Profitable Poultry Production

by M. G. Kains

Chapter IV
Poultry Quarters

It is not necessary that poultry houses should be either elaborate or expensive, but it is essential that they be dry, comfortable, pleasant, well ventilated, sanitary, convenient and preferably inexpensive to construct and operate. There is no doubt that many failures to secure good results can be traced to the poultry house itself as a building; for if it is damp, uncomfortable, cheerless, poorly ventilated, insanitary, inconvenient, or of costly construction, it is sure to produce unfavorable results. Every effort should be made to have the house so constructed that the temperature will not fall rapidly when the windows and doors are closed. It is also highly desirable that as much sunlight as possible should be admitted, especially during the winter. This can usually be done by facing the house south and preferably relying upon the south side for all the light.

Where fowls are kept in considerable number, two plans are common -- the colony plan and the long-house plan. The colony, theoretically, is considered best because it affords better range, and the fowls are supposed to be healthier and, therefore, more prolific of eggs than when kept in the long-house system. This is not necessarily so. There are also great disadvantages in separating the fowls. Among these are the greater amounts of time and labor required to attend to the fowls. Anyone can figure out the cost of attending say a dozen colony houses by measuring the distance he would have to walk from house to house, multiplying this by the number of times daily, reducing the distance to feet, then determining the number of miles walked in a day, week, month or year. The time required can then be determined by the rate at which one ordinarily walks and the value placed upon the time. It will be surprising what a distance is traversed and what amount of time can be saved by bringing the flocks under one long roof.

With the colony system there is more difficulty in securing regularity of feeding than with the long house. Especially is this so in bad weather. There is the further disadvantage that when flocks are fed at given times, the fowls will congregate near where the attendant begins to feed. There are the advantages, however, of cheaper portable houses, less expense for fencing, and the advantages of having the fowls forage for themselves. When the colony houses are placed in fenced yards, there is, perhaps, no advantage over the long-house plan.

In mild climates the objections to the colony plan do not hold so strongly as in cold climates, where there must be considerable work in shoveling snow. This remark also applies where poultry can be kept on range during the summer, especially on farms where the fowls themselves can secure much of their living by running among the growing crops. Since the colony plan is popular for such places, several styles of houses are illustrated throughout the book.

Permanent houses built on the colony plan are more costly to build than houses of the same capacity as the several separate ones when built together. This is mainly because the ends of all but two of the houses can be saved, there being no necessity for strong partitions between the pens. As to size, much will depend upon the purpose for which the house is erected and also upon the nature of the land. Rectangular houses are more economical of lumber than houses of other shapes. As to height, it is best to have the ceiling rather low; just high enough so the attendant can walk erect without knocking his hat off. This favors warmth, because the fowls can keep the temperature comfortable if sufficient numbers are kept together. Both walls and glass, especially glass, radiate heat rapidly, so every provision should be made to retain heat as much as possible without impairing ventilation.

Parts of the House

The roof costs more than any other part of the house because of the necessity of making it water tight, and because it usually covers only one floor. Styles of roof vary greatly as to cost. While the same amount of material is required to build a combination roof, a gable roof, or a one-slope roof, provided the pitch of the ground is similar, yet the height of the sides must be taken into consideration in figuring the cost. "The steeper the pitch, the greater the comparative expense of a shed roof house over the gable or combination roof house. The steeper the roof the larger the roof area, hence the greater cost for roofing and the longer the roof will last because of its steeper pitch." The kind of material used in a roof will depend largely upon the pitch of the roof. Shingle roofs will need a pretty steep pitch; paper-covered ones can be almost flat. The former are cooler in summer and winter, and the latter usually warmer and even hot in summer.

The essential points to secure in a foundation are dryness and wear. For permanent houses, foundation walls should extend below the frost line and high enough above to prevent the inflow of water during wet weather. Other necessary points are to have the foundation rat-proof and strong enough to support the building economically. Posts are undesirable, since the house is likely to settle, and there is always opportunity for drafts; besides, they rot. Brick, stone, or concrete foundations are best as a rule. The former requires skilled labor; anybody can construct the latter. Floors should be smooth, hard, easy to clean, dry, durable, and of economical construction. Unless ground is naturally dry, it should be drained. Too much emphasis cannot be laid upon securing dryness. Earth makes the best covering for a floor, whether there is concrete or not.

Whatever the material and construction of the walls, every effort should be made to secure warmth, dryness, strength and cleanliness, as well as durability and economy. A tight wall is essential. It is cheaper in the long run to use matched lumber than any other style of siding. This material should be planed so that it may be easily painted and thus made to last still longer. It is highly desirable to use building paper between layers, since this makes the walls extra dry. The north and west walls, or walls exposed to the wind, should be made especially tight.

Properly constructed poultry houses will not need special ventilation. It is essential, especially for good egg production, that there be abundant fresh air -- dry air to remove dampness given off from the fowls' breath and from droppings. No way has been found so satisfactory as to have the house rather open on the front and tight on all other sides and the roof. The opening should be covered with burlap or other material to check draft and keep out snow and rain. Such houses may be somewhat cooler than houses more tightly closed, but the air will be pure, and pure air is far more important than warmth. This does not, however, mean that warmth is not also good.

No ventilating system compares in good results with the one just suggested, but where one must be put in, it is best to have the vent near the floor with a tight box leading through the upper part of the house and through the roof. The inflow of air should enter near the bottom on the outside and be conducted to the ceiling so that it will be comparatively warm before it enters the house. Thus drafts will be reduced to a minimum and yet there will be sufficient circulation of air to remove moisture and impurities. Under no circumstances should a ventilating system be given preference over the more natural diffusion system already mentioned. The difficulties of making the thing work increase as the temperatures inside and outside approach each other, and also as the openings in the house increase.

The styles of poultry houses and the arrangements of pens are legion. The open scratching shed is favored by many since it provides space for the fowls to exercise in spite of any kind of weather. All sorts of modifications of this style are found and good results secured as a rule. The plan has some advantages over the closed pen. It is cheaper in cost and demands less labor. Perhaps its chief advantage is that the fowls may go from house to shed, or the reverse, and thus feel more at liberty than if confined closely. They are also less likely to become excited if they have a means of escape when they want to get away from an attendant. Everything that makes for comfort, therefore, should be secured when possible. The scratching pen is considered essential to good health of the fowls, because it insures exercise and the fowls are not confined in too warm a room while they are busy.

Model Poultry House

There are a few features of the model house, built by J. W. Griffin of Kentucky and illustrated herewith, that could be added to any large poultry house with profit: the hooded roost with curtained front, the arrangement of the nest boxes, the location of the dust, grit and oyster-shell boxes. The roosts of the two rooms being near each other make it warmer at night for the fowls. The large windows are screened on the inside; the curtained openings screened outside. The opening in the sketch shows the position of roosts, curtains and nest boxes. There is a 1-inch crack all around the top of the house for ventilation.

J. W. Griffin's poultry house.

Under the dropping boards behind the nest boxes is a place for storing forest leaves or straw for scratching shed. The dust boxes are 1x2x5 feet; the curtains are heavy sheeting; the nest boxes are cracker or canned goods boxes. A form for the foundation, 10x32 inches, is made, the wall to be 1 foot above the level of the ground and 6 inches thick, made of concrete; then 3 inches of soil.

The entire size of the inside wall should be thrown around the outside of the wall to drain off the surface water. This leaves an opening inside the walls 9x13x15 inches. The excavation for walls should be 1 foot in the ground. This opening should be filled with coal cinders to within 4 inches of the top. When putting in the concrete for walls, anchor bolts should be set in for fastening 2x6-inch sill directly on the walls. Bolts 3/4-inch sunk in the concrete 6 or 8 inches, with 2-1/2 inches sticking up will do, placing four on each side.

Now we are ready to put on the sills. After the sills are on there will be an opening 6 inches deep for concrete. Put on 5 inches of grouting and finish with 1 inch of pure sand and cement. Strike off on a level with top of sill. Then we will be ready to lay the floor over all. Let siding lop down 2 inches over sides of wall. The coal cinders afford perfect drainage, and prevent any dampness rising through the floor. The floor, being laid directly on the concrete, is rat proof from below. The front is 10 feet high and rear 8. The following bill of stuff will build it, including carpenter and concrete work at $3 a day:

The estimated cost is $186.50, figuring lumber at $2.50 per 100 feet, and roofing at $3.00 per 100 square feet.

Open Front Poultry House

Fresh-air houses mean cheaper construction, more comfort, no ventilation to worry about, warmth in winter and coolness in summer, more eggs, better chicks and better profits. They are believed to be the best and most practical houses that farmers can use, since they save both in labor and money.

Fresh air poultry house.

Next to the tight or closed house is the curtain front house with a scratching shed. In this style one is obliged to provide a combination building, which practically means two houses to each flock, an open front shed and a closed roosting house. As the fowls during the greater part of the time are in either the shed or the roosting house, and must occupy the latter at night, one has a house capacity equal only to the size of the roosting house, no matter how large the scratching shed may be. At night it has all of the advantages of the closed house. These fowls spend a very large part of their time on the roost. They need fresh air while there, just as much as they do at other times, probably even more. In closed roosting quarters they have to breathe impure air, and that means loss of vitality and liability to disease. The open front is superior to the curtain front because as the latter is much more complicated a great deal depends upon the judgment of the operator in using the curtain.

Ground plan of house.

A large house adapted specially for the large market-egg plants is also ideal for the farmer, because it saves much time and labor. It is 14x24 feet. The door is placed on the east side about half way between front and back ends. Directly opposite are two windows. The front or south side is open night and day, but is covered with 1-inch mesh poultry wire netting. If the house is situated in a very bleak and exposed place it is well to use only 1/2 or even 1/4-inch net. This will keep out more of the drift snow than the larger mesh netting.

Some poultrymen criticize the low front, because they claim the sun does not shine far enough back. This is not so. The winter sun in this house, which faces south or slightly to the east, shines into the building 8 to 10 feet back from the front in December and January. It gets into the building early in the morning and shines full until late in the afternoon. The west window admits additional sunlight in the afternoon to the rear part of the building, thus giving sufficient sunshine. Some have suggested a window across the front side of the south roof, so as to let in more sun. This is not advisable, because the window would make the house much colder when the sun is clouded and also during the night. One of the strongest features of the house is that the temperature changes very gradually.

As will be seen from the drawing the building is a plain hip-roofed one, with a long pitch or front to the south. The one described herewith is 8x14 feet long. The roof and closed sides are of 1-inch boards covered with shingles, so that the east, west and north walls are tight. The eaves are about 4 feet from the ground and the peak slightly over 7 feet. The approximate cost of material for this house is $20. It will include the items given below. Prices, of course, will vary with locality.

Knock Down Colony House

A considerable saving of lumber can be made by using knock-down poultry coops and colony houses. These may be made of any convenient size. In construction two runners with notches near their ends are laid down and two crosspieces, also notched, are screwed, or preferably bolted, to them. The runners are provided so the house may be hauled from place to place. The crosspieces are to support the side walls. At the ends are bolts which run through the side wall, to which they are fastened by nuts and washers. The ridgepole is fastened to the sides by bolts also. The same with the ends, which are made triangular, as shown.

Front and back of coop.

Frame and side of coop.

Collapsible colony coop.

As these houses are intended only for summer use, they may be built of comparatively light material, with clap-boarding for the sides and ship lap or matched stuff for the ends. It is desirable that not more than 50 chicks be kept in one colony house, and that each flock have a grass plot of at least 1,000 square feet, unless the chicks can have free range.

These houses are also useful to shelter brooders in the early part of the season. If the houses have a floor space of 6x6 they will each accommodate 50 chicks without crowding, and when the chicks are old enough to do without the brooder they can be allowed to range from the house itself, thus becoming accustomed to their quarters from the very first. A convenient size for the house illustrated is 6x6 on the floor and 7 feet to the peak. These allow a man to stand up inside and to attend to the brooder and chicks without inconvenience. They can be built of odds and ends of material, but if new material must be bought, and if the house is painted, as it should be, it would cost about $8. If unbolted and stored under cover as intended, such houses should last for many years, so the first cost would be insignificant compared with the life of the houses themselves.

Next: Chapter V

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