Keeping hens

...In middle age





...Table chickens

...Rearing program

>..- Quality

...Multiplying chickens

...- Incubator

A grower's ration mixed to a paste can be fed throughout the fattening time.

When the chicks are small they find it easiest to eat from little lumps of food on flat boards. As they grow you can progress to more economical feeders. As with all livestock enterprises, the aim is to get the food into the intended animal, not all over the floor! Chicken feeders should be designed to prevent the chickens from soiling the food. The simplest and possibly most effective design for this is a roller suspended a few inches above the trough. When the chicken tries to perch on it as it will it does a spectacular forward roll. It will not do a repeat performance. If the bar is fixed, it simply sits there dropping chicken manure into the food which it then no longer feels like eating. From eating absolutely minute amounts, the birds progress quite rapidly to eating about 3 oz each per day. To allow the birds to grow more slowly and hopefully produce a tastier chicken, let them have access to the land.

A mother hen takes her brood on walkabouts from a very early age and you can see them happily pecking about; they are simply animated balls of fluff at this stage but do manage to survive a vast number of hazards under Mother's watchful eye. Fattening chickens raised in an incubator have no mother hen, so you have to perform a similar function. They need guarding from four-legged predators such as rats, crows and mink. When they are very small they even require protection from cats. The French have a subsidy system that encourages feeding maize to poultry. This produces a beautiful, yellow-coloured chicken. If you can be sure of a suitable market, such as expensive restaurants, it is worth producing slow-maturing, full-flavoured chicken. Without this market, the only person for whom it is worth producing an extra-succulent bird is yourself. Of course, if you throw a party to consume this delicious bird, you may establish a market after all your guests!.