Part 5 out of 5
and a cheaper is at hand, might have gone on indefinitely.
Of bias in the interpretation of results all publications are more
or less saturated. A reading of the Chapter on Incubation will
illustrate this. A common error of this kind is the omission of
facts necessary to fully explain results. Items of costs are
invariably omitted or minimized. Food cost alone is usually
mentioned in figuring experimenting station poultry profits, which
statement will undoubtedly cause a sad smile to creep over the face
of many a "has-been" poultryman.
The writer remembers an incident from his college days which
illustrates the point in hand. Let it first be remarked that this
was on the new lands of the trans-Missouri Country, where manure had
no more commercial value than soil, and is freely given to those
who will haul it away.
The professor at the blackboard had been figuring up handsome
profits on a type of dairying towards which he wits very partial.
The figures showed a goodly profit, but the biggest expense
item--that of labor--was omitted. One of the students held up his
hand and inquired after the labor bill.
"Oh," said the smiling professor, "The manure will pay for the
When the class adjourned, the student remarked: "They say figures
won't lie, but a liar will figure."
The third way in which experiments are made worthless is by the
introduction of factors other than the one being tested. This may be
done by chance, and the conductor not realize the presence of the
other factor, or the varying factors may be introduced intentionally
under the belief that they are negligible. Of the first case an
instance may be cited of the placing of two flocks in a house, one
end of which is damper than the other, the accidental introduction
into one flock of a contagious disease, or one flock being thrown
off feed by an excessive feed of greens, etc., etc. These factors
that influence pens of birds greatly add to the error of the law of
chance. In fact it amounts to the same thing on a larger scale. For
this reason not only are many individuals, but many flocks, many
locations, and many years needed to prove the superiority of the
The criticisms in the following section will amply illustrate the
case of foreign factors being unwisely introduced into an
The Egg Breeding Work at the Maine Station.
As is well known the Maine Station was for years considered by all
poultrymen to be doing a great and beneficial work in breeding for
increased egg production. Up until the fall of 1907, the poultrymen
of the country were of the opinion that this work was in every way
successful, and a large number of private breeders had taken up the
use of trap-nests in an effort to build up the egg production of
When early in 1908 Bulletin 157 of the Maine Experiment Station was
published, it showed by averages as given in the table on page 202
that the egg yield at the station was for the entire period on the
decline. In Bulletin 157, the statement was made that "arithmetical
mistakes" and "faulty statistical methods" accounted for the
discrepancies between the former publications and the criticised
data. The further explanation that "the experiment was a success as
an experiment," etc., only appeared to the public mind as a graceful
way of explaining what was, to the practical man, an utter failure
of the entire work.
The unfortunate death of Professor Gowell, together with the fact
that he had equipped a private poultry farm with station stock,
added to the confusion, and the result of the bulletin was the
precipitation of a general "pow-wow" in which the poultry editors
were about equally divided between those who were casting
insinuations upon the personnel of the station, and those who
decried the whole effort toward improving the egg yield.
After going over the publications of Professor Gowell, visiting the
station and meeting the present force, I came to the following
conclusions regarding the matter:
Professor Gowell's work is open to severe criticism. Errors have
been made in conducting the work at Maine which have made it
possible for a mathematical biologist to take the data and seemingly
prove that selection, as practiced by Professor Gowell, actually
resulted in lowering inherent egg capacity of the strain of Plymouth
Rock hens under experimentation. Had Professor Gowell's successor
been a practical poultryman, it is my candid opinion that the public
would have been given a radically different explanation of the
Professor Gowell is the author of the following statement: "The
small chicken grower is earnestly urged to use an incubator for
hatching." This opinion is not in accord with that of the majority
of breeders and the more progressive experiment station workers. The
opinion has been expressed by Professor Graham and others, that the
particular results at the Maine Station may have been due to the
decrease of vitality caused by continued artificial hatching. This
view may be wholly without foundation. Nevertheless, as the common
type of incubator is under heavy criticism, and it is pretty well
proven that chicks so hatched have not the vitality of naturally
hatched chicks, surely a series of breeding experiments would carry
more weight if the replenishing of the flock had been accomplished
by natural means.
For the first few years of the breeding work the house used was the
old-fashioned double walled and warmed pattern. The last few years
of this work were conducted in curtain front houses. That the cool
house is an improvement over the warm house is generally conceded,
but there are many poultrymen who are still of the opinion that the
warm house will give a larger egg yield, though at a greater expense
and less profit.
In the early years of the work the method of feeding was also a
time-honored one, and included a warm mash. About the middle of the
experimental period Professor Gowell brought out the system of
feeding dry mash from hoppers. This custom became a great fad and
Professor Gowell and Director Woods have preached it far and wide.
Perhaps it is an improvement, but it is to-day much more popular
with novices than with established egg farms. Many old line
poultrymen have tried dry mash only to go back to wet mash, by which
method the hens can be induced to eat more which is conducive to
high egg yields. Whether these changes in housing and feeding have
been improvements as claimed by those who introduced them, or
whether their popularity may be explained in part at least by the
psychology of fads, is a point in question, but certainly the
marring of a breeding experiment by introducing radical changes in
the factors of production is at best unfortunate.
A much more serious criticism than any of the foregoing is to be
found in a change of the size of flocks and amount of floor space
per fowl. I have gone over carefully the published records of
Professor Gowell, and the review of Dr. Pearl, and the following
table represents, as near as I can determine, these factors for the
series of years. In the year 1903 I find no clear statement as to
the manner in which the birds were housed, and I may be in error in
this case. Otherwise the table gives the facts.
Year Hens in Flock Per Hen Egg Yield
1900 20 8. sq. ft. 136.36
1901 20 8. sq. ft. 143.44
1902 20 8. sq. ft. 155.58
1903 20 8. sq. ft. 135.42
1904 50 4.4 sq. ft. 117.90
1905 50 4.4 sq. ft. 134.07
1906 50 4.4 sq. ft. 140.14
1907 50 4.4 sq. ft. 113.24
Certainly this oversight is a serious one, and one especially
remarkable considering the fact that the comparison of different
size flocks formed a prominent part of the Maine Station work during
the last three years of the breeding test. The results of the work
at the Maine Station on testing flock size, conducted without
relation to the breeding work, gave the following results:
No. of Hens Sq. ft. per Hen Egg Yield
150 3.2 111.68
100 4.8 123.21
50 4.8 129.69
No comparisons of 50 and 20 bird flocks in the same year are
available, but by extending the comparisons of the 50, 100 and 150
flocks into the 20 flock size, we can get some idea of the error
that has been here introduced. The result of the Australian egg
laying contest in which the flocks were composed of six hens, shows
a yield of about one and one-half times as heavy as the Maine
records, which certainly seems to substantiate the ideas here
It is a well established fact in poultry circles that many men who
succeed with a few hundred hens, fail when the number is increased
to as many thousands. When the breeding experiments under discussion
were started, Professor Gowell had under his supervision about three
hundred hens. When the work was closed the experiment station plant
had been increased to four or five times its capacity, and Professor
Gowell had a large private poultry plant of his own in addition.
It is interesting to note in this connection that the last four
years of the records are explained by Professor Gowell as being low,
due to various "accidents" (?) It is unreasonable to suppose the
true explanation of these "accidents" would be found in connection
with the increased responsibility and size of the plant.
The breeding stock sent out by Professor Gowell has given general
satisfaction, and was found by Professor Graham of the Ontario
Station, as well as by a number of private individuals, to be of
superior laying quality to that of the average Barred Rock.
Clearly there is only one way to prove whether Professor Gowell's
work has been a wasted effort, and that is for flocks of his strain
to be tested at other experiment stations against birds of
That much has been lost to the poultrymen of the country by the
recent upheaval at the Maine Station, I believe to be the case, but
that does not mean that the men now in charge will not in the future
be of great value to the poultry interests. They are, however, in
the class of pure scientists rather than applied scientists, but if
let alone they will dig out something sooner or later which they or
others can apply to the benefit of the industry.
Upon the whole, I think that the present case of the trap-nest
method of increasing egg production stands very much as it is has
always stood, being a commendable thing for small breeders who could
afford the time, but not practical in a large way, except at
experiment stations. On a large commercial scale the system of
selecting sires by the collective work of his first year's offspring
would probably get the quickest results.
The best use of the funds of the people in the promotion of
agricultural industries is in the permanent endorsement on the one
hand of a few high grade research stations where the deeper theories
may be worked out, and on the other the teaching of such good
principles and practices as are already known.
The greatest opportunity for Government effort lies in the
development demonstration farm work in poultry Just as it is doing
with the corn and cotton in the South.
POULTRY ON THE GENERAL FARM
This chapter will be devoted to specific directions for the
profitable keeping of chickens on the typical American farm. By
typical American farm I mean the farm west of Ohio, north of
Tennessee and east of Colorado. Farms outside this section present
different problems. In the region mentioned about three-quarters of
the American poultry and egg crop is produced, and in this section
poultry keeping is more profitable when conducted as a part of
general farm operations than as an exclusive business.
There is no reason why a farmer should not be a poultry fancier if
he desires, but in that case his special interest in his chickens
would throw him out of the class we are at present considering.
Likewise, I do not doubt that in many instances where the farmer or
members of his family took special interest in poultry work, it
would be profitable to increase the size of operations beyond those
herein advised, using incubators and keeping Leghorns. Of these
exceptions the farmer himself must judge. The rules I lay down are
for those farmers who wish to keep chickens for profit, but do not
care to devote any larger share of their time and study to them than
they do to the cows, hogs, orchard or garden.
The advice herein given in this chapter will differ from much of the
advice given to farmers by poultry writers. The average poultry
editor is afraid to give specific advice concerning breeds,
incubators, etc., because he fears to offend his advertisers. The
reader, left to judge for himself, is liable to pick out some fancy
impractical variety or method.
Best Breeds for the Farm.
Keep only one variety of chickens. Do not bother with other
varieties of poultry unless it is turkeys. Whether it will pay to
raise turkeys will depend upon your success with the little turks,
and on the freedom of the community from the disease called
The kind of chicken you should keep should be picked from the three
following breeds: Barred Plymouth Rock, White Wyandotte, Rhode
Island Reds. If you go outside of these three breeds be sure you
have a very good reason for doing so.
Then get a start with a new breed, buy at least four sittings of
eggs in a single season, paying not over $2.00 per sitting. Keep all
the pullets and a half dozen of the best cockerels. The next spring
pen these pullets up with the best cockerels, and use none but eggs
from this pen for hatching. That fall sell all of the young
cockerels and all the old scrub hens. The second spring the two old
roosters from the original purchased eggs are used with the general
flock. From this time on the entire flock is pure bred and should
Each year when the chicks are about six or eight weeks old pick out
the largest, most vigorous male chick from each brood. Mark these by
clipping the web of the foot or putting on leg bands. From those so
marked the breeding cockerels for the next season are later
selected. When you pick the good cockerels pick out all runty
looking pullets and cut off the last joint of the hind toe. These
runts are later to be eaten or sold. The more surplus chicks raised,
the more strictly can the selection be made.
This system of picking the best cockerel from each brood and
discarding the poorest pullets is the most practical method known of
building up a vigorous, quick growing and early laying strain.
When we allow the entire flock of many different ages to grow up
before the selection is made it is impossible to select
Every third or fourth year an extra cock bird may be purchased
provided you are sure you are getting a specimen from a better flock
than your own. Swapping roosters or eggs every year is poor policy.
If your neighbor has better stock than you, get his blood pure and
sell off your own, but do not keep a barnyard full of scrubs who can
trace their ancestry to every flock in the neighborhood.
Keep Only Workers.
On many farms few eggs are gathered from October to January. This is
a season when eggs bring the best prices. To secure eggs at this
season, the first requisite is that the pullets be hatched between
the first of March and the middle of May, or, in the case of
Leghorns, between the first of April and the first of June. Pullets
hatched later than these dates are a source of expense during the
fall and early winter. On the other hand, it is an unnecessary waste
of effort to hatch pullets before the dates mentioned, because, if
hatched too early, they will molt in the fall and stop laying the
same as old hens.
Pullets must be well fed and cared for if expected to develop in the
time allowed. As they begin to show signs of maturity they should be
gotten into permanent quarters. If allowed to begin laying while
roosting in coops or in trees they will be liable to quit when
changed to new quarters. If possible the coops should be gradually
moved toward the hen-house and the pullets gotten into quarters
without excitement or confinement. The poultry-house should have an
ample circulation of fresh air. Young stock that have been roosting
in open coops are liable to catch cold if confined in tight houses.
A common mistake is to allow a large troop of young roosters to
overrun the premises in the early fall. Not only is money lost in
the decrease in price that can be obtained for these cockerels, but
the pullets are greatly annoyed, to the detriment of the egg yield.
Any chicken that is not paying for its food in growth or in egg
production is a source of loss. As soon as the hatching season is
over old roosters should be sent to market. Through June and August
egg production is not very profitable, and a thorough culling of the
hens should be made. Market all hens two years or more of age. Send
with these all the yearling hens that appear fat and lazy. By the
time the young pullets are ready to be moved into quarters--the
latter part of August--these hens should be reduced to about
one-half the original number. Some time during September a final
culling of the old stock should be made. Those that have not yet
begun to molt should be sold, as they will not be laying again
before the warm days of the following February. This system of
culling will leave the best portion of the yearling hens, which,
together with the early-hatched pullets, will make a profitable
flock of layers.
Hatching Chicks With Hens.
The eggs for hatching should be stored in a cool, dry location at a
temperature between forty and seventy degrees Fahrenheit. A good
rule is not to set eggs over two weeks old.
The two chief losses with sitting-hens are due to lice and
interference of other hens. The practice of setting hens in the
chicken-house makes both these difficulties more troublesome. Almost
all farms will have some outbuilding situated apart from the regular
chicken-house that can be used for sitting-hens. The most convenient
arrangement will be to use boxes, and have these open at the top.
They may be placed in rows and a plank somewhat narrower than the
boxes used as a cover. The nests should be made by throwing a shovel
of earth into the box and then shaping a nest of clean straw. Make
the nest roomy enough so that as the hen steps into the nest the
eggs will spread apart readily and not be broken. When a hen shows
signs of broodiness remove her to the sitting-room. This should be
done in the evening, so that the hen becomes accustomed to her
position by daylight. Place the hen upon the nest-eggs and confine
her to the nest. If all is well the next evening give her a full
setting of eggs.
A practical method to arrange for sitting-hens is to build the nests
out of doors, allowing each hen a little yard, so that she may have
liberty to leave her nest as she chooses. These nests may be built
by using twelve-inch boards set on edge, so as to form a series of
small runways about one by six feet. In one end are built the nests,
which are covered by a broad board, while the remainder of the
arrangement is covered with lath or netting. The food, grit and
water should be placed at the opposite end of the runway. Care
should be taken to locate these nests on well-drained ground.
Arrangements should be made to close the front of the nest during
hatching so that the chicks will not drop out. A contrivance of this
kind furnishes a very convenient method of handling sitting-hens,
and if no separate building is available would be the best method to
Incubators on the Farm.
My candid advice to the farmer who is in doubt as whether to buy
an incubator or not, is to let it alone. If the farmer reads the
chapter on artificial incubation, he will see that he is dealing
with a very complex problem, and one in which his chances of success
are not very great.
In order to learn the facts concerning incubators on the farms the
writer made a special investigation on the subject while poultryman
at the Kansas Experiment Station. Replies received from 111 Kansas
farmers, report 21 as having tried incubators. Of these, 6 reported
the incubators as being an improvement over hatching with hens; 10
reported the incubator as being successful, but not better than
hens, while the remaining 5 declared the incubator to be a failure.
The results of this inquiry, and of personal visits to farms, led
the writer to believe that about one-tenth of the farmers of Kansas
had tried incubators, and that about as many failed as succeeded
with artificial hatching.
The argument for the incubator on the farm is certainly not one of
better hatching, but there is an argument, and a good one for the
farm incubator. The argument is this: Hens will not set early enough
and in sufficient quantities to get out as large a number of chicks
as the farmer may desire. Now, each hen will not hatch over 10
chicks, but is capable of caring for at least 30. Here the incubator
comes into good use, for the farmer can set a half dozen hens along
with the incubator, and give all the chicks to the hens. This is the
method I recommend where an incubator is to be used. The development
of the public hatchery would supply these other 20 chicks more
economically and more certainly than the farm incubator, but until
that institution becomes established the more ambitious farm poultry
raisers are justified in trying an incubator.
The best known incubators in the market are the Cyphers, the Model
and the Prairie State. Cheaper machines are liable to do poor work.
The following points may help the farmer in deciding whether or not
to buy an incubator and in picking out a good machine.
The person to run the incubator is the first condition of its
success. A good incubator requires attention twice a day. One person
should give this attention, and must give it regularly and
carefully. The farmer's wife or some younger member of the family
can often give more time and interest to this work than can the
farmer. The likelihood of a person's success with artificial
hatchers can best be determined by himself.
The best location for an incubator is a moderately damp cellar. The
next choice would be a room in the house away from the fire or from
windows. Drafts of air blowing on the machine are especially to be
avoided. Not only do they affect the temperature directly, but cause
the lamp to burn irregularly, and this may result in fire.
The objects in view in building an incubator are: (1) To keep the
eggs at a proper temperature (103 degrees on a level with the top of
the eggs). (2) To cause the evaporation of moisture from the eggs at
a normal rate. (3) To prevent the eggs from resting too long in one
The case of the incubator should be built double, or triple-walled,
to withstand variation in the outside temperature. The doors should
fit neatly and be made of double glass. The lamp should be made of
the best material, and the wick of sufficient width that the
temperature may be maintained with a low blaze. The most
satisfactory place for the lamp is at the end of the machine,
outside the case.
Regulators composed of two metals, such as aluminum and steel, are
best. Wafers filled with ether or similar liquid are more sensitive
but weaker in action. Hard-rubber bars are frequently used.
The most practical system of controlling evaporation is a system of
forced ventilation, in which the air is heated around the lamp-flue
and passes through the egg-chamber at a rate determined by
ventilators in the bottom of the machine. With the outside air cold
and dry only slight current is required, but as the outer air
becomes warmer or damper more circulation is needed.
Turning the egg is not the work that many imagine it to be. It is
not necessary that the egg be turned with absolute precision and
regularity. An elaborate device for this work is useless. The trays
will need frequently to be removed and turned around or shifted, and
the eggs can be turned at this time by lifting out a few on one side
of the tray and rolling the others over.
Two other points to be considered in the incubator are: A suitable
nursery or place for the newly hatched chick, and a good
If it is very early in the spring, and the ground is damp, it is
best to put the hen and her brood in some building. During the most
of the season the best thing is an outdoor coop. The first
consideration in making a chicken-coop is to see that it is
rain-proof and rat-tight. The next thing to look for is that the
coop is not air-tight. Let the front be of rat-tight netting or
heavy screen. The same general plan may be used for small coops for
hens, or for larger coops to be used as colony-houses for growing
chickens. The essentials are: A movable floor raided on cleats, a
sliding front covered with rat-tight netting, and a hood over the
front to keep the rain from beating in. If used late in the fall or
early in the spring a piece of cloth should be tacked on the sliding
The chicken-coops should not be bunched up, but scattered out over
as much ground as is convenient. Neither should they remain long in
one spot, but should be shifted a few feet each day. At first water
should be provided at each coop, but as the chickens grow older they
may be required to come to a few central water pans.
As before suggested, rearing chicks with hens is the only suitable
method for general farm practice. The brooder on the farm is an
For brooder raised chicks it is necessary to provide means for the
little chick to exercise. But in the season when the great majority
of farm chicks are raised they may be placed out of doors from the
start and the trouble will now be to keep them from getting too much
exercise, i.e.: to keep the hens from chasing around with them
especially in the wet grass. This is properly prevented by keeping
the brood coops in plowed ground, and keeping the hens confined by a
slatted door, until the chicks are strong enough to follow her
The chick should not be fed until 48 to 72 hours old. It may then be
started on the same kind of food as is to form its diet in after
life. The hard boiled egg and bread and milk diets are wholly
unnecessary and are only a waste of time.
I recommend the same system of chick feeding for the general farm as
is used on commercial plants, and I especially insist that it will
pay the farmer to provide meat food of some sort for his growing
chicks. The amount eaten will not be large, nor need the farmer fear
that supplying the chicks with meat food will prevent their
consuming all the bugs and worms that come their way.
Besides comfortable quarters, the chick to thrive, must have:
Exercise, water, grit, a variety of grain food, green or succulent
food, and meat food.
Water should be provided in shallow dishes. This can best be
arranged by having a dish with an inverted can or bottle which
allows only a little water to stand in the drinking basin.
Chicks running at large on gravelly ground need no provision for
grit. Chicks on board floors or clay soils must be provided with
either coarse sand or chick grit, such as is sold for the purpose.
Grain is the principal, and, too often, the only food of the chick.
The common farm way of feeding grain to young chickens is to mix
corn-meal and water and feed in a trough or on the ground. There is
no particular advantage in this way of feeding, and there are
several disadvantages. The feed is all in a bunch, and the weaker
chicks are crowded out, while if wet feed is thrown on the ground or
in a dirty trough the chicks must swallow the adhering filth, and if
any food is left over it quickly sours and becomes a menace to
health. Some people mix dough with sour milk and soda and bake this
into a bread. The better way is to feed all of the grain in a
natural dry condition.
There are foods in the market known as chick foods. The commercial
foods contain various grains and seeds, together with meat and grit.
Their use renders chick feeding quite a simple matter, it being
necessary to supply in addition only water and green foods. For
those who wish to prepare their own chick foods the following
suggestions are given:
Oatmeal is probably the best grain food for chicks. Oats cannot be
suitably prepared, however, in a common feed-mill. The hulled oats
are what is wanted. They can be purchased as the common rolled oats,
or sometimes as cut or pin-head oatmeal. The latter form would be
preferred, but either of these is an excellent chick feed. Oats in
these forms are expensive and should be purchased in bulk, not in
packages. If too expensive, oats should be used only for a few days,
when they may be replaced by cheaper grains. Cracked corn is the
best and cheapest chick food. Flaxseed could be used in small
quantities. Kaffir-corn, wheat, cow-peas--in fact any wholesome
grain--may be used, the more variety the better. Farmers possessing
feed-mills have no excuse for feeding chicks exclusively on one kind
of grain. If there is no way of grinding corn on the farm, oatmeal,
millet seed and corn chop can be purchased. At about one week of age
whole Kaffir-corn, and, a little later whole wheat, can be used to
replace the more expensive feeds.
Green or bulky food of some kind is necessary to the healthy growth
of young chickens. Chickens fed in litter from clover or alfalfa
will pick up many bits of leaves. This answers the purpose fairly
well, but it is advisable to feed some leafy vegetable, as kale or
lettuce. The chicks should be gotten on some growing green crop as
soon as possible.
Chickens are not by nature vegetarians. They require some meat to
thrive. It has been proven in several experiments that young
chickens with an allowance of meat foods make much better growth
than chickens with a vegetable diet, even when the chemical
constituents and the variety of the two rations are practically the
Very few farmers feed any meat whatever. They rely on insects to
supply the deficiency. This would be all right if the insects were
plentiful and lasted throughout the year, but as conditions are it
will pay the farmer to supplement this source of food with the
commercial meat foods.
Fresh bone, cut by bone-cutters, is an excellent source of the meat
and mineral matter needed by growing chicks. If one is handy to a
butcher shop that will agree to furnish fresh bones at little or no
cost, it will pay to get a bone-mill, but the cost of the mill and
labor of grinding are considerable items, and unless the supply of
bones is reliable and convenient this source of meat foods is not to
be depended upon.
The best way to feed beef-scrap is to keep a supply in the hopper so
the chickens may help themselves. In case meat food is given,
bone-meal, fed in small quantities, will form a valuable addition to
their ration. Infertile eggs from incubators, as well as by-products
of the dairy, can be used to help out in the animal-food portion of
the ration. Chickens may be given all the milk they will drink. It
is generally recommended that this be given clabbered.
Feeding Laying Hens.
The food requirements of a laying hen are very like those of a
growing chicken. One addition to the list is, however, required for
egg production, which is lime, of which the shell of the egg is
formed. In the summer-time hens on the range will find sufficient
lime to supply their needs. In the winter-time they should be
supplied with more lime than the food contains. Crushed oyster shell
answers the purpose admirably.
A supply of green food is one of the requisites of successful winter
feeding. Every farmer should see that a patch of rye, crimson
clover, or some other winter green crop is grown near his
chicken-house. Vegetables and refuse from the kitchen help out in
this matter, but seldom furnish a sufficient supply. Vegetables may
be grown for this purpose. Mangels and sugar-beets are excellent.
Cabbage, potatoes and turnips answer the purpose fairly well.
Mangels are fed by splitting in halves and sticking to nails driven
in the wall.
Clover and alfalfa are excellent chicken feeds and should be used in
regions where winter crops will not keep green. The leaves that
shatter off in the mow are the choicest portion for chicken feeding,
and may be fed by scalding with hot water and mixing in a mash. Hens
will eat good green alfalfa if fed dry in a box.
The feeding of sprouted oats should be practiced when no other green
food is available. Oats may be prepared for this purpose by
thoroughly soaking in warm water and being kept in a warm, damp
place for a few days. Feed when the sprouts are a couple of inches
Almost all grains are suitable foods for hens. Corn, on account of
its cheapness and general distribution, is the best. The general
prejudice against corn feeding should be directed rather against
feeding one grain alone without the other forms of food. If hens are
supplied with green foods, with mineral matter, some form of meat
food, and are forced to take sufficient amount of exercise, the
danger from overfatness, due to the feeding of a reasonable amount
of corn, need not be feared.
As has already been emphasized, the variety of food given is more
essential than the kind. Do not feed one grain all the time. The
more variety fed the better. Corn and Kaffir-corn, being cheap
grains, will form the major portion of the ration, but, even if much
higher in price, it will pay to add a portion of such grain as
wheat, barley, oats or buckwheat.
The advice commonly given in poultry papers would require one to
exercise nearly as much pains in the cleaning of a chicken house as
in the cleaning of a kitchen. Such advice may be suitable for the
city poultry fanciers, but it is out of place when given to the
farmer. Poultry raising, the same as other farm work, must pay for
the labor put into it, and this will not be the case if attempt is
made to follow all the suggestions of the theoretical poultry
The ease with which the premises may be kept reasonably free from
litter and filth is largely a matter of convenient arrangement. The
handiest plan from this view-point is the colony system. In this the
houses are moved to new locations when the ground becomes soiled. If
the chicken-house is a stationary structure it should be built away
from other buildings, scrap-piles, fence corners, etc., so that the
ground can be frequently freshened by plowing and sowing in oats,
rye or rape. The ground should be well sloped, so that the water
draining from the surface may wash away much of the filth that on
level ground would accumulate.
Cleanliness indoors can be simplified by proper arrangement. First,
the house must be dry. Poultry droppings, when dry, are not a source
of danger if kept out of the feed. They should be removed often
enough to prevent foul odors. Drinking vessels should be rinsed out
when refilled and not allowed to accumulate a coat of slime. If a
mash is fed, feed-boards should be scraped off and dried in the sun.
Sunshine is a cheap and efficient disinfectant.
The advice on the control of lice and the method of handling sick
chickens that has been given in the main section of the book, will
apply as well on the farm as on the commercial poultry plant.
Certainly the farmer's time is too valuable to fool with the details
of poultry therapeutics.
Farm Chicken Houses.
The following notes on poultry houses apply to Iowa and Nebraska,
where the winters are severe, and similar climates. Farther south
and east the farmer should use the same style of houses as
recommended for egg farms. A chicken house just high enough for a
man to walk erectly and a floor space of about 3 square feet per hen
is advisable. This requires a house 12 by 24 for 100 hens, or 10 by
16 for 50.
Lands sloping to south or southeast, and that which dries quickly
after a rain, will prove the most suitable for chickens. A gumbo
patch should not be selected as a location for poultry. Hogs and
hens should not occupy the same quarters, in fact, should be some
distance apart, especially if heavy breeds of chickens are kept.
Hens should be removed from the garden, but may be near an orchard.
Chicken-houses should be separated from tool-houses, stables, and
Grading for chicken-houses is not commonly practiced, but this is
the easiest means of preventing dampness in the house and is
necessary in heavy soils. The ground-level may be raised with a plow
and scraper, or the foundation of the house may be built and filled
A stone foundation is best, but where stone is expensive may be
replaced by cedar, hemlock or Osage orange posts, deeply set in the
ground. Small houses can be built on runners as described for colony
houses for an egg farm.
Floors are commonly constructed of earth, boards or cement. Cement
floors are perfectly sanitary and easy to keep clean. The objections
to their common use is the first cost of good cement floors. Cheaply
constructed floors will not last. Board floors are very common and
are preferred by many poultrymen, but if close to the ground they
harbor rats, while if open underneath they make the house cold.
Covering wet ground by a board floor does not remedy the fault of
dampness nearly so effectually as would a similar expenditure spent
in raising the floor and surrounding ground by grading. All things
considered, the dirt floor is the most suitable. This should be made
by filling in above the outside ground-level. The drainage will be
facilitated if the first layer of this floor be of cinders, small
rocks or other coarse material. Above this layer should be placed a
layer of clay, wet and packed hard, so the hens cannot scratch it
up, or a different plan may be used and the floor constructed of a
sandy or loamy soil of which the top layer can be renewed each year.
The walls of a chicken-house must first of all be wind-tight. This
may be attained in several ways. Upright boards with cracks battened
is the cheapest method. Various kinds of lap-siding give similar
results. The single-board wall may be greatly improved by lining
with building-paper. This should be put on between the studding and
siding. Lath should also be used to prevent the paper bagging out
from the wall. The double-board wall is the best where a warm house
It should be made by siding up outside the studding with cheap
lumber. On this is placed a layer of roofing paper and over it the
ordinary siding. The windows of a chicken-house should furnish
sufficient light that the hens may find grain in the litter on
cloudy days. Too much glass in a poultry house makes the house cold
at night, and it is a needless expenditure.
The subject of roofing farm buildings may be summarized in this
advice: Use patent roofing if you know of a variety that will last;
if not, use shingles. Shingle roofs require a steeper pitch than do
roofs of prepared roofing. A shingle roof can be made much warmer by
using tightly laid sheathing covered with building-paper. Especial
care should be taken that the joints at the eaves of the house are
The object of ventilating a chicken-house is to supply a reasonable
amount of fresh air, and, equally important, to keep the house dry.
Ventilation should not be by cracks or open cupolas. Direct drafts
of air are injurious, and ventilation by such means is always the
greatest when the least needed.
Schemes of ventilation by a system of pipes are expensive and
unnecessary. The latest, best and cheapest plan for providing
ventilation is the curtain front house for the north, and the open
front house for the more southerly sections. The curtain front house
is giving way to the open front with a somewhat smaller opening in
sections, as far north as Connecticut.
Make all roosts on the same level. The ladder arrangement is a
nuisance and offers no advantage. Arrange the roosts so that they
may be readily removed for cleaning. Do not fill the chicken-house
full of roosts. Put in only enough to accommodate the hens, and let
these be on one side of the house. The floor under the roosts should
be separated from the feeding floor by a board set on edge.
For laying flocks the nests must be clean, secluded and plentiful.
Boxes under the roost-platform will answer, but a better plan is to
have the nest upon a shelf along a side wall so arranged as to allow
the hen to enter from the rear side. Nests should be constructed so
that all parts are accessible to a white-wash brush. The less
contrivances in a chicken-house, the better.
The farmer can get along very well without any chicken-yard at all.
It will, however, prove a very convenient arrangement if a small
yard is attached to the chicken-house. The house should be arranged
to open either into the yard or out into the range. This yard may be
used for fattening chickens or confining cockerels, or perhaps to
enclose the flock during the ripening of a favorite tomato or berry