How A Farmer’s Wife Built Up A Poultry Business by Margaret Leffler 1938

After a desperate attempt to make Flower Growing and Market Gardening pay, I decided that poultry offered infinitely better opportunities. Unfortunately, there was no capital available to start. A friend let me have ten third-year Leghorns and a rooster on credit and in August 1933 I began.

Related image

Leghorns proved splendid layers and yielded not only all the eggs needed for the household but one and a half to two dozen a week for sale. In March 1934 with my egg money, I began to buy Light Sussex eggs, secured a fifty egg incubator on credit and started incubating my Leghorn and then bought Sussex eggs. 

Related image

Results were disastrous a few chicks were hatched out and half a dozen reared. Attempt after attempt failed to give anything but the poorest results but by borrowing a few broody hens I managed to raise fifty Sussex and Leghorn fowls. A friend also gave me eight Rhode Island Red hens and a rooster. I fattened and sold twenty-five cockerels and four of my old Leghorn hens at Christmas and with the money bought netting wire and was lent four old pig huts.

This was the turning point. In 1935 I still had four of my original Leghorns, six Rhodes with twenty-five Sussex and Leghorn pullets laying. I borrowed two, two hundred and fifty egg incubators but having no suitable incubating house the results were very poor; still with what I did hatch out from the incubators and broody fowls I was able to start the 1936 season with 188 Leghorns, Rhodes and Sussex laying hens and pullets.

I returned the borrowed incubators after one season’s use and bought two of the most reliable make but lack of proper accommodation again proved a stumbling block so I turned to turkeys as incubators.

Image result for turkey hen south africa

At last, I have solved my problem. Two Turkey hens I found equalled a one hundred egg incubator. Since a turkey hen could be induced with the aid of a little port wine to sit on and hatch two consecutive settings. Two Turkeys would lay and sit on a number of eggs each but whilst one had fourteen the other only had seven. I, therefore, gave the seven to the bird with fourteen and gave thirty fowls’ eggs to the other.

When the turkey hatched out her turkey eggs I removed the chicks and put thirty fowl eggs under her when turkey number two’s eggs began pecking I removed them to my kitchen stove and gave the turkey a spoonful of port wine and another thirty fowl eggs. On Turkey number one’s eggs beginning to peck I treated her as I had number two.

Turkey incubation proved so successful that I bought a whole flock to use for hatching duck as well as fowl eggs. Generally speaking, I am very well satisfied. Snakes have killed a number of turkeys on their nests, sometimes a bird would persistent in leaving her eggs and sitting with another endeavouring to share her nest, sometimes the birds would kill the chickens and ducklings if they hatched out before I had noticed pecking had begun.

Image result for eggs hatching

Still, I’ve found that my turkeys sitting on thirty fowl eggs give me fifteen to twenty healthy chicks and on twenty duck eggs fourteen to seventeen strong ducklings. Much of the loss is due to the turkey cracking eggs through her weight when getting off and on the nest.

In 1936 I added ducks as well as turkeys to my business and began supplying older fowls and ducklings as well as really nice lots of eggs to merchants which gave me a steady income sufficient to pay my poultry feed, to buy iron, wood and netting wire to get good roosters and to begin laying out a modern poultry Farm.

1937 proved rather a miserable breeding year. Hundreds of beautiful eggs were ruined by attempting to incubate in unsuitable housing cats continually got into my kitchen and destroyed dozens of newly hatched ducklings and chicks, heavy rain and shortage of proper accommodation killed mature as well as young stock especially turkeys, snakes worked havoc with birds on nests yet at Christmas I was able to deliver dressed sixty-eight perfect table chickens, sixty-two ducklings and six turkeys whilst my egg sales are approximately fifty dozen a week.

So in 1938 after four and a half years building I have an excellent business yielding a steady and ever-increasing profit. After heavy culling of old and unsatisfactory birds, 1938 sees me with three hundred really profit earning fowls and a hundred and fifty fattening fowls for killing, the duck section supplying a dozen dressed ducklings a week and some sixty turkeys getting ready for the fattening pens.

I have now started barrel feeding. All culled birds and cockerels are put into three section coops on stands. Here they are quickly fattened at a minimum of cost and trouble.

Now, what has the four and a half years of struggling taught me?

Let me imagine now that I have been asked to broadcast my opinion so that others may avoid the pitfalls into which I fell.

I began poultry raising as a wife begins rearing her first baby. I knew nothing at all about the business. Books helped me little for they all presupposed that I had proper housing, proper food, proper fowls. I had none. Sellers sold me pullet eggs – I even tried to incubate eggs bought on the market – wonderful eggs but as I know today obviously unfertile.

checklist-baby-essentials-2160x1200

Starting today under the same conditions and same money I’d buy a couple of turkey hens, a bottle of port wine and five dozen really exceptionally good eggs of table and egg production breeds. I would get one or two dozen eggs from two or three really first class poultry farms and put them under the turkeys. Probably the results would be two dozen good fowls born and reared under my supervision free of all disease.

Of these fowls a dozen at least should be females; out of the other dozen I would select four of the best roosters not to mate with the females hatched with them but for future use. When my dozen females were ready for mating I would buy for them two fairly elderly roosters known and proven. My own cockerels I would use on fairly elderly hens of good laying reputation bought from really good poultry farms.

Image result for roosters

Until I could afford to build a proper incubating room I’d use turkey hens and my own broody fowls for hatching and when you eventually I got my incubating room only a brand new incubator of an absolutely proven make would satisfy me.

But before beginning incubation on any scale, I would insist on a proper brooder house for my expected chickens. For years my poultry boy and self have rushed frantically out to catch and put scores and even hundreds of chicks and ducklings into boxes when rain has threatened.

chicks

Often the threat never materialized and chicks had to be brought back to their runs. Even now I have a nightly task of gathering and boxing some three hundred ducklings and chicks a job sometimes repeated once or twice a day when bad weather threatens.

Proper housing and runs are essential to successful poultry farming, drastic culling of unsuitable females and the use of only first-class males are vital in building up a really strong healthy flock. Free-ranging means a great loss of eggs and every detail of poultry management must definitely be under one’s own personal supervision. I’ve had splendid natives but no native can ever grasp the enormous importance of scrupulous care in the weighing and mixing of food, of the essential difference between laying and fattening foods. To a native’s mind, a few handfuls of mealies are all a fowl requires.

Image result for weighing and mixing feed for poultry

Poultry to pay must have proper food. A bird has no teeth, therefore, it must have grit to masticate the swallowed food. the veld and sand are full of ticks, lice and fleas and a bird supporting insect life cannot give her owner the eggs or flesh a clean bird can.

In selling eggs or table birds absolutely scrupulous honesty must be one’s rule. Sell pullet eggs as such, don’t mix them with full-sized eggs. Never attempt to incubate immature eggs and never give an old fowl spoonful of vinegar, kill it and place it amongst first-class table birds. Sell your dressed culls as ordinary fowls bought by the consumer as such. Even if short of a bird to make up an order carry the loss and sell chickens as chickens without a cull amongst them.

Remember always that for one table bird producer there are one thousand egg producers. The bulk of poultry sold for the table are the culls of egg-producing farms. It is a slow process building up a table poultry business it is the most difficult section of poultry farming but once built up it is by far and away the steadiest and most remunerative.

roast chicken

Two and a half to three pound Sussex, Rhode or other table chickens, ducklings and small compact turkeys are always in demand, eggs are not. With a table poultry business, there are enough eggs to not only pay expenses but to show profits – and there are the tender-fleshed, toothsome young cockerels simply pure clean money. What first class dealer can afford to allow a really choice table bird to be passed over? None.

Margaret Leffler
Valley Farm
P.O.Brooklyn
Pretoria
28/01/1938

BALANCING ONE’S DIET

An article published in the Rand Daily Mail, South Africa circa 1930s.

Every stockman handling valuable animals requires to know something about food values. The subject is a fascinating one and a student instinctively compares the haphazard treatment accorded human stomachs with the carefully worked out feeding methods used in feeding animals.

Image result for feeding cattle 1930s south africa

Human bodies need very much the same essentials as do those of animals. Protein, carbohydrates, fats, mineral salts and water are required by both and wrongful proportions immediately cause harmful reactions. Instinct guides us roughly to the food our bodies need but a little knowledge is of far greater help than instinct if we would get the utmost value in the cheapest way.

An average man requires about three and a half ounces (100grams) of Protein, 1 pound (450grams) of Carbohydrates, an ounce of mineral salts (28grams) and two ounces of fat (57grams) to maintain himself in a healthy condition. If a manual worker, he requires more food than one engaged in a sedentary occupation. Old people require less and children more than middle-aged and young, women, less than men.

Related image

One often hears and knows of small men with remarkably large powers of food consumption. In such cases, there can be no doubt that the small man’s body or diet is deficient in some essential – in the majority of cases a mineral salt.

Most ills to which mankind is subject are digestive or bodily disorders caused by wrong dieting. Meals consist of too much of one element, too little of another resulting in the over-accumulation of waste matter, non-renewal of tissue and a general choking and fouling of the system. Again it might be that deficiency of fat, of protein or of mineral salts is responsible for upsetting the functioning of the digestive organs.

A meal of oatmeal with sugar, eggs, milk, bread and butter is an example of a well-balanced feed. The salts and protein are present in the eggs, oatmeal and milk, the carbohydrates in the sugar and bread; the fat in the butter and milk. Cheese and bread make an excellent combination for cheese is the most valuable concentrated foodstuff man knows and ordinary bread is almost pure carbohydrates.

Related image

Every individual’s diet should be considered from the maintenance and productive sides. So much fuel is required to maintain health so much to create the necessary energy to do his work. To ensure proper assimilation of vital elements meals must be sufficiently appetizing to enable them to be eaten with relish.

Image result for nutritious family meals on a budget

When however excess fuel has been loaded the body demands that it be used or got rid of. Long walks or any extra exercise will consume the surplus but neglect will always result in some disorder of mind and body.

Image result for exercising 1930

The importance of the various salts needed by the body is seldom sufficiently emphasised. Lime, common salt, iron, phosphorous, sulphuric acid, chlorine and magnesia are vital to the human and animal body and cheese, milk, eggs, pulses, fresh fruit and green vegetables are the chief suppliers.

Related image

We all know how often cod liver oil, Parrish’s food and various manufactured foods are ordered by doctors for children and invalids. In many cases, they are given as being more economical and easier than attempting to reorganise a diet.

Parrish

Often neglect of properly balanced food has so strained or impaired the digestive organs that only concentrated foods can be given.

B.M.Leffler,
Valley Farm,
P.O.Brooklyn
Pretoria,
South Africa