Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/232

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218
Poutry AND poULTRY-fARMING


have taken their place, and some of the originals are still running. The chicks are all hatched in incubators (many plants running from 20 to 40 machines), and then transferred to long “ brooder houses, ” built with a corridor all along one side, the rest being divided into successive pens for the chickens. These latter are moved along every few days to the next of the pens, which are arranged so as to give rather more space as the birds grow larger. Each pen has next the corridor a “ hover ” or brooding shelter. These have no nestling material, but only a roof or cover somewhat to retain the heat, closed by a curtain cut into strips in front; and are warmed by hot-water pipes running along the building. Generally these pipes run some inches above the chicks reposing on the floor, and are set rather on a slant, so as to be higher for the bigger chicks in the larger pens; but in some cases they run under the floor, and warm the air which enters under the hovers. Every hover, with its inmates, can be reached from the corridor at the back of all. In many cases the chickens are confined in these small pens until large enough, the floors being littered and regularly cleaned; but some raisers have also small outside yards which they use in fine weather. The mortality in nearly all plants is great, as might be supposed. There are said to be some at Hammonton which only market 30% of the eggs incubated, yet pay a modest profit at that, which is allowed for. On the one hand, a broiler realizes about four times the cost of its own hatching and food; on the other hand, the labour is very heavy and the loss considerable: these factors obviously give a very wide margin of possibilities as regards success or failure.

The most remarkable establishment of this kind, embodying some novel features, was erected in Ohio at the end of 1896 by ]. Loughlin. The plant cost over $60,000, and was designed to market 250 to 300 broilers per day regularly, weighing 1% lb each, which were sold alive to one large dealer at $3 per dozen. Each day an average of 450 eggs were started, the chicks from which went into one pen. For the chicks, while small, there were 30 small pens, each with 5 by ro ft. of floor space, or at the rate of six chickens per sq. foot; and there were 60 larger pens each 8 by 12 ft. with outer runs to each of 8 by 20 ft. Every day the chickens were marketed from the ninetieth pen, and all the rest moved one pen forward, leaving the first small pen vacant for the day's hatch: thus fully 22,000 birds were in the plant at one time.

In more general American poultry-farms the same system of “ brooder-houses ” largely prevails, and from many great numbers of broilers are sent to market; but as both heart and liver are perceptibly affected by such rearing, birds intended for stock are either taken out of doors early, or reared in detached brooders, as in England. Some establishments are mainly eggfarms, high averages being obtained by the system before described. Many breeders have a high reputation for their stock as layers, and derive large profit from selling stock or eggs to other farms. There are many immense duck-farms or “ ranches, ” as mentioned below, which sell nothing except stock ducks or market ducklings. A great many combine the breeding and sale of exhibition poultry with some or all of these objects, fancy points being on the whole less distinct from useful qualities than in England, and the farmer and exhibitor far more commonly combined.

As a rule, American poultry-farmers employ long ranges of buildings divided into pens or houses, with enclosed yards in front; and the most remarkable fact is that interest can be paid upon the capital sunk in such buildings. The explanation in some cases is that much is put up by personal labour, while the cheapness of land and feed are also favourable. But the climatic conditions also differ. During the winter months the birds have to be confined in what are called “ scratching-sheds, ” and American farmers have successfully reduced to a system the keeping of them healthy and in profit by scratching amongst litter in a small space. During this period the outer runs sweeten and recuperate; smaller runs therefore suffice, and the stock is kept closer and more compact. Another system is pursued, more especially about Rhode Isla nd, called the “colony ” plan; detached rough houses, holding forty or fifty hens each, being scattered over the farm: there may be a hundred houses, but there is no fencing. This is very economical in buildings, but expensive in the labour of feeding and collecting eggs, and the system is only possible near the sea or where there is little snow. In several cases it has been abandoned for the system of housing and scratching-sheds.

There are a few very large establishments indeed in the United States, combining almost every branch. At the Meadow Brook Farm in Pennsylvania, occupying 80 acres, the buildings total 112,000 sq. ft. under cover, and the farm has sent to market in one year 25,000 chickens and 20,000 ducklings, besides selling many stock birds, and an enormous number of eggs for hatching at an average price of $40 per 1000. Businesses like this are very exceptional; but 'farms on a more moderate scale are numerous, and intelligent American farmers reckon to make a profit of a dollar per annum for each head of their laying or breeding stock.

Table Poultry.-National taste governs the market for tabk poultry to a large extent. In England white meat, skin and legs are preferred, and at one time black legs or yellow skin were heavily discounted. More knowledge has largely removed that prejudice, but white has a market value still. In France exceedingly white and smooth skin is preferred, but buyers are indifferent to black legs. In America yellow skin and legs are actually preferred, such fowls being thought more juicy; but there has been some tendency towards white meat of late. Belgian feeders think the best result follows from crossing a yellow-skinned race upon a white-fleshed one. It is some confirmation of this idea that one of the best English table fowls is the produce of a cross between Dorkings and the yellow skinned Indian game, while other similar instances might be cited. For some years past the quality of British table poultry has been shown by displays of plucked birds in connexion with the Christmas Smithfield Cattle Show. For many years France had a reputation for greatly surpassing British production; and as the best French fowls readily sell for £1 each and more in the Paris market, it would not be surprising if they were superior to such as have to be sold for 15s. per couple. French fatters appear to seek and obtain a smooth whiteness of fat under the skin-almost like that of a bladder of lard-which does not find favour in the British market; but the best judges have considered that the finest English specimens staged were equal to all comers, and some realized high prices. Foreign experts, equally with English, admit that England has now little to learn from any foreign feeders.

The chief supply of the best fowls for the London market has long come from the ussex district whose centre is Heathfield: these are termed “ Surrey " fowls, though Surrey now sends few in comparison. This local industr has been founded in a curious way upon the “ground oats" oflthe district, the whole grain being ground up, husk and all, nearly as fine as flour. This is done by a peculiar local dressing of the stones, which are “ stitched " into little pits by a pointe pick, instead of being dressed into narrow grooves, as for fiour-milling; and this meal is found specially suitable for feeding and fattening poultry. In early times cottagers crammed a few fowls with pellets of meal dipped in milk, but this method is now quite superseded by machine cramming, a rubber tube from the machine being introduced into the crop of each fowl, and a stroke of the foot on a pedal squeezing out a ration of thin, almost creamy, paste, composed of the ground oats, fat and sour skim-milk, a food which puts on flesh fast and makes it white and delicate. Great experience is required in this business. When killed and plucked, the fowls are placed in a trough whilst still warm, close side b side, and their backs and breasts pressed closer together by a board lioaded with heavy weights. This combination of fattening and subsequent shaping constitutes the Sussex system, which is extending in some other parts of England; many excellent fowls, well fed, but unfastened, are also supplied from Lincolnshire (known as “ Bostons ”) and other districts. The largest provincial towns have similar supplies in less degree.

In America larger fowls are called “ roasters, " to distinguish them from the broilers above described; and there has grown up in the eastern states a system of rearing these also in confinement. Hatching them begins in September, and the birds are at first reared in brooder-houses; but when large enough are placed about fifty together in small houses, with 6 by 8 ft. of floor, in small yards about 20 ft. square. One very successful raiser puts 200 birds into one pen IO by 17 ft., in a warmed house, where they remain till killed at 7 Tb or 8 lb weight. One firm had raised in this way, for seven years in succession, 2000 birds per annum upon half an acre of ground, but occasionally there is serious mortality in this kind of business, and as a rule only 60% are reared of those hatched, the loss of the rest being averaged and allowed for. In western Europe there is some demand for chickens fattened quite young, weighing only 8 oz. to 12 oz. each, and known as paths poussins, or “ milk chickens.” In Belgium somewhat older ones,