Part 4 out of 5
Prices at which total goods Wholesale prices for strictly
moved. fresh eggs.
January 25.8 January 42.
February 24.5 February 40.
March 19.3 March 32.
April 16.9 April 30.
May 16.6 May 31.
June 15.5 June 32.
July 15.6 July 35.
August 17.7 August 38.
September 20.7 September 40.
October 21.4 October 42.
November 26.0 November 45.
December 27.7 December 48.
The total values figured by multiplying these prices by the
New York receipts, are as follows:
Amount actually received $23,832,000
Values at quotations for strictly fresh 44,730,000
No one would contend it is possible to bring the entire egg crop of
the country up to the latter value, but the fact that there is a
definite market for eggs of first class quality at almost double the
figures for which the egg crop as a whole is actually sold, is a
point very significant to the ambitious producer of high grade eggs.
Requisites of the Production of High Grade Eggs.
(a) Hens that produce a goodly number of eggs, and at the same time
an egg that is moderately large (average two ounces each). Plymouth
Rocks, Wyandottes, Rhode Island Reds, Orpingtons, Leghorns, Minorcas
are the varieties which will do this.
(b) Good housing, regular feeding and watering, and above all clean,
(c) Daily gathering of eggs, when the temperature is above 80
degrees, gathering twice a day.
(d) The confining of all broody hens as soon as discovered.
(e) The rejection as doubtful of all eggs found in a nest which was
not visited the previous day. (Such eggs should be used at home
where each may be broken separately).
(f) The placing as soon as gathered of all summer eggs in the
coolest spot available.
(g) The prevention at all times of moisture in any form coming in
contact with the egg's shell.
(h) The selling of young cockerels before they begin to annoy the
hens. Also the selling or confining of old male birds from the time
hatching is over until cool weather in fall.
(i) The using of cracked and dirty, as well as small eggs, at home.
Such eggs if consumed when fresh are perfectly wholesome, but when
marketed are discriminated against and are likely to become an
(j) Keeping eggs away from musty cellars or bad odors.
(k) Keeping the egg as cool and dry as possible while en route to
(l) The marketing of all eggs at least once per week and oftener,
when facilities permit.
(m) The use of strong, clean cases or cartons and good fillers.
HOW EGGS ARE MARKETED
The methods by which the larger number of American eggs pass from
the producer to consumer is as follows:
The eggs are gathered by the farmer with varying regularity and are
brought perhaps on the average of once a week, to the local village
This merchant receives weekly quotations from a number of
surrounding egg dealers and at intervals of from two days to two
weeks, ships to such a dealer, by local freight. The dealer buys the
eggs case count, that is, he pays for them by the case regardless of
quality. He then repacks the eggs in new cases and, with the
exception of a period in the early spring, candles them.
This dealer, in turn, receives quotations from city egg houses and
sells to them by wire. He usually ships in carload lots. The city
receiver may also be a jobber who sells to grocers, or he may sell
the car outright to a jobbing house. The jobber re-candles the eggs,
sorting them into a number of grades, which are sold to various
classes of trade. The last link in the chain is the housewife, who
by 'phone or personal call, asks for "a dozen nice fresh eggs."
This most frequently repeated story of the American egg applies
particularly in the case of eggs produced west of the Mississippi
and marketed in the very large cities of the East.
We will now discuss the various steps of the egg trade, pointing out
the reason for the existence of the present methods and their
influence upon quality and consequent value.
The Country Merchant.
The country merchant is the logical business link between the farmer
and the outside world and usually continues to act as the farmers'
buyer and seller until the commodity dealt in becomes of such
importance as to demand more specialized form of marketing. Eggs
being a perishable crop continuously produced, must be marketed at
frequent intervals, and the trips to the general store, necessary to
supply the household needs, offers the only convenient opportunity
for such marketing.
The merchant buys eggs because by doing so he can control his
The farmer trades where he sells his eggs, because it is convenient
to do both errands at one place, and also because he wishes to avoid
affronting the merchant by breaking the established custom of
trading out the amount.
For these reasons the merchant knows that to buy eggs means to sell
goods, and he therefore bids for eggs. His competitors across the
street, and in other towns, also bid for eggs. The effect to the
merchant of lowering the price of his goods or raising the price of
eggs is financially the same. In either case it is the matter of
cutting the prices under the spur of competition. Now, the articles
on which the merchant make his chief profits from the farmers' trade
are dry goods and notions. Such articles are not standardized, but
vary in a manner quite impossible of estimation by the
unsophisticated. On the other hand, eggs are quoted by the dozen,
and all that run may read.
Suppose, for illustration, two merchants in the same town are each
doing a business with a twenty per cent. profit, and are buying eggs
at ten cents and selling for eleven, the cent advance being
sufficient to pay for their labor, incidental loss, and a small
profit. Now one merchant concludes to play for more trade. If he
marks his goods down he would gain some trade, but many people would
fear his goods were cheap. But if he puts up a placard, "Eleven
Cents Paid For Eggs," the farmers will throng his store and never
question the quality of his goods. This move having been successful,
his rival across the street quietly stocks up with a cheaper line of
dry goods, and some fine morning puts out a card, "Twelve Cents For
Eggs." The farm wagons this week will be hitched on the other side
of the street.
The rate of business at ten per cent, being insufficient to maintain
two men in the town, a mutual understanding is gradually brought
about by which the prices of goods sold are worked back to the basis
of twenty per cent, gross profit, but the false price of eggs will
serve to draw the trade from neighboring towns and is therefore
As a matter of fact the price paid to farmers for eggs by the
general stores of the Mississippi Valley is frequently one to two
cents above the price at which the storekeeper sells the product.
Allowing the cost of handling, we have a condition prevailing in
which the merchant is handling eggs at from five to ten per cent.
loss, and it stands to reason that he is making up the loss by
adding that per cent. to his profits on his goods. Some of the
effects of this system are:
1--The inflated prices of merchandise is an injustice to the
townspeople and to farmers not selling produce, in fact it amounts
to a taxation of these people for the benefit of the egg producers.
2--The inflated prices of merchant's wares work to his disadvantage
in competition with mail order or out-of-town trade. 3--The farmer
who exchanges eggs for dry goods is not being paid more for his
eggs, save as the tax on the townspeople contributes a little to
that end, but is in the main merely swapping more dollars. 4--The
use of eggs as a drawing card for trade works in favor of inferior
produce, and the loss to the farmer through the lowering of prices
thus caused, is much greater than his gain through the forced
contributions of his neighbors.
The huckster or peddling wagon which gathers eggs and other produce
directly from the farm, prevail east and south of a line drawn from
Galveston to Chicago through Texarkana, Ark., Springfield, Mo., and
St. Louis. North and west of this line the huckster is almost
The huckster wagons may be of the following types:
1--An extension of the local grocery store, trading merchandise for
eggs. 2--An independent traveling peddler. 3--A cash dealer who buys
his load, and hauls it to the nearest city where he peddles the
produce from house to house or sells it to city grocers. 4--A
representative of the local produce buyer. 5--A fifth style of egg
wagon does not visit the farm at all, but is a system of rural
freight service run by a produce buyer for the purpose of collecting
the eggs from country stores.
As far as the quality of product and advantage to the farmer is
concerned, the fourth style of huckster is preferable. This style
exists chiefly in Indiana and Michigan, and the better settled
regions of Kentucky and Tennessee. The writer found hucksters in
southern Michigan working on a profit of one-half a cent per dozen,
while in the mountains of Tennessee he found a huckster paying ten
cents for eggs that were worth eighteen cents in Chattanooga, and
twenty-three cents in New York.
The huckster scheme of gathering eggs would seemingly be a means of
obtaining good eggs because of the advantage of regularity of
collection, but in reality it does not always work out that way.
While it must be admitted that in the isolated regions of the Middle
and Southern States the presence of the huckster is the only factor
that makes egg selling possible, it is also true that the peddling
huckster of those regions usually disregards the first principles of
handling perishable products. He makes a week's trip in sun and rain
with his load of produce, with the result that the quality of his
summer eggs is about as low as can be found.
In the more densely populated region with a twice or thrice a week,
or even daily service, the huckster egg becomes the finest farm
grown egg in the market.
The second step in the usual scheme of egg marketing is the sale of
eggs collected by the small storekeeper to the produce man or
The Produce Buyer.
Throughout the Mississippi Valley there are wholesale produce houses
at all important railroad junctions. A typical house will ship the
produce of one to three counties. These houses, once a week or
oftener, send out postal card quotations. These quotations read so
much per case, and are usually case count, with a reservation,
however, of the privilege to reject or charge loss on goods that are
utterly bad. Each grocery receives quotations from one to a dozen
such houses, and perhaps also from commission firms in the nearest
city. The highest of these quotations gets the shipment.
The buyer repacks the eggs and usually candles them, the strictness
of the grading depending upon the intended destination. The loss in
candling is generally kept account of, but is seldom charged back to
the shipper. The egg man wants volume of business, and if he
antagonizes a shipper by charging up his loss, the usual result will
be the loss of trade. So the buyer estimates his probable loss and
lowers his price enough to cover it.
By loss off, or "rots out," is meant the subtraction of the bad eggs
from the number to be paid for. Buying on a candled or graded basis,
usually not only means rots cut, but that a variation of the price
is made for two or more grades of merchantable eggs.
Much discussion prevails among the western egg buyers as to whether
eggs should be bought loss off or case count. Loss off buying seems
to be more desirable and just, but in practice is fraught with
If the loss off buyer feels he is losing business, he may instruct
his candler to grade more closely, which means he will pay less.
Whether done with honest or dishonest intention, the buyer thus sets
the price to be paid after he has the goods in his own hands, and
this is an obviously difficult commercial system.
Where the buyer in one case changes the grading basis to protect
himself, there are probably ten cases where the eggs really deserve
the loss charged; but the tenth chance gives the seller an
opportunity to nurse his loss with the belief that he has been
robbed by the buyer. Such an uncertain feeling is disagreeable, and
the results are that where one or two competing egg dealers buys
loss off, and the other case count, the case count man will get most
of the business.
The case count method being the path of least resistance, the loss
off system can only succeed where there is some factor that
overcomes the disinclination of a shipper to let the other man set
the price. This factor may be: 1st--An exceptional reputation of a
particular firm for honesty and fair dealing. 2d--Exceptional
opportunities for selling fancy goods, enabling the loss off buyer
to pay much higher rates for good stuff. 3d--A condition that
prevails in the South in the summer, where the losses are so heavy
that the dealers will not take the risk involved in case count
buying. 4th--Some sort of a monopoly.
A monopoly for enforcing the loss off system of buying has been
brought about in some sections of the West by agreement among egg
dealers. In such cases the usual experience has been that some one
would get anxious for more business, and begin quoting case count,
the result being that he would get the business of the disgruntled
shippers in his section. When one buyer begins quoting case count,
the remainder rapidly follow suit and case count buying is quickly
The City Distribution of Eggs.
In name, city egg dealers are usually commission houses, but in
practice the majority of large lots of eggs are now bought by
telegraph and the prices definitely known before shipment.
In the larger cities eggs are dealt in by a produce board of trade.
Such exchanges frequently have rules of grading and an official
inspector. This gives stability to egg dealing and largely solves
the problem of uncertainty as to quality, so annoying to the country
buyer. In the city even, where official grading is not resorted to,
personal inspection of the lot by the buyer is practical, and one
may know what he is getting.
In many cases, especially in smaller cities, the receiver is the
jobber and sells to the grocers. In larger cities the receiver sells
to a firm who makes a business of selling them to groceries,
The jobber grades the eggs as the trade demands. In a western city
this may mean two grades--good and bad; in New York, it may mean
seven or eight grades, and the finer of these ones being packed in
sealed cartons, perhaps each egg stamped with the dealer's brand.
The city retailer of eggs include grocers, dairies, butcher shops,
soda fountains, hotels, restaurants and bakeries. The soda fountain
trade and the first-class hotel are among the high bidder for
strictly first-class eggs. Many such institutions in eastern cities
are supplied directly from large poultry farms. The figures at which
such eggs are purchased are frequently at a given premium above the
market quotation, or a year round contract price for a given number
of eggs per week. This premium over common farm eggs may range from
one or two cents in western cities, to five to twenty cents in New
York and Boston. An advance of ten cents over the quotation for
extras or a year round contract price of thirty-five cents per
dozen, might be considered typical of such arrangements in New York
Some of the larger chain grocers in New York City are in the market
for strictly fresh eggs and have even installed buying departments
in charge of expert egg men.
The great bulk of eggs move through the channels of the small
restaurant, bakery and grocery. In the small cities of the Central
West the grocer handles eggs at a margin of one to three cents. In
the South and farther West the margin is two to seven cents, the
retail price always being in the even nickel. In the large eastern
city there exists the custom unknown in the West of having two or
more grades of eggs for sale in the same store. All eggs offered for
sale are claimed by the salesman to be "strictly fresh" or the
"best," and yet these eggs may vary if it be April from fifteen
cents to forty cents, or if in December from thirty cents to
seventy-five cents per dozen. The New York grocers' profit is from
two to five cents on cheap eggs, but runs higher on high grade eggs,
frequently reach twenty cents a dozen and sometimes going as high as
forty cents for very fancy stock.
City retailing is by far the most expensive item in the marketing of
eggs. As an illustration of the profits of the various handlers of
eggs might be as follows:
Paid the farmer in Iowa $.15
Profit of country store .00
Gross profit of shipper .00-3/4
Freight to New York .01-1/2
Gross profit of receiver .00-1/2
Gross profit of jobber .01-1/2
Loss from candling .01-1/2
Gross profit of retailer .04-1/2
Cost to consumer $.25
The cheapest grade of eggs sold are taken by bakeries and for
cooking purposes at restaurants. When cooked with other food an egg
may have its flavor so covered up that a very repulsive specimen may
be used. Measures have been frequently taken by city boards of
health to stop the sale of spot rots and other low grade eggs. The
great difficulty with such regulations is that they are difficult of
enforcement because no line of demarcation can be drawn as in the
case of adulterated or preserved products.
That embryo chicks and bacterially contaminated eggs are consumed by
the million cannot be doubted, but the individual examination of
each egg sold would be the only way in which the food inspectors can
prevent their use. The egg from the well-kept flock whose subsequent
handling has been conducted with intelligence and dispatch is the
only egg whose "purity" is assured with or without law. The
encouragement of such production and such handling is the proper
sphere of governmental regulations in regard to this product.
Cold Storage of Eggs.
The supply of eggs ranges from month to month, the heavy season of
production centering about April and the lightest run being in
November. The cold storage men begin storing eggs in March or April
and continue to store heavily until June, after which time the
quality deteriorates and does not keep well in storage. This storage
stock begins to move out in September and should be cleaned up by
December. Great loss may result if storage eggs are held too long.
The effect of the storage business is to even up the prices for the
year. The reduction of the exceedingly high winter prices is
unfortunate for those who are skilled enough to produce many eggs at
that season of the year, but on a whole the storage business adds to
the wealth-producing powers of the hen, for it serves to increase
the annual consumption of eggs and prevents eggs from becoming a
drug on the market during the season of heavy production.
March and April eggs are, in spite of a long period of storage, the
best quality of storage stock. This is accounted for by the fact
that owing to cooler weather and rising price eggs leave the farm in
the best condition at this season of the year.
Because eggs are spoiled by hard freezing, they must be kept at a
higher temperature than meat and butter. Temperatures of from 29
degrees to 30 degrees F. are used in cold storage of eggs. At such
temperatures the eggs, if kept in moist air, become moldy or musty.
To prevent this mustiness the air in a first class storage room is
kept moderately dry. This shrinks the eggs, though much more slowly
than would occur without storage.
The growth of bacteria in cold storage is practically prevented, but
if bacteria are in the eggs when stored they will lie dormant and
begin activity when the eggs are warmed up.
Of the cold storage egg as a whole we can say it is a wholesome food
product, though somewhat inferior in flavor and strength of white to
a fresh egg. The cold storage egg can be very nearly duplicated in
appearance and quality by allowing eggs to stand for a week or two
in a dry room. Cold storage eggs, when in case lots, can be told by
the candler because of the uniform shrinkage, the presence of mold
on cracked eggs and perhaps the occasional presence of certain kinds
of spot rots peculiar to storage stock, but the absolute detection
of a single cold storage egg, so far as the writer knows, is
It may be further said that with the present prevailing custom of
holding eggs without storage facilities for the fall rise of price,
eggs placed in cold storage in April are frequently superior to the
current fall and early winter receipts. Cold storage eggs are
generally sold wholesale as cold storage goods, but are retailed as
"eggs." The fall eggs offered to the consumer cover every imaginable
variation in quality and the poorest ones sold may be a cold storage
product, or they may not be.
The Bureau of Chemistry of the United States Department of
Agriculture has recently announced the finding of certain crystals
in the yolks of cold storage eggs that are not present in the fresh
stock. This finding of a laboratory method of detecting cold storage
stock was at first taken to be a great discovery. Further
investigation, however, indicates that the crystal mentioned forms
as the egg ages and that the rate of formation varies with the
individual eggs and probably also with the temperature, so that
while crystals may indicate an aged egg, the discovery only means
that the microscopist in the laboratory can now do in a half hour
what any egg candler in his booth can do in ten seconds.
At the present writing (February, 1909) there has been much talk of
laws against the sale of cold storage eggs as fresh. The Federal
Pure Food Commission, under the general law against misbranding,
have made one such prosecution. Many States have agitated such laws
but little or nothing has been done. I find that the idea of such a
law is quite popular, especially with poultrymen. Contrary to
popular opinion, the cold storage men and larger egg dealers are not
opposed to the law. The people that are hit are the small dealers
and especially the city grocers. These fellows buy the eggs at
wholesale storage prices and sell them at retail prices for fresh,
thus making excessive profits but cutting down the amount of the
sales. This lessens the demand for storage stock and lowers the
wholesale price. This is the reason the wholesaler and warehouse man
are in favor of the law.
We may all grant that the opportunity given the small dealers to
grab quick gains and in so doing hurt the trade ought to be
abolished. But how are we to do it? "Have State and Federal branding
of the cases as they go into or come out of storage," says one--an
excellent plan, to be sure by which the grocers could buy one case
of fresh, eggs and a back room full of storage goods and do Elijah's
flour barrel trick to perfection.
Clearly government inspection and stamping of each egg is the only
method that would be effective and the consideration of what this
means turns the whole matter into a joke. The official inspection
now maintained by the boards of trade of the larger cities may be
extended and the producers, dealers and consuming public may be
educated to appreciate quality in eggs, as they have been in dairy
products. City and State laws may also be made which will taboo the
sale of spot eggs or eggs that will float on water. Meanwhile, a
great opportunity is open for the man who has high grade eggs for
sale, whether he be producer or tradesman.
Many eggs that would not do for ordinary storage are preserved by
direct freezing. These eggs are broken and carefully sorted and
placed in large cans and then frozen. Such a product is disposed of
to bakers, confectioners and others desiring eggs in large
quantities. Another method of preserving eggs is by evaporation.
Evaporated or dried egg is, weight considered, about the most
nourishing food product known. The chief value of such an article
lies in provisioning inaccessible regions. There is no reason,
however, why this product should not become a common article of diet
during the season of high prices of eggs. Dried eggs can be eaten as
custards, omelets, or similar dishes.
Preserving Eggs Out of Cold Storage.
Occasional articles have been printed in agricultural papers calling
attention to the fact that the cold storage men were reaping vast
profits which rightfully belonged to the farmer. Such writers advise
the farmer to send his own eggs to the storage house or to preserve
them by other means.
As a matter of fact the business of storing eggs has not of late
years been particularly profitable, there being severe losses during
several seasons; Even were the profit of egg storing many times
greater than they are the above advice would still be unwise, for
the storing, removing and selling of a small quantity of eggs would
eat up all possible profit.
The only reliable methods of preserving eggs outside of cold storage
are as follows:
Liming: Make a saturated solution of lime, to which salt may be
added, let it settle, dip off the clear liquid, put the eggs in
while fresh, keep them submerged in the liquid and keep the liquid
as cold as the available location will permit.
Water glass: This is exactly the same as liming except that the
solution used is made by mixing ten per cent. of liquid water glass
or sodium silicate with water.
Liming eggs was formerly more popular than it is to-day. There are
still two large liming plants in this country and several in Canada.
In Europe both lime and water glass are used on a more extensive
All limed or water glassed eggs can be told at a glance by an
experienced candler. They pop open when boiled. When properly
preserved they are as well or better flavored than storage stock,
but the farmer or poultryman will make frequent mistakes and thus
throw lots of positively bad eggs on the market. These eggs must be
sold at a low price themselves, and by their presence cast suspicion
on all eggs, thus tending to suppress the price paid to the
producers. The farmers' efforts to preserve eggs has in this way
acted as a boomerang, and have in the long run caused more loss than
gain to the producers.
For the poultryman with his own special outlet for high grade goods,
the use of pickling or cold storage is generally not to be
considered for fear of hurting his trade. Any scheme that would help
to overcome the difficulty of getting sufficient fresh eggs to
supply such customers in the season of scarcity would be of great
advantage. The proposition of pickling a limited number of eggs and
selling them for "cooking" purposes, explaining just what they are,
ought to offer something of a solution, although, to the writer's
knowledge, it has not been done.
Improved Methods of Marketing Farm-Grown Eggs.
The loss to the farmers of this country from the careless handling
of eggs is something enormous. No great or sudden change in this
state of affairs can be brought about, but a few points on how this
loss may be averted will not be out of order.
Numerous efforts have recently been made in western states to
prevent the sale of bad eggs by law. Minnesota began this work by
arresting several farmers and dealers. The parties invariably
pleaded guilty. A number of other States followed the example of
Minnesota in challenging the sale of rotten eggs, but few
prosecutions were made.
Such laws mean well enough, but the only efficient means of
enforcing them would be to have food inspectors who are trained as
The present usefulness of the laws is in calling the attention of
the farmer to the mistake that he may be carelessly committing, and
in placing over him a fear of possible disgrace in case of arrest
The weakness of the law is the difficulty of its enforcement because
of the number of violations, and the difficulty of drawing distinct
lines in regard to which eggs are to be considered unlawful.
Education of the farmer as to the situation is, of course, the
surest means of preventing the loss, but the education of ten
millions of farmers is easier to suggest than to execute. The most
effective plan of education would be the introduction of a method of
buying eggs similar to the one in vogue in Denmark, in which every
producer is paid strictly in accordance with the quality of his
With our complicated system involving five to six dealers between
the producer and the consumer, such a system is well nigh
impossible. With the introduction of co-operative buying or the
community system of production, paying for quality becomes entirely
For enterprising farming communities, the following plans offer a
cure for the evil of general store buying that take good and bad
alike and causes the worthy farmer to suffer for the carelessness
and dishonesty of his neighbor.
First: The encouragement of the cash buying of produce, and, if
possible, the candling of all eggs with proper deduction for loss.
Second: The buying of eggs by co-operative creameries. The greatest
difficulty in this has been the opposition of the merchants, who
through numerous ways available in a small town, may retaliate and
injure the creamery patronage to an extent greater than the newly
installed egg business will repay.
Third: The agreement of the merchants to turn all egg buying over to
a single produce buyer. This has been successfully done in a few
instances, but there are not many towns in which those interested
will stick to such an agreement. The worst fault with this plan is
that the moment the egg buyer is given a monopoly he is tempted to
lower the farmer's prices for the purpose of increasing his own
Fourth: A modification of the above scheme is the case in which the
produce buyer is on a salary and in the employment of the merchants.
This scheme has been successfully carried into effect in some
Nebraska towns. It may be the ultimate solution of the egg buying in
the West. It eliminates the temptation of the buyer to use his
privilege of monopoly to fatten his own pocket-book. The weakness of
the plan is that a salaried man's efficiency in the close bargaining
necessary to sell the goods is inferior to that of the man trading
for himself. Other difficulties are: Getting a group of merchants
who will live up to such an agreement; the farmers object to driving
to two places; the competition of other towns; the merchants'
realization that, the farmer with cash in his pocket or a check good
at all stores, is not as certain a trader as one standing, egg
basket on arm, before the counter; and last, and most convincing,
the merchant's further realization that any fine Saturday morning,
with eggs selling at fifteen cents at the produce house, he may
stick out a card "Sixteen Cents Paid for Eggs" and make more money
in one day than his competitors did all week.
Fifth: Co-operative egg buying by the farmers themselves. This has
been discussed in a previous chapter. It is all right in localities
where the business is big enough to warrant it and the farmers are
intelligent and enthusiastic to back it up and stick to it.
The High Grade Egg Business.
There are many excellent opportunities for men of moderate capital
and ability in the high grade egg trade. The produce business on its
present line, either at the country end or at the city end, is as
open as any well-known form of business enterprise can be. The
chances of success for a man new to the trade will be better,
however, if he can find a niche in the business where he may crowd
in and establish himself before the old firms realize what is up.
The proposition of buying high grade eggs from producers and selling
direct to consumers is a proposition of this kind.
The little game of existence is chiefly one of apeing our betters
and strutting before the lesser members of the flock. The large
cities are full of people in search of some way to display their
superior wealth, taste and exclusiveness. If an ingenious dealer
takes a dozen eggs from common candled stock, places them in a blue
lined box and labels them "Exquisite Ovarian Deposital," he can sell
quite a few of them at a long price, but the game has its limits.
Now, let this man secure a truly high grade article from reliable
producers, teach his customers the points that actually distinguish
his eggs from common stock, and he can get not only the sucker trade
above referred to but a more satisfactory and permanent trade from
that class of people who are willing to pay for genuine superiority
but whose ears have not quite grown through their hats.
An express messenger running out of St. Louis became interested in
the egg trade. He arranged with a few country friends to ship him
their eggs. These he candled in his house cellar and began selling
them to a limited trade in the wealthy section of the city. At first
he delivered the eggs himself. This was in the World's Fair year of
1904. In 1908 he did a $100,000 worth of business and his type of
business shows a much better percentage of profit than that of the
ordinary type of dealer.
In Chicago, one of the large dairy companies established an egg
department and placed a young man in charge of it. The eggs in this
case are not bought of farmers but are secured from country produce
buyers whom the Chicago company have encouraged to educate their
farmers to bring in a high grade of goods. These people buy their
eggs in Tennessee in the winter and in Minnesota in the summer, thus
getting the best eggs the year round. They sell by wagon on regular
routes. The business is growing nicely and pays good profits.
Other similar concerns are operating in Chicago and other large
cities. They are not numerous, however, and there is room for more.
The reason the business has not been overdone is chiefly because of
the difficulty of getting sufficiently really high grade eggs in the
season of scarcity. Southern winter eggs are destined to relieve
this situation more and more.
Another great difficulty with a plan that attempts to buy eggs
directly from the producer is that premium offered on the goods
tempts the farmer to go out and buy up eggs from his neighbors. This
brings disastrous results in the quality of the goods and the farmer
must be dropped from the list. In order to make a success, a system
of buying directly from producers must be based upon a grading
scheme that will pay for the actual quality of the eggs. No fear
then need be exercised as to whether the farmer sells his own eggs
or those of his neighbor.
The following extract from Farmer's Bulletin 128 of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture has been used as advertising "dope" in the
sale of high grade eggs:
"Under certain conditions eggs may be the cause of illness by
communicating some bacterial disease or some parasite. It is
possible for an egg to become infected with micro-organisms, either
before it is laid or after. The shell is porous, and offers no
greater resistance to micro-organisms which cause disease than it
does to those which cause the egg to spoil or rot. When the infected
egg is eaten raw the microorganisms, if present, are communicated to
man and may cause disease. If an egg remains in a dirty nest,
defiled with the micro-organisms which cause typhoid fever, carried
there on the hen's feet or feathers, it is not strange if some of
these bacteria occasionally penetrate the shell and the egg thus
becomes a possible source of infection. Perhaps one of the most
common troubles due to bacterial infection of eggs is the more or
less serious illness sometimes caused by eating those which are
'stale.' This often resembles ptomaine poisoning, which is caused,
not by micro-organisms themselves, but by the poisonous products
which they elaborate from materials on which they grow.
"In view of this possibility, it is best to keep eggs as clean as
possible and thus endeavor to prevent infection. Clean
poultry-houses, poultry-runs and nests are important, and eggs
should always be stored and marketed under sanitary conditions. The
subject of handling food in a cleanly manner is given entirely too
The reprint upon the succeeding pages will give some idea of the
advertising literature used in selling high grade eggs. This is a
copy of a hand-bill inserted in the egg boxes of a prominent Chicago
* * * * *
MOORE'S BREAKFAST EGGS
are guaranteed to be perfect in quality when you receive them
and to remain so until all eaten up. If for any reason they
are not satisfactory return the Eggs to your dealer and get
your money back.
WE URGE YOU
to assist us in our endeavor to furnish you at all times with
the finest Eggs by being careful to
KEEP THEM DRY
A damp "filler" will in 24 hours make the finest fresh Eggs
taste like old Cold Storage Eggs.
The flavor of an Egg cannot be detected even by the powerful
electric lights used to inspect every Egg in this package,
so it might be possible for a "strong" Egg to get by our inspectors,
but in the past the cause of nearly every complaint
has been traced to the consumer's ice box or pantry window
Eggs are 25c-40c per doz. retail only when fine Eggs are
scarce. Ordinarily we can get a sufficient supply from the
farmers bringing milk daily to the creameries where we make
Delicia Pure Cream Butter, but in times of scarcity we often
have to go as far as Oklahoma, Arkansas or Tennessee to find
the best Eggs. These are not equal to our creamery Eggs but
are the freshest and best to be had and are vastly superior to
the old Cold Storage Eggs that flood the market at such times.
Be Sure This Seal is Unbroken When You Get the Eggs
W. S. MOORE & CO.,
Chicago Office--131 South Water Street.
Buying Eggs By Weight.
Whenever an improved method of buying is installed, eggs should be
bought of the producer by weight. As far as selling to the consumer
is concerned, the present scheme is more feasible; this scheme is to
grade according to the size and other qualities, and sell by the
dozen, the price per dozen varying according to the grade.
Buying by weight simplifies the problem of grading. It will, in
addition, only be necessary to have a fine of so much for eggs that
are wrong in quality. For rotten or heated eggs should be deducted
an amount considerably in excess of their value, for their presence
is a source of danger to the reputation of the brand. Shrunken eggs
are hard to classify. In order that this may be done fairly and
uniformly the specific gravity or brine test should be used. All
eggs that float in a given salt brine of, say, 1.05 specific gravity
should be fined. Two or more grades can be made in this fashion if
The Retailing of Eggs by the Producer.
In poultry papers the poultryman has been commonly advised to get
near a large city and retail his own eggs at a fancy price. This
sounds all right on paper but in practice it works out differently.
A man cannot be in two places or do two things at the same time. The
poultryman's time is valuable on his plant, and the question is
whether he can handle city sales as well as a man who made it his
business. If the poultryman tries to retail his own goods he will be
working on too small a scale to advertise his goods or to make
deliveries economically. The man making a specialty of the city end
can sell ten to a hundred times as much produce as one poultryman
With a group of poultry farmers working co-operatively, or a large
corporation having contracts with producers, the producing and
selling end can be brought under the same management advantageously.
The isolated poultryman, unless he find a market at his very door,
will do better to permit at least one middleman to slip in between
himself and the consumer. But there is no reason why he should not
know this middleman personally and insist upon a method of buying
that will pay him upon the merits of his goods.
Consigning eggs or any other produce to commission men, without a
definite understanding, will always be, as it always has been, a
source of dissatisfaction and loss. There is a great opportunity
here for the man who can organize a system that shall do away with
commission houses, other intermediate steps, and form the single
step from producer to consumer. Some people say that farmers cannot
be dealt with in this manner. Such people would probably have said
as much about general merchandising before the days of the mail
It is all a matter of efficient organization. A system of business
fitted to deal in carload lots will, of course, fail when dealing
with half cases. It is more difficult to deal in little things than
in big ones because the margin is closer, but it can and will be
The Price of Eggs.
We will consider the price of all eggs from the quotation of Western
firsts in the New York market. The reason for this is evident. Every
egg raised east of Colorado is in line for shipment to New York. If
other towns get eggs they must pay sufficiently to keep them from
going to New York.
In pricing eggs we have first to consider the price of Western
firsts in New York and secondly the quality relation of the
particular grade to Western firsts and the consequent relation in
The price of eggs varies with the price of other commodities as the
periods of prosperity and adversity follow one another through the
As is well known, all prices in the '90's passed through a period of
depression. For eggs this reached a base in 1897. Since then there
has been a gradual climb till this realized a high point in 1904,
remained high till 1907. In the spring of 1908 egg prices dropped
again, but the fall prices of 1908 were exceptionally high. As this
work goes to press (May, 1909) eggs are going into storage at the
highest May price on record.
The prices of eggs also vary independently of other commodities
because of a gradual changing relation between production and
consumption. As stated in the first chapter the prices of poultry
products have shown a general rise when compared with other
articles. This has been most marked since 1900. As for the future we
cannot prophesy save to say that there is nothing in sight to lead
us to believe that we will not go still higher in egg prices.
A third variation in the price of eggs is the one caused by the
seasonal relation of production and consumption. This change is from
year to year fairly constant. Its normal may be seen in the
scientifically smoothed curve in plate IV. This curve is based upon
the New York prices for the last eighteen years.
In addition to these broader influences there are disturbing
tendencies that cause the market to fluctuate back and forth across
the line where the more general influences would place it.
Of those general factors, weather is the most important. Storms,
rain and cold in the egg producing region decrease the lay, lower
supplies and raise the price. This is due both to the fact that
laying is cut down and that the country roads become impassable and
the farmers do not bring the eggs to town. As long as there are
storage eggs in the warehouses weather conditions are not so
effective, but when these are gone, which is usually about the first
of the year, the egg market becomes highly sensitive to all weather
changes. Suppose late in February storms and snows force up the
price of eggs. This is followed by a warm spell which starts the
March lay. The roads, meanwhile, are in a quagmire from melting
snows. When they do dry up eggs come to town by the wagon loads. A
drop of ten cents or more may occur on such occasions within a day
or two's time. This is known as the spring drop and for one to get
caught with eggs on hand means heavy losses.
When once eggs have suffered this drop to the spring level or the
storage price for the season, the prices for April, May and June
will remain fairly steady. About the last week in June the summer
climb begins. This goes on very steadily with local variation of
about the same as those of the spring months. The storage eggs begin
to come out in August and at first sell about the same as fresh. As
the season advances the fresh product continues to rise in price.
The storage egg price will remain fairly uniform. By November the season
of high prices is reached. If storage eggs are still plentiful and the
weather is mild sudden variations in price may occur. These are caused
by a fear that the storage eggs will not all be consumed before spring.
If an oversupply of eggs have been stored a warm spell in winter will
make a heavy drop in the market, but if storage eggs are scarce the
sudden variations will be up-shots due to cold waves. From November
until spring egg prices are a creature of the weather maps and sudden
jumps from 5 to 10 cents may occur at any time.
[Illustration: Plate IV. Page 159. Graphs of egg prices and volume
of egg sales as they vary throughout the year.]
The price curve of 1908, which is represented by the dotted line in
plate IV will illustrate these general principles. In the lower
portion of plate IV is given the curves for the New York receipts.
The heavy line represents the smoothed or normal curve, deduced from
eighteen years' statistics and calculated for the year 1908. The
dotted line shows the actual receipts of 1908. A comparison week by
week of the receipts and price will show the detailed workings of
the law of supply and demand.
Aside from the weather there are other factors that perceptibly
affect the receipts and price of eggs. A high price of meat will
increase farm and village consumption of eggs and cut down the
receipts that reach the city. Abundance of fruit in the city market
will cut down the demand for eggs. A cold, wet spring will increase
the mortality of chicks and cause a decreased egg yield the
following season, due to a scarcity of pullets. Scarcity and high
price of feed will cut down the egg yield. High price of hens is
said by some to cut down the egg yield, but I think this is
doubtful, as the impulse to sell off the hens is counteracted by the
desire to "keep 'em and raise more."
The following are the quotations taken from the New York
Price-Current for November 14, 1908:
State, Pennsylvania and nearby fresh eggs continue in very small
supply and of more or less irregular quality, a good many being
mixed with held eggs--sometimes with pickled stock. The few new laid
lots received direct from henneries command extreme
prices--sometimes working out in a small way above any figures that
could fairly be quoted as a wholesale value. We quote: Selected
white, fancy, 48@50c.; do., fair to choice, 35@46c.; do., lower
grades, 26@32c.; brown and mixed, fancy, 38@40c.; do., fair to
choice, 30@36c; do., lower grades, 25@28c.
N.Y. Mercantile Exchange Official Quotations.
Fresh gathered, extras, per dozen @37
Fresh gathered, firsts 32 @33
Fresh gathered, seconds 29 @31
Fresh gathered, thirds 25 @28
Dirties, No. 1 21 @22
Dirties, No. 2 18 @20
Dirties, inferior 12 @17
Checks, fresh gathered, fair to prime 18 @20
Checks, inferior 12 @16
Refrigerator, firsts, charges paid for season 24 @24-1/2
Refrigerator, firsts, on dock 23 @23-1/2
Refrigerator, seconds, charges paid for season 22-1/2 @23-1/2
Refrigerator, seconds, on dock 21-1/2 @22-1/2
Refrigerator, thirds 20 @21
Limed, firsts 22-1/2 @23
Limed, seconds 21 @22
The writer was in the New York market at the time and saw many cases
of White Leghorn eggs sell wholesale at as high as 55 cents. These
were commonly retailed at 5 cents each. There were a good many
brands retailing at 65 cents and one of the largest high class
groceries was selling for 70 cents. This is practically double the
official quotations and three times that of cold storage stock.
The above prices represent a fair sample of the fall prices of 1908.
It should be noted that the 1908 fall prices were relatively
somewhat better than the rest of the season.
The time of high prices is also the time of the greatest variation
in the price of the different grades. In the springtime all eggs are
fairly fresh and good, and the fanciest eggs bring wholesale only
two or three cents above quotations. There are a few retailers who
hold the spring prices to their customers up above the general
market. One New York firm that does a large high class egg business
never lets their price at any season go below 40 cents. This, of
course, means big profits and sales only to those who, when they are
satisfied, never bother about price.
In the fall any man who has fresh eggs can sell them at very near
the highest price, but in the spring only a small per cent. can go
at fancy prices and the great majority of even the high grade eggs
must go at very ordinary prices. In the summer months there is not
so much demand in the cities, as the wealthy are not there to buy.
The coast and mountain resorts are then good markets for fancy
BREEDS OF CHICKENS
I do not place much dependence on the results of breed tests.
Indeed, I consider the almost universal use of the Barred Rock in
the most productive farm poultry regions in the United States, and
the equal predominance of S.C. White Leghorns on the egg farms of
New York and California, as far more conclusive than any possible
In Australia there has been conducted a series of breed tests so
remarkable and extensive that the writer considers them well worth
quoting. The Hawkesbury Agricultural College tests extend over a
period of five years, the pens entered were of six birds each, and
the time one year. The results were as follows:
No. of Pens Yield of Average Yield
Competing Highest Pen of All Pens
1903 ... 70 218 163
1904 ... 100 204 152
1905 ... 100 235 162
1906 ... 100 247 177
1907 ... 60 245 173
The winners and losers for five years were as follows:
Winning Pen Losing Pen
1903 Silver Wyandotte Silver Wyandotte
1904 Silver Wyandotte Partridge Wyandotte
1905 S.C.W. Leghorns S.C.W. Leghorns
1906 Black Langshans Golden Wyandotte
1907 S.C.W. Leghorns S.C.B. Leghorns
As a matter of fact, the winning pen means little for breed
comparison. This is shown by the winning and losing pens frequently
being of the same breed.
The average for hens of one breed for the whole five years is more
enlightening. For the three most popular Australian breeds, these
grand averages are:
Average Av. Wt. Eggs.
No. Hens Egg Yield Oz. Per Doz.
S.C.W. Leghorns ... 564 175.5 26.4
Black Orpingtons ... 522 166.6 26.1
Silver Wyandottes ... 474 161.1 24.9
These figures are undoubtedly the most trustworthy breed comparisons
that have ever been obtained. When we go into the other breeds,
however, with smaller numbers entered, the results show chance
variation and become untrustworthy, for illustration: R.C. Brown
Leghorns, with 42 birds entered, have an average of 176.4. This does
not signify that the R.C. Browns are better than the S.S. Whites,
for if the Whites were divided by chance into a dozen lots of
similar size, some would undoubtedly have surpassed the R.C. Browns.
As further proof, take the case of the R.C.W. Leghorns with 36 birds
entered and an egg yield of 166.9. Both breeds are probably a little
poorer layers than S.C. Whites, but luck was with the R.C. Browns
and against the R.C. Whites. For a discussion of this principle of
the worth of averages from different sized flocks see Chapter XV.
All Leghorns in the tests with 846 birds entered, averaged 170.3
eggs each. All of the general purpose breeds (Rocks, Wyandottes,
Reds and Orpingtons), with 1416 birds entered, averaged 160.2. The
comparison between the Leghorns and the general purpose fowls as
classes is undoubtedly a fair one. A study of the relations between
the leading breeds in these groups and the general average of these
groups is worth while. It bears out the writer's statement that the
best fowls of a group or breed are to be found in the popular
variety of that breed. The Australian poultryman, wanting utility
only, would do wise to choose out of the three great Australian
breeds here mentioned. The S.C.W. Leghorn is the only one of the
three breeds to which the advice would apply in America. Barred
Rocks and perhaps White Wyandottes, would here represent the other
There is one more point in the Australian records worthy of especial
mention. The winning pen in 1906 were Black Langshans and, what
seems still more remarkable, were daughters of birds purchased from
the original home of Langshans in North China. Other pens of
Langshans in the test failed to make remarkable records, but this
pen of Chinese stock, with a record of 246 5-6* eggs per hen for the
first year and 414 1-2* eggs per hen for two years, is the world's
record layers beyond all quibble. This record is held by a breed and
a region in which we would not expect to find great layers.
This holding of the record by a breed hitherto not considered a
laying type, would be comparable to a tenderfoot bagging the pots in
an Arizona gambling den. If the latter incident should occur and be
heralded in the papers it would be no proof that it would pay
another Eastern youth to rush out to Arizona. It is probable that
the man who, on the strength of this single record, stocks an egg
farm with imported Chinese Langshans, will fare as the second
The year following the Langshan winning, the first eleven winning
pens were all S.C.W. Leghorns. This is also remarkable--much more
remarkable in fact than the Langshans record. It is like a royal
flush in a poker game. Standing alone, this would be very suggestive
evidence of the eminence of the breed. Standing as it does, with the
combined evidence of years and numbers, it gives the S.C.W. Leghorn
hen the same reputation in Australia as she has in America and
Denmark--that of being the greatest egg machine ever created.
Isolated evidence is misleading. Accumulated evidence is convincing.
The difference between the scientist and the enthusiast is that the
former knows the difference between these two classes of evidence.
The Hen's Ancestors.
To one who is unfamiliar with the different types of chickens found
in a poultry showroom, it seems incredible that these varieties
should have descended from one parent source. It was, however, held
by Darwin that all domestic chickens were sprung from a single
species of Indian jungle fowl. Other scientists have since disputed
Darwin's conclusion, but it does not seem to the writer that the
origin of domestic fowls from more than one wild variety makes the
changes that have taken place under domestication any less
The buff, white and dominique colors, unheard of in wild species,
frizzles with their feathers all awry, the Polish with their
deformed skulls and the sooty fowls whose skin and bones are black,
are some of the remarkable characters that have sprung up and been
preserved under domestication. The varieties of domestic fowl form
one of the most profound exhibits of man's control over the laws of
inheritance. What makes these wonders all the more inexplicable is
that these profound changes were accomplished in an age when a
scientific study of breeding was a thing unheard of.
The wild chicken whom Darwin credits as the parent of the modern
gallinaceous menagerie, is smaller than modern fowls and is colored
in a manner similar to the Black-breasted Game. The habits of this
bird are like those of the quail and prairie-chicken, both of which
belong to the same zoological family.
From its natural home in India the chicken spread east and west.
Chinese poultry culture is ancient. In China, as well as in India,
the chief care seems to have been to breed very large fowls, and
from these countries all the large, heavily feathered and feather
legged chickens of the modern world have come.
Poultry is also known to have been bred in the early Babylonian and
Egyptian periods. Here, however, the progress was in a different
line from that of China. Artificial incubation was early developed,
and the selection was for birds that produced eggs continually,
rather than for those that laid fewer eggs and brooded in the
The Egyptian type of chicken spread to the countries bordering on
the Mediterranean, and from Southern Europe our non-sitting breeds
of fowls have been imported. Throughout the countries of Northern
Europe minor differences were developed. The French chickens were
selected for the quality of the meat, while in Poland the peculiar
top-knotted breed is supposed to have been formed.
The English Dorking is one of the oldest of European breeds and is
possessed of five toes. Five-toed fowls were reported in Rome and
exist to-day in Turkey and Japan. The Dorkings may be descended
directly from the Roman fowls, or various strains of five-toed fowls
may have arisen independently from the preservation of sports.
The chief point to be noted in all European poultry is that it
differs from Asiatic poultry in being smaller, lighter feathered,
quicker maturing, of greater egg-producing capacity, less disposed
to become broody, and more active than the Asiatic fowl.
The early American hens were of European origin, but of no fixed
breeds. About 1840 Italian chickens began to be imported. These,
with stock from Spain, have been bred for fixed types of form and
color, and constitute our Mediterranean or non-sitting breeds of the
present day. Soon after the importation of Italian chickens a chance
importation was made from Southeastern Asia. These Asiatic chickens
were quite different from anything yet seen, and further
Poultry-breeding soon became the fashion. The first poultry show was
held in Boston in the early '50's. The Asiatic fowls imported were
gray or yellowish-red in color, and were variously known as the
Brahmapootras, Cochin-Chinas and Shanghais. With the rapid
development of poultry-breeding there came a desire to produce new
varieties. Every conceivable form of cross-breeding was resorted to.
The great majority of breeds and varieties as they exist to-day are
the results of crosses followed by a few years of selection for the
desired form and color. Many of our common breeds still give us
occasional individuals that resemble some of the types from which
the breed was formed. The exact history of the formation of the
American or mixed breeds is in dispute, but it is certain that they
have been formed from a complex mixing of blood from both European
and Asiatic sources.
The English have recently furnished the world with a very popular
breed which was originated by the same methods. I refer to the
The ever growing multiplicity of varieties of chicken is in reality
only casually related to the business of the poultryman whose object
is the production of human food.
Breeding as an art or vocation, is a source of endless pleasure to
man, and as such, is as worthy of encouragement as is painting,
music, or the collection of the bones of prehistoric animals.
Breeding as an art has produced many forms of chickens that are
entirely worthless as food producers, but this same group of poultry
breeders, tempered to be sure by the demands of commercialism, have
produced other breeds that are certainly superior for the various
commercial purposes to the unselected fowls of the old-fashioned
The mongrel chicken is a production of chance. Its ancestry
represents everything available in the barn-yard of the
neighborhood, and its offspring will be equally varied. In the pure
breeds there has been a rigid selection practiced that gives uniform
appearance. The size and shape requirements of the standard,
although not based on the market demands, come much nearer producing
an ideal carcass than does chance breeding. Ability to mature for
the fall shows is a decidedly practical quality that the fancier
breeds into his chickens. Moreover, poultry-breeders, while still
keeping standard points in mind, have also made improvements in the
lay and meat-producing qualities of their chickens. Considering
these facts it is an erroneous idea to think that mongrel chickens
offer any advantage over pure bred stock.
In the broader sense we may regard as pure-bred those animals that
reproduce their shape, color, habits, or other distinctive qualities
with uniformity. In order that we may get offspring like the parent
and like each other we must have animals whose ancestors for many
generations back have been of one type. The more generations of such
uniformity, the more certain it will be that the young will possess
One strain of chickens may be selected for uniform color of
feathers, another for a certain size and shape, another for laying
large eggs of a certain color, and yet another strain for being
producers of many eggs. Each of these strains might be well-bred in
these particular traits, but would be mongrels when the other
considerations were taken into account.
This explains to us why the family or strains is frequently more
important than the breed. In fact, the whole series of breed
classification is arbitrary. This is especially true of the American
or mixed breeds. Humorously turned fanciers at the poultry show
frequently have much sport trying to get other fanciers to tell
White or Buff Rocks from Wyandottes, when the heads are hidden. From
the dressed carcasses with feet and head removed, the finest set of
poultry judges in the world would be hopelessly lost in a collection
of Rocks, Wyandottes, Reds and Orpingtons and, I dare say, one could
run in a few Langshans and Minorcas if it were not for their black
The writer has great admiration for breeding as an art. He would
rather be the originator of a breed of green chickens with six toes,
than to have been the author of "Afraid to Go Home in the Dark." But
I do want the novice who reads this book to be spared some of the
mental throes usually indulged in over the selection of a breed.
So-called meat breeds, that is, the big feather legged Asiatics save
on a few capon and roaster plants in New England, are really
useless. They have given size to American chickens as a class, and
in that have served a useful purpose, but standing alone they cannot
compete with lighter, quick growing breeds.
For commercial consideration there are really but two types: The egg
breeds of Mediterranean origin and the general purpose breeds or
growers, including the Rocks, Wyandottes and Rhode Island Reds. The
difference between the layers on the one hand and the growers on the
other, is quite important. Which should be used depends on the
location and plan of operations, as has already been discussed.
The choice of variety within the group is a matter of taste and
chance of sales of fancy stock. This one principle can, however, be
laid down: The more popular the breed, the more choice there will be
in selecting strains and individuals. Pea Comb Plymouth Rocks and
Duckwing Leghorns should not be considered because of their rarity.
Of the growers, their popularity and claims are close enough to make
the particular choice unimportant. For commercial consideration, the
writer would as soon invest his money in a flock of Barred Rock,
White Wyandottes or Rhode Island Reds. Among layers the S. C. White
has achieved such a lead that the majority of good laying strains
are in this breed and to choose any other would be to place a
handicap on oneself. For a description of breeds, the reader should
secure an Illustrated American Standard of Perfection, or some of
the books published by poultry fanciers and judges. To take up the
matter here would merely be using my space for imparting knowledge
which can be better secured elsewhere.
The relative popularity of breeds at the poultry shows is nicely
shown by the following list. This data was compiled by adding the
numbers of each breed exhibited at 124 different poultry shows in
the season of 1907. A detailed report of the total entries of each
breed is as follows: Plymouth Rocks, 14,514; Wyandottes, 12,320;
Leghorns, 8,740; Rhode Island Reds, 5,812; Orpingtons, 2,857;
Langshans, 2,153; Minorcas, 1,709; Cochin Bantams, 1,590; Games,
1,277; Brahmas, 1,181; Cochins, 1,010; Hamburgs, 758; Game Bantams,
637; Polish, 618; Houdans, 538; Indians, 538; Anconas, 464; Sebright
Bantams, 423; Andalusians, 117; Japanese Bantams, 115; Dorkings,
105; Brahma Bantams, 104; Buckeyes, 95; Silkies, 85; Spanish, 83;
Redcaps, 71; Sumatras, 41; Polish Bantams, 37; Sultans, 18; Malays,
12; Frizzles, 7; Le Fleche, 7; Dominiques, 5; Booted Bantams, 4;
Malay Bantams, 3; Crevecoeure, 3.
PRACTICAL AND SCIENTIFIC BREEDING
Science has been defined as the "know how" and art as the "do how."
The man who works by art depends upon an unconscious judgment which
is inborn or is acquired by long practice. The man who works by
science may also have this artistic taste, but he tests its dicta by
comparison with known facts and principles. The scientist not only
looks before he leaps, but measures the distance and knows exactly
where he is going to land.
Breeding has for centuries been an art, but the science of breeding
is so new as to seem a mass of contradictions to all except those
familiar with the maze of mathematics and biology by which the
barn-yard facts must find their ultimate explanation. The science of
breeding may in the future bring about that which would now seem
miraculous, but it is the ancient art of breeding that is and will
for years continue to be the means by which the poultry fancier will
achieve his results.
In a volume the chief aim of which is to place the poultry industry,
which is now conducted as an art, in the realm of technical science,
it might seem proper to devote considerable space to the subject of
breeding, That I shall not do so, is for the reason that while
theoretically I recognize the important part that breeding plays in
all animal production, for the practical proposition of producing
poultry products at the lowest possible cost, a knowledge of the
technical science of breeding is unessential and may, by diverting
the poultryman's time to unprofitable efforts, prove an actual
For the show room breeder the new science of breeding is too
undeveloped to be of immediate service, or I had better say, the
show room requisites are too complicated for theoretical breeding to
promise results. For the commercial poultryman, I shall review what
has been accomplished and state briefly the theories upon which
contemplated work is based.
The objects striven after in poultry breeding are: 1st: To create
new varieties which shall have improved practical points or shall
attract attention as curiosities. 2d: To approach the ideals
accepted by fanciers for established breeds, and hence win in
competition. 3d: To change some particular feature or habit as, to
increase egg production or reduce the size of bantams. 4th: To
improve several points at once as, eggs and size in general purpose
fowls. This classification is really unnecessary, as the most
specialized breeding involves consideration of many points.
Breeding as an Art.
The method by which breeds and varieties of the show room specimens
have been developed is essentially as follows: The wonderfully
different varieties of fowl from every quarter of the earth are
brought together. Crossing is then resorted to, with the result that
birds of all forms and colors are produced. The breeder then selects
specimens that most nearly conform to the type or ideal in his mind.
Suppose a man wished to produce Barred Leghorns, with a fifth toe.
He would secure Barred Rocks, White Leghorns and White or Gray
Dorkings. Then he would cross in every conceivable fashion.
Perhaps he might have trouble getting the white color to disappear.
In that case Buff Leghorns which are a newer breed might be tried
and found more pliable material. By such methods the breeder would in
three or four generations of crossing get a crude type of what he
desired. Henceforth it would be a matter of patience and
selection. Five to twenty years is the time usually taken to produce
new breeds of fancy poultry that will breed true to type. In this
style of breeding the principles at stake are simple. The first is
to secure the variations wanted; second, to breed from the most
desirable of these specimens.
The same methods of selection that establish a breed are used to
maintain it, or to establish strains. In ordinary breeding there are
two other principles that are sometimes called into play. One is
prepotency, the other is inbreeding. By prepotent we mean having
unusual power to transmit characters to offspring. Suppose a breeder
has five yards headed by five cock birds. The male in yard two he
does not consider quite as fine as the bird in yard one, but in the
fall he finds the offspring of bird from two much better than the
offspring from yard one. The breeder should keep the prepotent sire
and his offspring rather than the more perfect male, who fails to
stamp his traits upon his get.
Normally a child has two parents, four grandparents, and eight
great-grandparents. Now, when cousins marry, the great-grandparents
of the offspring are reduced to six. The mating of brother and
sister cuts the grandparents to two, and the great-grandparents to
four. Mating of parent and offspring makes a parent and grandparent
identical and likewise eliminates ancestry. Inbreeding means the
reduction of the number of branches in the ancestral tree, and this
means the reduction of the number of chances to get variation, be
they good or bad.
Inbreeding simply intensifies whatever is there. It does not
necessarily destroy the vitality, but if close inbreeding is
practiced long enough, sooner or later some little existing weakness
or peculiarity would become intensified and may prove fatal to the
strain. For illustration, suppose we began inbreeding brother and
sister with a view of keeping it up indefinitely. Now, in the
original blood, a tendency for the predominance of one sex over the
other undoubtedly exists and would be intensified until there would
come a generation all of one sex, which, of course, terminates our
Inbreeding has always been tabooed by the people generally.
Meanwhile the clever stock breeders have combined inbreeding with
selection and have won the show prizes and sold the people "new
blood" at fancy prices.
Unintelligent inbreeding as practiced on many a farm, results in run
down stock, not so much from inbreeding as from lack of selection.
Out-crossing or mixing in of new blood is better than hit-or-miss
inbreeding. Intelligent inbreeding is better still.
Scientific Theories of Breeding.
The main tenet of Darwin's theory of racial inheritance or
evolution, was that changes in animal life, wild or domestic, were
brought about by the addition of very slight, perhaps imperceptible,
variations. He argued that the giraffe with the longest neck could
browse on higher leaves in time of drought and hence left offspring
with slightly longer necks than the previous generation.
Upon this theory the ordinary breeding by selection is based. In
case of breeding for show room, the breeder's eye, or the judge's
score card, is the tape with which to measure the length of the
giraffe's neck. This principle can be applied equally well, even
better, to characteristics where accurate measurement may be used.
The last forty years of scientific progress has established firmly
the general theories of Darwin, but they have also resulted in our
questioning his idea that all great changes are due to the sum of
small variations. Many instances have been suggested in which the
theory of gradual changes could not explain the facts.
The theory of mutation, of which Hugo de Vries, of Holland, is the
chief expounder, does not antagonize Darwin, but simply gives more
weight in the process of evolution to the factor of sudden changes
commonly called sports. Let us illustrate: In the giraffe of our
former forest, one might appear whose neck was not longer because of
slightly longer vertebrae, but who possessed an extra vertebrae.
This would be a mutation. In other words, a mutation is a marked
variation that may be inherited. We now believe that polled cattle,
five-toed Dorkings, top-knotted Houdans, frizzles and black skinned
chickens arose through mutations.
Burbank's Methods--The wonderful Burbank with his thornless cactus,
his stoneless plum, and his white blackberry, is simply a searcher
after mutations. His success is not because he uses any secret
methods, but because of the size of his operations. He produces his
specimens by the millions, and in these millions looks, and often
looks in vain for the lonely sport that is to father a new race.
Burbank has, with plants, many advantages of which the animal
breeder is deprived. He can produce his specimens in greater number,
he can more easily find out the desirable character, and in many
plants he has not the uncertain element of double parentage to
contend with, while with others he is still more fortunate, as he
can produce them by seed, stimulate variation until the desired
mutation is found and can then reproduce the desired variation with
certainty by the use of cuttings. This latter is not true
inheritance with its inevitable variation, but the indefinite
prolongation of the life of one individual. In this sense there is
only one seedless orange tree in the world.
The Centgenitor System--Prof. Hays in breeding wheat at Minnesota,
first used in this country a system of breeding which is essentially
as follows: A large variety of individual seeds are selected. These
are planted separately and the amount and character of the yield
observed. The offspring of one seed is kept separate for several
generations, or until the character of the tribe is thoroughly
established. The advantage of this plan of breeding is in that the
selection is not made by comparing individuals, but by comparing the
offspring of individuals. Thus, we necessarily select the only trait
really worth while; that is prepotency or the ability to beget
The application of this centgenitor system necessitates inbreeding;
it also necessitates large operations. Of the former, breeders have
generally been afraid; of the latter they have lacked opportunity.
But the centgenitor system, combined with Burbank's principle of
large opportunity of selection, is, in the writer's belief, the
method by which the 200-egg hen will be ultimately established in
Much of the recent stimulus to the study of the Science of Breeding
was occasioned by the discovery of Mendel's Law. Briefly, the law
states that when two pure traits or characters are crossed, one
dominates in the first generation of offspring--the other remaining
hidden or recessive. Of the second generation, one-half the
individuals are still mixed, bearing the dominant characteristic
externally and the other hidden; one-fourth are pure dominants and
one-fourth are pure recessives. In future generations the mixed or
hybrid individuals again give birth to mixed and pure types
apportioned as before, thus continuing until all offspring become
ultimately pure. For illustration: If rose and single comb chickens
are crossed, rose combs are dominant. The first generation will all
have rose combs. The second generation will have one-fourth single
combs that will breed true, one-fourth rose combs that will breed
rose combs only, and one-half that again will give all three types.
Mendel's Law works all right in cases where pure unit
characteristics are to be found. For the great practical problems in
inheritance, Mendel's law is utterly hopeless. The trouble is that
the chief things with which we are concerned are not unit
characteristics but are combinations of countless characteristics
which cannot be seen or known, hence cannot be picked out. Thus the
tendency to revert to pure types is foiled by the constant
recrossing of these types.
Mendel's law is a scientific curiosity like the aeroplane. It may
some day be more than a curiosity, but both have tremendous odds to
overcome before they supplant our present methods.
Prof. C.B. Davenport, of the Carnegie Institute, is working on
experimental poultry breeding in its purely scientific sense. His
conclusions have been much criticised by poultry fanciers. The truth
of the matter is that the fancier fails to appreciate the spirit of
pure science. The scientist, enthused to find his white fowl
re-occur after a generation of black ones, is wholly undisturbed by
the fact that the white ones, if exhibited, might be taken for a
Silver Spangled Hamburg.
Mendel's law as yet offers little to the fancier and less to the
commercial poultryman. Its study is all right in its place, but its
place is not on the poultry plant whose profits are to buy the baby
a new dress.
Breeding for Egg Production.
Attempts to improve the egg-producing qualities of the hen date from
the domestication of the hen, but it has only been within the last
few years that rapid progress has been possible in this work. The
inability to determine the good layers has been the difficulty.
The great majority of people make no selection of hens from which to
hatch their stock. The eggs of the whole flock are kept together and
when eggs are desired for hatching they are selected from a general
basket. It has been assumed, and is shown by trap-nest records, that
eggs thus selected in the spring of the year are from the poorer,
rather than from the better layers. This is because hens that have
not been laying during the winter will lay very heavily during the
spring season. Many breeders have attempted to pick out the good
layers by the appearance of the hens. Before the advent of the
trap-nest the "egg type" of hen was believed to be a positive
indication of a good layer. The "egg type" hen had slender neck,
small head, long, deep body of a wedge shape. Various "systems"
founded on these or other "signs" have been sold for fancy prices to
people who were easily separated from their money. Trap-nest records
show such systems to be on a par with the lunar guidance in
I might remark here that the determination of sex by the shape of
the egg or similar methods, is in a like category. Science finds no
proof of such theories.
A few methods of selecting the layers have been suggested which,
while far from absolute, are of some significance and are well worth
noting. The hen that sits upon the roost while other hens are out
foraging, is probably a drone. The excessively fat or the
excessively lean hens are not likely to be layers. It would
naturally be supposed that the active laying hen would be the last
one to go to roost at night. At the Kansas Experiment Station, the
writer made observations upon the order in which the hens went to
roost, and the above assumption was found in the majority of cases
to be correct.
A still better scheme of selecting layers is the practice of picking
out the thrifty, quickly maturing pullets when they first begin to
lay in the fall season. At the Maine Experiment Station, such a
selection gave a flock of layers which averaged about one hundred
and eighty eggs, when the remainder of the flock yielded only one
hundred and forty.
Trap-nests devised to catch the hen that lays the egg are numerous
in the market. A trap-nest to be successful, must not only catch the
hen that lays, but must prevent the entrance of the other hens.
The more trap-nests that are provided, the less often they will
require attention, but the more often the nests are attended the
better for the comfort of the hens.
The use of trap-nests is expensive and cannot be recommended for the
poultryman who must make every hour of time put on his chickens
yield him an immediate income. Fanciers and Experiment Stations can
well afford to use trap-nests and must, indeed, use them both for
breeding for egg production, and also for determining the hen that
laid the egg when full pedigrees are desired in other breeding work.
A scheme that has sometimes been used in the place of trap-nests, is
a system of small compartments, in each of which one hen is kept.
Such a scheme does not seem feasible on a large scale, but for
breeders wishing to keep the records of a small number of hens, it
is all right. Because of its cost, this system is wholly out of the
question, except for a man following breeding as a hobby and who
cannot devote himself during the day to the care of trap-nests.
Having determined the best layers, it remains to breed from these
and from their descendants. The tests of pullets hatched from hens
are better signs of the hen's value as a breeder than is her own
record. It has been surmised that a hen which lays heavily will not
lay eggs containing vigorous germs. So far as the writer's
experience has gone, the laying of infertile eggs is a family or
individual trait not particularly related to the number of eggs
When we have bred from the best layers and have raised our average
egg yielder to a higher level, the question arises as to whether the
strain will permanently maintain the high yield or drop back to the
former rate of production. Theory says that it will not drop back.
As a matter of fact it will not do so, for the heavier production
will be more trying on the hen's constitution, and naturally
selection will gradually cause the egg record to dwindle. Hence the
necessity of continued selection or the infusion of new blood from
other selected strains.
Whatever may be the change desired in a strain of chickens,
specimens showing the trait to be selected should be used as
breeders. Those characteristics readily visible to the eye have long
been the subjects of the breeder's efforts. But traits not directly
visible can likewise be changed by breeding. The number of eggs,
size and color of eggs, rapid growth, ready fattening powers,
quality of meat and general characteristics, are all matters of
inheritance, and if proper means are taken to select the desirable
individuals all such characteristics can be changed at the will of
It is a fact, however, often overlooked, that the more traits for
which one selects, the slower will be progress. For illustration: If
in breeding for egg production, one-half the good layers are
discarded for lack of fancy points, the progress will be just half
A discussion of the work in breeding for egg production at the Maine
Experiment Station is taken up in the next chapter.
EXPERIMENT STATION WORK
Our entire scheme of agricultural education and experimentation is
new. The poultry work at experiment stations is very new. Ten years
will about cover everything worthy of a permanent record in the
poultry experiment station files.
Stations Leading in Poultry Work.
Among the earliest stations to begin poultry work in this country
were Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine. Rhode
Island conducted the first school of poultry culture. The two
stations of New York State were also early in the work, and Cornell
now has the leading school of poultry culture in this country.
West Virginia has always maintained a considerable poultry plant.
Outside of the states east of the Appalachians, the first poultry
work to be heard of was that of Prof. Dryden at the Experiment
Station of Utah. Prof. Dryden's work was of a demonstrative nature.
His early bulletins were forceful and well illustrated, and did much
to call attention to poultry work.
In all this early work the great Mississippi Valley, where
four-fifths of the nation's poultry is produced, entirely ignored
the hen. The writer began his work with poultry at the Kansas
Station in 1902, but his chickens were housed in a discarded hog
house, and no funds being available, little was accomplished. In the
last three or four years these experiment stations are rapidly
falling into line and a number of poultry bulletins have recently
been issued from these younger schools.
A few of the early landmarks in experiment station work was as
The Utah Station clearly found that hens laid about 65 per cent. as
many eggs in the second as in the first year, and that to keep hens
for egg production beyond the second year, was unprofitable.
Massachusetts proved that corn was a better food for layers than
wheat, and that the prejudice against it was founded on a misapplied
The New York Station at Geneva demonstrated that poultry generally,
and ducks in particular, are not vegetarians, and must have meat to
thrive and that vegetable protein will not make good the deficiency.
The Maine Station was chiefly instrumental in introducing
trap-nests, curtain front houses and dry feeding. The breeding work
at Maine will be discussed at length in the last section of this
The United States Department of Agriculture did not take up poultry
work until 1906. The publications issued by the department before
that time were written by outsiders and printed by the Government.
The following is the list of the addresses of the experiment
stations who have taken a leading interest in poultry work. It is
not worth while giving a list of poultry bulletins, as many of them
are out of print and can only be consulted in a library.
U.S. Gov.--Washington, D.C.
Many foreign governments have us out-distanced in the encouragement
of the poultry industry. Our Canadian neighbors have done much more
practical work in getting out among the farmers and improving the
stock and methods along commercial lines. As a result the Canadians
have built up a nice British trade with which we have thus far not
been able to compete. The work by the Ontario Station on the subject
of incubation is discussed in the Chapter on Incubation.
Australia, like Canada, has given much practical assistance in
marketing the poultry products, the government maintaining packing
stations, where the poultry is packed for export. The Australian
laying contests are quoted in the present volume. They outclass
anything else in the world along that line.
In England, Ireland and especially in Denmark, the government, or
societies encouraged by the Government, have done a great deal to
develop the poultry industry. Depots for marketing and grading are
maintained and the stock of the farmers is improved by fowls from
the government breeding farms.
The Story of the "Big Coon."
With apologies to Joel Chandler Harris, I will tell a little story.
Uncle Remus was telling the little boy about the "big coon." It
seems that the "big coon" had been seen on numerous occasions, but
all efforts at his capture had failed. One night they saw the "big
coon" up in the 'simmon tree, in the middle of the ten-acre lot. All
hands and the dogs were summoned. To be sure of bagging the game,
the tree was cut down. The dogs rushed in but there was no coon.
"But, Uncle Remus," said the little boy, "I thought you said you saw
the big coon in the tree."
"Laws, chile," replied Uncle Remus, "doesn't youse know dat it am
mighty easy for folks to see something dat ain't dar, when dey are
lookin' fer it?"
When scientific experimenters entered the poultry field about
fifteen years ago, they found it swarming with old ladies' notions.
For everything a reason was given, but these reasons were derived
from the kind of dreams where that which pleases the human mind is
seized upon and search is made to find ideas to back it, not because
it is true, but because it "listens good" to the dreamer. The first
duty of the scientist was to banish these will-o'-the-wisp ideas
that lead to no practical results.
For illustration Round eggs were supposed to hatch pullets and long
ones cockerels. Eggs will not hatch if it thunders. Shipped eggs
must be allowed to rest before hatching, the drug store was the
universal source of relief when the chickens became sick, and red
pepper and patent foods were the egg foods par excellence. These
things, thanks to the scientist, are no longer believed or regarded
by well read poultrymen, and instead his attention has been turned
to matters having a more happy relation to his bank account.
In clearing away the useless popular notions, the scientists
themselves have not been free from their influence, especially when
they seemed to agree with accepted scientific theory. Many, indeed,
are the 'coons in poultry science that have been seen because they
were being looked for.
As a partial explanation it should be said that men available for
scientific poultry work are very scarce. Poultry keepers schooled in
the University of the Poultry Yard have no conception of scientific
methods, and would explain experimental results by a theory that
would fail to fit elsewhere. The available scientists on the other
hand are seldom poultrymen.
Among the first men to take up animal husbandry work of all kinds,
were the veterinarians. For years the only poultry publications put
out by the U.S. Government were by veterinarians. These dust covered
volumes with their five color plates of the fifty-seven varieties of
tapeworms, still rest on the shelves of public libraries, a monument
to the time when the practical poultryman knew only things that
weren't so, and the scientific poultryman knew only things that were
The first general law that all experimenters should know and the
ignorance of which has caused and still causes the waste of the
major portion of experimental brains and money, we will call the
"Law of Chance." Let the reader who is not familiar with such things
take two pennies and toss them upon the table. They are both heads
up. He tosses them again, one comes heads, the other tails. The
third time repeats the second. The fourth both come tails. The law
of chance says this is correct. Heads should appear 25 per cent.,
tails 25 per cent., and mixed 50 per cent. of the time. Now let the
reader try this in a lot of twelve tosses. Does it prove the law?
Try it again. Are all lots alike? Now pitch a hundred times, then
pitch pennies all day. By night the law will be so near proven that
the experimenter will be willing to concede its validity.
Now suppose the lots of twelve tosses, each were lots of twelve
hens, one Plymouth Rocks, the other Wyandottes, or one fed corn and
the other wheat. The law of chance clearly proves that the larger
number of unites, the nearer the theoretical truths will be the
experimental results. Note, however, that small lots may by chance
be as near the truth as large lots.
In practice two grave errors are made: First, conclusions are drawn
from small lots compared with each other; second, conclusions are
drawn from large lots compared with small lots. In the first case
both may be off; in the latter case the small one may be off.
Examples of the first error are to be found in the scores of
contradicting breed and feed tests, that were published in the early
days of poultry research. The second error is exemplified in the
Ontario experiments in incubation, to which reference has already
Here is a further example of this error. From the fifth egg laying
competition at the Hawkesbury Agricultural College in Australia, I
copy the following:
No. of Hens. Variety. Ave. Egg Yield.
6 Cuckoo Leghorn 190.16
30 S.C. Brown Leghorn 177.00
138 S.C. White Leghorn 174.93
12 R.C. Brown Leghorn 173.50
12 R.C. White Leghorn 172.66
18 Buff Leghorn 160.55
6 Black Leghorn 138.33
The ranking of Cuckoo Leghorns as first is a chance happening due to
the small number; likewise the Black Leghorns had a streak of bad
luck and received lowest place. To one not familiar with such work,
the real significance of the table is that the S.C.W. Leghorns did
the best work. A totaling of all other varieties gives 84 fowls with
an average egg production of 170.5, which bears out the conclusion.
As these birds were all kept in pens of six, we would expect to find
the highest single pen to be White Leghorns, because, when compared
with all other Leghorns, they have both the highest average and the
greatest number. This accords with the fact that as the highest
single pen is found to be White Leghorns with an egg yield of 239
The above illustrates another important phase of the laws of chance,
which says that not only is the average likely to be nearer the
theoretical average sought when the number is increased, but that
the individual extremes will be more removed.
Important Experimental Results at the Illinois Station.
From an Illinois Experiment Station report, the following is quoted:
"The stock used was Barred Plymouth Rock pullets. These pullets were
a very uniform Barred Rock stock that had been bred as an individual
strain for many years. They were practically the same age, and
except for the factors mentioned were treated as uniformly as
First Year's Results.
No. Hens. Diet. Ave. Egg Yield.
10 Nitrogenous Diet 132.9
10 Carbonaceous Diet 128.4
10 Wet Wash 155.8
10 Dry Wash 111.4
"The results of the first test are somewhat surprising for it is
generally believed that the nitrogenous diet is best for laying
hens. The difference indicated in the first year's results was so
light that it was decided to repeat the experiment the second year.
"As the wet wash is clearly proven to be superior, these hens were
used the second year to compare meat meal with fresh cut bone.
Second Year's Result.
No. Hens. Diet. Ave. Egg Yield.
10 Nitrogenous 142.2
10 Carbonaceous 134.5
10 Meat Meal 102.2
10 Green Cut Bone 128.9
"The results of the second year clearly indicate the great
superiority of green cut bone as compared with the dry unpalatable
meat meal. The comparison of a highly nitrogenous ration with that
of a ration consisting largely of corn, while showing the advantages
of the nitrogenous rations, does not show the contrast expected.
"Some visiting poultrymen expressed the opinion that corn is a
better poultry food than commonly supposed. Considering this fact
and the great fundamental importance of the question at issue, it
was decided to repeat the experiment a third year, and feed a large
number of birds on each ration.
No. Hens. Diet. Ave. Egg Yield.
100 Nitrogenous 126.9
100 Carbonaceous 127.2"
I will leave the last without comment, for the whole thing is a
hoax. The Illinois Experiment Station has never owned a chicken.
These "Illinois" experiments were planned and executed in a few
minutes of the writer's spare time. The basis of the experiments was
a pack of cards containing the individual records of the Maine
Experiment Station hens, shuffling the cards and averaging the
desired number of records as they come in the pack, made the
distinction between the various diets.
Pet ideas consciously or unconsciously mold practice. A bias toward
an idea may show itself in the planning and conducting of an
experiment, or it may come out in the later interpretation.
An illustration of the first kind is found in the early work of the
West Virginia Station (Bulletin 60). With the preconceived notion
that hens should have a nitrogenous diet an experiment was planned
and conducted as follows:
One lot of hens was fed corn, potatoes, oats and corn meal. A
contrasted lot reveled in corn, potatoes, hominy feed, oat meal,
corn meal and fresh cut bone. The results were in favor of the
latter ration by a doubled egg yield.
To any experienced poultryman the reason is evident. The variety of
the diet and the meat food are what made the showing.
About the same time the Massachusetts Station planned a similar
experiment. The bias was the same, but it took a fairer form. The
hens were both given a decent variety of food and some form of meat.
The bulk of the grain was corn in the carbonaceous, and wheat in the
nitrogenous ration. The results were in favor of the corn. This
astonished the experimenter. He tried it again and again tests came
out in favor of corn. At last the old theory was revoked, and the
fallacy of wheat being essential to egg production was exploded. If
by an irony of fate in the shuffling of the hens, the wheat pen had
the first time showed an advantage, the experimenter might have been
satisfied and the waste of feeding high priced feed when a better