and sufficient fruit is diverted from his market to relieve
it and restore prices to normal level.
Through these agencies of its own the Exchange is able to get and
transmit to its members the most trustworthy information regarding
market conditions, visible supplies, etc. This system affords a
maximum of good service at a minimum cost. The volume of the
business is so large that a most thorough equipment is maintained at
much less cost to growers than any other selling agency can offer.
The annual business of the California Fruit Growers' Exchange
amounts to over ten million dollars, and the Exchange handles over
half the citrus fruit output of the State. Yet there are people who
say co-operation in America will not work.
Co-operative Egg Marketing in Denmark.
I have discussed at length the work of the California Fruit Growers'
Exchange, as the best example in the United States of the
co-operative marketing of farm produce. We have thus far but little
co-operative work in the marketing of poultry products. Canada has a
few examples, but it is to European countries that we must go for a
full demonstration of the principle of co-operation when applied to
the products of the hen. In England and in Ireland co-operative
efforts in the growing, fattening, and marketing of poultry and eggs
are quite common. It is to Denmark, however, that we must go to find
the most wholesale example of this truly modern type of business
The Danes are co-operators in the fullest sense. They have
co-operative creameries and co-operative packing houses. The Danish
Egg Export Society is an organization, the plan and work of which is
very much like that of the California Fruit Growers' Exchange.
The local branch of the association buys the eggs of the farmer,
paying for them by weight. Collectors are hired to gather them at
frequent and regular intervals, and are paid In accordance with the
amount of their collections, but must stand the loss of breakage.
Each individual poultryman's eggs are kept separate until they reach
a centralizing station. There are a number of these central stations
at which the eggs are carefully crated and packed for shipment to
The individual farmer is fined or taxed for all bad eggs found in
his lot. This fine is deducted from his receipts and he has nothing
to do but to submit to it or get out of the association. The latter
he cannot afford to do because the association has its established
brands and can pay him more for his eggs than he could secure by
attempting to market them himself. As a result of this strict system
of making the producer responsible for weight and quality of the
eggs the Danish eggs have become the largest and finest in the
Although the writer firmly believes in the co-operative marketing of
farm produce, and considers that the success already secured in this
work is conclusive evidence of the practicability and desirability
of co-operation, it would not be fair to infer that co-operation has
entirely driven out private or corporate enterprise. Just as a
goodly per cent. of the citrus fruit of California is still handled
by private dealers, so in Denmark we find that nearly one-half of
the eggs sent to England are handled by private companies. Let it be
noted, however, that these companies maintain a system of buying on
merit which enforces high quality that is not to be found where
private buyers are without the spur of co-operative competition.
Before co-operation entered the orange regions of California, the
fruit was poorly packed and handled and the markets at times so
glutted, that shipments of fruit sometimes failed to pay the
freight, and this was actually charged back to the unfortunate
grower. Co-operation has done away with this waste. In like manner
the great loss from decomposed eggs and half hatched chicks is
unknown to the egg trade of Denmark.
Corporation or Co-operation?
The community of farmers producing a large quantity of a single kind
of product is the coming form of agricultural enterprise. Will this
community be promoted by corporation or by co-operation?
Arthur Brisbane says, "As individual control of the Government has
been superceded by collective control, so individual control of
industries will be followed by collective control. That is the
Brisbane is right. The individual, or the corporation, which is an
individual using other men's money, foreruns co-operation, because
the individual knows exactly what he wants to do and the big group
of individuals does not know what they want or how to do it until
individuals have, by concrete successes, shown them.
When the creameries were started, co-operative creameries were
unsuccessful and could not compete with privately owned creameries.
The farmers have now become too wise to be "easy-marks" to the fake
creamery promoters or to trust their butter sales to a comparative
stranger and co-operation is a success.
Poultry communities cannot be made out of whole cloth by the
co-operative plan. Private corporations will be necessary to launch
these enterprises. When they have reached the stage of development
now to be seen in Little Compton and Petaluma they are ready for
I have emphasized the point that the private corporation is the
natural forerunner in this matter in order to discourage premature
or over-ambitious efforts at co-operation. Whenever a community of
poultrymen or, for that matter, a community of growers of any
perishable form of products, who are already successful in the
producing end, wish to take up co-operation and will see that men
are selected to manage it who will use the same precautions to guard
against incompetency or graft that they, as individuals, would use
in their own business, there is excellent chance of success.
Go slow. Do not expect to get rich quick by "cutting out the
middleman's enormous profits," for the middleman's profits are not
enormous, and if you see that your co-operation is not paying, give
it up and confess to yourselves that you do not know as much about
the business as your private competitors.
WHERE TO LOCATE
That poultry should be kept on every farm to supply the farmer's own
table does not permit of argument. When it comes to production for
market, I believe there are some sections where it costs more to
produce and market poultry and eggs than is received for the product
when sold. For illustration: On a farm which is twenty miles from
town and where grain cannot be profitably grown, the cost of teaming
grain from the railroad station and of sending the eggs to market as
frequently as is necessary to have a wholesome product, would
certainly eat up all possible profits.
The farmer thus located would find a more profitable use for his
time in some industry where the raw material is near at hand and the
product needs less frequent marketing.
Some Poultry Geography.
When we are discussing poultry on the general farm, the problem of
location is not to be taken into consideration, save to the extent
that there are a few localities where food cost is so high or
marketing facilities so poor as to make even the usual farm surplus
The map on page 45 shows the intensity of egg production and also
indicates the location of the more important localities where
poultry plants have succeeded. The map on page 47 shows the quality
of eggs coming from various sections, which indicates pretty closely
the general development of the poultry industry. These indications,
however, are of little value in locating a poultry plant, for they
refer to the poultry product on the general farm, and are a matter
of the number and general intelligence of farmers, rather that a
sign of the suitability of the locality for the poultry industry.
For purposes of discussion, I have divided the United States into
seven sections as shown by the dotted lines on the second map.
[Illustration: Plate II. Page 45. Map:
Intensity of egg production in the United States]
Section 1 is the North Woods and too cold and remote for
the poultry business.
Section 2 includes the great West, of which an adequate discussion
is out of the question. Of course, the great majority of this area
is too remote from markets for poultry production. The locations
around the big cities in this section are excellent for poultry
farming, as they are so far removed from the great farm region that
their bulk of imported eggs are of necessity somewhat stale.
California is good chicken country. The Puget Sound country is
rather too damp. In the interior western regions the chicken
business has not done well, chiefly because the atmosphere is too
dry for the methods of artificial incubation attempted.
Section 3 is the great granary of the world. It is also the home of
three-fourths of the country's poultry crop. It is a region of corn,
cattle and hogs. Such a country will produce poultry in a very
inexpensive manner. But it is not the region for special poultry
farms. In the northern portion of this tract, we find a heavy
housing expense and much winter labor necessary. It is a region of
high priced lands and labor, and low prices for poultry products.
Even the large cities in this region offer little in the way of
demand for high grade poultry products. This is because they are so
abundantly surrounded with farms that all produce is moderately
fresh and plentiful. There are no successful poultry farms in this
section west of the Mississippi. It is the natural location of
extensive rather than intensive branches of agriculture. The only
type of commercial poultry farming that could succeed in any portion
of this section would be a large community of producers who could
ship their products out regularly in carload lots. Such development
could only take place in the southern portion of this region, for
the housing expense is too great for the north. At best the distance
from market is a disadvantage, for the rate on eggs just about
equals the rate on the quantity of grain necessary to produce them.
The added time of shipment is something of a drawback, though in
refrigerator cars this is not serious. After the establishment of
poultry communities becomes more common, the Oklahoma and Texas
region will become available for this purpose, but they must be
established in full swing at the start, for a few isolated
poultrymen have no chance at all in this section, for they cannot
sell their product to advantage.
Section 4. This region, extending from the Ozarks to Eastern
Tennessee, is one of the very best poultry sections. The climate is
such that green food is available winter and summer, and the expense
of housing and winter labor is reasonable. This section is still in
the corn growing region. The question is almost always one of
railroad facilities to get the product out. All poultry farms in
this section must grow their own grain or buy it of their immediate
neighbors. It will not pay to ship grain into this region.
[Illustration: Plate III. Page 47. Map:
Intensity of egg production in the United States]
When near shipping facilities, individual poultry farms in Section 4
have a good chance of success, especially east of the Mississippi.
This is the most favorable region in the country for the
establishment of poultry communities that are to grow their own
grain. Such poultry farms will not be expected to confine their
attention as exclusively to the business as those in the section
where it is profitable to import the grain.
Section 5 is the non-grain growing region of the South. It at
present produces little poultry. The climate is all right for the
purpose, but the freight rates on grain from the West are high and
likewise the freight service and freight rates to the final market
are excessive. Under these conditions poultry farming will not pay
except in a few localities as in Florida, where there is a high
class local market due to the popular resorts. If grain could be
profitably grown in this section the same type of poultry farming
that prevails in Section 4 would be advisable. Now, grain can be
grown in the cotton belt of the South, and many Yankee farmers are
making good money doing it. But when grown it is liable to be worth
more to feed mules than to feed chickens.
Section 6 is the "Down East" section of dense population. The land
for the most part is rocky, wooded and hilly. The climate and nature
of the soil are against the economical production of poultry, but
the grain can be profitably fed, and as the markets are the best in
the country, commercial poultry farming has gained quite a foothold.
If a man is already located in this section and wishes to go into
the poultry business I would by all means say, "Go ahead," but I
would not advise an outsider looking for a location to come here,
for the next section has several advantages.
Section 7 is the best poultry farming district in the United States,
either for the individual poultry plant or for the community of
poultry growers. The reasons for this are:
First: The soil is of a sandy nature and excellent land for poultry
farming can be had at a low price.
Second: The climate is much more favorable than farther north or
Third: Grain rates from the West are very reasonable.
Fourth: The best market in the country--New York City--is within
easy shipping distance.
The type of poultry farming here to be recommended, like that of
Section 6, is one in which imported grain is fed. The fertility of
this grain, going back on the light soil, is used to grow the green
food required by the hens, and, in addition, may be used in a
rotation system for growing truck. It will not pay to grow any
quantity of grain. Section 7, because of its advantages over Section
6 in climate and the availability of large tracts of suitable land,
is a much better location for the poultry community. Over Section 4,
which is the second best region for this purpose, it has the
advantage of nearness to markets. The climatic advantage of Sections
4 and 7 are about on a par. The chief distinction is the matter of
growing grain or importing it. If you are to grow your grain, using
poultry as a means of marketing it, Section 4 is the best locality.
If you are to buy grain, Section 7 is the place.
The boundaries of Section 7 are not arbitrary and should be noted
carefully. The line runs from Mattawan, New Jersey, across to the
main line of the Pennsylvania and down this to Washington. To the
north and west of this, the soils are heavy clays which are wet,
cold, slushy and easily befouled. Likewise, the line on the south is
distinctly marked by the Norfolk and Western Railway and is a matter
of freight rates on grain. Norfolk gets a rate of sixteen and a half
cents from Chicago; a couple of hundred miles south, the rate is
about twice as much. Cheaper grain rates would of course extend this
belt on down the coast where the climate is even more favorable.
Climate is a big figure in the cost of poultry production. Every day
that water is frozen in winter means increased labor and decreased
egg yield. Mild winters means cheap houses, cheap labor, cheap feed
(a large proportion of green food), an earlier chick season, which,
together with the mild weather and green feed, mean a large
proportion of the egg yield at the season when eggs are high in
The American poultry editor wastes a great deal of ink explaining
why the Australian egg records of 175 eggs per hen, cannot be so,
because in this country, the hens at the Maine station only averaged
125. The Maine Experiment Station lies buried in a snow drift for
about five months of the year. The Australian station has a winter
climate equal to that of New Orleans. The Australian records do not
go below thirty eggs per day per hundred hens at any time during the
year. Our New York and New England records run down anywhere from
one to ten eggs per day per hundred hens. The following table will
show the effect of the climate upon the distribution of the egg
yield throughout the year. The records at New York are from a large
number of hens of several different flocks and probably represent a
normal distribution of the egg yield for that section. The Kansas
and Arkansas lists are taken from the record of small flocks and are
not very reliable. The fourth column gives the Australian records
with the months transferred on account of being in the southern
hemisphere. The last column gives the railroad shipments from a
division of the N.C. & St. L. railroad in Western Tennessee:
NY--Central New York per hen per day
KS--Kansas Ex. Station per hen per day
AR--Arkansas Ex. Station per hen per day
AU--Australian Laying Contest per hen per day
NH--Shipments from New Hampshire egg farm
TN--Shipments from Western Tennessee
NY KS AR AU NH TN
January .21 .25 .32 .51 26 1509
February .26 .22 .30 .66 41 1520
March .43 .60 .62 .67 66 2407
April .56 .52 .38 .61 83 1775
May .59 .57 .44 .53 81 1650
June .50 .46 .42 .45 61 1131
July .44 .43 .34 .43 58 878
August .37 .32 .38 .41 54 422
September .26 .28 .29 .29 24 100
October .17 .13 .22 .31 3 541
November .08 .06 .18 .31 2 703
December .14 .25 .15 .40 11 1150
An equable climate the year round is the best for the chicken
business. The California coast is fairly equable in temperature, but
its winter rains and summer drouth are against it. The Atlantic
coast south of New York is fairly good, probably the best the
country affords. The most southern portions will be rather too hot
in summer, which will result in a small August and September egg
yield. Probably the region around Norfolk is, all considered, the
best poultry climate the country affords.
Soil is important in poultry farming; in fact it is very important,
and many failures can be traced to soil mistakes. Rocky and
uncultivated lands must not be chosen. To locate on any soil which
will not utilize the droppings for the production of green food, is
to introduce a loss sufficient to turn success into failure.
The ideal soil for poultry is a soil too sandy to produce ordinary
farm crops successfully, and hence an inexpensive soil; but because
land too sandy to be used for heavy farming is best for poultry,
this does not mean that any cheap soil will do. A heavy wet clay
soil worth $150 an acre for dairying is worth nothing for poultry.
Pure sand is likewise worthless and nothing can be more pitiable
than to see poultry confined in yards of wind swept sand, without a
spear of anything green within half a mile.
The soils that are valuable for early truck are equally valuable for
poultry. Sand with a little loam, or very fine sand, if a few green
crops are turned under to provide humus, are ideal poultry soils.
The Norfolk fine Sand and Norfolk Sandy Loam of the U.S. soil
survey, are types of such soil.
These soils absorb the droppings readily and are never covered with
standing water. The winter snows do not stay on them. Crops will
keep greener on them in winter than on clay soils three hundred
miles farther south.
The disadvantage of such soils is that they lose their fertility by
leaching. The same principles that will cause the droppings to
disappear from the top of the ground will likewise cause them to be
washed down beyond the depths of plant roots. This loss must be
guarded against by not going to the extreme in selecting a light
soil and may be largely overcome by schemes of running the poultry
right among growing crops or by quick rotations.
Land sloping to the southward is commonly advised for the purpose of
getting the same advantages as are to be had in a sandy soil. In
practice the slope of the land cannot be given great prominence,
although, other things being equal, one should certainly not
disregard this point. In heavy lands it is necessary to raise the
floors and grade up around the houses. The quickly drained soil does
away with this expense.
Timber on the land is a disadvantage. Poultry farming in the woods
has not been made a success. It's the same proposition of the
droppings going to waste. I know a man who bought a timbered tract
because it was cheap and who scraped up the droppings to sell by the
barrel to his neighbor, who used them to fertilize his cabbage patch
and in turn sold the poultryman cabbages to feed his hens, at 5
cents a head. Of course, this man failed, as does practically every
man who attempts to scrape dropping boards and carry poultry manure
around in baskets, instead of using it where it falls.
There is little to be said in favor of uncleared land for the
poultry business, but there is something that can be said in favor
of the poultry business for uncleared land. A man who buys a
timbered land for trucking can get no income whatever the first
year, but the poultryman can begin his operations in the woods,
clearing the land while he is raising a crop of chickens on it. The
coops may be placed in the cleared streak and most of the droppings
utilized. In fact, the plan of a streak of timber alongside the
houses is not bad for a permanent arrangement--the birds certainly
enjoy the shade. But the shade of growing crops is the most
profitable kind for poultry.