Monday, May 6, 2013

On Chickens, from the 4 books of husbandy, 1586

As keeping and breeding of Cattell, doth yeeld no final commoditie and gaines to the husbande, so the nourishing & maintenaunce of Poultry, foule, Bees, and Fish (if the countrey be for it) doth commonly arise to his great advauntage, wherby both the revenue is grearly encreased, and the table daily with dainty, and no chargeable dishes furnished. Cages, and houses for Birdes, wherein were kept al maner and sortes of foule, were first devised by M. Lelius Strabo at Brundisium, from which time is was first put in use, to pen uppe such creatures, as naturally were accustomed to flee at their libertie in the aire. At which time also began to be brought in strange & outlandish foules, the keeping and breeding whereof, yeeldeth to the husband both pleasure and profite. We have here brought in PVLLARIVS, CHENOBOSCVS, MELISSEVS, and PISCIN ARIVS, every one of them serverally entrating of such things as belongeth to his charge.

MELISSEVS. I see you have here (PVLLARIVS) great store of foule, and Poultry, and I believe verily, the profite and commoditie of them, wil not quite hald the charges they put you to.
PVLLARIVS. Yes verily they quite your cost, whether you sell them, or keepe them for the kitchin. It is saide that Auidius Lurco made yeerely of his Poultrie and foule five hundred pound.
MELLISSEVS. But I do a great deale better like the common Poultrie, that we keepe about our houses.
PVLLARIVS. We have also of the same here at home with us.
MELLISSEVS. Then let me understand (I pray) in what order you keepe them, for herein you seeme to be most skilfull.
PVLLARIVS. If is meete that every one be skilfull in that trade that he professeth. If you will I will not refuse to shew you that little cunning that I have: so you on the other side vouchsafe to shewe me the ordring of your Bees.
PVLLARIVS. Well then with a good will I declare unto you my knowledge, beginning first with those kinds that are most in use: for amongst all other housholde Poultry, the cheefe place is due to the Cocke and the Henne, that are beside so common, as the poorest widdowe in the country is able to keepe them.

[qualities of a good chicken]

In this Birde there are three points of natural affection cheefely to be woondred at. The first, the great carefulness that they have during the time of their sitting, wherein for the desire of harching their yoong, they seeme to be carelesse of either meate or drinke. Secondly, that they beare such love to them, as they sticke not to hazard their owne lives in the defence of them. And thirdlie, that in the storme, great colde, or sicknesse, they preserve and nourish them under their winges, not making for the while any account of their owne selves. There is herof a most sweet comparison in the Gospell, where in our Saviour CHRIST compareth himselfe to the Henne that gethereth her Chickins under her winges. And therefore, since these are common for every man to have, and that they alwaies feede about the house, I thinke it best to beginne with them, and to tell you which are best to bee likes, which to bee brought up, and which to be fatted. First, the best to be brought for broode, are the dunne, the redde, the yellow, and the blacke, the white are not to be medled with, because they are commonly tender, and prosper not, neither are they besides fruitefull, and are alwaies the fairest marke in a Hawke, or a Bussardes eie. Let therefore your Henne be a good colour, having a large bodie and brest, a great head, with a straight redde and dubble comme, white eares & great, her tallons even. The best kind (as Columella saith) are such as have five clawes, so that they be free from spurres: for such as weare those Cockish weapons, are not good for broode, and disdaine the companie of the Cocke, and lay but seldome, and when they sitte, with their unruely spurres they breake their Egges.
The little Pullets, or Hennes, though the old age, both for their unfruitfulness, and other causes disalowed them, yet in many places they prove to be good, and lay many Egges. In England at this day, they are used as a daintie dish at mens tables.

[Choosing a good cock]

In the choise of your Cockes, you must provide such as will treade lustily, of colours, as I tolde you for the Hennes, and the like number of talons, and like in many other pointes, but of stature they must be hier, carriyng their heads straight up, their Commes must be ruddy and hie, and hanging, nor falling downe, their eyes blacke and sharpe, their Billes short and crooked, their eares greate and white, their wattells oryent, having under them as it were a kind of grayish beard, the Necke feathers of colour divers, either a pale or grayish beard, the Necke feathers of colour divers, either a pale, golden, or a glittering greene, which must hang rufling from his Necke, to his shoulders, their Breastes must be large, their Tailes dubled and flagging, their rumpes and thyes full of feathers, their legges string, wel armed with sharp and deadly Spurres: Their disposition (for you shall not neede to have them great fighters) would be gentle, quicke, and lively, and specially good wakers, and crowers: for it is a Byrde that well aprorcioneth both the night and the day, and (as Prudentius withnesseth) echorteth to repentance. Neither must you on the otherside, habe hom a Craddon, for he must sometimes stand in the defence of his wife and his children, and have stomacke to kill or beate away a snake, or any such hurtful vermine: but if he be to quarrellous, you shave to no rule with him, for fightting and beating his fellowes, not suffering them to treade, though he have more then his handes full him selfe. This mischiefe you may easily prevent, with shackling him with a shooe sole: for although such lustie fighters are bredde up and cherished for the game, yet are they nor to serve the Husbands turne at home. A Cocke framed and proporcioned after this sort, shall have five or sixe Hennes going with him.

[brooding hens]

MELI. I pray you let me understand what time of the yere is best for bringing foorth of Chickins.
PVLLA. In some places, spcially the hottest countries, the Hennes begin to lay in Januarie, in colder countries, either in February, or at the latter end of JanuaryL you must also further their laying, by giving them meates for the purpose, as Barly halfe foode, which maketh both the Egges the fayrer, and causeth them to lay the oftner. Some thinke it good to mingle therewith the leaves or the seedes of Cytisus, which both are thought to bee greatly of force in making them fruiteful. If this be not to be had, you may supply the want with Spery, or (as Cardanus saith) with Hempseede, which will cause them to lay all the Winter. When they lay, you must see that their nestes bee very cleane, and kept still with freshe cleane strawe: for otherwise they will be full of fleaes, and other vermine, which will not suffer the Henne to be quiet, whereby the Egges doe not hatch even together, or many times ware adle and rotten. The Egges that you sette under them, must be newe laide, ho wheit, so they not above tenne daies olde, it maketh no great matter: if you looke not to them, they will straightwaies sitte after their sift laying, which you must not suffer, for the yoong Pullet, are better for laying then sitting: the desire of sitting is restrained, by thrusting a fether through their nose. The old Hennes must rather be suffered to sit, then the yoonger, because of their experience. Herein must you have a speciall regarde to know which be best to sit, for some be better to bring uppe Chickins then to sitte. Others againe will either breake, or eate uppe both their owne Egges, and their fellowes Egges: such you must put aside, and if their Nayles and Billes be sharpe, rather employ them in brooding, then in fitting.

[Egg incubation without a Hen]

Democritus telleth, that Chickins may be brought foorth without setting under the Henne, if so bee the doung of Hennes, sifted verye fine, be put in little bagges, basted about with soft feathers, uppon which the Egges must be laid straight upright, with the sharpe ende upwarde: uppon these againe must the like quantitie of Henne doung be laide, so that they bee of every side closely covered. This done, you must suffer them to lie for the two or three first daies, and after, every daye turne them, taking good heede that you knocke them not one against the other in the turning. After twentie dayes, you shall finde the egges broken: and therefor the twentieth day, plucking away the shels: and taking out the Chickin, you may commit them to the Henne. It is written, that Chickins have been hatched by the continuall warmth of a womans bosome: beside it hath beene seene, that egges being laide in an Oven, or warme place, covered well with Strawe and Chaffe, having a little fire beside, and one turne them continually, have disclosed and broken at their accustomed time. Aristotle writeth, that Egges put in the warm vesselles, or covered with doung, will hatch of themselves.

[# of eggs/times of year and timing for hatching other eggs under hens]

The number of Egges that your Henne shall fitte uppon, some woulde have to be odde, and not alwaies alike, but in January and Fevruarie fifteene, and no more, in March nineteene, and no lesse: which number you shall continue all the Summer, till September, or October, after which time it is to no purpose to breede any longer: for the Chickins, by reason of the cold weather and diseases, never prosper. Yea some be of opinion, that after the tenth, or twelfth of June, you shall never have faire broode, and that the best season for sitting, beginneth at the tenth of March. And herein you must alwaies be sure to have Moone encreasing, from that she be tenne daies olde, till fifteene: for that is the best time to sitte in. And so must you againe dispose the time, as the hatching mall fall out in the encrease of the Moone: for the iust time of hatching, there are sundry opinions. Aristotle writeth, that they are hatched in nineteene daies, Varro (for Chickins) one and twentie daies, or twentie daies, for Peacockes and Geese, seaven and twentie daies, and sometimes more: Duckes in the like space to the Henne, specially if they sit night and day, allowing them one ly the Morning, and the Evening to feede: which times they must necessitie have. If so be you will set under your Henne Peacocks Egges with her owne, you must set her uppon the Peacocks Egges, ten daies before she have her own Egges, whereby they shall be hatched all at once, neither must you set above five Peacockes or Goose Egges under a Henne.

[identifying good eggs]

If you have all Cocke Chickins, you must choose such Egges as be longest and sharpest, as again (for Hennes) the roundest, (as both Plinie and Columella write) though Aristotle seem not of that opinion. To understande which be good Egges, which not, you must (as Varro teacheth) put them in water, and such as be naught, will swim asloft, and the good goe straight to the bottome. Others do hold them up against a Candle, and if they see through them, they iudge them light and naught. You must in no wise shake them, or shogge them, least you breake the strings of life, that are but newly begunne: it hath been seene that by shaking of the Egges, the Chickins have been hatched lame. We may beside perveive whether the Egges will proove well or no, if foure daies after the Henne have sitten, you hold them up in the sunne, or other light, and if you see that they be cleere, cast them away, and put other in their places.

[Brooding Hen]

Against thunder, that many times marreth the Egges, some doe sette about them the Leanes of Branches of Bayes, or Bentes, or Grasse, others (againe) the heades of Garlicke, and nailes of iron. In the great heat of the Sommer, you must nowe and then sprinkle the Egges a little with water, and wet them least by the extreame heate they ware drie and able, speicallie the Egges of Turkeies and Hennes. Whensoever you meane to make cleane their nestes, you must take up the Egges, and lay them tenderly in some little Basket, and so laye them speedily againe in the cleane nest: neere to the place where the Hen sittes, you must sette water, and meate, that they may beeter keepe their Nestes, and that by their long absence the Egges ware not colde. And although the Henne doth alwaies turne her Egges, yet it behooveth you when she is from the nest to turne them softlie with your handes, that by receaving a like warmth, they may the sooner bee readie. And if the have happenned to bruste any of them with her feete, you must presently remoove them. At the nineteenth day, you must look dilligently whether the Chickins doe iobbe the shell with their billes, hearken whether they peepe: for many times by reason of the hardeness of the shell they cannot come foorth, and therefore you must helpe them out with your handes, and put them to the Henne, and this you must doe no longer then three daies: for the egges that after one and twentie daies make no noise, have nothing in them, and therefore you must cast them away, that the Henne loose not her labour. Uppon the twentieth day, if you sturre the egges, you shall here the Chickin, from that time beginne the feathers, the Chicken lying so, as the read
resteth uppon the right foote, and the right wing lieth uppon the head, the yolke vanishing by little and little away. You must not take the chickins away as they be hatcht, but suffer them to remain one whole day with the Henne in the Nest without meate or dinke, till such time as they all hatched. It is woonderfull, and yet the experience seene, that before they be suffered to eate they take no harme, though they fall from a great height.

[Care of Chicks]

The next day, when all the flocke is come foorth, Columella would have you but them under a Sive, and to perfume them with the smoke of peniriall, or to hang them in a basket in the smoke, which preserveth them (as it is thought) from the pippe, which many times destroith the poore Chicken: then must you put them into Coope with the Henne, and feede them at the first with Barly meale, sodden in water, and sprinkled with a little Wine. afterwardes, when they goe abroad, you must feele everie one of them, whether there remaine any of the meate they recieved the day before: for if their croppes be not empty, it betokenth want of digestion, and therefor you must kepe them fasting till all be digested. You must not suffer them to go farre from the Henne, but to keepe them about the coope, and to feed them till they ware strong with brused Barly, and Barly Meale: you must also take good heede, that they be not breathed upon by either Toade, Snake, or Euet, for the aire of such is do pestilent, as it by & by destroieth them al: which mischiefe is avoided by burning of Harts horne, Galb anum, or Womans haire, the smoke of all which preveteth this pestilence. You must sie beside that they lie warme: for they neither can suffer colde, nor too much heat, the feathers about their tailes must be puttled away, least with the hardning of their doung, their passages be stopped, which if it be, you must open dotly with a little quil: you must keepe them with the Henne for a mothes space, and after suffer them to goe at libertie.

[skipped a small section on treating the pip and getting chickens not to eat your grapes]

choice of poultry

As in all other cattell of the Countrey, so in these kindes the best are to be kepte, and the woorst either to bee solde, or to bee killed in the house, And therefore every yeere about the fall of the leade, when they cease to breede, you shall lessen their number, and put away the olde ones. Such as are above three yeeres, and such as are either unfruitfull, or not good bringers up of Chickins, but specially those that eate up either their owne Egges or their fellowes, or such after the Cockishe maner either crowe, or treade: to which number you shall also adde, such as were hatched after the tenth of June, which never proove to bee faire, but the Cocke as long as he is able to treade you may keepe: for you shall seldome meete with a good Cocke.
For fatting, the best those that have the skinnes of their neckes thicke and fattishe. The place where you meane to fat them, must be very warm, and of little light, because as both Varro, and other owne experience sheweth, the light, and their often stirring, keepeth them from being fatte: this must they be kept for five tha twentie daies, wherin they will bee fatte. Let them hand every one in his Basket or Cage by himself, which must have in it two holes, one to thrust out his necke at, the other to cast out his doung, that he may discharge himself, and let them strawed either with straw, or course hay: for the harder they lie, the sooner they fatte. Pull awaye besides their feathers from their heads, their wings, and their tailes, the one for avoiding of lice the other for binding their bodies. Teh meate that you give them, must be Barley meale, which mingled with water, be made in little pellettes, wherewith they will bee fat (as some thinke) in fourteene daies: but see that you give it them but moderately at the first, till they well digest it, after give it them in qualtitie, according as they digest it: and in any wise give them no newe, till you perceive, by feeling of their croppes that was (I think) the cause that old people make choise in their quitrentes of smoke Hennes, as of the best, as it appeereth by old Rentalles.


Let the front of your Henne house stande allwaies towardes the East, and to that coast let the doore open. Let the inner roomes bee well

furnished with Loftes and Lathers, and small windowes opening Eastward, at which your Poultry may flee out in the morning, and come into the roust at night. Looke that you make them close at night, and let the windows be well lettiesed for feare of vermine. Let you nestes and lodgings, both for laiyin and brooding, be orderly cast, and against every neste and rousting place, place steppes and boordes to come up by, makeing them as rough as may be, that the Hennes may take good holde when they fell uppe to them, and not by their over smoothnesse, bee forced to flutter and burte their Egges. It shall not bee amisse, if you pargette the house both within and without with good Plaster, whereby neither Weefell, or other hurtfull Vermine may enter in. Boorded floore are not for foule to rouste uppon, which almost all kinde of birdes refuse, because of the hurt that they receive by their doung, which if it cleave to their feete, breedeth the Goute, And therefore to roust upon, you must make them perches, which Columella would, should be make fowersquare: but it is better to have them round, so that they be not too smoothe for them to take hold by. Let the Perches reach from one side of the wall to the other, so as they stand from the floore at a foote in height, and two foote in distance one from the other: and thus have you the fashion of your Henne house.

[the yard]

The Court where they go, must be cleane from doung and durtinesse, not having water in it, saving in one place, and that must be very faire and cleane: for it be pudled, or durtie, it breedeth (as I saide before) the Pippe. To keep their water cleane, you make have faire earthen, or stone vessell, or Troughes of wood, covered in the toppe, in the which there must be several holes so bigge, as the head of the houle may easely enter: for if you should not keepe them thus covered, the Poultry would in their drinking defile and poison it with their doung. Their meat must be given them betimes in the morning for straying abroad, and a little before night, that they may come the timelier to they rest. Those that bee in the Coope, must (as Columella saieth) be fed thrise in the day: the others must be used to an acquantted voice, that they may come at the calling. The number must be well marked: for they soon dereive their keeper. Beside, you must have rounde about by the walles, good plentie of dust, wherein they may bathe and proyne themselves: for as the Swine delighteth to wallowe in durte, so doth this kinde to bathe and tumble in the duste. And this is (I thinke) almost all that is to be saide of Pullein.

notes: The section and added txt in the [ ] is my own
any edits are just to correct typing errors

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