Farm Poultry - by D. J. Thomson Gray, F.Z.S., Author of “Poultry Ailments and their Treatment.”

No branch of agriculture has been, perhaps, neglected more than that of poultry-keeping. The enormous quantity of eggs and poultry that we import from abroad, amounting in value to about £4,000,000 yearly, is proof, if any were needed, that there is a large and growing demand for such commodities.

Whether the apathy shown by our farmer’s wives arises from ignorance, or a want of will, or from any other cause, certain it is that they are not making the most of their opportunities. If they only knew the pleasure derived by a town resident from eating a fresh egg, and the willingness with which he would pay more for it than those foreign eggs of uncertain age, they would be more alive to their own interests.

The miss of the household will find in poultry-rearing a charm that other pursuits can never give; and as brood after brood is brought forth, and she watches them grow day by day, her interest increases until she gets so rapt up in it that when they have reached a stage when it is profitable to dispose of them, her eyes fill with tears as the “dear creatures” depart crowing lustily.

But a good housewife is too practical to give way to sentiment, and finds comfort in attending to those left, which, if she knows her business, will be the best. It is a bad policy, and one too often pursued we fear, to sell the biggest birds and keep the small ones, simply because the dealer won’t have them. What can be expected from stock selected in such direct opposition to all the established rules of such stock breeding?

Here we may learn a lesson from the poultry-fancier, who, decry him as we like, we cannot entirely overlook. He selects for his stock-pens the very best birds of his year’s breeding, or that money can buy; and by carefully weeding-out all inferior specimens, and only keeping the best, he produces birds of the very highest class.

The great rage for fancy poultry of all kinds has brought the fancier (a comprehensive term which Is not easily defined) into conflict with the utilitarian, who charges the fancier with destroying all that is good and profitable in poultry. Granted that the fancier has only one aim in view – the cultivation of fowl for their beauty – profit he may have in view also, but in the form of prizes, cups, and big prices for champions of the race which his brother fanciers may covet and pay for.

The writer was present when seven game birds were sold at the last Birmingham show for £350, and more than one bird that day was sold for £50. Eggs and meat production are of secondary importance to the fancier – he breeds solely for feather, colour and outward form; all else is thrown in to the wind. That briefly and clearly is the fanciers’ position.