Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/233

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219
POULTRY AND POULTRY-FARMING


weighing up to 1% lb, are sold as poulets de grains. The demand for such birds in England is small, and confined to the West End of London, the flesh being too excessively tender for average English palates. Birds of similar sizes have lately been finding a market in the United States, as “ squab broilers, " but are split and broiled, and not fattened, the difference being that a whole bird is served for one portion.

Turkeys.-The varieties of the turkey (q.'v.) differ chiefly as to colour. The principal English breeds are the bronze or Cambridge, the black or Norfolk, the fawn and the white. Of these the first, especially when crossed with the American, is the largest and most desirable.

Turkey-breeding has been largely dominated by the magnificent American bronze breed, derived from wild blood, and distinguished for size and weight. There is some question whether it does not require more space and fresher ground than the older English strains, and may not be more delicate on small holdings. French birds come largely to the Christmas market in London, but, as compared with English, are small. The chicks, when hatched after twenty eight days' incubation, should be left undisturbed for twenty-four or thirty hours, during which time they are digesting the yolk that is absorbed into the intestinal canal at birth. No attempt should be made to cram them; their first food should consist of sweet fresh meal, soft custard made with equal parts of egg and milk set by a gentle heat, and, above all, abundance of some bitter milky herb, as dandelion, or, much better, lettuce running to seed, on which they can be reared successfully with very little food of any other description. The young turkeys progress much better if the hen has the range of a small enclosure from the first than if she is confined to a coop; thus reared they are much hardier than when cooped and corn-fed, and not so susceptible to injury from slight showers; but a damp locality should be avoided. Turkey-hens are most persevering sitters, and are employed in France to hatch successions of sittings of hens' eggs. Turkeys can often be most advantageously reared by cottagers, as one or two hens only can be kept, one visit to the male being sufficient to fertilize the entire batch of eggs. The young turkeys find a larger proportion of their own food than fowls, and with a good free range cost but little until they are ready for fattening for the table. In places where the opportunity serves they may be allowed to roost in the trees with great advantage. Some wild flocks treated like pheasants are to be found in several of the large parks in Scotland as well as in England. Guinea-fowls.-The guinea-fowl (q.'v.) may be successfully reared in any dry locality provided it has a good range and trees in which to roost. The hen lays an abundance of eggs, which are generally hidden. The birds are useful as furnishing a supply of poultry for the table in the interval that ensues between the time when game are out of season and that before chickens arrive at maturity. On a dry, sandy and chalky soil and in a warm situation they are reared with ease, but are quite unsuited to damp, cold localities. The continued vociferation of the henbirds renders their maintenance near a house very objectionable, as the cry is continued throughout great part of the night. Several variations of colour exist, but they do not require any detailed description.

Ducks.-All the varieties of the domesticated duck are descended from the common mallard or wild duck, Anas boschas, a species which, though timid in its wild state, is easily domesticated, and suffers changes of form and colour in a few generations. The most important breeds are: the Rouen, which, retaining the colour of the original species, grows to a large size; the Aylesbury, a large white breed with an expanded lemon coloured bill; the Peking, a white breed with a pale yellowish tint in the plumage, and a very bright orange bill; two breeds which are entirely black. The smaller of these, which has been bred down to a very diminutive size, is remarkable for the extreme lustre of its feathers and the fact that its eggs are covered with a dark black pigment, which becomes less in quantity as each successive egg is deposited. It is known by the equally absurd names of East Indian, Labrador or Buenos Aires duck. The larger black variety, the Cayuga duck, has been introduced into England. Decoy or call ducks are small breeds of a very loquacious character, which were originally bred for the purpose of attracting the wild birds to the decoys. Some are of the natural colour, others are white. Amongst the less known breeds are the Duclair ducks of France, evidently the result of crossing white and coloured varieties. Among the breeds differing in structure may be mentioned the Indian Runner duck, formerly called Penguin duck from its erect attitude, the hook-billed and the tufted ducks, &c. During the last fifteen years of the 19th century the first of these became very popular in England as a hardy forager and good layer, many birds laying 150 to 180 eggs in a year. It is small in body but good in flavour, and is a great favourite in many districts. Formerly the greater number of ducklings came to the London market from the Vale of Aylesbury. This trade still continues, but the adherence of the Aylesbury duckers to old-fashioned methods, and the increasing demand, has led to great competition in other districts, such as Norfolk, Lancashire, Kent, &c. Some of the new duck-farmers market 10,000 to 15,000 annually, mostly hatched in incubators, and never allowed in the water or out of the small rearing pens. In America, however, this kind of rearing has found its ullest development, the number who raise 10,000 ducklings or more being considerable, and a few sending to market, as above indicated, very large numbers indeed, requiring 40 to 80 incubators to keep up the supply. It is remarkable that while in England the Aylesbury is genera ly preferred, in America the Peking duck is universally used, and has been made by selection both larger and a better layer. Some duck-farmers in England have, however, also adopted the Peking. By good feeding the ducks are caused to lay in the winter months, when the eggs are hatched under hens, the young ducklings being reared in artificially warmed buildings or in the labourers cottages; they are fed most liberally on soft food, soaked grits, boiled rice with tallow-melters' greaves, and in ten or twelve weeks are fit for the market; if killed before moulting their quills, which they do when about twelve weeks old, they are heavier than afterwards and much better eating. When ducklings are required for the early sprincg markets the old birds must be fed most freely to cause the pro uction of eggs in cold weather, corn being given in vessels of water, and the birds must be shut up at night, or the eggs will be laid in the water, where they sink and become putrid. Duck-rearing is a very profitable industr, very high prices being paid for ducklings in the early months ofy the year. The so-called Muscovy duck is a Brazilian species, Cairina moschata, which is not reared for the market, although the young birds are edible. The drake not infrequently mates with the common duck, and large but sterile hybrids are the result.

Geese.-The domestic goose (q.'v.) of Europe is undoubtedly the descendant of the migratory Graylag goose, Amer cinereus, from which it differs chiefly by its increased size. Although domesticated since the time of the Romans, it has not been subject to much variation. The most important breeds are the large grey variety known as the Toulouse, the white breed known as the Embden, and the common variety frequently marked with dark feathers on the back, and hence termed “ saddle backs.” After the Crimean War a Russian variety was introduced into England in which the feathers are singularly elongated, and even curled and twisted; this breed, termed the Sebastopol, is of small size and more important as a fanciers' breed than from a practical point of view. In some countries a second species is domesticated; it is usually termed the Chinese, knob-fronted or swan goose, Amer cygnoides. Though perfectly distinct as a species, having a different number of vertebrae in the neck and a loud clanging voice, it breeds freely with the common goose, and the hybrids produced are perfectly fertile.

Geese in England are declining in relative popularity. In German they are consumed to an enormous extent, and the British consuli general at Berlin reports that even the large domestic supplies have to be supplemented by considerable imports from Russia, a special “ goose-train " of fifteen to forty cars arriving daily from t e Russian frontier at that city. In America there has been increased interest in goose-breeding, and in the Chinese goose especially, which has been largely bred (with some triiiing peculiarities) under the name of the African goose, and crossed with the Embden and Toulouse. The produce of this African cross is considered very fertile and profitable to rear.

Geese are much more exclusively vegetable feeders than ducks, and can only be kept to profit where they can obtain a large proportion of their food by grazing. The old birds should not be kiiled off, as they continue fertile to a great age. Geese are readily fattened on oats thrown into water, and the young, when brought rapidly forward for the markets, afford a very good profit. The Chinese, if well fed, lay at a much earlier date than the common species, and, if their eggs are hatched under large Cochin hens, giving three or four to each bird, the youn are ready for the table at a very early period. The nest, as in ail cases of ground-nesting birds, should be made on the earth and not in boxes, which become too dry and over-heated. In breeding for the market or for the sake of profit, the very large exhibition birds should be avoided, as many are barren from over-fatness, and none are so prolific as birds of fair average sige.