Profitable Poultry Production

by M. G. Kains

Chapter V
Poultry Fixtures and Devices

Much of the comfort of a poultry flock and much of the convenience to the poultryman depend upon the fixtures and devices adopted in the houses and yards. Scattered throughout this volume, therefore, are drawings illustrating many devices for the convenience of the poultry raiser and the comfort of the fowls. It will not be necessary to discuss these at length, because the drawings furnish sufficient means for any one handy with tools to make them without difficulty. A few words, however, may be said in a general way as to the desirability of certain styles of apparatus.

Roosts should preferably be placed comparatively near the floor of the poultry house, so that fowls will not have difficulty in flying up or down. This is especially desirable where heavy breeds are kept, because these fowls not only find trouble in reaching high roosts, but in flying down they are very likely to injure their feet or legs, and even fowls of the light breeds may injure themselves in the same way if the floor is hard, as it usually is. All roosts should be on the same level to prevent fowls from crowding one another, as they will do if one roost is even a trifle above another. The desire of the fowls is to reach the topmost boughs of the tree to be out of the reach of enemies, but as enemies are kept out of the poultry yard there is no reason why fowls should climb high.

Vermin-proof roost. Staples, C, hold wire bracket, A, for roost, D, kept in place by screw B. remove often and dip end in kerosene.
Usually fowls crowd together upon the roosts even in warm weather and when there is plenty of room. They should not, however, be compelled to sit closely. It is well to calculate on about 10 inches for each Asiatic fowl, 9 inches for fowls of the American class and 7 inches for Mediterranean breeds. Roosts should be placed about 8 inches above the dropping boards, which should be somewhat longer than the roosts themselves. For light fowls 2X2-inch scantling with rounded corners is very popular, especially if the roosts must be rather long; but where short roosts are used 1-inch stuff 3 to 5 inches wide is often used. For convenience roosts may be made to lift out of the way by some such device as illustrated herewith, so that cleaning may be undertaken without difficulty. Always the upper edges of the roost should be rounded. One important thing about roosts is that they should be easily removed for cleaning, especially to get rid of lice and mites.

Dropping boards are used for convenience in cleaning and to prevent dust. If the houses are well kept they are very useful, but if cleanliness is not observed they are worse than nothing at all, because where the droppings are allowed to stay from day to day the boards become saturated and offensive odors are given off, thus making the quarters exceedingly unpleasant as well as unhealthful for the fowls. Matched flooring or sheathing which provides a smooth surface is most popular, preferably the boards should be about 20 inches wide for single roosts and 3 feet wide for double ones. They should have strips of light material about 2 inches wide extending above their edges to prevent the scattering of the droppings; they should be cleaned every day.

Styles of Nests

Nests are probably the next most important necessity in the poultry house and may be made of any kind of material, style or character, provided there are no egg-eating hens in the flock. Grocery boxes are very popular in such cases, but where many hens are kept, and where sitting hens cannot be put in some building apart from the main flock, the nests should be arranged to fit such conditions.

Handy nests. An orange box without back and hinged to the wall is quickly cleaned by lifting.
Preferably the nests should be darkened and placed in secluded parts of the house or even in the yard. A favorite place for them is beneath the roosting platform. Where egg eating is discovered, the dark nest is one of the best ways to eliminate the habit. A nest which allows the egg to roll beyond the hen's reach is even better.

Trap nests in considerable variety are illustrated throughout this volume. (See Chapter 7.) Their principal advantage is that they show the poultryman which hens are the layers and which the drones. Where one is breeding for egg production they are a necessity, but where one is keeping hens for market only some of the nests that open into two different pens will be found advantageous, because they will allow only such hens as have laid to pass from pen to pen, unless hens discover that they can make progress in this kind of way and thus cheat the poultryman. This fact, however, can be readily discovered by counting the number of eggs in the nests and also by counting the number of hens in the pen which was empty in the morning. The way they are used is to have all the hens in one flock in the morning; to count the eggs and in the evening count the hens in the second pen before returning them to the first one for the following day's laying.

Feeding vessels are of many kinds, several of which are shown. The common V-shaped trough is the simplest, but is objectionable because the fowls are likely to soil the food by standing in it. For cleanliness' sake food, whether dry or wet, grain or ground, should be protected so the fowls cannot soil it.

Simple trap nest. Hen depresses E to C, thus raising D and letting support D B fall. On reaching nest E rises and closes opening. Hinges at A and B.
Several types of hoppers suitable for feeding dry mash are illustrated; also devices for protecting the food of young fowls from larger ones when birds of different ages must be kept together. Feeding vessels should be kept scrupulously clean.

Fountains of various styles are shown in this volume. The principal point to remember in connection with them is to keep them clean at all times. The material from which these vessels are made is of no consequence and neither is the style, provided cleanliness is maintained. The most important thing, therefore, is that the fountains be protected so the fowls cannot get anything but their bills into them; even where open drinking vessels are used this should be insisted upon. There is no reason why metal of any ordinary kind should not be used as freely as crockery ware. There is no more danger of poisoning from oxidized tin or iron that the fowls might drink than there is of human beings so becoming poisoned. Drinking devices should be such as can be quickly filled, quickly cleaned and quickly replaced. They should be placed as far from the dusty portion of the pen as possible so as to avoid becoming soiled by dust or material scratched into them. Preferably they should be elevated well above the floor. The best device for a range of houses is unquestionably a continuous pipe with fountains that rise in the various pens.

Feed-saving hopper. Grain or meal that hens would waste drops into lower compartment.
Grit and shell receptacles should preferably be of metal and placed where the fowls will not scratch litter into them. They should be cleaned weekly.

Brood coops for sitting hens and hens with broods are illustrated in considerable variety. Probably the commonest style is the A-shaped coop with various modifications as to runs, character of material, etc.

Colony houses of several styles are also illustrated merely to give hints. No comment need be made on these except to say that they are exceedingly convenient for placing in orchards and fields, where by the aid of hoppers and drinking fountains the flock may be encouraged to take care of itself to a large extent. After the chicks reach a fair size and the hen has left them, roosts should be placed in the house. Since some chicks take to the roost slowly, provision should be made for them in some other corner of the house so they may cuddle on the ground without danger of being soiled by droppings from the fowls on the roost.

Incubators and brooders need not be discussed here as part of poultry equipment, because they are taken up in chapters devoted respectively to hatching and rearing. Bone cutters are considered a necessity where large flocks are kept. Green bone can often be purchased from local butchers at so reasonable prices that where small flocks are kept a bone cutter need not be part of the poultry equipment, but where considerable quantities of fresh bone are required a good machine is a great advantage.

Double brood coop. Any convenient size. Hinged lids; wire front; board floor covered with sawdust.
Hay cutters are useful where large numbers of fowls are kept and where there is not much broken hay from the barns. On the ordinary farm the live stock hay cutter will serve if it can be gauged to make a very small cut; but for the business poultryman a machine built for poultry requirements should be given preference. On most farms there will be sufficient broken clover tops and leaves to supply the hens.

Grit crushers are not essential on most poultry farms, because the fowls, if at free range, can secure sufficient grit while foraging, but on soils deficient in gravel grit in some form must be supplied. Where gravel is lacking in the neighborhood it may be more economical to buy grit already prepared.

Feed mixers and feed cookers are on the market, but usually the farmer has some large kettle that will serve for cooking mashes. It is generally believed, however, that warm mashes have only slight advantage over dry mashes, and as they are more costly to feed on account of the labor involved they are not very popular.

Trap for prowlers. At night inner door is closed. Animal steps on rocker bottom and springs latch. Outer door falls and catches on latch, a.

Prowler traps are useful where there is danger of foxes, minks, weasels, etc. There is a considerable variety of these, but only one is illustrated. The important thing to remember in setting such a trap is to avoid touching any of the parts. If the trap can be set without the poultryman coming near it, so much the better, since this will not arouse the suspicion of the would-be thief, who might otherwise smell the human hand or footprint.

Collapsible coop. Sides, back, top and front hinged. Held in coop form by two pegs in eyelets at left and right. Coop can be stored flat under cover.

Coops for broodies are often used where artificial incubation is practiced or where the poultryman wishes to make hens recommence laying. A favorite style is a coop with a slatted bottom and wire-netting front raised well above the floor. The hen is placed inside and feed and water are hung within reach.

Knock-down Houses and Coops

Several styles are illustrated to serve as examples. The principal advantages of these houses are that they can be taken down and stored flat from season to season and thus be made to last considerably longer than the material ordinarily would if made into coops that could not be stored conveniently under cover.

Hen gate. The frame is placed in the fence. hollowed doors, hinged at top, swing inward when hen enters. Then they fall shut.
An egg cabinet is a useful device for holding eggs for hatching. It enables the poultryman to turn a large number of eggs in a very short time. Two such devices are illustrated, one for a small the other for a large number of eggs. A popular style is an ordinary egg case of rather small size which can be turned over from day to day.

Poultry gates should all be self-closing, either by weights or springs. Often hens escape from the poultry yard and wander up and down outside trying to get in. To provide opportunity for this a little gate may be inserted in the wall, preferably at some corner where the hen may be driven. Enough opening should be made around the gate itself to encourage the hen to poke her head against the gate and thus enter the yard. Such gates should swing shut of their own weight rather than by springs, because this leaves nothing to get out of order.

Shipping coops should be made of light material and preferably covered with canvas. They should always be made high enough to accommodate the fowl without stooping and large enough in other dimensions to allow for as many fowls as there are to be shipped therein. This applies just as much to the crate for shipping fowls alive to market as to the crate used for exhibition fowls.

Trap Nest Made from One Board

The Oregon experiment station gives the following directions for making a trap nest from one board 12 inches wide and 10 feet long. Anyone who can use a saw and drive a nail can make it.

With a square, lay off the board as shown in the accompanying diagram. The shaded portions are the waste pieces of the board. The solid black lines show where the board is to be cut. After sawing the pieces, the nest is ready to be put together.

  1. Nail the sides to the bottom so that the ends will be even.
  2. Stand the nest on end and nail on the back. This will square the sides.
  3. Stand the nest on its back and nail on the front piece.
  4. Nail on the front brace, which should be set into the sides at lines indicated at A. and B.
  5. To the end of the bottom board nail the nest end front.
  6. The two front pieces are nailed on either side of the door to the sides and the front brace.
  7. Put in the piece (10-1/2 inches by 3-3/4 inches) on which the door is balanced; nail it in between the sides so that the inner side will be flush with the outer side of the front pieces. In this piece put a screw eye 4 inches from each side, the outer edge of the screw eye being flush with the inner side of the piece.
  8. Turn the nest on its side and bore the holes in the sides through which the 3/16-inch iron passes. The holes are 1 inch from the bottom and 1-1/4 inches from the nest front.
  9. On the bottom of the trip-board put in a screw eye 7/8 inch from end and 1 inch from each side. At the other end of trip-board bore two 3/8-inch holes 1 inch from the end and 3 inches from each side.
  10. On the bottom and at each side of the door put in a screw eye 1-1/2 inches from the end and 3/4-inch from the sides. On the upper side tack the two rawhide strips, using a small staple or nail for each. The strips are tacked on so that the end of the strap will be 2 inches from the end and 1/2-inch from side of door.
  11. Place the door in front of the trip-board, the screw eyes down; push the rawhide strips through the holes in the trip-board; turn the boards over and draw the strips up tight; then bend the door back over the trip-board until there is a full 3/4-inch between the board when laid flat; the strap should then be tacked to the lower side of the tripboard.
  12. Put the door and tripboard in place. This is done by pushing the iron rods through the sides and the screw eyes. Care should be taken in placing the screw eyes in proper places; if they are not set properly the door will not balance.

Board marked for trap nest. This provides for least waste in cutting.

The nests may be built singly or in groups. They may be set in the wall of chicken house under the droppings platform, where a platform is used. This plan will save the cost of covers. In either case it will be an advantage to have nests made separate and a frame made to receive them, so that the nest may be pulled out to release the hens. Occasionally a hen is slow in coming to the door to be let out, and by pulling the nest out the operation of releasing the hens may be more quickly performed. If the nest is to be used outside of the house, it will be necessary to put a cover or roof on that will protect it from the weather.

The dimensions of the door and the size of the opening for the door are given for medium-sized breeds. For large breeds it will be necessary to enlarge the opening. The front brace may be raised and the front pieces made narrower. The door opening should not be large enough to admit two hens at one time.

Next: Chapter VI

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