Diet - A Profitable Alligator Farm
Young alligators of a few inches in length have been imported into this country in considerable numbers, and have been sold by dealers at about 7s. 6d. to 10s. 6d. each.
Strange to relate, ladies take a great deal more interest in these creatures than do men, and the majority of these pet alligators are purchased by members of the gentler sex. Once an enterprising dealer in Paris imported a number of these saurians, and the ladies of that city developed quite a craze for keeping them, with the result that tiny alligators, fetching in the ordinary way from 20 to 30 francs, were selling freely at 100 francs (£4) a-piece.
Young alligators make interesting and convenient pets, inasmuch as they, like all reptiles, give a very minimum of trouble. If the owner forgets to feed them one day the alligator does not worry about it, nor suffer any inconvenience over the matter.
They are also fairly long-lived.
It is not necessary to have an elaborate or an expensive case. The most useful size is four feet long by eighteen inches high, and the same in width. If wood is the material of which it is made, it must be thoroughly well seasoned. The glass for the front also must be of good quality, as nothing less than plate-glass would be able to withstand blows from the tail of the reptile.
The internal arrangements are very simple, consisting merely of an enamelled water tray, three inches deep and two feet long, and just sufficiently wide to fit in exactly between the glass front and the back of the case when the door is closed. The rest of the vivarium should be filled in with large gravel, prevented from falling out when the door is opened by a strip of thin wood and a piece of virgin cork.
The entire back of the case should be made to open whenever necessary to attend to the inmate or clean out its habitation. In this door, or on the top of the case, an opening ought to be cut out, and covered with perforated zinc.
The water in the tray should be soft, and best of all is rain water. If possible, a temperature of about 650 ought to be maintained, as if the case gets cooler than this the alligator becomes torpid and does not grow much. In one way this is sometimes convenient, as these creatures mature rather quickly, more especially if kept in a large tank. One of those at the Zoo was only a foot long when purchased, but, being kept in a large heated tank, attained a length of eleven feet in nine years!
Alligators have very small throats in proportion to their size, and the little ones will require their food to be cut up into cubes of about an inch. Very small ones under a foot in length may be conveniently fed on worms. The others should be fed on raw meat, fish, and an occasional dead mouse with the fur on. Larger ones can have rats and sparrows, in addition to the meat and fish.
Newly-imported alligators generally refuse to feed for a week or two, and may even sulk in this manner for a couple of months, to the concern of their owners. However, 476S there is nothing to worry about, for the reptile will get over his temper and make up for its abstinence.
Nearly all the small alligators imported from the United States have been bred in one or another of the "hatcheries," of which the most famous is the one at Hot Springs, Arkansas. This is managed by Mr. Campbell, who emigrated to the United States a few years ago. The young alligators are hatched out in incubators, the eggs being obtained by negroes who are sent out at the proper seasons of the year to watch for the parent alligators to "lay-up."
When the eggs have been deposited in the masses of heaped-up earth and vegetable matter, they are carefully collected by the negroes and brought back to the hatchery.
A "hen" alligator will lay from 150 to 200 eggs, and if only eighty per cent. are hatched out the venture pays very "well. Some of these are sold to private persons or dealers for pets, but a good many are kept in large ponds until they have attained a marketable size for the sake of their skins.
If the water is changed about once a week, and the alligator fed about three times or even less a week, the reptile will live a perfectly contented life. Apart from this it will not require anything, and the less it is interfered with, the better it will like it. Those persons who have never previously handled one of these small alligators are surprised, when lifting it up, to discover what a powerful little creature it is for its size. Alligators are always a source of great attraction to those visitors who come to the house where one is kept, and the interest shown in it by friends amply repays its owner for the very slight trouble involved in keeping it.