Beans and peas in the ground state are extremely rich in albuminoids, and they may, therefore, be used with advantage to add egg-producing elements to the mash food of laying stock. Their use among fowls intended for table use, however, is not to be recommended, as they tend to produce hardness and stringiness of flesh.
White peas in the whole form are very useful for breeding stock, and they may be used as a night feed twice a week with great advantage, as they strengthen the birds, and assist in the production of strongly-fertilised eggs.
Buckwheat, if of good quality, almost equals wheat in food value. French buckwheat is the best kind to use, but the fowls must be accustomed to it from chicken-hood, otherwise they will refuse to touch it.
Buckwheat meal is extensively used on the Continent for the fattening of table chickens. It produces white flesh of good flavour, and may be used with advantage in conjunction with ground oats, milk, and fat for the finishing off of fatted fowls. The grain is rather high in fat formers and heat-producers, and is a safer food than maize to use during the winter among closely-confined stock.
Sunflower seed is not so much grown and used in this country as it might be. It is an oily and bulky food-product, and if used in conjunction with oats, it constitutes a splendid grain ration for laying hens during the autumn and winter months. For use among moulting fowls, sunflower seed is an invaluable food, as it contains the elements necessary for the reproduction of feathers. Where space is available, the poultry keeper should, with advantage, grow sunflower seed for the fowls. That known as Russian Giant is a good kind to grow, as it produces plants bearing immense heads of seed.
There are many patent foods placed on the market for use among poultry. Of these, biscuit meal may be said to stand first. Biscuit meals vary so much in quality that it is here impossible to give a definite statement respecting their value. Some meals contain a greater percentage of added meat than others, according to their price on the market. This food is one of the best to use as a base for the mashes of laying hens during the spring and summer months. If it is of good quality, and used in conjunction with the cheaper flours of wheat, the birds will require little else in the way of soft food beyond an occasional change during the milder seasons of the year.
Climatic conditions should be taken into consideration when preparing the rations of the laying stock. During mild weather less food of a fattening nature is required to produce bodily heat - and, in addition, eggs - than is required when the climatic conditions are cold. Where the fowls can obtain a good supply of insect food during the spring and summer months, foods rich in protein may be cut out of the rations. Such foods will include meat, peas, or bean and pea meal. If the birds are on earth runs, such foods must be added to the bill of fare to enable the layers to produce their eggs.
During the winter time most fowls will be cut off, more or less, from natural food supplies, and if they are to produce eggs in addition to maintaining bodily heat, they must be fed on foods rich in flesh formers and fats. No hard and fast rule can be set down as to how the birds shall be dieted during the several seasons of the year, as climatic conditions vary so often. Instead of feeding according to the calendar, it will be best to note the weather conditions, and to feed the stock accordingly. By this means, the birds will get the various changes of food necessary to ensure their health and comfort during the varying seasons of the year.
Having become initiated into the feeding values of the various foods necessary to promote health and egg production in the fowls during the various seasons of the year, the poultry keeper should endeavour to procure them sound in quality from the best markets, and in such quantities as will ensure economy in their use. The one who can buy in large quantities and store well is the one calculated to carry out feeding operations on the most economical lines; but whether large or small quantities of food are bought, according to one's means, or the number of fowls kept, such foods must be stored in a manner calculated to ensure their safety from damp and vermin. It is a great mistake to allow the foods to remain in the delivery sacks or other packages, to be used as required. Such a procedure would, unless the storehouse was perfectly dry and vermin-proof, cause mustiness in the foods, and offer an invitation to mice, rats, and other vermin.
The foods should be kept in specially made iron bins, such as are now generally used by up-to-date poultry farmers, but if one is unable to invest in such luxuries, very good food-holders can be made by covering good-sized barrels with fine mesh wire netting, the latter being fixed to the bottoms and the outsides of the former by means of wire staples. The lids to the barrels can either be made of wood covered with netting, or, better still, made of iron cut to shape and provided with a central handle.
Packing-cases treated in like manner as the barrels make useful food-bins, but whatever contrivance is used for holding the food, if must be dust, damp, and vermin proof. The bins should be raised off the floor of the storehouse by means of bricks or blocks of wood placed for them to rest upon, so that, should the floor be damp or vermin likely to make their appearance, their contents will be rendered doubly safe.
Any outhouse that is perfectly dry, airy, and vermin proof, will do for the storage of poultry foods. If such a building does not exist on the premises, and a structure has to be procured from the maker of portable wood buildings, it will be as well to have it built so as to stand at least a foot from the ground by means of supports. Its floor being raised, there will be little likelihood of damp entering the building from below, and rats and other vermin will find some difficulty in making an entrance. The building should be provided with ventilators placed at either end and near its roof, and, in addition, it should be fitted with a good-sized hinge or sliding window-sash, which can be opened to air the place in fine, dry weather. All that can be done to ensure dryness and cleanliness in the foods will tend towards maintaining sweetness in them and curtailing the poultry food bills.