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is properly carried out in all points, from first to last. I do not think it would pay upon a small farm to keep a regular paid attendant; that occupation must be united with other employment, unless it is managed as a business, and first-class poultry is bred and kept for exhibition, so that fancy prices can be obtained. Any sharp lad can, under proper directions and occasional supervision, look after and feed adult poultry; but to breed and rear successfully, requires some experience. One would not think of trusting sitting birds or their young to youth; they require watching closely to keep the different broods steadily thriving; any check at this stage is a wasteful loss of time, and invites disease, whereas prevention is more important and more easily attainable than cure. and sitting-house should be near the homestead, so that the farmer's wife, daughter, or, at all events, a confidential servant may, without much loss of time, attend to those two principal points, thus getting a nice change from the sameness of in-door occupation.
Breeding. Where there is defect, there is commonly a cause which may be traced out; and such is the case with breeding poultry. One of the greatest hindrances to rearing, is unskillful breeding. How frequently do we hear of large numbers of the young dying without any apparent cause; but I generally find on inquiring into such cases that they have been bred from old birds, and without any infusion of fresh blood for years, or that pullets' eggs have been used; in which case, should there be chickens they are weak and delicate, and seldom attain perfection.
I keep five breeds of fowls: Gray Dorking, Brahmapootra, Game, Spanish, and Moonies, [often called in America, BoltonGrays,] and breed all the year round. For stock fowls I select the very best birds of the different breeds, and mate them according to age, and with due regard to consanguinity; that is, of the same age, if two years old, or hens one year old, and cocks two, or vice versa, taking care that they are not too near akin, and that fresh blood be introduced on one side at least,
every two years, and never allowing more than five hens to one cock.
My early and late chickens for table purposes are bred from the Gray Dorking hen, by a Game cock, and the Brahmapootra hen by a Dorking cock, mated as aforesaid, which two crosses will answer the most sanguine expectations; and those who do not care to keep a pure breed, cannot, I believe, select more valuable fowls. They are not to be excelled as parents, layers, or sitters: their eggs are large, and the birds very good for the table. I have not the least difficulty in rearing chickens from any of the above named breeds, and feel convinced that success depends on the breeding and feeding.
I find that the cross-breds stand the winter months better than the pure-breds, and, therefore, prefer the former to the latter, because of the high prices they will command at that season of the year. The question is often asked, “What kind of fowls will pay the best to keep?" The answer depends entirely upon the purpose for which they are chiefly kept. If for laying purposes, I prefer the Moonies, having had pullets of that breed which have laid for twelve months, without missing more than two days a week. They are a good-sized fowl, and handsome withal; but as table fowls, I should make choice of the Dorking or Game, or the cross-breeds, before alluded to.
The Hatching or Sitting-House.—To some persons it may seem quite absurd to think of setting hens where they have not been accustomed to lay; but “where there's a will, there's a way.” The sitting-house is really a most important apartment, necessary to insure the successful hatching of poultry; for how frequently do we see hens spoil their eggs by forsaking their nests when they are allowed to sit where they are hourly interrupted, and, perhaps, driven off their nests by other hens wanting to lay. To prevent all this, a separate apartment is required for sitting hens. It should be divided into compartments, of sufficient size to contain a nest for one hen, and so arranged that the ben can be secured on the nest by a lattice door, allowing plenty of air; or the following plan may be adopted: The nests, 14 inches wide, 14 inches high, and 16 inches from front to back, may range in two tiers along the lower part of a house—8 or 10 feet by 6-each nest being provided with a loose wooden door, reaching within three inches of the top, so as to admit of ventilation, at the same time the hen is secured on the nest; the door when closed is fitted into a groove at one end and fastened with a wooden button at the other; each button fastens two doors, and each door is num. bered with paint, the corresponding number beiog painted on the facia of each nest.
I never set less than three hens at one time, and that number may always be had broody in the course of a week or ten days by leaving a few spoilt eggs in the nests where the hens you wish to set are accustomed to lay. The broody hens should be managed thus: During the day make as many nests as you require in the sitting-house, with clean, soft, bruised straw, underneath which, during the summer months only, place a green sod; when evening arrives, place the broody hens thereon, and put uoder each hen three or four trial-eggs, (which should be kept for the purpose marked with ink) taking care to handle the hens dextrously, placing one hand underneath the breast, holding the legs in the other hand, and carrying them upright; otherwise, have a convenient basket for the purpose. Feed the newly-set hens as usual with the others, and in all probability at the end of two days they will have taken to the nests; in which case, when off feeding, on the third morning, place the eggs for sitting under each hen, and label each nest naming the kind of eggs, and date when set. On the evening of the eighth day after setting, take a lighted candle, and, holding the eggs up to the light, observe if they appear quite clear; if so, they are sterile, or addle, for eggs containing birds will appear opaque. It may happen, should there be many addle eggs, that two of the hens will sit the remaining eggs of the three; and one can again be set with fresh eggs, as before, and so on during the year. The sterile eggs should be marked as trial or nest-eggs, or boiled as food for chickens, so that none need be wasted. As each sitting hen is now secured upon her nest, as many only at a time as may be most convenient can be let off to feed, which should be done every morning inside the sitting-house with closed door, allowing them to remain off the nests fifteen or twenty minutes, and taking care that each hen returns to the proper nest. Give water with grain in its natural state, but not with soft food. During the summer months, or dry windy March, and about a week previous to hatching, take a little warm water, and when the hens are off their nests, sprinkle the eggs therewith. This will greatly assist nature in the process of hatching, as the eggs are often very dry in hot weather. As a rule, this applies to all kinds of poultry.
Feeding. It is neither necessary nor desirable to go into the market for expensive feeding-stuffs; still, there are several kinds of food not grown upon the farm which are yet cheap and useful in the raising of young poultry, or putting in condition birds intended for exhibition. One of the cheapest of these, if properly prepared, is rice. It can frequently be bought at 14d. per tb., or even less. Preference should be given to the small grain, or fine rice, which should be prepared in the following manner, viz: To 6 quarts of boiling water, add 2 lbs. of rice, and let boil for 10 or 15 minutes, according to the size of the grain; when sufficiently boiled, pour it into a hair stive, and when cold, mix with as much oat or barley meal as will, when stirred lightly round with the hand, give it the appearance of well-dusted pills; each grain being then separate, it will be very convenient for, and is greedily devoured by young birds, and being very digestible, is an invaluable food for them.
Another kind of food is prepared by boiling two or three eggs until quite hard, afterwards chop fine, adding two or three handfulls of stale bread-crumbs; mix well together, so that one cannot be eaten without the other. This may be thought expensive food, but as the consumption by young birds is at first very small, I always consider a little extra keep is not thrown away on them; you are forcing and growing birds that will repay you for all at no distant date.
Another description of food is Indian and barley meal, in equal quantities, slaked with boiling water or milk, and served cold; it cannot be surpassed as food for small chickens, and answers admirably, given alternately with the rice and egg, prepared as aforesaid. The youngest chickens I keep near the house, and feed very sparingly every two hours throughout the day, giving little or no water, as I find over-drinking spoils the appetite and brings on indigestion, which generally terminates in death. As soon as they grow and become strong, they should by degrees be put upon the same food as adults, and any that promise to make prize birds, are then transported to a run specially kept for the purpose, to which, of course, a little extra food is carried.
The adult poultry I feed twice a day with light wheat, oats, or barley, given alternately with boiled potatoes, or turnips mashed up with ground oats or barley, and I will guarantee this food to keep them in good condition, and to produce plenty of eggs. Care should be taken in not supplying more food than is eaten, otherwise much may be wasted, as is often the case; and I think if profit be looked for, more poultry should not be kept than can be conveniently and well cared for and fed with the produce of the farm, except as I have before mentioned, in reference to young birds or those intended for exhibition.
These birds are not troublesome and difficult to rear, as is generally supposed; and taking into consideration the present prices, it is a question if any of our domestic poultry are more profitable. It is not uncommon for a pair of turkey hens to rear thirty young ones during the season, which, at an average of 12s. each, are worth £18.
There are several varieties; the most useful and profitable being the Norfolk, or black, and the Cambridge, of metallic