Part 3 out of 5
consequently reducing evaporation. This gives exactly the same
results as the use of moisture, but the machine is easier to operate
and seemed to do away with the vexatious moisture problem which,
together perhaps, with some fancied resemblance of felt diaphragms
to hen feathers, has resulted in the widespread use of this type of
The latest effort along the lines of reducing evaporation is the
sand tray machine that followed in the wake of the Ontario
investigation. This device simply gives a greater evaporating
surface to the water and hence a greater addition to the vapor
pressure. The results in practice I had given me by a man who last
year hatched sixty-five thousand chicks and as many more ducklings.
He said: "The sand tray early in the season gave the best hatches
and most vigorous chicks we had, but later on things got too wet and
the chickens drowned." No nicer demonstration of science in practice
could be desired.
In the present-day incubator of either type we are wholly at the
mercy of sudden climatic changes of vapor pressure. For the slower
changes from season to season some control by greater and less
amounts of supplied moisture, or by ventilator slides is available,
but little understood and seldom practiced.
It will certainly be of interest to my readers to know the actual
hatches obtained with the prevailing type of box incubator. By
actual hatches we mean the per cent. of live chicks taken out of the
machine to the per cent. of eggs put in. The ordinary published
hatches, based on one per cent. of fertile hatches, are a delusion
and a snare. When eggs are tested out many dead germs come out with
them and the separation of microscopic dead germs from the infertile
egg is, of course, impossible. Such padded and show hatching records
do not interest us.
Where incubators are run on top of the ground I have found the
results to be poor and to improve, the bigger and deeper and damper
and warmer and less ventilated the cellar is made. The reason for
this is plain. In such a cellar the vapor pressure of the air is not
only greater but is less influenced by the shifting vapor pressure
of the outside air. In a good cellar the operator, though his
knowledge of the factors with which he deals is grievously
deficient, learns, through long and costly experience, about what
addition of moisture or about what rate of ventilation will give him
the best results. In the room more subject to outside influences,
the conditions are so constantly changing that uniformity of
practice never gives uniform results, and hence the operator is
without guidance, either intelligent or blind, and the results are
wholly a product of chance.
As proof of my contention I may give results of a series of full
season hatches for 1908, each involving several thousand eggs.
First, a state experiment station, the name of which I do not care
to publish. Incubators kept in a cement basement which has flues in
which fires were built to secure "ample ventilation." This caused a
strong draft of cold, dry air, making the worst possible condition
for incubation. The hatch for the season averaged 25 per cent. and
was explained by lack of vitality in the stock.
Second, Ontario Agricultural College. A room above ground, moisture
used in most machines and various other efforts being made to
improve the hatches by a staff of half a dozen scientists. Results:
Hatch 48 per cent.--incubator manufacturers call the experimenters
names and say they are ignorant and prejudiced.
Third, Cornell University: dry ventilated basement representing
typical conditions of common incubator practice of the country.
Results: Hatch 52 per cent., results when given out commonly based
on fertile eggs and every one generally pleased.
Fourth: One of the most successful poultrymen in New York State, who
has, without knowing why, hit upon the plan of using a no-moisture
type of incubator in a basement which is heated with steam pipes,
which maintains temperature at 70 degrees and has a cement floor
which is kept covered with water. Results: Hatch 59 per cent.
Fifth: As a fifth in such a series I might mention again the
Egyptian machine with the uniform vapor pressure of the climate and
the three chicks exchanged for four eggs.
While an official in the United States Department of Agriculture, I
gathered data from original records of private plants covering the
incubation of several hundred thousand eggs. Such information was
furnished me in confidence as a public official and as a private
citizen I have no right to publish that which would mean financial
profit or loss to those concerned.
Of records where there were ten thousand or more eggs involved, the
lowest I found was 44 per cent. and the highest, that mentioned as
the fourth case above, or 59 per cent. The great majority of these
records hung very closely around the 50 per cent. mark.
The following is a fair sample of such data. It is the record
of hatching hen eggs for the first six months of 1908, at one
of the largest poultry plants in America:
Eggs Chicks Per Cent.
Month Set Hatched Hatched
January 4,213 1,585 37 2-3
February 6,275 2,339 33 3-4
March 17,990 6,993 38 1-3
April 18,819 10,265 54 1-2
May 24,458 14,438 59
June 13,100 6,614 55
------ ------ ------
Total 84,855 42,234 50 p.c.
The Future Method of Incubation.
The idea of the mammoth incubator which would hatch eggs by the
hundred thousand and a minimum of expense is the dream of the
American incubator inventor. We have long had available such methods
of insulation and regulating the supply of heat as would point to
the practicability of such a dream.
The past efforts in this direction have fallen down for the
following simple reason: All eggs were placed in a single big room
with a view of the man's entering the room to take care of them.
Contact with cold walls, the opening of doors, the hatching of
chicks or introduction of fresh eggs set up air currents, the hot
air rising and the cold air settling until great differences in
temperature would be found in the room. No systematic regulation of
evaporation was contemplated, as the principles at stake or the
means of such regulation were unknown.
The attempt just referred to was made several years ago by one of
the most successful of incubator manufacturers and because of his
failure other inventors were inclined to steer clear of the
proposition. Meanwhile the need of such an incubator has grown
enormously. At the time that above effort was made no duck ranch
existed whose annual production ran over thirty or forty thousand
ducklings, whereas we now have several in the one hundred thousand
Much more remarkable has been the growth of the day-old chick
business. The discovery that newly hatched chicks could be
successfully shipped hundreds of miles with less loss than shipping
eggs for hatching, has resulted in a few years' time in the growth
of hatcheries of considerable size where chicks are hatched by means
of common incubators. Still another opportunity for the use of large
hatcheries has been by the growth of poultry communities. There are
other communities besides those mentioned in this book which would
amply support public hatcheries. If half the poultry growers of
Lancaster County, Pa., were to be prevailed upon to patronize a
public hatchery, the county would support between fifteen and twenty
100,000 egg incubators. Any of the numerous trolley centers in
Indiana, Ohio and Southern Michigan would likewise be profitable
locations for the establishment of public hatcheries.
The demand for the incubator of large capacity has, within the last
year or so, brought two or three "mammoth" incubators into the
market. The devices I now refer to consist of a row of box
incubators which, instead of being heated by single lamps, are
heated by continuous hot water pipes. This scheme effects a
considerable saving in fuel cost and labor, but the bulkiness of
construction and the woeful lack of evaporation control are still to
be dealt with.
The writer now wishes briefly to describe the plan of construction
and operation of a new type of hatchery, the success of which has
recently been made feasible by inventions and technical knowledge
hitherto unavailable. The plan of the hatchery is on that of a cold
storage plant as far as insulation and general construction go. The
eggs are kept in bulk in special cases which are turned as a whole
and may rest on either of four sides. At hatching time the eggs are
spread out in trays in a special hatching room, which is only large
enough to accommodate chicks to the amount of one-sixth of the
incubator capacity, for twice a week deliverings, or one-third if
weekly deliveries are desired.
There are no pipes or other sources of heat in the egg chambers. All
temperature regulation is by means of air heated (or cooled as the
case may be) outside of the egg rooms and forced into the egg rooms
by a motor driven cone fan, maintaining a steady current of air, the
rate of movement of which may be varied at will. The air movement
maintained will always be sufficiently brisk, however, to prevent an
unevenness of temperature in different parts of the room.
So simple is this that the reader will doubtless wonder why it was
not developed earlier. The reason is that air subject to the
climatic influences will, with any forced draft sufficient to
equalize temperature, result in a fatal rate of evaporation.
Sprinkling the air has not generally been thought practical because
of the notion that air must not be used in the egg chamber but once,
which involved quite a waste of heat necessary in warming a large
bulk of air and evaporating sufficient water. Moreover, no means
has, in the past, been available for making a sufficiently accurate
measurement of the evaporating power of the air.
The hair hygrometers commonly sold to incubator operators are known
by scientists to be absolutely unreliable. The range between the wet
and dry bulb thermometers was found in the Ontario experiments to
give readings with and without fanning that varied 15 to 20 per
cent. in relative humidity which, at the temperature of an egg
chamber, would amount to a variation of three to four hundred of
vapor pressure units, which, with the forced draught plan, would
ruin a hatch of eggs in a few hours. The sling psychrometer as used
by the U.S. Weather Bureau should, in the hands of an expert, give
results making possible measurements accurate to two or three per
cent. of relative humidity or forty to sixty units of vapor
pressure. In contrast with these blundering instruments we now have
available an instrument with which the writer has frequently
determined vapor pressure accurately to within a range of two or
three vapor pressure units and the instrument is capable of being
constructed for even finer work.
As it is only by means of air with the moisture content absolutely
controlled that the use of a large room becomes possible, we can now
see why this type of hatching remained so long undeveloped. By means
of such vapor pressure control the large egg chamber is not only
feasible but the rate of evaporation at once becomes subject to the
control of the operator and we achieve a perfection in artificial
incubation hitherto unattained.
The means by which the air moisture is regulated is similar to that
used in up-to-date cold storage plants where the air is made moist
by sprinkling and dried with deliquescent salts. The regulation of
vapor pressure, like that of temperature, may be by electrically
moved dampers which switch a greater or less proportion of the
incoming current to the sprinkler or dryer as the case may be. The
ordinary incubator thermostat gives the necessary impulse for the
control of the temperature dampers, while the instrument above
referred to is used for the vapor pressure control.
As the entire air circuit is closed, the chemical composition of the
air may also be regulated at will. This results in a reduction of
the quantity of heat required to a minimum; in fact, with the
incubator in full swing, the air will, at times, need cooling rather
The question of the cost of incubation by this method, or of profit
of such a hatchery operated for the public is almost wholly one of
the size of operations. Where sufficient eggs may be obtained and
sufficient demand exists for the chicks to make it profitable to
operate, the additional cost of hatching extra chicks will be
insignificant compared with the present system.
The Egyptian poultryman gives four eggs for three chicks, but the
American poultryman would be willing to give four eggs for one
chick, as is shown by the fact that he sells eggs for from 1 to 3
cents apiece and buys day-old chicks for ten to fifteen cents. A
plant with a seasonable capacity of 100,000 eggs has a basis to work
upon something as follows:
With a fifty per cent. hatch and chicks at 10 cents each there would
be a gross income of $5,000 annually. From this we must subtract for
eggs at 2 cents each, $2,000. Salary for operator $1,000, wages for
helper $300. Fuel, supplies and repairs $500. Cost of delivery and
sales of chicks $200. This leaves a residue of $1,000, which would
pay a 20 per cent. interest on the necessary investment of $5,000.
Personally, I think this is about the minimum unit of hatching that
would prove worth while as independent institutions.
Any increase in the percentage of the hatch would, of course, reduce
the unit of size necessary for profitable operation. Upon a single
poultry plant as a duck farm the cost of operation would be
materially reduced, as the operator himself would take the place of
the intelligent manager and the cost of gathering eggs and the
delivery of the product would be eliminated.
The most profitable method of hatchery operation undoubtedly will be
upon a plan analogous to what, in creamery operation, is called
centralization. The success of this scheme depends upon the fact
that transportation and agencies at country stores are relatively
less important items of expense than plant construction and high
salaries for skilled labor. A hatchery with a million capacity can
be built and run at not more than twice the cost of one
hundred-thousand plant and better men can be kept in charge of it. A
portion of the saving will of course be expended in maintaining a
system of buying eggs and selling chicks.
The material advantage of operating a hatchery in connection with a
high-class egg handling and poultry packing establishment, or as one
feature of a poultry community, is at once apparent, for the system
of collecting the market produce will be utilized for gathering eggs
and distributing chicks, each business helping the other.
The public hatchery also gives an excellent opportunity for the
introduction of good stock among farmers who would be too shiftless
to acquire it by ordinary methods.
The old adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing is
nowhere better illustrated than in the scientific phases of poultry
feeding. The attempted application of the common theoretical feeding
standards to poultry has caused not only a great waste of time but
has also resulted in expenditures for high-priced feeds when cheaper
feeds would have given as good or better results.
The so-called science of food chemistry is really a rough
approximation of things about which the actual facts are unknown.
Such knowledge bears the same relation to accurate science as the
maps of America drawn by the early explorers do to a modern atlas.
Like these early efforts of geography the present science of food
chemistry is all right if we realize its incompleteness. In
practice, the poultryman, after a general glance at the "map," will
find a more reliable guide in simpler things.
I am writing this book for the poultryman, not the professor, and
because I state that the particular kind of science wherein the
professor has taken the most pains to teach the poultryman is
comparatively useless, I fear it may arouse a mistrust of the value
of science as a whole. I know of no way to prevent this except to
point out the distinction between scientific facts and guesses
couched in scientific language.
When a scientist states that a hen cannot lay egg shells containing
calcium without having calcium in her food, that is a fact, and it
works out in practice, for calcium is an element, and the hen cannot
create elementary substances. When the same scientist, finding that
an egg contains protein, says that wheat is a better egg food than
corn because it has the largest amount of protein, that is a guess
and does not work in practice because protein is not a definite
substance, but the name of a group of substances of which the
scientist does not know the composition, and which may or may not be
of equal use to the hen in the formation of eggs.
All substances of which the world is made are composed of elements
which cannot be changed. When these elements are combined they form
definite substances with definite proportions entirely independent
of the original elements. The pure diamond is carbon. Gasoline is
carbon and hydrogen. Several hundred other things are also carbon
and hydrogen. Sugar is carbon combined with hydrogen and oxygen.
These three elements make several thousand different substances,
including fats, alcohol and formaldehyde. Hydrocyanic acid is carbon
combined with hydrogen and nitrogen, and is the most deadly poison
The failure of food science is partly because we do not know the
composition of many of the substances of food and partly because
these substances are changed in the animal body in a manner which we
do not understand and cannot control.
Conventional Food Chemistry
The conventional analysis of feeding stuff divides the food
substances in water, carbohydrates, fat, protein and ash. The amount
of water in the body is all-important, but, with the exception of
eggs during incubation, I confess I prefer to rely upon the
chicken's judgment as to the amount required.
The carbohydrate group contains starch, sugar, cellulose and a
number of other things. Carbohydrates constitute two-thirds to
three-fourths of all common rations and nine-tenths of that amount
is starch. The proposition of how much carbohydrates the hen eats is
chiefly determined by the quantity of grain she consumes.
Of fats there are many kinds of which the composition is definitely
known. The amount of fats the hen eats is unimportant because she
makes starch into fat. The protein or nitrogen containing substances
of the diet is the group of food substances over which most of the
theories are expounded. The hen can make egg fat from corn starch or
cabbage leaves because they contain the same elements. She cannot
make egg white from starch or fat because the element of nitrogen
which is in the egg white is lacking in the starch and fats.
The substances that have nitrogen in them are called protein. They
are very complex and difficult to analyze. In digestion these
proteins are all torn to pieces and built up into other kinds of
protein. Just as in tearing down an old house, only a portion of the
material can be used in a new house, so it is with protein and
laboratory analysis cannot tell us how much of the old house can be
utilized in building the new one.
In practice the whole subject simmers down to the proposition of
finding out by direct experiment whether the hen will do the work
best on this or that food, irregardless of its nitrogen content as
determined in the laboratory.
The results of many experiments and much experience has shown that
lean meat protein will make egg protein and chicken flesh protein
and that vegetable protein pound for pound is not its equal. I know
of no results that have proven that the high priced vegetable foods
such as linseed meal, gluten feed, etc., have proven a more valuable
chicken food than the cheapest grains.
With cows and pigeons this is not the case, but the hen is not a
vegetarian by nature and high priced vegetable protein doesn't seem
to be in her line. Of the three standard grains there is some
indication of the value of the proteids for chickens and of the
following ranks, 1st oats, 2d corn, 3d wheat.
The false conceptions of the value of wheat proteids has been
specially the cause of much waste of money. Digestive trials and
direct experiments both show that, as chicken foods, wheat is worth
less, pound for pound, than corn and yet, though much higher in
price, it is still used not only as a variety grain, but by many
poultrymen as the chief article of diet. Wheat contains only 3 per
cent. more proteid than corn. The man who substitutes wheat at one
and one-half cents a pound for corn worth one cent a pound pays 17
cents a pound for his added protein. In beef scrap he could get the
protein for 5 cents a pound and have a very superior article
Milk as a source of protein ranks between the vegetable proteids and
those of meat. It is preferably fed clabbered. The dried casein
recently put on the market is a valuable food but is not worth as
much as meat food and will not be extensively utilized until the
demand for meat scrap forces up the price to a point where the
casein can be sold more cheaply. Meat scrap, to be relished by the
chickens, must not be a fine meal, but should consist of particles
the size of wheat kernels or larger. The fine scrap gives the
manufacturer a chance to utilize dried blood and tankage which is
cheaper in quality and price than particles of real meat.
The last and least understood of the groups of food substances is
mineral substance or ash. Now, the chemist determines mineral
substance by burning the food and analyzing the residue. In the
intense heat numerous chemical changes take place and the substances
that come out of the furnace are entirely different from those
contained in the fresh food.
The lay reader will probably ask why the chemist does not analyze
the substances of the fresh material. The answer is that he doesn't
know how. Progress is made every year but the whole subject is yet
too much clouded in obscurity to be of any practical application. At
present the feeding of mineral substance, like the feeding of
protein, can best be learned by experimenting directly with the
foods rather than by attempting to go by their chemical composition.
In practice it is found that green feed supplies something which
grain lacks, presumably mineral salts. Moreover we know that such
food fed fresh is superior to the same substance dried. This may be
because of chemical changes that occur in curing or simply because
of greater palatability.
The other chief source of mineral matter is meat preparations with
or without ground bone. Recent experiments at Rhode Island have
attempted to show the relative value of the mineral constituents of
meat by adding bone ash to vegetable proteids, as linseed and gluten
meal. The results clearly indicate that mineral matter of animal
origin greatly improves the value of the vegetable diet, but that
the latter is still sadly deficient. Of course the burning process
used in preparing the bone ash may have destroyed some of the
valuable qualities of the mineral salts. Practically, we do not care
whether the value of animal meal be due to protein, mineral salts or
In time the world will become so thickly populated that we cannot
afford to rear cattle and condemn a portion of the carcass to go
through another life cycle before human consumption. By that time
the necessary food salts will doubtless be known and we will be able
to medicate our corn and alfalfa and do away with the beef scrap.
The poultrymen will do well, however, not to count on the chemistry
of the future, for the chemist that makes the "tissue salts" for the
hen may manufacture human food with Niagara power and fresh eggs
will come in tin cans.
How the Hen Unbalances Balanced Rations.
Let the poultryman who figures the nutritious ratio of chicken feed
try this simple experiment. Place before a half dozen newly hatched
chicks a feed of one of the commercial chick feeds. When they have
had their fill, sacrifice these innocents on the altar of science
and open their crops. He will find that one chick has eaten almost
exclusively of millet seed, another has preferred cracked corn,
another has filled up heavily on bits of beef scrap and mica crystal
grit, while a fourth fancied oats and granulated bone. In short the
chick has, in three minutes, unbalanced the balanced ration that it
took a week to figure out. This experiment can be varied by placing
hens in individual coops and setting before each weighed portions of
every food in the poultryman supply man's catalogue.
There is only one kind of feeding that will balance rations and that
is to feed exclusively on wet mash. This is successfully done in the
duck business, but the duck is a Chinese animal and his ways are not
the ways of the more fastidious hen.
In dairy work the individual preferences of the cows are given
attention and their whimsy catered to by the herdsman. I know of
nothing that makes a man more feel his kinship to the beast than to
hear a good dairyman talk of the personalities and preferences of
his feminine co-operators.
With commercial chicken work, humanly guided individual feedings is
out of the question, though, if used, it might hasten the coming of
the two-egg-per-day hen. Individual feeding with the hen as sole
judge as to what she shall eat, which means each food in separate
hoppers and free range, is the best system of chicken feeding yet
The duty of the poultryman is to supply the food, giving enough
variety to permit of the hens having a fair selection. In practice
this means that every hen must have access to water, grit
(preferably oyster shell), one kind of grain, one kind of meat, and
one kind of green food. In practice it will pay to add granulated
bone for growing stock. One or two extra grains for variety and as
many green foods as conveniences will permit to increase
palatability--hence increase the amount of food consumed, for a
heavy food consumption is necessary for egg production.
As corn is the cheapest food known, let it be the bread at the
boarding house and other grains the rotating series of hash, beans
and bacon. The grain hopper may have two divisions. The corn never
changes but the other should have a change of grain occasionally.
The extent of the use made of the various grains will be determined
by their price per pound.
The proportions of food of the various classes that will be consumed
is about as follows:
Of 100 lbs. of dry matter: 8 to 12 lbs. meat; 66 to 75 lbs. grain;
15 to 25 lbs. green food.
The profits of the business will be increased by supplying the green
food in such tempting forms as to increase the amount consumed and
cut down the use of grains.
The methods we have been describing in which various dry unground
grains, beef scrap and oyster shell, each in a separate compartment,
are exposed before the hen at all times, together with the abundant
use of green food, either as pasture or a soiling crop, is the
method of feeding assumed throughout this book.
The hopper feeding of so-called dry mash or ground grain mixture has
been quite a fad in the last few years. The tendency of the hens to
waste such food has occasioned considerable trouble. They are
picking it over for their favorite foods and trying to avoid
disagreeable foods. This difficulty is relieved when the food be
separated into its various components and the hen offered each
separately. As a matter of fact, there is no occasion for feeding
ground feed except in fattening rations and here the wet mash is
The use of the products of wheat milling has been the chief excuse
for such practices, but unless these get considerably lower in price
per pound than corn they may be left off the bill-of-fare to
advantage. The great use made of these products in poultry feeding
was chiefly a result of the attempted application of the balanced
ration idea, but as has already been shown the efforts to raise the
protein ratio with grain foods is generally false economy.
The old-fashioned wet mash which the writer does not recommend
because of the labor involved, is, nevertheless, a fairly profitable
method of poultry feeding. It is used in the Little Compton district
of Rhode Island and was also used in the famous Australian egg
laying contests elsewhere described. Personally I would prefer
feeding ground grain wet, especially wheat bran and middlings, to
feeding it dry.
The scattering of grain in litter so generally recommended in
poultry literature is all right and proper, but is rather out of
place in commercial poultry farming. It is used on the large poultry
plants with the yards and long houses, but is not used on colony
farms or in any of the poultry growing communities. I should
recommend littered houses for Section 6 and the northern half of
Section 3 (see Chapter IV), but with warmer soils and climate where
the snow does not lie on the ground it would add a labor expense
that would very seriously handicap the business.
The systems of poultry feeding that are commonly advertised are
based either on some patent nostrum or a recommendation of green
food in novel form, such as sprouted oats. The joke about poultry
feed at 10 cents a bushel, absurd though it may seem, has caught
lots of dollars. To take a bushel of oats worth 50 cents, add water,
let them sprout and have five bushels costing 10 cents, is certainly
a wonderful achievement in wealth getting. The only reason a man
couldn't run a soup kitchen on the same principle is that he can't
do a soup business by mail. Sprouted oats are a good green food,
however, though somewhat laborious to prepare. I should certainly
recommend them if for any reason the regular green food supply
should run out.
The points already mentioned are about all the practical suggestions
that the science of animal nutrition has to offer the poultryman.
The discussion of feeding from its technical viewpoint is
sufficiently covered in the chapter on "Farm Poultry" and the
discussion of the management and economics of various types of
For the study of the classification and description of the numerous
ailments by which individual fowls pass to their untimely end, I
recommend any of the numerous books written upon the subject. Some
of these works are more accurate than others, but that I consider
immaterial. The study of these diseases is good for the poultryman,
it gives his mind exercise. When a boy in high school I studied
Latin for the same purpose.
Don't Doctor Chickens.
For the cure of all poultry diseases when they have passed a point
when the fowl does not eat or for other reasons recovery is
improbable, I recommend a blow on the head--the hatchet spills the
blood which is unwise.
The usual formula of "burn or bury deeply" is somewhat troublesome,
unless you have a furnace running. A covered pit is more convenient
if far enough removed from the house that the odor is not
prohibitive. A post with a tally card may be planted near by. This
part of the poultry farm may be marked "Exhibit A," and shown first
to the visitor during the busy season. If he is one of those
prospective pleasure and profit poultrymen who propose to disregard
all facts of biology and economics of production, you may save
yourself the trouble of showing him the rest of the plant.
Unfortunately, this scheme is not open to the poultryman who has
breeding stock for sale.
I have frequently had the question put to me in the smoker of a
Pullman car, "Do not epidemic diseases make the poultry business
precarious?" Such questions came from farm-raised men, but not from
poultry farmers. Poultrymen should figure a certain loss of birds
just as insurance companies figure on the human death rate, but to
all practical intents and purposes the epidemic disease has been
banished from the poultry farms and seldom if ever enters the
records in answer to the question, "Why do poultry farms fail?"
Some of my readers may take exception to me either in regard to roup
or white diarrhoea. Roup is a disease of the wrong system and
careless management. White diarrhoea, so-called, is a matter of
The high mortality of young chicks, though not an epidemic disease,
shares with excessive cost of production, very much of the
responsibility for poultry farm failures. At the present writing the
poultry editors of the country are having much discussion over the
conclusion of Dr. Morse of the Bureau of Animal Industry to the
effect that white diarrhoea is caused by an intestinal parasite
similar to the germ that causes human dysentery. Dr. Morse's
opportunities for investigation have been somewhat limited and as
the intestines of any animal are always swarming with various
organisms, it will take very conclusive evidence to prove that the
doctor is right. Practically the naming of the germs that attend the
funeral is not particularly important for the reason that it has
been thoroughly demonstrated that with good parentage, good
incubation and good brooder conditions, white diarrhoea is unknown.
The Causes of Poultry Diseases.
Poultry ailments are assignable to one of the three following
causes, or a combination of these: First, hereditary or inborn
weakness; second, unfavorable conditions of food, surroundings,
etc.; third, bacteria or animal parasites.
A great many chickens die while yet within the shell, or during the
growing process, there being no assignable reason save that of
inherited weakness. To this class of troubles the only remedy is to
breed from better stock. It is as much the trait of some birds to
produce infertile eggs or chicks of low vitality as it is for others
to produce vigorous offspring.
The second class of ailments needs no discussion save that accorded
it under the general discussions of the method of conducting the
The third class of ailments includes the contagious diseases. It is
now believed that most common diseases are caused by microscopic
germs known as bacteria. These germs in some manner gain entrance to
the body of an animal, and, growing within the tissues, give off
poisonous substances known as toxins, which produce the symptoms of
the disease. The ability to withstand disease germs varies with the
particular animal and the kind of disease. As a general rule it may
be stated that disease germs cannot live in the body of a perfectly
vigorous and healthy animal. It is only when the vitality is at a
low ebb, owing to unfavorable conditions or inherited weakness, that
disease germs enter the body and produce disease.
The bacteria which cause disease, like other living organisms, may
be killed by poisoning. Such poisons are known as disinfectants. If
it were possible to kill the bacteria within the animal, the curing
of disease would be a simple matter, but unfortunately the common
chemical poisons that kill germs kill the animal also. The only
thing that can be relied upon to kill disease germs within the
animal, is a counter-poison developed by the animal itself and known
as anti-toxin. Such anti-toxins can be produced artificially and are
used to combat certain diseases, as diphtheria and small-pox in
human beings and blackleg in cattle. Such methods of combating
poultry diseases have not been developed, and due to the small value
of an individual fowl would probably not be commercially useful even
if successful from a scientific standpoint. The only available
method of fighting contagious diseases of poultry is to destroy the
disease germs before they enter the fowls and to remove the causes
which make the fowl susceptible to the disease.
Contagious diseases of poultry may be grouped into two general
classes: First, those highly contagious; second, those contracted
only by fowls that are in a weakened condition. To the first class
belong the severe epidemics, of which chicken-cholera is the most
The European fowl-cholera has only been rarely identified in this
country. Other diseases similar in symptoms and effect are confused
with this. As the treatment should be similar the identification of
the diseases is not essential.
Yellow or greenish-colored droppings, listless attitude, refusal of
food and great thirst are the more readily observed symptoms. The
disease runs a rapid course, death resulting in about three days.
The death rate is very high. The disease is spread by droppings and
dead birds, and through feed and water. To stamp out the disease
kill or burn or bury all sick chickens, and disinfect the premises
frequently and thoroughly. A spray made of one-half gallon carbolic
acid, one-half gallon of phenol and twenty gallons of water may be
used. Corrosive sublimate, 1 part in 5000 parts of water, should be
used as drinking water. This is not to cure sick birds, but to
prevent the disease from spreading by means of the drinking vessels.
Food should be given in troughs arranged so that the chickens cannot
infect the food with the feet. All this work must be done
thoroughly, and even then considerable loss can be expected before
the disease is stamped out. If cholera has a good start in a flock
of chickens it will often be better to dispose of the entire flock
than to combat the disease. Fortunately cholera epidemics are rare
and in many localities have never been known.
This disease is a representative of that class of diseases which,
while being caused by bacteria, can be considered more of a disease
of conditions than of contagion. Roup may be caused by a number of
different bacteria which are commonly found in the air and soil.
When chickens catch cold these germs find lodgment in the nasal
passages and roup ensues. The first symptoms of roup are those of an
ordinary cold, but as the disease progresses a cheesy secretion
appears in the head and throat. A wheezing or rattling sound is
often produced by the breathing. The face and eyes swell, and in
severe cases the chicken becomes blind. The most certain way of
identifying roup is a characteristic sickening odor. The disease may
last a week or a year. Birds occasionally recover, but are generally
useless after having had roup.
Sick birds should be removed and destroyed, but the time usually
spent in doctoring sick birds and disinfecting houses can in this
case be better employed in finding and remedying the cause of the
disease. Such causes may be looked for as dampness, exposure to cold
winds, or to a sudden change in temperature as is experienced by
chickens roosting in a tight house. Fall and winter are the seasons
of roup, while it is poorly housed and poorly fed flocks that most
commonly suffer from this disease. Flocks that have become
thoroughly roupy should be disposed of and more vigorous birds
secured. The open front house has proved to be the most practical
scheme for the reduction of this disease.
Chicken-Pox, Gapes, Limber Neck.
Chicken-pox or sore-head is a disease peculiar to the South. It
attacks growing chickens late in the summer. Southern poultrymen who
give reasonable attention to their stock, find that, while this
disease is a source of some annoyance, the losses are not severe and
that it may be readily controlled. In the first place, the animal
epidemic of pox can be practically avoided by bringing the chicks
out early in the season. If the disease does develop in the flock,
the birds are taken from the coops at night and their heads dipped
in a proper strength of one of the coal tar disinfectants. Such
treatment once a week has generally been effective. This disease is
an exception to the general rule that disinfectants which kill germs
also kill the chicken. The explanation is that chicken-pox is an
Gapes is given in every poultry book as one of the prominent poultry
diseases, but are not common in the Northern and Western States.
Gapes are caused by a parasitic worm in the windpipe. Growing chicks
are affected. The remedy is to move the chicks to fresh ground and
cultivate the old.
Limber neck is not a disease, but is the result of the fowl's eating
maggots from dead carcasses. It can be prevented by not allowing
dead carcasses to remain where the chickens will find them. No
practical cure is known.
Lice and Mites.
The parasites referred to as chicken-lice include many different
species, but in habit they may be classed as body-lice and
roost-mites. The first, or true bird-lice, live on the body of the
chicken and eat the feathers and skin. The roost-mite is similar to
a spider and differs in habits from the body-louse in that it sucks
the blood of the chicken and does not remain on the body of the fowl
except at night.
Body-lice are to be found upon almost all chickens, as well as on
many other kinds of birds. Their presence in small numbers on
matured fowls is not a serious matter. When body-lice are abundant
on sitting hens they go from the hen to the newly hatched chickens,
and may cause the death of the chicks. The successful methods of
destroying body-lice are three in number: First, dust or earth
wallows in which the active hens will get rid of lice. Such dust
baths should be especially provided for yarded chickens and during
the winter. Dry earth can be stored for this purpose. Sitting hens
should have access to dust baths. Second: The second method by which
body-lice may be destroyed is the use of insect powder. The
pyrethrum powder is considered the best for this purpose, but is
expensive and difficult to procure in the pure state. Tobacco dust
is also used. Insect powder is applied by holding the hen by the
feet and working the dust thoroughly into the feathers, especially
the fluff. The use of insect powder should be confined to sitting
hens and fancy stock, as the cost and labor of applying is too great
for use upon the common chicken. The third method is suitable for
young chickens, and consists of applying some oil and grease on the
head and under the wings. Do not grease the chick all over. With
vigorous chickens and correct management the natural dust bath is
all that is needed to combat the lice.
The roost-mite is probably the cause of more loss to farm poultry
raisers than any other pest or disease. The great difficulty in
destroying mites on many farms is that chickens are allowed to roost
in too many places. If the chicken-house proper is the only building
infected with mites the difficulty of destroying them is not great.
Plainness in the interior furnishings of the chicken-house is also a
great advantage when it comes to fighting mites. The mites in the
daytime are to be found lodged in the cracks near the roosting-place
of the chickens.
Mites can be killed with various liquids, the best in point of
cheapness is boiling water. Give the chicken-house a thorough
cleaning and scald by throwing dippers of hot water in all places
where the mites can find lodgment. Hot water destroys the eggs as
well as the mites. Whitewash is a good remedy, as it buries both
mites and eggs beneath a coating of lime from which they cannot
emerge. Pure kerosene or a solution of carbolic acid in kerosene, at
the rate of a pint of acid to a gallon of oil, is an effective
lice-paint. Another substance much used for destroying insects or
similar pests is carbon bisulphide. This is a liquid which
evaporates readily, the vapor destroying the insects or mites.
Carbon bisulphide or other fumigating agents are not effective in
the average chicken-house because the house cannot be tightly
closed. The liquid lice-killers on the market are very effective.
They are usually composed of the remedies just mentioned, or of
something of similar properties.
POULTRY FLESH AND POULTRY FATTENING
The poultry flesh which is used for food may be grouped into three
First: Poultry carcasses grown especially for market.
Second: Poultry carcasses consisting of hens and young male birds
that are sold from the general farms where the pullets are kept for
Third: The cockerels and old hens sold as a by-product from egg
The third class hardly needs our consideration in the present
chapter. This stock, usually Leghorns, like Jersey veal, is to be
disposed of at whatever price the market offers.
The cockerel will, if growing nicely, be fairly plump and the hens,
if on hopper rations of corn and beef scrap, will be about as fat as
they can be profitably made, and to waste further effort upon them
would not pay. Leghorn cockerels and hens are a wholesome enough
meat, but will never command fancy prices nor warrant extra pains.
In class two we find the great mass of the poultry flesh of the
country. This stock consisting chiefly, as it does, of Plymouth
Rocks and Wyandottes, is well worth some extra pains toward
increasing its quantity and quality.
Within the last ten or fifteen years several changes have been
brought about in the general methods of handling farm poultry.
Formerly it was thought desirable to market all stock not kept as
layers while in the broiler stage of from 1-1/2 to 2 pounds. Since
the introduction of the custom of holding fall broilers over in cold
storage, the price has fallen until it is now more profitable to
market the surplus cockerels from the farm at three or four months
of age. At this period the flesh has cost less per pound to produce
than at either an earlier or later stage. For such purposes only the
well fleshed type of American breeds has been found desirable. The
Leghorns and similar breeds are too small and become staggy too
Contrary to a common belief and to the custom in the poultry books
of classifying the Asiatics as meat breeds, the Brahmas and Cochins
are among the very poorest fowls that can be used for farm
production of poultry meat. At the age spoken of these breeds are
lanky and unsightly and not wanted by poultry packers.
Consecutively with and perhaps responsible for change of sentiment
that demands that broilers be allowed to grow into four pound
chickens, we find the development of the crate fattening industry.
The introduction of crate-fattening into the Central West occurred
about 1900. The credit of this introduction belongs to the large
meat packing firms. At the present time the business is not confined
to the meat packers, but is shared by independent plants throughout
The plants of the West range from a few hundred to as high as 20,000
capacity. They are constructed for convenience and a saving of
labor, and in this respect are decidedly in advance of the European
establishments where fattening has been long practiced.
The room used for fattening is well built and sanitary. A good
system of ventilation is essential, as murky, damp air breeds colds
and roup. The coops are built back to back, and two or more coops in
height. Each coop is high and wide enough to comfortably accommodate
the chickens, and long enough to contain from five to twelve
chickens. The chickens stand on slats, beneath which are
dropping-boards that may be drawn out for cleaning. The
dropping-boards and feeding-troughs are often made of metal. Strict
cleanliness is enforced. No droppings or feed are allowed to
accumulate and decompose.
As is a general rule in meat production, young animals give much
better returns for food consumed than do mature individuals. With
the young chicken the weight is added as flesh, while the hen has a
tendency, which increases with age, to turn the same food into
useless fat. For this reason the general practice is to fatten only
the best of the young chickens. The head feeder at a large and
successful poultry plant gave the following information on the
selection of birds for the fattening-crates:
"The younger the stock the more profitable the gain. All specimens
showing the slightest indication of disease are discarded. The
Plymouth Rock is the favorite breed, and the Wyandotte is second.
Leghorns are comparatively fat when received, and, while they do
well under feed and 'yellow up' nicely, they do not gain as much as
the American breeds. Black chickens are not fed at all. Brahmas and
Cochins are not considered good feeders at the age when they are
commonly sold. Chickens in fair flesh at the start make better gains
than those that are extremely lean or very fat. But, contrary to
what the amateur might assume, the moderately fat chicken will
continue to make fair gains, while the very lean chicken seldom
returns a profit."
The idea has been somewhat prevalent that there is some guarded
secret about the rations used in crate-fattening. This is a mistaken
notion. The rations used contain no new or wonderful constituent,
and although individual feeders may have their own formulas, the
general composition of the feed is common knowledge. The feed most
commonly used consists of finely ground grain, mixed to a batter
with buttermilk or sour skim-milk. The favorite grain for the
purpose is oats finely ground and the hulls removed. Oats may be
used as the sole grain, and is the only grain recommended as
suitable to be fed alone. Corn is used, but not by itself. Shorts,
ground barley or ground buckwheat are sometimes used. Beans, peas,
linseed and gluten meals may be used in small quantities. When milk
products are obtainable they are a great aid to successful
fattening. Tallow is often used in small quantities toward the
finish of the feeding period. The assumption is that it causes the
deposit of fat-globules throughout the muscular tissues, thus adding
to the quality of the meat. The following simple rations show that
there is nothing complex about the crate-fed chicken's bill of fare:
No. 1.--Ground oats, 2 parts; ground barley, 1 part; ground corn, 1
part; mixed with skim-milk.
No. 2.--Ground corn, 4 parts; ground peas, 1 part; ground oats, 1
part; meat-meal, 1 part; mixed with water.
A ration used by some fatters with great success is composed of
simply oatmeal and buttermilk.
The feed is given as a soft batter and is left in the troughs for
about thirty minutes, when the residue is removed. Chickens are
generally fed three times per day. Water may or may not be given,
according to the weather and the amount of liquid used in the food.
The chicken that has been crate-fattened has practically the same
amount of skeleton and offal as the unfattened specimen, but carries
one or two pounds more of edible meat upon its carcass. Not only is
the weight of the chicken and amount of edible meat increased, but
the quality of the meat is greatly improved, consisting of juicy,
tender flesh. For this reason the crate-feeding process is often
spoken of as fleshing rather than as fattening.
The enforced idleness causes the muscular tissue to become tender
and filled with stored nutriment. The fatness of a young chicken,
crate-fed on buttermilk and oatmeal, is a radically different thing
from the fatness of an old hen that has been ranging around the
The crate-fattening industry while deserving credit for great
improvement in the quality of chicken flesh in the regions where it
has been introduced, cannot on the whole be considered a great
success. It is commonly reported that some of the firms instrumental
in its introduction lost money on the deal. The crate-fattening
plant has come to stay in the communities where careful methods of
poultry raising are practiced, and where the stock is of the best,
but when a plant is located in a newly settled region where the
poultry stock is small and feed scarce, the venture is pretty apt to
prove a fiasco.
While poultryman at the Kansas Experiment Station, the writer made a
large number of individual weighings of fowls in the crates of one
of the large fattening plants of the state.
These weighings pointed out very clearly why the expected profits
had not been realized. The birds selected for weighing were all
fine, uniform looking Barred Rock Cockerels. At the end of the first
week they were found to still appear much the same, but when handled
a difference was easily noticed. By the end of the second week a few
birds had died and many others were in a bad way. The individual
changes of weight ran from 2-1/2 pounds gain to 3/4 pound loss, and
many of the lighter birds were of very poor appearance. It is simply
a matter of forced feeding being a process that makes trouble with
the health of the chicken if all is not just right.
It is probable that in the future more fattening will be done on the
farm, or by the farmer operating in a small way among his neighbors.
The reason for this is that the saving of labor in the large plant
is hardly as great as the added loss from the shrinkage of the birds
due to the excitement of shipping and crowding, and the introduction
of disease by the mingling of chickens from so many different
The Canadians especially have encouraged fattening on the farm. The
following is a hand-bill gotten out by an enterprising Canadian
dealer for distribution among the farmers of his locality:
HOW TO FATTEN CHICKENS FOR THE EXPORT TRADE.
To fatten birds for the export trade, it is necessary
to have proper coops to put them in. These should be
two feet long, twenty inches high and twenty inches
deep, the top, bottom and front made of slats. This
size will hold four birds, but the cheapest plan is to
build the coops ten feet long and divide them into five
What to feed.
Oats chopped fine, the coarse hulls sifted out, two
parts; ground buckwheat, one part; mix with skim-milk
to a good soft batter, and feed three times a day.
Or, black barley and oats, two parts oats to one part
barley. Give clean drinking water twice a day, grit
twice a week, and charcoal once a week. During the
first week the birds are in the coops they should be
fed sparingly--only about one-half of what they will
eat. After that gradually increase the amount until
you find out just how much they will eat up clean
each time. Never leave any food in the troughs, as
it will sour and cause trouble. Mix the food always
one feed ahead. Birds fed in this way will be ready
for the export trade in from four to five weeks.
Chickens make the best gain put in the coop weighing
three to four pounds.
We Supply the Coops.
We have on hand a number of coops for fattening
chicks, which we will loan to any person, "free of
charge", who will sign an agreement to bring all
chicks fattened in them to us. Every farmer should
have at least one of these coops, as this is the only
way to fatten chicks properly. In this way you can
get the highest market price. We can handle any
quantity of chicks properly fatted.
The farmer who does not think it worth while to construct
fattening-crates for his own crop of chickens, may get very fair
results by simply enclosing the chickens in some vacant shed. To
these may feed a ration of two-thirds corn meal and one-third
shorts, or some of the more complicated rations used at the
fattening plants may be fed.
In the East, poultry fattening on the general farm is not dissimilar
from the practices in the Central West, but we find a larger use of
cramming machines, caponizing, and the growing of chickens for meat
as an industry independent of keeping hens for egg production.
The cramming machine is a device by means of which food in a
semi-liquid state is pumped into the bird's crop, through a tube
inserted in the mouth. This means of feeding is much more used in
Europe than in this country. It requires good stock and careful
workmen. The method will probably slowly gain ground in this
country. The feed used in cramming is similar to that used in
ordinary crate feeding, except that it is mixed as a thin batter.
Caponizing is the castration of male chickens. Capons hold the same
place in the poultry market as do steers in the beef market.
Caponizing is practiced to quite an extent in France, and to a less
degree in England and the United States.
Much the larger part of the industry is confined to that portion of
the United States east of Philadelphia, though increasing numbers of
capons are being raised in the North Central States. During the
winter months capon is regularly quoted in the markets of the larger
eastern cities. Massachusetts and New Jersey are the great centers
for the growing of capons, while Boston, New York, and Philadelphia
are the great markets. In many eastern markets the prices paid for
dressed capons range from 20 to 30 cents a pound. The highest prices
usually prevail from January to May, and the larger the birds the
more they bring a pound.
The purpose of caponizing is not, as is sometimes stated, to
increase the size of the chicken, but to improve the quality of the
meat. The capon fattens more readily and economically than other
birds. As they do not interfere with or worry one another, large
flocks may be kept together.
The breeds suitable for caponizing are the Asiatics and Americans.
Brahmas will produce, with proper care and sufficient time, the
largest and finest capons. On the ordinary farm, where capons would
be allowed to run loose, Plymouth Rocks would prove more profitable.
Plymouth Rocks, Brahmas, Langshans, Wyandottes, Indian Games, may
all be used for capons. Leghorns are not to be considered for this
Capons should be operated upon when they are about ten weeks or
three months old and weigh about two pounds.
The operation of caponizing is performed by cutting in between the
last two ribs. Both testicles may be removed from one side or both
sides may be opened. The cockerel should be starved for twenty-four
hours in order to empty the intestines. Asiatics are more difficult
to operate on than Americans, the testicles being larger and less
firm. There is always some danger of causing death by tearing blood
vessels, but the per cent. of loss with an experienced operator is
very small. Loss by inflammation is still more rare. The testicle of
a bird is not as highly developed as in a mammal, and if the organ
is broken and a small fragment remains attached it will produce
birds known as slips. Some growers advise looking over the capons
and puncturing the wind puffs that gather beneath the skin. This,
however, is not necessary.
A good set of tools is indispensable and can be purchased for from
$2 to $3. As a complete set of instructions is furnished with each
set it is unnecessary to go into details here. The beginner should,
however, operate on several dead cockerels before attempting to
operate on a live one.
After caponizing the bird should be given plenty of soft feed and
water. The capon begins to eat almost immediately after the
operation is performed, and no one would suppose that a radical
change had taken place in his nature.
The feeding of capons differs little from the feeding of other
growing chickens. Corn, wheat, barley and Kaffir-corn would be
suitable grain, while beef-scrap would be necessary to produce the
About three weeks before marketing place the capons in small yards
and feed them three or four times a day, giving plenty of corn and
other feed, or fatten them in one of the ways indicated in the
section on fattening poultry. Corn meal and ground oats, equal parts
by weight, moistened with water or milk, make a good mash for
In dressing capons leave the head and hackle feathers, the feathers
on the wings to the second joint, the tail feathers, including those
a little way up the back, and the feathers on the legs halfway up to
the thigh. These feathers serve to distinguish capons from other
fowls in the market. Do not cut the head off, for this is also a
distinguishing feature of the capon, on account of the undeveloped
comb and wattles.
The price received for capons is greater than any other kind of
poultry meat except early broilers. There may be trouble in some
localities in getting dealers to recognize capons as such and pay an
On several farms in Massachusetts, 500 to 1,000 capons are raised
annually, and on one farm 5,000 cockerels are held for caponizing.
The industry is growing rapidly year by year and the supply does not
equal the demand.
It is to be expected that the amount of caponizing done in the West
will gradually increase. Those wishing to try the growing of capons
will do well to secure an experienced operator. Good men at this
work receive five cents per bird. Poor operators are dear at any
price, as they produce a large number of worthless slips.
MARKETING POULTRY CARCASSES
In the marketing of poultry carcasses as in other phases of the
industry, we really have two systems to discuss. The one is used for
the marketing of the product of the farm of the Central West, and
the other the product of the poultryman or eastern farmer, who is
near a large market and who will be repaid for taking special pains
in preparing his poultry for market.
At the present time almost the entire poultry crop of the Central
West is sold from the farm as live poultry. This farm stock is
purchased by produce buyers or general merchants and shipped to the
nearest county seat or other important town, where there are usually
one or more poultry-killing establishments. These establishments may
vary from a simple shed, where the chickens are picked and packed in
barrels, to the more modern poultry-packing establishment, with its
accommodations for fattening, dressing, packing, freezing, and
The poultry-buying stations may be branches of the larger packing
establishments, branch houses of large produce firms, or small firms
operating independently and selling in the open market.
The chickens as purchased are grouped into the following classes:
Springs, hens, old roosters and (at certain seasons) young roosters
or staggy cockerels. Early in the season small springs are quoted as
broilers, while capons form a separate item where such are grown.
Chickens are starved before killing, for the purpose of emptying the
crop, and, to some degree, the intestines. If this is not done the
carcass presents an unsightly appearance and spoils more readily in
The method of picking is not always the same, even in the same
plant. Scalding is frequently used for local trade, in the summer
season, or with cheap-grade stuff. The greater portion of the stock
is picked dry. The pickers are generally paid so much per bird. In
some plants men do the roughing while girls are employed as pinners.
Pickers work either with the chickens suspended by a cord or
fastened upon a bench adopted to this purpose. The killing is done
by bleeding and sticking. The last thrust reaches the brain and
paralyzes the bird. The manner of making these cuts must be learned
by practical instruction. The feathers are saved, and amount to a
considerable item. White feathers are worth more than others. The
head and feet are left on the chicken and the entrails are not
The bird, after being chilled in ice-water or in the cooling room,
is ready for grading and packing. This, from the producer's
standpoint, is the most interesting stage in the process, for it is
here that the quality of the stock is to be observed. The grading is
made on three considerations: (1) The general division of cocks,
springs, hens and capons is kept separate from the killing-room; (2)
the grading for quality; (3) the assortment according to size.
The grading for quality depends on the general shape of the chicken,
the plumpness or covering of meat, the neatness of picking, the
color of skin and legs, and the appearance of the feet and head,
which latter points indicate the age and condition of health. The
culls consist of deformed and scrawny chickens. The seconds are poor
in flesh, or they may be, in the case of hens, unsightly from
overfatness. They are packed in barrels and go to the cheapest
trade. Those carcasses slightly bruised or torn in dressing also go
in this class. Although a preference is generally stated for
yellow-skinned poultry, the white-skinned birds, if equal in other
points, are not underranked in this score. The skin color that is
decidedly objectionable is the purplish tinge, which is a sign of
diseased stock. Black pin-feathers and dark-colored legs are a
source of objection. Especially is this true with young birds which
show the pin-feathers. Feathered legs are slightly more
objectionable than smooth legs. Small combs and the absence of spurs
give better appearance to the carcass.
The following is the nomenclature and corresponding weights of the
farm marketed chickens. In each class there will be seconds and
culls. The seconds of each group are kept separate, but not graded
so strictly or perhaps not graded at all for size. The culls are
packed in barrels and all kinds of chickens from fryers to old
roosters here sojourn together until they reach their final
destination, as potted chicken or chicken soup.
Broilers--Packed in two weights. 1st: Less than two pounds; 2d:
between 2 and 2-1/2 pounds.
Chickens--Packed in three weights. 1st: between 2-1/2 and 3 pounds;
2d: between 3 and 3-1/2 pounds; 3d: between 3-1/2 and 4 pounds.
Roasters--Packed in two weights. 1st: between 4 and 5 pounds; 2d:
above 5 pounds.
Stag Roosters--Cockerels, showing spurs and hard blue meat, packed
in two weights. 1st: under 4 pounds; 2d: above 4 pounds.
Fowls, are hens. They are packed in three sizes. 1st: under 3-1/4
pounds; 2d: between 3-1/4 and 4-1/2 pounds; 3d: over 4-1/2 pounds.
Old Roosters--Packed in barrels. One grade only.
After packing, chickens may be shipped to market immediately, or
they may be frozen and stored in the local plant. Shipments of any
importance are made in refrigerator cars.
The poultry that is shipped to the final market alive is gradually
diminishing in quantity, as poultry killing plants are built up
throughout the country. The live poultry shipments are chiefly made
in the Live Poultry Transportation Cars. The following figures give
the number of such cars that moved out of the States named in a
Iowa 645 Tennessee 169
Missouri 630 Michigan 165
Illinois 624 S. Dakota 103
Kentucky 472 Oklahoma 101
Nebraska 395 Indiana 100
Kansas 370 Wisconsin 93
Minnesota 174 Texas 91
Ohio 173 Arkansas 47
The most of this live poultry goes to New York and other eastern
cities and is consumed largely by the Hebrew trade.
The Special Poultry Plant.
The special egg farmer of the East should sell his poultry alive to
the regular dealer. The exception to this advice may be taken in the
case of squab broilers for which some local dealers will not pay as
fancy a price as may be obtained by dressing and shipping to the
The grower of roasters and capons will probably want to market his
own product. As to whether it will pay him to do so will depend upon
whether his dealer will pay what the quality of the goods really
demands. The dealer can afford to do this all right, if he will
hustle around and find an outlet for the particular grade of goods,
for he is in position to kill and dress the fowls more economically
than the producer.
I have never been able to study out why the average writer upon
agricultural subjects is always advising the farmer to attempt to do
difficult work for which special firms already exist. In the case of
fattening just referred to, there is reason why the farmer may be
able to do the work more successfully than the special
establishment, but why any one should urge the farmer to turn the
woodshed into a temporary poultry packing establishment I can hardly
see. If the farmer has nothing to do he had better get a job at the
poultry killing house where they have ice water and barrels in which
to put the feathers.
I do not think it worth while in this book for me to attempt to
describe in detail the various methods of killing and packing
poultry for the various retail markets. The grower who contemplates
killing his own stuff had better spend a day visiting the produce
houses and market stalls and inquire which methods are locally in
Suggestions from Other Countries.
In European countries generally, and especially in France and
England, great pains is taken in the production of market poultry.
Each farmer and each neighborhood become known in the market for the
quality of their poultry, and the prices they receive vary
accordingly. In these countries more poultry is fattened and dressed
by the growers than in the United States where we have greater
specialization of labor.
In countries that have an export trade different systems have
originated. In Denmark and Ireland co-operative societies are
organized to handle perishable farm products. These, however, deal
more with eggs than with poultry. In portions of England the
fattening is done by private fatteners. The country being thickly
settled, the chickens are collected directly from the farms by
wagons making regular trips. This allows the rejection of the poor
and immature specimens, whereas a premium may be paid on better
The greatest fault of poultry buying as conducted in this country is
the evil of a uniform price. After chickens are dressed the
difference of quality is readily discerned, and the price varies
from fancy quotations to almost nothing for culls. The packer pays a
given rate per pound for live hens or for spring chickens. The price
is paid alike for the best poultry received or for the scrawniest
chickens that can be coaxed to stand up and be weighed. The prices
paid is the average worth of all chickens purchased at that market.
All farmers who market an article better than the average are unjust
losers, while those who sell inferior stock receive unearned
profits. The producer of good stock receives pay for the extra
quantity of his chickens, but for the extra quality no recognition
whatever is given. To the deserving producer, if quality was
recognized, it would result in a greatly increased stimulation of
the production of good poultry. Any packer, if questioned, will
state that he would be willing to grade chickens and pay for them
according to quality, but that he does not do so because his
competitor would pay a uniform price and drive him out of business.
The man who receives an increased price would say little of it,
while the man who sells poor chickens, if he failed to receive the
full amount to which he is accustomed, would think himself unjustly
treated and use his influence against the dealer. A recognition of
quality in buying is for the interest of both the farmer and the
poultry dealer, and a mutual effort on the part of those interested
to put in practice this reform would result in a great improvement
of the poultry industry.
Cold Storage of Poultry.
The growth of the cold storage of poultry has been phenomenal.
Poultry is packed in thin boxes that will readily lose their heat
and these are stacked in a freezer with a temperature near the zero
point. The temperature used for holding poultry are anywhere from 0
degree up to 20 degrees. Poultry is held for periods of one to six
weeks at temperature above the freezing point.
Frozen poultry will keep almost indefinitely save for the drying
out, which is due to the fact that evaporation will proceed slowly
even from a frozen body. The time frozen poultry is stored varies
from a few weeks to eight or ten months.
The usual rule is that any crop is highest in price when it first
comes on the market and cheapest just after the point of its
greatest production. Thus, broilers are high in May and cheap in
September. In such cases the goods are carried from the season of
plenty to the following season of scarcity. This period is always
less than a year. The idea circulated by wild writers, that cold
storage poultry was kept several years is an economic impossibility.
The interest on the investment alone would make the holding of
storage goods into the second season of plenty, quite unprofitable,
but when the costs of storage, insurance and shrinkage are to be
paid, storing poultry for more than one season becomes absurd. The
fowl that has been once frozen cannot be made to look "fresh killed"
again. For that reason packers like to get a monopoly on a
particular market so that the two classes of goods will not have to
compete side by side. The quality of the frozen fowl when served is
very fair, practically as good as and some say better than the fresh
Cold storage poultry is best thawed out by being placed over night
in a tank of water. Poultry prejudice prevents the practice of
retailing the goods frozen, though this method would be highly
Drawn or Undrawn Fowls.
Within the last two or three years there has been a great hue and
cry about the marketing of poultry without drawing the entrails.
The objection to the custom rests upon the general prejudice to
allowing the entrails of animals to remain in the carcass. If a
little thought is given the subject, however, it is seen that human
prejudice is very inconsistent in such matters. We draw beef and
mutton carcasses, to be sure, but fish and game are stored undrawn,
and as for oysters and lobsters we not only store them undrawn but
we eat them so.
The facts about the undrawn poultry proposition are as follows: The
intestines of the fowl at death contain numerous species of
bacteria, whereas the flesh is quite free from germs. If the carcass
is not drawn, but immediately frozen hard, the bacteria remain
inactive and no essential change occurs. If the carcass is stored
without freezing, or remains for even a short time at a high
temperature, the bacteria will begin to grow through the intestinal
walls and contaminate the flesh.
Now, if the fowl is drawn, the unprotected flesh is exposed to
bacterial contamination, which results in decomposition more rapidly
than through the intestinal walls. The opening of the carcass also
allows a greater drying out and shrinkage.
If poultry carcasses were split wide open as with beef or mutton,
drawing might not prove as satisfactory as the present method, but
since this is not desirable, and since ordinary laborers will break
the intestines and spill their contents over the flesh, and
otherwise mutilate the fowl, all those who have had actual
experience in the matter agree that drawing poultry is unpractical
As far as danger of disease or ptomaine poison is concerned, chances
between the two methods seem to offer little choice.
The Bureau of Chemistry of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has
conducted a series of experiments along the line of poultry storage.
So far as the results have been published, nothing very striking has
been learned. From what has been published, the writer is of the
opinion that the somewhat mysterious changes that were observed in
the cold storage poultry were mostly a matter of drying out of the
The enthusiastic members of the medical profession, and others whose
knowledge of practical affairs is somewhat limited, occasionally
come forth with the idea of an inspection of poultry carcasses
similar to the Federal inspection of the heavier meats.
The reasons that are supposed to warrant the Federal meat inspection
are precaution against disease and the idea of enforcing a
cleanliness in the handling of food behind the consumer's back,
which he would insist upon were he the preparer of his own food
No doubt there is well established evidence that some diseases, such
as the dread trichinosis, are acquired by the consumption of
diseased meat. As far as it is at present known there are no
diseases acquired from the consumption of diseased poultry flesh,
but, as we do not know as much about the bacteria that infests
poultry as we do of that of larger animals, there is no positive
proof that such transmission of disease could not occur. Thorough
cooking kills all disease germs, and poultry is seldom, if ever,
eaten without such preparation.
The idea of protecting people from uncleanly methods of handling
their foods, concerning which they cannot themselves know, is
somewhat of a sentimental proposition. In practice it amounts to
nothing, save as the popular conception of this protection increases
the demand for the product which is marked "U.S. Inspected and
It may be interesting to some of the reformers of 1906 to know that
the meat inspection bill then forced upon Congress by a clamoring
public was desired by the packers themselves. Because Congress would
not listen to the packers, and the Department of Agriculture, the
Chief Executive very kindly indulged in a little conversation with a
few reporters, the results of which gave Congress the needed
It cost the Government three million dollars to tell the people that
their meats are packed in a cleanly manner. If the people want this,
it is all well and good. The tax it places upon the price of meat is
less than half of one per cent.
A similar inspection of the killing and packing of poultry would
involve a very much higher rate of taxation, because of the fact
that poultry products are packed in small establishments scattered
throughout the entire country.
One reason that the meat packers wanted the United States
Inspection, is because it puts out of business the little fellow to
whom the Government cannot afford to grant inspection. A few of the
very largest poultry packers would like to see poultry inspection
for the same reason, but with the business so thoroughly scattered
as to render Government inspection so expensive as to be quite
impracticable, any such bill would certainly be killed in a
Any practical means to bring about the cleanly handling, and to
prevent the consumption of diseased poultry, should certainly be
encouraged. This can be done by the education of the consumer.
Poultry carcasses should be marketed with head and feet attached and
the entrails undrawn. By this precaution the consumer may tell
whether the fowl he is buying is male or female, young or old,
healthy or diseased. All cold storage poultry should be frozen and
should be sold to the consumer in a frozen condition.
I am not in favor of the detailed regulation of business by law, but
I do believe that the legal enforcement of these last precautions
would be a good thing.
QUALITY IN EGGS [*]
[Footnote *: Much of the matter in this and the following chapter is
taken from the writer's report of the egg trade of the United
States, published as Circular 140 of the Bureau of Annual Industry
of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the present volume,
however, I have inserted some additional matters which policy
forbade that I discuss in a Federal document.]
Because of the readiness with which eggs spoil, the term "fresh" has
become synonymous with the idea of desirable quality in eggs. As a
matter of fact the actual age of an egg is quite subordinate to
other factors which affect the quality.
An egg forty-eight hours old that has lain in a wheat shock during a
warm July rain, would probably be swarming with bacteria and be
absolutely unfit for food. Another egg stored eight months in a
first-class cold storage room would be perfectly wholesome.
Eggs are among the most difficult of food products to grade, because
each egg must be considered separately and because the actual
substance of the egg cannot be examined without destroying the egg.
From external appearance, eggs can be selected for size, color,
cleanliness of shell and freedom from cracks. This is the common
method of grading in early spring when the eggs are uniformly of
Later in the season the egg candle is used. In the technical sense
any kind of a light may be used as an egg candle. A sixteen candle
power electric lamp is the most desirable. The light is enclosed in
a dark box, and the eggs are held against openings about the size of
a half dollar. The candler holds the egg large end upward, and gives
it a quick turn in order to view all sides, and to cause the
contents to whirl within the shell. To the expert this process
reveals the actual condition of the egg to an extent that the novice
can hardly realize. The art of egg candling cannot be readily taught
by worded description. One who wishes to learn egg candling had best
go to an adept in the art, or he may begin unaided and by breaking
many eggs learn the essential points.
Eggs when laid vary considerably in size, but otherwise are a very
uniform product. The purpose of the egg in nature requires that this
be the case, because the contents of the egg must be so proportioned
as to form the chick without surplus or waste, and this demands a
very constant chemical composition.
For food purposes all fresh eggs are practically equal. The tint of
the yolk varies a little, being a brighter yellow when green food
has been supplied the hens. Occasionally, when hens eat unusual
quantities of green food, the yolk show a greenish brown tint, and
appear dark to the candler. Such eggs are called grass eggs; they
are perfectly wholesome.
An opinion exists among egg men that the white of the spring egg is
of finer quality and will stand up better than summer eggs. This is
true enough of commercial eggs, but the difference is chiefly, if
not entirely, due to external factors that act upon the egg after it
There are some other peculiarities that may exist in eggs at the
time of laying, such as a blood clot enclosed with the contents of
the egg, a broken yolk or perhaps bacterial contamination. "Tape
worms," so-called by egg candlers, are detached portions of the
membrane lining of the egg. "Liver spots" or "meat spots" are
detached folds from the walls of the oviduct. Such abnormalities are
rare and not worth worrying about.
The shells of eggs vary in shape, color and firmness. These
variations are more a matter of breed and individual idiosyncrasy
than of care or feed.
The strength of egg shells is important because of the loss from
breakage. The distinction between weak and firm shelled eggs is not
one, however, which can be readily remedied. Nothing more can be
advised in this regard than to feed a ration containing plenty of
mineral matter and to discard hens that lay noticeably weak shelled
or irregularly shaped eggs.
Preference in the color of eggs shells is a hobby, and one well
worth catering to. As is commonly stated, Boston and surrounding
towns want brown eggs, while New York and San Francisco demand white
eggs. These trade fancies take their origin in the circumstances of
there being large henneries in the respective localities producing
the particular class of eggs. If the eggs from such farms are the
best in the market and were uniformly of a particular shade, that
mark of distinction, like the trade name on a popular article, would
naturally become a selling point. Only the select trade consider the
color in buying.
Eggs of all Mediterranean breeds are white. Those of Asiatics are
brown. Those of the American breeds are usually brown, but not of so
uniform a tint.
The size of eggs is chiefly controlled by the breed or by selection
of layers of large eggs. In a number of experiments published by
various experiment stations, slight differences in the sizes of the
eggs have been noted with varying rations and environment, but this
cannot be attributed to anything more specific than the general
development and vigor of the fowls. Pullets, at the beginning of the
laying period, lay an egg decidedly smaller than those produced at a
later stage in life.
The egg size table below gives the size of representative
classes of eggs. These figures must not be applied too rigidly, as
the eggs of all breeds and all localities vary. They are given as
approximate averages of the eggs one might reasonably expect to find
in the class mentioned.
EGG SIZE TABLE.
GEOGRAPHICAL BREED Net Wt. Weight Relative
CLASSIFICATION CLASSIFICATIONS Per 30 Ounces Values
Dozen Per Per
Case Dozen Dozen
Southern Iowa's Purebred flocks of 45 lbs. 24 25c.
"Two ounce eggs" American varieties of
"egg farm Leghorns."
Poorest flocks of Games and 36 lbs. 19 1-5 20c.
Southern Dunghills Hamburgs.
Average Tennessee Poorest strains 40 lbs. 21 1-3 22 1-3c.
or Texas eggs. of Leghorns.
Average for the The mixed barnyard 43 lbs. 23 23 9-10c.
United States as fowl of the western
represented by farm, largely of
Kansas, Plymouth Rock origin.
Average size of eggs American Brahmas 48 lbs. 25 3-5 26 2-3c.
produced in Denmark. and Minorcas.
Selected brands of Equaled by several 54 lbs. 28 4-5 30c.
Danish eggs. pens of Leghorns in
the Australian laying
How Eggs Are Spoiled.
Dirty eggs are grouped roughly in three classes: (A) Plain dirties,
those to which soil or dung adheres; (B) stained eggs, those caused
by contact with damp straw or other material which discolors the
shell (plain dirties when washed usually show this appearance); (C)
smeared eggs, those covered with the contents of broken eggs.
For the first two classes of dirty eggs the producer is to blame.
The third class originates all along the route from the nest to
consumer. The percentage of dirty eggs varies with the season and
weather conditions, being noticeably increased during rainy weather.
In grading, about five per cent. of farm grown eggs are thrown out
as dirties. These dirties are sold at a loss of at least twenty per
The common trade name for cracked eggs is checks. Blind checks are
those in which the break in the shell is not readily observable.
They are detected with the aid of the candle, or by sounding, which
consists of clicking the eggs together. Dents are checks in which
the egg shell is pushed in without rupturing the membrane. Leakers
have lost part of the contents and are not only an entire loss
themselves, but produce smeared eggs.
The loss from breakage varies considerably with the amount of
handling in the process of marketing. A western produce house,
collecting from grocers by local freight will record from four to
seven per cent. of checks. With properly handled eggs the loss
through breakage should not run over one or two per cent.
Eggs in which the chick has begun to develop are spoken of as
"heated" eggs. Infertile eggs cannot heat because the germ has not
been fertilized and can make no growth. That such infertile eggs
cannot spoil is, however, a mistaken notion, for they are subjected
to all the other factors by which
eggs may be spoiled. The sale of eggs tested out of the incubators
has been encouraged by the dissemination of the knowledge that
infertile eggs are not changed by incubation. Eggs thrown out of an
incubator will be shrunken and weakened, and some of them may
contain dead germs and the remains of chicks that have died after
starting to develop. Such eggs may be sold for what they are, but
should never be mixed with other eggs or sold as fresh. When
carefully candled they should be worth ten or twelve cents a dozen.
Fertile eggs, at the time of laying, cannot be told from infertile
eggs, as the germ of the chick is microscopic in size. If the egg is
immediately cooled and held at a temperature below 70 degrees, the
germ will not develop. At a temperature of 103 degrees, the
development of the chick proceeds most rapidly. At this temperature
the development is about as follows:
Twelve hours incubation: When broken in a saucer, the germ spot,
visible upon all eggs, seems somewhat enlarged. Looked at with a
candle such an egg cannot be distinguished from a fresh egg.
Twenty-four hours: The germ spot mottled and about the size of a
dime. This egg, if not too dark shelled, can readily be detected
with the candle, the germ spot causing the yolk to appear
considerably darker than the yolk of a fresh egg. Such an egg is
called a heavy egg or a floater.
Forty-eight hours: By this time the opaque white membrane, which
surrounds the germ, has spread well over the top of the yolk, and
the egg is quite dark or heavy before the light. Blood appears at
about this period, but is difficult of detection by the candler,
unless the germ dies and the blood ring sticks to the membrane of
Three days: The blood ring is the prominent feature and is as large
as a nickel. The yolk behind the membrane has become watery.
Four days: The body of the chick becomes readily visible, and
prominent radiating blood vessels are seen. The yolk is half covered
with a water containing membrane.
These stages develop as given, occurring at a temperature of 103
degrees. As the temperature is lowered the rate of chick development
is retarded, but at any temperature above 70, this development will
proceed far enough to cause serious injury to the quality of the
For commercial use eggs may be grouped in regard to heating as
(1) No heat shown. Cannot be told at the candle from fresh eggs.
(2) Light floats. First grade that can be separated by candling,
corresponding to about twenty-four hours of incubation. These are
not objectionable to the average housewife.
(3) Heavy floats. This group has no distinction from the former,
except an exaggeration of the same feature. These eggs are
objectionable to the fastidious housewife, because of the appearing
of the white and scummy looking allantois on the yolk.
(4) Blood rings. Eggs in which blood has developed, extending to the
period when the chick becomes visible. (5) Chicks visible to the
The loss due to heated eggs is enormous; probably greater than that
caused by any other source of loss to the egg trade. The loss varies
with the season of the year, and the climate. In New England heat
loss is to be considered as in the same class as loss from dirties
and checks. In Texas the egg business from the 15th of June until
cool weather in the fall is practically dead. People stop eating
eggs at home and shipping out of the State nets the producer such
small returns by the time the loss is allowed that, at the prices
offered, it hardly pays the farmer to gather the eggs. In the season
of 1901 hatched chickens were commonly found in cases of market
eggs, throughout the trans-Mississippi region, and eggs did well to
net the shippers three cents per dozen.
Damage to eggs by heating and consequent financial loss is
inexcusable. In the first place, market eggs have no business being
fertilized, but whether they are or not they should be kept in a
place sufficiently cool to prevent all germ growth.
The egg shell is porous so that the developing chick may obtain air.
This exposes the moist contents of the egg to the drying influence
of the atmosphere. Evaporation from eggs takes place constantly. It
is increased by warm temperatures, dry air and currents of air
striking the egg.
When the egg is formed within the hen the contents fill the shell
completely. As the egg cools the contents shrink, and the two layers
of membrane separate in the large end of the egg, causing the
appearance of the bubble or air cell. Evaporation of water from the
egg further shrinks the contents and increases the size of the air
cell. The size of the air cell is commonly taken as a guide to the
age of the egg. But when we consider that with the same relative
humidity on a hot July day, evaporation would take place about ten
times as fast as on a frosty November morning, and that differences
in humidity and air currents equally great occur between localities,
we see that the age of an egg, judged by this method, means simply
the extent of evaporation, and proves nothing at all about the
Even as a measure of evaporation, the size of the air cell may be
deceptive, for when an egg with an air cell of considerable size is
roughly handled, the air cell breaks down the side of the egg, and
gives the air cell the appearance of being larger than it really is.
Still rougher handling of shrunken eggs may cause the rupture of the
inner membrane, allowing the air to escape into the contents of the
egg. This causes a so-called watery or frothy egg. The quality is in
no wise injured by the mechanical mishap, but eggs so ruptured are
usually discriminated against by candlers.
In this connection it might be well to speak further of the subject
of "white strength," by which is meant the stiffness or viscosity of
the egg white. The white of an egg is a limpid, clear liquid, but in
the egg of good quality that portion immediately surrounding the
yolk appears to be in a semi-solid mass. The cause of this
appearance is the presence of an invisible network of fibrous
material. By age and mechanical disturbance this network is
gradually broken down and the liquid white separates out. Such a
weak and watery white is usually associated with shrunken eggs.
These eggs will not stand up well or whip into a firm froth and are
thrown in lower grades.
The weakness of the yolk membranes also increases with age, and is
objectionable because the breakage of the yolk is unsightly and
spoils the egg for poaching.
The shrunken egg is most abundant in the fall, when the rising
prices tempt the farmer and grocery man to hold the eggs. This
holding is so prevalent, in fact, that from August to December full
fresh eggs are the exception rather than the rule.
While we have called attention to evaporation as the most pronounced
fault of fall eggs, losses from other causes are greatly increased
by the holding process.
If the eggs are held in a warm place, heat and shrinkage will case
the greatest damage; if held in a cellar, rot, mold, and bad odors
will cause the chief loss.
The loss due to shrunken eggs is not understood nor appreciated by
those outside the trade. Such ignorance is due to the fact that the
shrunken is not so repulsive as the rotten or heated egg. But the
inferiority of the shrunken egg is so well appreciated by the
consumer that high class dealers find it impossible to use them
without ruining their trade. The result is that shrunken eggs are
constantly being sent into the cheaper channels, with the result
that all lower grades of eggs are more depreciated in the fall of
the year than at any other time.
In the classes of spoiled eggs, of which we have thus far spoken,
the proverbial rotten egg has not been considered. The term "rot" in
the egg trade is used to apply to any egg absolutely unfit for food
purposes. But I prefer to confine the term "rotten egg" to the egg
which contains a growth of bacteria.
The normal egg when laid is germ free. But the egg shell is not germ
proof. The pores in the egg shell proper are large enough to admit
all forms of bacteria, but the membrane inside the shell is germ
proof as long as it remains dry. When this membrane becomes moist so
that bacteria may grow in it, these germs of decay quickly grow
through it and contaminate the contents of the egg.
Heat favors the growth of bacteria in eggs and sufficient cold
prevents it, but as bacteria cannot enter without moisture on the
surface of the egg we can consider dampness as the cause of rotten
eggs. Moisture on the shell may come from an external wetting, from
the "sweating" of eggs coming out of cold storage, or by the
prevention of evaporation to such an extent that the external
moisture of the egg thoroughly soaks the membrane. The latter
happens in damp cellars, and when eggs are covered with some
Rotten eggs may be of different kinds, according to the species of
germ that causes the decomposition. The specific kinds of egg
rotting bacteria have not been worked out, but the following three
groups of bacterially infected eggs are readily distinguishable in
the practical work of egg candling.
(1) Black rots. It is probable that many different species of
bacteria cause this form of rotten eggs. The prominent feature is
the formation of hydrogen sulphide gas, which blackens the contents
of the egg, gives the characteristic rotten egg smell and sometimes
causes the equally well known explosion.
(2) Sour eggs or white rots. These eggs have a characteristic sour
smell. The contents become watery, the yolk and the whites mix and
the whole egg is offensive to both eye and nose.
(3) The spot rot. In this the bacterial growth has not contaminated
the whole egg, but has remained near the point of entrance. Such
eggs are readily picked out with the candle, and when broken open
show lumpy adhesions on the inside of the shell. These lumps are of
various colors and appearances. It is probable that these spots are
caused as much by mold as by bacteria, but for practical purposes
the distinction is immaterial.
In practice it is impossible to separate rotten from heated eggs for
the reason that in the typical nest of spoiled eggs found around the
farm, both causes have been at work. Dead chicks will not
necessarily cause the eggs to decay, but many such eggs do become
contaminated by bacteria before they reach the candler, and hence,
as a physician would say, show complications.
The loss of eggs that are actually rotten is not as great as one
might imagine. Perhaps one or two per cent. of the country's egg
crop actually rot, but the expenses of the candling necessitated,
and the lowering of value of eggs that contain even a few rotten
specimens are severe losses.
Moldy or musty eggs are caused by accidentally wet cases or damp
cellars and ice houses. The moldy egg is most frequently a spot rot.
In the musty egg proper the meat is free from foreign organisms, but
has been tainted by the odor of mold growth upon the shell or
The absorption of odors is the most baffling of all causes of bad
eggs. Here the candler, so expert in other points, is usually
helpless. Eggs, by storage in old musty cellars, or in rooms, with
lemons, onions and cheese, may become so badly flavored as to be
seriously objected to by a fancy trade, and yet there is no means of
detecting the trouble without destroying the egg. Such eggs occur
most frequently among the held stock of the fall season.
The Loss Due to Carelessness.
The egg crop of the country, more than ninety-five per cent, of
which originates on the general farm, is subject to immense waste
due to ignorant and careless handling. The great mass of eggs for
sale in our large cities possess to a greater or less degree the
faults we have discussed.
Some idea of the loss due to the present shiftless method of
handling eggs, may be obtained by a comparison of the actual average
prices received for all eggs sold in New York City, and the
wholesale prices quoted by a prominent New York firm dealing in high
grade goods. The contrasted price for the year 1907 are as follows: