The various conditions under which poultry of all kinds may be profitably kept, and the principles relating to runs, shelters, feeding, etc., having been dealt with, we will now consider the general management of the plant and stock.
Cleanliness should be strictly observed in all the houses devoted to the sheltering of the fowls. The roosting perches should be cleaned out daily, as, by so doing, not only is the work rendered more easy of accomplishment, but the air will be purer.
As already pointed out, poultry manure is a valuable fertiliser, and one that may be used with advantage either upon vegetable plots or in the cultivation of fruit and flowers. If the fowls are running on orchard land, the refuse from the houses may be stored in a dry place and used as required, either for the making of liquid manure or for the top-dressing of the trees, whilst if the birds are worked about land devoted to the cultivation of flowers and vegetables, the manure may be dug into vacant plots as gathered, or may be stored for use.
It should be remembered that the accumulation of filth in the roosting houses not only renders the air impure, but encourages the visitation of insect pests, which breed and multiply amazingly in unclean places. These pests must be kept out of the houses by strict attention to cleanliness and such methods as brushing the perches over occa-. sionally with petroleum, and dusting the birds and their nesting-places with powdered sulphur. Twice a year, at least, the houses must be fumigated and limewashed. This work should be done at a time when the birds can be conveniently moved to fresh quarters, and when the weather is calm and dry. Before fumigating the houses, the nest-boxes and other internal fittings should be dislodged, so that the sulphur fumes may have free access to all corners, cracks, and crevices. The ventilators should be tightly closed, and any openings temporarily covered by pasting paper over them.
For the purpose of fumigation, sulphur candles may be employed; and when these are placed on the centres of the floors and ignited the doors should be tightly closed and the fumes left to do their work. After fumigation the interiors of the houses and their fittings should be well coated with hot limewash.
A good limewash can be made by dissolving a lump of lime in hot water, adding to it some soft soap and petroleum, and well stirring the whole together. If strained through a piece of coarse fabric, the mixture will work smoothly and present a better appearance when laid on. The wash should be used in a hot condition, and well worked into the corners, crevices, and other places likely to harbour vermin. Once a month, at least, the perches should be wiped over with a rag dipped in petroleum, and the materials in the nest-boxes should be changed. Not only are insects kept out of the nest-boxes by a frequent changing of the litter, but the eggs deposited in them keep in a clean condition until collected, and when eggs for edible purposes are concerned cleanliness is an important factor.
In the ventilation of the houses the attendant should aim at the avoidance of draughts, and at as good a volume of air as possible. So long as damp and draughts are avoided, and the temperature is kept on the safe side of freezing point, plenty of cold air will not harm the fowls, but will invigorate them.
The houses should be visited after the fowls have gone to roost some time, and if there is the least sign of stuffiness more ventilation should be allowed. During the daytime, whenever the weather is fine, the doors and ventilators should be opened to their fullest extent, so that the fresh air may enter and sweeten the interiors. Sunlight should also be freely admitted into the buildings, so that the damp may be dispelled and the germs of disease, if any, destroyed. Apart from the roosting-houses and scratching-sheds, the above remarks apply equally to other appliances used, such as coops, nest-boxes for sitting hens, and any other contrivances tenanted by fowls.
Overcrowding must be avoided at all times. It matters not whether it be in the rearing, breeding, or other quarters devoted to the stock, there must be ample room for the birds, otherwise they will fail to thrive.
Many have failed at poultry farming through attempting too much in too little space. The land should be so managed as to ensure a sanitary condition of the soil. No plot should be used two seasons together for the rearing of chickens, and in no case must chickens be reared on land that has recently been occupied by adult stock.
Where space is restricted, a limitation should be put upon the number of chickens reared. It is a good plan to reserve a portion of land especially for the rearing of the youngsters, and to divide this into two plots, the one to be used while the other is resting and freshening.