Let us consider keeping chickens in towns from the position of a suburban self sufficiency enthusiast who has a plot of ground mainly devoted to the cultivation of ornamental flowers, shrubs, and grass. He may have an allotment elsewhere and there he will be able to cultivate the vegetables required by his small family throughout the year.
It is probably not convenient for fowls to be kept on the allotment, as few allotments are near enough to the house for this to be a reasonable arrangement. He does not want fowls to run riot over the whole of his borders or lawn, nor does he want to spend his few hours of leisure and relaxation gazing at a not too attractive poultry run. Here is a solution.
First make an imaginary end to the garden at a point say 15 ft. from the end wall. Here erect a decorative screen of fine trellis, which can speedily be covered with roses—or even with runner beans, if that seems preferable.
About midway between this trellis and the end wall, build a framework of 5-ft. Uprights and top bars, and run a bottom bar of wood along at the ground level. Between each upright (say at 5-ft. Distances) fit a framework of wood over which is stretched wire netting; hinge this at the bottom to the ground bar of wood, and put thumb catches at the top, so that the Wired frames can each be laid down on to the soil between the two fences, or raised to close in the fence.
Good turf can be laid, or grass sown in this intervening run and the fowls can be allowed access to it by the simple method of laying down the frames horizontally on the grass. This has the advantage of allowing them access to the grass without their being able to scratch and completely ruin the turf. Further, the appearance of a strip of grass showing through the rose or bean covered trellis is rather more attractive than if a bare patch of earth or ash were all that could be seen.
These trellis and wire frame fences need present very little difficulty to the home carpenter. Posts, as always with garden posts, should be set into concrete so that there is no danger of sudden collapse, and all wood should be treated with creosote. The trellis, which can be of any ornamental pattern, is easily made from ordinary plaster laths dipped into creosote before being nailed to the posts. This is very important. Tight nailing prevents the creosote from covering the whole of the wood, and wood only treated after erection is likely to become rotten at the joints when rains have found their way in.
Grass for poultry can be sown at any tithe when the soil and weather are warm. Water will be needed in the dry hot weather.
Coarse perennial rye grass is not much use to poultry, and the suburban gardener who wants to sow only a small patch.
Is advised to buy a prepared mixture from his seedsman, telling him what the grass is to be used for, so that there shall be no trouble. The smooth and rough stalked meadow grasses, fescues, crested dog’s tail and red clover’ are considered the best, but it would not be wise for a small gardener to try to buy and mix for himself.
When birds are kept in movable pens, in a suburban garden, the pens should be moved daily. In this way the birds are not on the grass long enough to damage it. Droppings can be swept up or on to borders. If, however, this practice is to be continuous, special grass strips should be provided. Should a fold be used over the ordinary lawn, it is safer to put it o’er a strip of wire netting, which will allow the birds to eat grass and pests without too much scratching.
Where poultry are kept, even in small numbers, there may be seasons when surplus eggs are available. It is not wise to sell these at what are probably low prices—since others will have a surplus at the same’ time—and then to have to buy eggs at top prices at some other season. The way to avoid this is to preserve surplus eggs.
Eggs can, very simply and safely, be preserved at home, and since they can be preserved a few at a time, only those which are really unwanted need be put into the preserving solution.
The requisites for success are:–
1. A supply of infertile eggs. Eggs from a pen where a cockerel is kept for the production of hatching eggs are useless for preserving.
2. A container with lid, such as a galvanized pail, enamel bucket, earthenware pot, or wooden tub.
3. A cool, not too damp, cellar or similar store place.
4. Waterglass. This costs a few pence per pound, and x lb. Goes to the gallon of water. Three and a half pints of solution—or roughly half a gallon, is enough for forty eggs in a gallon vessel.
Boiled and cooled soft water is used to mix with the waterglass. The eggs that are ready are packed in the container big end up, after cleaning. Pour on waterglass sufficient to cover.
As another batch of eggs is ready for preserving, add them over the first, and pour on waterglass to cover them, as before. If eggs are packed into container to within 3 in. of the top, and waterglass to within I in. of the top is added, there will be little danger that the eggs will become exposed through evaporation.
Cover the vessel to keep out dust—wooden covers are good, but any galvanized cork or tree thickness’s of linen will do. Stored in a cool place these eggs should keep for a year.
By way of conclusion I should like to repeat in brief what the completely inexperienced poultry keeper can do to make a start.
Begin by allotting a space for the job—space in the back yard for an intensive house, the poultry in this case never having the run of any grassland.
In a suburban garden a/strip of grass might be set apart for /the birds, or movable pens might be used on the main lawn itself.
Buy a poultry house: it is not usually worth while for the novice to make his own, but a handy carpenter could do it.
Buy unsexed day-old chicks, or sex-’linked pullet chicks, or sexed pullet chicks from pure breeds, or three months old pullets, or pullets ready to lay. Prices naturally vary according to age.
Another way to begin, if you start early enough in the spring, is to buy one or two sittings of eggs, and a “ broody “ for each.
Have all appliances in readiness before eggs or birds arrive.