Bell Tower Theater Announces
We raised two hundred baby chickens a year that provided 100 laying hens and 100 roosters. The roosters were fattened and eaten or sold by the pound at the local produce station. Raising baby chickens in the 1920s took planning as the incubator and setting the mother hens must be coordinated. This was before hatcheries shipped baby chicks by parcel post. The post office attendant notified its patron when the baby chicks would arrive rather than deliver them on the regular route.
Before this time hens setting on eggs for 21 days hatched chickens or they were hatched in an incubator for the same length of time.
The eggs that were saved for hatching had to be gathered several times a day from a flock of chickens that had one rooster for 20 hens. The fresher the eggs the healthier the chicks. The hatching house had wooden boxes about two foot square, large enough to hold a hen and 14 eggs in a thick bed of straw.
How does one know the hatching hen? After her laying cycle ended the hen that refused to leave the nest day or night in the chicken house. She pecked or flew at the brave person who tried to gather the eggs under her. The hen was moved to a hatching house and put on the nest of 14 eggs, covered and everyday she was put off the nest for a time to eat, drink and exercise. When she returned to the nest she turned the eggs with her head and feet. In about twenty - one days the baby chicks were ready to peck the shell and angle their way out of the shell. They had to be moved from the nest at once or their mother would crush them. If the baby chicks chirped too much the mother hen would get uneasy and leave the nest in great distress trying to protect them. Her baby chicks were put in a warm place until the hatching period ended.
The incubator was about four feet square and stood on legs with trays that slid in and out, holding the eggs securely. The temperature of 101 degrees was kept steady by a mercury thermometer that was read about every two hours, day and night. A lamp which was fueled by coal oil, now called kerosene, needed watching as the wick worked up or down changing the temperature. Extreme changes in temperature weakened the chicks. The eggs were marked with a “X” and turned once a day.
The chickens, hen hatched or incubator hatched were put together and then divided equally to the mother hens, that sat on the eggs the last three weeks. Each mother hen was in charge of about 30 baby chicks. The baby-chicks didn’t need food for the first three days as they had absorbed the yolk shortly before they hatched. The mother hens and chicks were put in separate coops for one day before they were turned out into a large chicken yard.
Next month we will continue the story of baby chicks
DSO Summer Melodies