XVIII. LIVESTOCK - GOATS, ETC. (cont.)
Is a class of stock deserving more attention than farmers generally give it. There are, indeed, few farm-yards untenanted by fowls of some sort, and few homesteads without a poultry-house. It is rare, however, to meet with an instance where the breeding and management of poultry is conducted with the care and intelligence so frequently bestowed on other kinds of live stock. Now, if poultry is kept at all, whether for pleasure or profit, it is surely worth while to use rational means for securing the object in view. To have good fowls, it is necessary to provide a dry, warm, well-ventilated house, in which they may roost and deposit their eggs. This house must be kept clean, and its tenants regularly supplied with abundance of suitable food. Constant and careful attention is also absolutely indispensable. On farms of the lesser sort, this duty is usually undertaken by the farmers wife or daughters. It will, however, in most cases be better to entrust the entire charge of the poultry to some elderly female servant, who shall give her undivided attention to it.
The kinds of poultry most suitable for a farm-yard are the common fowls, geese, and ducks. Turkeys and guinea-fowl are difficult to rear, troublesome to manage, and less profitable than the other sorts. Of the common fowl there are now many excellent and distinct breeds. The Cochin China or Shanghae is the largest breed we have. They are hardy and very docile; their flesh is of good quality when young; their eggs, of a buff colour, are comparatively small but excellent in flavour, and are produced in great abundance. The hens resume laying very soon after hatching a brood; sometimes so soon as three weeks. They are the more valuable from the circumstance that their principal laying season is from October to March, when other fowls are usually unproductive. The Dorkings, of which there are several varieties, as the speckled, the silver, and the white, are not excelled by any breed for general usefulness. The hens are peculiarly noted for their fidelity in brooding, and care of their young. The Spanish fowls are very, handsome in their plumage and form, have very white and excellent flesh, and lay larger eggs than any other breed. The Polish and Dutch every-day layers are peculiarly suitable where eggs rather than chicken are desired, as the hens of both these breeds continue to lay for a long time before showing any desie to brood.
It is to be recommended that, except in situations where a good price can be got for chickens, the return should be sought for chiefly in eggs.
A suitable stock of fowls being selected, pains must be taken to preserve their health and other good qualities by breeding only from the best of both sexes, and these not too near akin. A very simple plan for securing this is to select a cock, and not more than six or eight hens, of the best that can be got, to entrust these to the care of some neighbouring, cottagers, whose dwelling is sufficiently apart to prevent intercourse with other fowls, and then to use only the eggs from these selected fowls for the general hatching. There are many advantages in such a course. The whole stock of fowls can thus be had of uniform character and superior quality. If it suit the fancy or object of the owner, his fowls may be of several distinct breeds without any risk of their intermingling; the select breeding stocks can be kept up by merely changing the cock every second year, and not more than one cock to thirty hens need be kept for the general stock, as it is no consequence whether their eggs are impregnated or not. Besides having the run of the bard-door, cattle-courts, and stack-yard, fowls are greatly benefited by having free access to a pasture or roomy grass-plot. If the latter is interspersed with evergreen shrubs so much the better, as fowls delight to bask under the sunny side of a bush, besides seeking shelter under it from sudden rain. Their court should also be at all times provided with clean water, and a heap of dry sand or coal-ashes, in which they wallow, and free themselves from vermin. To keep them in profitable condition, they require, besides scraps from the kitchen and refuse of garden stuffs, &c., a daily feed of barley or oats at the rate of a fistful to every three or four fowls. In cold weather they are the better of having some warm boiled potatoes thrown down to them, as also chopped liver or scraps of animal food of any kind. There is an advantage in having the poultry-house adjoining to that in which cattle-food is cooked in winter, as, by carrying the flue of the furnace up the partition-wall, the fowls get the benefit of the warmth thus imparted to their roosting-place. Saw-dust, dried peat, or burnt clay, are suitable materials for littering poultry-houses, and are preferable to straw. By strewing the floor with such substances two or three times a week, each time carefully removing the previous application, and storing it with the mingled droppings of the fowls under cover, a valuable manure can be secured. When 100 common fowls, a score of geese, and a dozen or two of ducks are kept, the quantity and value of the manure produced by them, if kept by itself and secured from the weather, will surprise those who have not made trial of such a plan.
Of late years the breeding of poultry has in various parts of the kingdom become quite a passion. Not only have many separate treaties been published entirely devoted to this subject, but every agricultural periodical now bears evidence to the popularity of this pursuit.
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