This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
A writerin the London Cottage Gardener gives the following excellent directions for rearing chickens, translated from M. Jacque's French work, "Le Poulailler".
When a hen takes to her nest she is the same evening removed from the yard to a (sitting) room, into which only a half light is admitted, and there kept on dummies for a few days until two or three hens are broody. I prefer thres or more to two. They are placed in separate covered hampers 2 feet long and l½ foot wide, in which clean new hay has been spread. Each basket has attached to it a linen label bearing the date of sitting, the name of the hen, the number of eggs, with the date upon which chickens are due, thus also a clean piece of old flannel.
Every morning at the same hour each basket is opened in turn, the hen taken out and placed under a coop, being previously supplied abundantly with food, both soft and grain, and with clean water. Fifteen minutes, neither more nor less, are allowed for feeding. While the hen is off the nest the eggs should be kept covered with the piece of flannel, and having put all the sitting hens to feed, each nest should be visited in turn to ascertain that no casualties have occurred; and if any eggs have been broken, turn the rest out, put in clean hay, and cover up again as quickly as possible.
On the sixth day the hens should have an extra ten minutes allowed them, and should be given an opportunity of dusting themselves while the eggs are being examined for chickens, which is done by inclosing a lighted paraffine lamp in a box, in one side of which a hole about the size of an egg has been made. To this hole each egg is applied in turn, and returned to the nest or rejected, as it proves to be barren or otherwise. This should be done in a dark room. When a great proportion of the eggs turn out barren, a complete sitting should be made up to one or two of the hens, and the rest kept upon dummies for a few days till a fresh set of hens is ready; hence the greater the number of hens put to sit on a given day the greater the convenience.
On the twenty-second day the baskets containing the hens and chickens are brought to the light, the chickens reckoned, and regularly distributed between the hens. Some bread crumbs for the chickens, and grain for the hen, are put in a saucer at one end of the basket, and the whole taken back to the half light till the twenty-third day, when they may be turned out where it is intended to rear them.
The above directions may seem complicated and unnecessary, but in practice will be found to facilitate the work, prevent many mishaps, and, consequently, increase the percentage of chickens, while the mothers will turn out with their broods much less exhausted, and consequently better fitted to take care of them, than if left to sit closely for several days, as many, and those the best sitters, frequently do, and then get up and stay off the nest for half an hour or an hour, which, if it happen to be a cold day, may spoil the eggs or make the chickens weakly.
Early in June is a good time to sow annuals for fall blooming. Sown at this time they frequently do better than those sown earlier, because the ground being warm they grow right along without check.