Profitable Poultry Production

by M. G. Kains

Chapter XII
Essentials of Poultry Fattening

Crate fattening of market chickens, which has recently been growing in popularity, can be carried on with profit by almost any farmer, says F. C. Elford of the Ontario experiment station. The work is simple; chickens gain in live weight 1-1/2 to 3 pounds and each can be sold for a much higher price than lean ones because they supply, weight for weight, three times as much edible meat and of superior quality. The breast meat is the most palatable part of the chicken, hence large-framed chickens with prominent breast bones cannot be satisfactorily fatted. The legs, largely composed of sinews, the meat of which is inferior, should form as small a proportion of the weight as practicable. Feathers on the legs are an objection, also black or dark-colored shanks and any development of the spur in cockerels.

Color is secured by feeding mashes, composed mainly of ground oats and skim milk. Smallness of bone, head and comb, and a minimum of offal, are important requirements. Plump chickens of any weight up to 5 pounds each dressed are more readily disposed of than large fatted chickens; 4 pounds is the preferred weight. Early chickens should be marketed either as broilers, weighing 1 to 1-1/2 pounds each, or roasters, weighing 3 to 4 pounds. High prices are generally paid for such. In crate fattening pure-bred chickens make greater gains in live weight than scrubs, and the cost of feed for a pound of gain is less. At four months, the pure breeds are fatted, of uniform quality and appearance and ready for market. At no age are scrub chickens as salable as pure breds. The type of fowls to be selected can be had in Plymouth Rock, Wyandotte, Rhode Island Red and Buff Orpington; or if preferred, in a medium sized fancier's breed. Plymouth Rock or Wyandotte may not be satisfactory on account of great size, heavy bone, length of leg, or narrowness of body. Hence, it is of primary importance to have a definite conception of the proper type to select. The breed is of secondary importance.

Desirable Type of Fowl

Table type fowls should conform to the following standard: Mature weight, cock, 7 to 8-1/2 pounds; hen, 5-1/2 to 7 pounds; shape of body, broad, blocky and of medium length; breast, carried well forward, full and broad, of medium depth; breast bone, long, straight, not deep nor pointed at the front; legs set well apart, short, stout, white or yellow, without leg or foot feathering; head, medium size; comb and wattles small; plumage, close feathered preferred; color not important; color of flesh unimportant.

To have chickens plump and well fatted, at the most profitable age, they should be placed in fattening crates when three to four months old. This does not mean that chickens cannot be fatted profitably when more than four months old; suitable market chickens of any age will show gains. It is advisable to use fattening crates, but if only a small number of fowls are to be fatted, packing boxes of suitable dimensions can be adapted for the purpose. In a series of experiments in fattening at the Canadian experimental farm, a gain of 2-1/2 pounds each was made in a total of over 350 birds of large and good breeds. The average cost for food consumed was 5-1/4 cents a pound of increase in live weight. The ground grain was valued at $1.20 for 100 pounds and the skim milk at 15 cents 100 pounds. Oats finely ground, or with the coarser hulls sifted out, should form the basis of all the grain mixtures; ground corn fed in excess results in yellow flesh of an inferior quality; ground peas impart an undesirable hardness to the flesh. Ground oats, buckwheat, barley and low-grade flour are the most suitable meals for fattening.

Feeds for Fattening

Some satisfactory meal mixtures are: 1. Two parts ground oats, two parts ground buck-wheat, one part ground corn. 2. Equal parts ground oats, ground barley and ground buck-wheat. 3. Two parts ground barley, two parts low-grade flour, one part wheat bran. The ground meal should be mixed to a thin porridge with thick, sour skim milk or buttermilk. On the average, 10 pounds of meal require from 15 to 17 pounds sour skim milk. A small quantity of salt should be added to the mash. When sufficient skim milk or buttermilk cannot be obtained for mixing the mashes, a quantity of animal and raw vegetable food should be added to the fattening ration.

It is necessary to feed lightly the first week. A small quantity of the fattening food is spread along the troughs, and as this is eaten more food added, but not as much as the chickens would consume. The food should be given three times a day, and, after feeding, the troughs cleaned and turned over. After the first week, feeding twice a day as much food as the birds will eat is practiced. Half an hour after feeding, the feed troughs should be cleaned and turned over. Water twice a day and grit two or three times a week should be supplied. Chickens should remain in the fattening crates not longer than 24 days. Some chicks will fatten more readily than others. These should be picked out a week before finished and a little beef tallow, shaved into the trough, given with the mash. About 1 pound tallow to 50 or 60 chickens daily, is ample. Before being placed in the crates the chickens should be well dusted with sulphur to kill the lice, and again three days before being killed. Chickens should be starved 24 hours before killing to prevent food remaining in the crop and intestines; such would decompose and spoil the flavor of the birds. Several hours after feeding give water.

Method of Killing

Sticking in the mouth is the usual method of killing. The large arteries at the sides of the neck, just below the ears, are cut by a couple of quick motions inside. The blade is then forced through the roof of the mouth into the brain. This makes plucking easier, since it relaxes the muscles. The bird must hang head down till plucked. As the bird hangs on a level with the operator's chest, the wing is grasped between the thumb and first two fingers of the left hand, holding the neck between the third and little finger. The large wing feathers are removed with the right hand, and also the stiff feathers at the shoulder joints. Tail feathers come next, with one quick twisting motion. The right hand is then passed rapidly down the back, from rump to neck, removing the feathers with thumb and forefinger.

The bird is then shifted to the right hand, and the left hand used in picking the soft feathers from the breast. If the sticking has been done properly the feathers will all come out easily. The bird is again held in the left hand while the feathers are quickly stripped except the upper 3 inches on the neck, the feathers on the outer joints of the wings and a narrow ring around the hocks.

Shaping gives chickens a compact, plump appearance, and the returns received are greater than from those shipped rough and unprepared. The shaper is made by nailing two 7/8-inch boards together at right angles, so as to form a trough of 6 inches, inside measurement and of desired length. As soon as the chicken is plucked, its legs are placed alongside its breast; then, with its breast downward, it is forced down into the angle of the shaper, covered with paper and a brick put on top to shape it, also one against its side to hold it in position. It is allowed to remain thus for at least six hours. After being thoroughly cooled and its skin being thoroughly dried, the chicken should be packed.

Next: Chapter XIII

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