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Part VIII. Poultry Keeping

Largely compiled from the writings of Mrs. W. Russell James and Mrs. Susan Swapgood.

Teaching Chicks to Perch.

What is a good method of breaking in young brooder chicks to use the roosts?

At from six to eight weeks old the chicks should be taken from the brooder quarters to the colony houses and range, or wherever they are to be located, and at this time they should be taught to perch. Have the new quarters arranged with low wide perches (1 by 3-inch scantlings); also make slatted frames by nailing lath or other such narrow strips two inches apart. Set these frames against the wall so that they will extend slant-wise under the perches, and have the corners on the other side of the room cut off by nailing boards across them. The chicks will run up on the frame to find a huddling corner and land on the perches, as they cannot rest on the open slanting frame. A little care for a few evenings in putting up those that remain on the floor and straightening them out on the perches will teach them the ropes. Where there are but a few to be taught, all that is necessary is to provide the low wide perches and shut out the corners, and a few of the smart ones will soon take to the perches, and gradually others will follow until all will be roosting.

Liver Disease.

I have hens which seem well in every respect up to the time of their combs changing color, when they die within three days. The combs turn a faint yellow, almost white; they are heavy, have their usual appetite up to the lost 24 hours. I have treated by giving small doses of castor oil and Douglas mixture in the drinking water, feeding on dry mash with plenty of green feed. There is no tendency to lameness nor limp neck. The droppings are loose and very white.

The fowls were victims of jaundice, which is a form of liver disease and caused by over-feeding on rich starchy foods that also cause fowls to become overfat. However, at the end of the laying season and the beginning of the molt the poultry keeper will lose some hens, even when kept under the best conditions, and especially hens of that age. In doctoring such cases in the way described, if the fowl does not improve in a couple of days, the hatchet cure is the most profitable.

Rupture of Oviduct.

I have had two other hens die suddenly when on the nest. The second one - we opened and found one egg broken near the vent and another with shell formed ready to be laid.

Rupture of the oviduct was probably the cause of the hens dying on the nest and is due to the same condition in the hens; that is, the straining to expel the egg necessary in the engorged condition of the internal organs from overfatness.

Melons for Fowls.

Have "stock melons" or "citrons" any merit as a green food for laying hens? Are the seeds of the above injurious to hens or cows?

Stock melons are desirable for chicken feeding if other succulent materials are scarce, but they are inferior to alfalfa and other clovers. Seeds are not injurious to stock unless possibly one should feed to excess by separating them from the other tissues. If melons are fed as they grow, no apprehension need be had from injury by seed.

Rape and Vetch for Chickens.

What time do you sow rape and vetch and are they good for chickens?

They surely are good for chickens or for any other stock that likes greens. They are winter growers in California valleys and should be sown in the fall as soon as the land is moist enough to keep them growing, or just as soon as you can get it moist either by rainfall or irrigation. Neither plant likes dry heat or dry soil.

Preserving Eggs.

What is a good way to preserve eggs for home use?

In a cool cellar, eggs will keep very well in a mixture of common salt and bran. Use equal parts, mix well, and as you gather the eggs from day to day pack with big end down in the mixture and see that the eggs are covered. Waterglass eggs are good enough for cooking purposes, but when boiled anyone that knows the taste of a strictly fresh egg can tell the difference in an instant; when fried the taste is not so pronounced, but it is there just the same; besides, when broken, they are a little watery. This watery condition passes off if left to stand for a few minutes. The best way is to use the waterglass method, is one quart of waterglass to ten quarts of water. Boil the water and put away to cool, when cold add the waterglass, mixing well, and store in 3 or 5-gallon crocks in a cool place. They will keep six months if good when put in. In all cases the eggs must be gathered very fresh, for one stale egg will spoil the whole lot, so great care is needed.

Dipping Fowls.

How do you dip hens to kill lice?

To dip fowls you must have a very warm day, or a warm room where you can turn them in to dry. I have know people to use tobacco stems, but it requires good judgment as to the right strength to use. The dips usually sold already prepared are safer, in my opinion, because they give directions as to quantity. Get a can of "zenoleum" or "creolium" - either is good - and have the water a little over blood-heat to commence; be very careful that the liquid does not get in the fowl's throat. If there are no directions with the cans, put enough in to make the water quite milky and strong smelling. It is best to make the hen sit down and with a sponge wet the back and head thoroughly, then under the wings and breast; if there are nits, don't be in a hurry to take the hen out, but let the dip get to the nits and skin on the abdomen. If the water is too warm it will be dangerous, as some fowls have weak hearts; that is the only danger, providing you dry them quickly.

Cure for Feather-Eating.

What is the cure for feather-eating?

Feather eating is the result of idleness or a shortage of green feed. The best way to cure it is to furnish the fowls with exercise. Boil some oats until soft, and when cooked stir in salt enough to taste and about a quart of good beef scrap; feed this for breakfast several mornings together. Make them scratch for the rest of their food in deep litter and give them sour milk to drink if you have it. If sour milk is not available, put a tablespoonful of flowers of sulphur in the boiled oats. The object is to cool the blood and furnish exercise. See that the fowls are supplied with mineral matter, such ash shells, bone meal and some, sand if it can be had. It is surprising the amount of sand that chickens will eat when carried to them in yards, so there must be a necessity for it, and if they cannot get to it, it pays to carry a good box full once in a while.

Cannibal Chicks.

What can I do to cure my chicks of eating each other?

Some kind of animal food is necessary when the chicks begin to pick toes, wings and vents. But the meat must always be cooked, the least bit of raw meat drives them wild as does the blood they can bring on each other. For that reason a strict watch must be kept to detect any case before blood is brought. Remove all weak chicks as they always go for the weakest, and as soon as one chick is picked on for a victim, remove it at once. Some people paint the toes with tar or liquid lice paint, but I have had the best success with bitter aloes mixed with water. A nickel's worth covers a lot of toes. It is best to buy a powder, then dissolve in a little water and paint wings, vent and toes. They won't take many pecks at them when they find they are so bitter.

Sunflower Seeds for Poultry.

What is the food value of sunflower seed as a ration for fowls, mostly laying hens? Should it be fed whole or crushed?

Sunflower seed is rich in oil, having the same proportion as flaxseed; otherwise it rates in value the same as grain. A little, not too much, fed whole is well relished by fowls and is said to give luster to the plumage in fitting birds for shows. Sunflower is greatly overrated for poultry purposes. It is an ungainly plant of no use for forage and its seed is so well liked by the sparrows that the only way to keep them till ripe is to cover the heads with netting.

Clipping Hens for Cleanliness.

My hens foul all the feathers below the vent; they appear healthy, but do not look nice. What can I do?

Take a pair of scissors and clip the fluff away from that part of the abdomen, give a teaspoonful of olive oil, and notice of they have any discharge that is of an offensive color or odor. Sometimes it is nothing but pure laziness with hens of the large breeds that causes this matting together of the fluff below the vent. We rarely see hens of the small breeds so affected. Whenever a hen soils her feathers clip her at once, and, in fact, it is a good custom to follow in any case. When hens are very heavily fluffed it interferes with the fertility of the eggs. In such cases there is not anything for it but the scissors.

Bowel Trouble in Chicks.

What is the cause of bowel trouble in young chicks, and what to do for it?

Bowel trouble in very young chicks is usually caused by a chill. It is very hard for us here to believe chicks get chilled because, not feeling the cold ourselves, we forget that chicks have really undergone a violent change from incubator to the outside atmosphere. In the Eastern States, great care is exercised in moving chicks from incubator to brooder oven, and also in seeing that the brooder itself is warm and fit to receive the chicks. But we are, as a rule, very careless in these little matters and the chicks feel the change and suffer from bowel trouble. Sometimes, of course, the trouble may be traced to the food, but more often it comes from a chill. The best way to cure it is to remove the chicks to new ground at once, or if in a brooder, clean it out well and spray with some disinfectant. Boil all the water that is given to the chicks and feed boiled rice once or twice a day in which a little cinnamon is mixed. Do not put in too much or they will not eat it, keep all meat away and just feed dry chick feed and boiled rice. No oatmeal or any other cereal but the rice; if chicks won't eat it, feed dry chick feed and boiled water and a little lettuce.

Quick Roosters and Laying Hens.

How can I get the young roosters off quick and the hens to lay in winter?

These two happy results come from correct methods of poultry keeping from the ground up. To get the cockerels off quick, they must be hatched from strong-germed eggs, incubated properly and kept growing from the first jump out of the shell. To get eggs in winter the pullets must come from the same conditions. Very few hens will lay in the early winter under any conditions. The pullets must be depended upon for that season and the hens kept properly will drop in some time in January.

Poultry Tonic.

What is a good poultry tonic?

The following is a very good tonic for general purposes: Tincture of red cinchona, 1 fluid ounce; tincture of chloride of iron, 1 fluid drachm; tincture of flux vomica, 4 fluid drachms; glycerine 2 ounces; water, 2 ounces. Mix and give one teaspoonful to a quart of water, allowing no other drink.

Poultry in the Orchard.

Kindly advise me about keeping hens in an orchard. I would like to know if they will injure the trees in any way if kept in large numbers. In what way would they benefit the trees?

From the point of view of the trees there is no doubt that they would be advantaged by the presence of the poultry, providing the coops are not allowed to interfere with the proper irrigation and cultivation. If it is practicable to handle the fowls in coops without causing the soil around the coops to become compacted by continual tramping, and if they are not kept upon the ground long enough to cause an excessive application of hen manure, which is very concentrated and stimulating, the result would unquestionably be beneficial. From the point of view of the tree, this benefit of injury would depend upon how long the fowls were kept around the tree and the maintenance of them in such a way that the soil should not become out of condition physically or too rich chemically for the satisfactory performance of the tree. If they can be moved frequently, and if they are only put in place when the soil is in such condition that tramping around the coops will not seriously compact it, the presence of fowls would be an advantage. On the other hand, if the coops are to be kept in place for a long time and all the ground outside of them crusted and hardened by tramping and the soil under the coops overloaded with droppings, the thrift and value of the trees will be seriously interfered with.


Can three to four month old cockerels be caponized successfully in summer, and if so, what care, feed, etc., do they require afterwards?

The birds should be between two to three months, not over four, unless some very large variety that matures slowly. Size is equally important as age, and a bird to be caponized should not weigh more than one and a half pounds. The work can be successfully done in the summer season, but the fowl must be kept without food or drink for at least 24 hours, longer is better and keep in shady place. After caponizing, feed the bird what soft feed he will eat up and let him have plenty of water. Then leave him to himself as he will be his own doctor. In two or three days look them over and if there are any wind-balls, simply prick with a needle to let the air out; this may have to be done two or three times before the wound heals up, but after it has healed, treat just as you would other chickens and feed them about twice a day. There is nothing made by trying to rush nature; it takes fifteen months to grow a good capon of the large breeds.

Roup Treatment.

Up to a week ago the chickens had been exceptionally well in every way. Now they seem to have a cold and a running at the nose and with it a bad odor. It was suggested that this might be the beginning of roup, but I see no swell-head.

The distinguishing characteristic of roup is not so-called "swell head" or other form of cold, but the offensive roupy odor. When the cold has reached this stage it is a pronounced case of roup, and highly contagious. Separate all the ailing fowls and segregate them in comfortable hospital quarters, warm but with one side partly open for fresh air. Disinfect the quarters of the well fowls by spraying with distillate or cheap-grade coal oil and sprinkling the floors and about the houses with air-slaked lime. Use some simple remedy like coal oil or permanganate of potash to cleanse the throat and nostrils. With coal oil, first wipe the eyes and bill with a clean cloth dipped in the coal oil, then inject with a sewing-machine oil can enough coal oil to open and thoroughly clean out the nostrils. If the throat is affected, give a tablespoonful of sweet oil and coal oil, half and half, two or three times a day until relieved. One of our correspondents has sent us the following treatment with permanganate of potash which he has found the best roup remedy he has ever tried: Dissolve 1 ounce of permanganate of potash in 3 pints of water, hold the fowl's head in this for a second, then open the beak and rinse out the mouth in the solution. Wipe with a clean, soft cloth and apply a very little witch hazel or carbolated salve to the eyes, nostrils and head. Repeat the operation as often as the throat and head become clogged with mucus. Until the disease is eliminated from the premises, keep permanganate of potash in the drinking water of all the fowls, both sick and well. About 1 ounce to each 2 gallons of water or enough to give the water a claret color. The sick fowls should be allowed no other feed but a little stimulating mash three times a day. Where the fowls do not show a decided improvement in the course of a few days, or where the disease has assumed a violent form, all such birds should be killed and the bodies burned at once.

Bad Food for Chickens.

My chicks are about three weeks old and have always been strong and sturdy, but when taken sick first appear a little dumpish, then the head seems a little heavy and the neck lengthens out. As the disease advances they become staggery.

Your chicks have eaten soured food, decayed vegetables or tainted meat. Baby chicks are just like other babies and the same care should be used that their food be always sweet and fresh. Wet food should never be given chicks, nor raw meat nor anything the least bit tainted or stale. Put a teaspoon of coal oil in each pint of drinking water and see to it that the latter is kept pure and cool. Mix a teacup of sulphur with enough bran or shorts for each 100 chicks, moisten with sweet milk and feed it on clean boards, what the chicks will eat up clean in some, twenty minutes. Give them one feed of this each day for three days if the weather is dry. Clean the brooders and runs daily, then dust white with air-slacked lime and cover the lime with a sprinkling of clean sand. Rake and clean up the yards where they range and never let them eat any of their grain or food out of dirt and filth. You cannot doctor such small chicks and must depend upon the coal oil in the drinking water. Keep the water fresh, but add the coal oil until the chicks are relieved.

Open-Front Chicken Houses.

In what direction shall I face open-front poultry houses?

North or northeast is the proper direction to face the open fronts of poultry houses and coops in the Pacific Coast climate. The prevailing winds are from the south and southeast in the winter, and from the west and southwest in the summer. The occasional north winds or "northers," may be called dry winds, in fact, are an indication of dry weather, and so do not harm the fowls even when cold. We like the upper half of the north-end or slide of our poultry houses open with inch-mesh covering the open space and the eaves extending several inches as a protection. In case of an unusual storm from that direction, one thickness of burlap may be tacked to the edge of the extending eaves, and to the lower part of the opening. This will admit plenty of fresh air while breaking the force of the wind. We also have a large trap door for the use of the fowls, in the solid lower part of the open end, and the large door, for cleaning and sunning the house, in the west side.

A Point on Mating.

I have fine roosters a year old this April; would you advise keeping them for mating with the same hens next season, or do you advise selling each year and getting fresh stock?

The young males will be all right to mate with the same hens next season - that is, if they come through the molt with vigor. They will be just two years old and at their best. The molt is the test for both, hens and cocks. If they show no signs of ailing or weakness during that period, it is proof of the proper stamina and vigor.

Age for Mating.

At what age may a cockerel be mated with hens?

From nine months to a year is the proper age to mate a Leghorn cockerel. Cockerels of the larger breeds should not be mated before a year old.

White-Yolk Eggs.

Why are eggs watery and light-colored?

The trouble is in the feed somewhere. Too much green feed, especially green feed that springs from wet, soggy ground, will sometimes make the eggs watery. Or if you are feeding more mash feed than dry grain, it will have that tendency. Some people claim that the feed a hen eats does not affect the egg at all; but if it does not, why do eggs differ in color and quality? Eggs that are laid by hens fed wholly on wheat, or the by-products of wheat, such as bran, shorts or middlings, all have a pale yolk. Now feed the hens some green feed - any kind will do - and the eggs from the same hens will have a yolk several degrees or shades darker.

Poultry Diarrhea.

Will you kindly tell me the cause and cure for bowel trouble among hens?

The "quick cure" for chick diarrhea has not yet been found. Prevention is the only sure remedy. The first treatment in diarrhea (which must not be confused with simple looseness of the bowels) should be a mild physic to clean out the digestive tract. Epsom salts is probably best for this purpose where a number of fowls are to be treated. This is usually given in the drinking water, but Dr. Morse, who has charge of the investigation of poultry diseases in the Bureau of Animal Industry, gives the following directions for administering the salts: "Clean out by giving epsom salts in an evening mash, estimating one-third to one-half teaspoonful to each adult bird, or a teaspoonful to each six half-grown chicks, carefully proportioning the amount of mash to the appetite of the birds, so that the whole will be eaten up quickly." For a few days afterward, feed only lightly with dry grain and tender greens, such as fresh-cut mustard and lettuce leaves. Keep plenty of pure, cool water, with just a thin skim of coal oil - one drop to each pint - for drinking; also plenty of sharp grit and fresh charcoal broken to the size of grains of wheat.


A very peculiar disease is taking off my fowls. The head of the fowl bends down to the breast and the fowl looks like dead, there is also a slight discharge from the mouth. The head and tail droop and if the fowl could stand up they would almost touch.

When a fowl loses partial or entire control of the muscles of the neck the common name of the affection is limber-neck. In medical science limber-neck is regarded as a symptom rather than a disease, and may be due to a number of causes, such as derangement of the digestive organs, intestinal worms and ptomaine poisoning. The affected fowls should be given immediately a full tablespoon of fresh melted lard or sweet oil, to which has been added a scant teaspoonful, of coal oil. In an hour repeat the dose. For a few days the fowls should be fed on some light food, such as shorts scalded with sweet milk in which has been dissolved a level teaspoonful of baking soda to every pint of milk, and also allowed plenty of crisp, tender lettuce or similar greens. A little Epsom salts should be added to the drinking water for a few days. This treatment, if resorted to at the start, will be effectual, but if the poisoning has had its course long, nothing will save the bird.

Chicken Pox.

My one and two-year-old fowls are getting scabby combs. It starts with a round blackish spot and swells into many spots, finally nearly covering one side of the comb. Sometimes accompanying this is the closing of one eye, and later both eyes.

The trouble is chicken pox, which is a very contagious disease. A treatment which has been successful consists in bathing the sores with strong salt and water and giving the fowls a mash containing one teaspoonful of calcium sulphide for each 25 hens. With a large flock of hens the method successfully employed by one of the large coast ranches in stamping out an epidemic of the disease was to place a sulphur smudge, to which had been added a little carbolic acid, in the poultry house after the fowls had gone to roost. This was allowed to remain till the fowls began to sneeze, when it was instantly removed. The affected fowls were also treated by dipping the heads in a solution of permanganate of potash.

Roup in Turkeys.

My turkeys have a disease that is spreading rapidly. They commence with a running at the nose, have swelling under the eyes which are filled with pus.

This is clearly a case of cold developing into roup. Get one ounce of permanganate of potash and pour a quart of boiling water over; after it is cold, bottle for use. Now take an old tin can, three parts full of warm, not hot water, and drop in enough of the permanganate of potash to make it dark red. Hold the turk's head under in this can until it needs breath then give it time to breathe, and dip again. Press the fingers along the swollen parts towards the nostrils and get out all the pus you can, then take a sewing-machine oil can and fill it with a little of the mixture, and part olive oil, inject the liquid up the nostrils and in the cleft of the mouth. Put a little of the permanganate in the drinking water for all the flock. Make the water a light red, later it will turn to a dirty brown, but don't mind that.


What can I use to disinfect poultry belongings?

Sulphuric acid spray is good, but you will need to be very careful that you do not get it on the hands or clothing. Get 16 ounces sulphuric acid (50 per cent solution), water 6 gallons. Have the water in a wooden tub or barrel and add the sulphuric acid to the water very slowly, in order not to splash it on the flesh or clothes. But mind: nothing but wooden vessels to mix it in. When made according to directions, and of this strength it is a very valuable disinfectant, but is dangerous to use of any stronger mixing. After mixing, it can be stored in glass bottles or earthenware jugs. Another very good disinfectant for poultry houses and runs is the formaldehyde disinfectant. Formaldehyde 1 pint (40 per cent), water 2 gallons. This is fine for houses that you can shut up. Turn the fowls out of the building, close all windows, and spray thoroughly, then close the door and leave it do the work. Air well by opening windows and door several hours before the fowls go to roost.

Cloth for Brooding Houses.

Would some good grade of white cloth on a frame do as well, or would it be better than glass, for a brooder house, or would it keep out too much sun-heat?

Cheesecloth, not heavy cloth, would be better than glass, so far as the sun is concerned. There would be none of the overheating during the middle of the day followed by the chilling at night which are caused by a large expanse of glass. On the other hand, there should not be openings on opposite sides of the house to create a draft. Also, the rat and vermin question must be considered. It might be necessary to have wire screens made to fit firmly over the cloth at night.

Grains for Chickens.

What variety of grain adopted for poultry food will be the best to grow, with and also without irrigation?

Wheat is a standard grain for poultry feeding, and Egyptian corn is also largely used. Indian corn is also satisfactory, under the general roles for compounding poultry rations which are laid down by all authorities on the subject. Egyptian corn is very successful in the interior parts of the State, and, on lands which are winter-plowed and harrow to retain moisture, very satisfactory results can be secured by summer growth without irrigation from planting as soon as frost danger is over.

Plucking Ducks and Geese.

I would like to know about how, when and how often to pick old ducks so as to get the feathers for pillows and not kill the ducks, either. Will they lay any eggs while growing new feathers?

Neither ducks nor geese should be plucked until after the laying season is over, which will be in July. Just before the moult, when the feathers begin to loosen, they may be plucked again. Those most considerate of their birds make only this latter plucking, which does not greatly inconvenience the fowls. At no time must they be plucked unless the feathers are "ripe"; that is, dry at the root, so that no bleeding or injury to the skin is caused. An old stocking is drawn over the head of the victim, and the bird held in the plucker's lap on a burlap apron; then the soft feathers on the body are quickly and very gently removed; but those on the side of the body which support the wings should not be taken. Great care should be exercised not to injure the skin or pinfeathers or pull the down. To grow new feathers quickly and resume laying are matters which depend largely upon the condition of the bird and the feed. The latter should consist of some 15 per cent of animal food.

Feeding Hens for Hatching Eggs.

Should soft feed be given to the mothers of chicks intended for broilers? How about dry mash? How would you advise feeding animal protein?

Cut out all ground feed, except perhaps a little wheat bran. While you may not get quite as many eggs, they will all have good strong germs and the chicks will stand forcing to the limit, while if you force the egg output you reduce the vitality of the germs and livability of chicks hatched. The only way to feed hens whose eggs are intended for hatching chicks for broilers is to feed whole grain and make them exercise for it, good green feed, or, better still, sprouted oats, and feed beef scrap in a hopper all the time. At first, while it is new, they may eat more than you would give them but don't mind that they will regulate the quantity in a few days better than you can. Get a good grade of beef scrap and keep it in a hopper that will not let rain in or keep it under cover and feed all the wheat and oats they require; if you are short on green feed give them a bale of alfalfa hay to work on.

A Dry Mash.

Will you give a formula for a dry mash?

Wheat bran, 500 pounds; middlings, 200 pounds; cracked corn, 200 pounds; charcoal, 20 pounds; alfalfa meal 200 pounds; bone meal, 150 pounds; blood-meal 100 pounds; meat cracklings, if ground, 200 pounds; ground oats or barley, 300 pounds. Give oyster shell separately and supply fowls with good sharp grit.

Depluming Mites.

My chickens are losing the feathers from their necks, some three inches down the front and then extending around the neck.

The loss of feathers is probably due to the depluming mite. Dust well with buhach through the feathered portion of the bird and apply carbolated vaseline to the bare skin and the edges of the feathers where the insects work. Do this daily as long as needed. When vaseline is not on hand, a mixture of coal oil and sweet oil applied with a soft sponge squeezed nearly dry does as well. We would advise that you make a general cleaning and spraying of your poultry quarters, nest boxes, etc.

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