Archive for the ‘Farming’ Category

Thoughts on chicken breeds from 1884

February 2nd, 2017 by Susan Odom

So I spent some time tonight reading about chicken breeds or varieties in a lovely,thorough and lengthy at 1234 pages, book from 1884 called, “The People’s Farm and Stock Cyclopedia” by Waldo F. Brown. The chapter on chickens certainly warrants a second, third and more readings, but I did glean a few things this evening.

I have a mixed flock, which perhaps I am tiring a bit of because I am observing and beginning to real understand the differences in the chicken breeds. I’ve been keeping chickens now for about six years and at last I am honing in on what I want from my flock. ┬áLast summer I had some chicks hatch out her for the first time. The father is a Buff Cochin and the mother is a Light Brahma. This book suggests crossing Light Brahma hens with Partridge Cochin cocks (I do appreciate that they use the real word for an intact male chicken, rooster is a Victorian euphemism) to obtain a large fowl for meat purposes. So that peaked my interest. Of course my cross was with a Buff Cochin and not a Partridge Cochin. As an aside I do have a Partridge Cochin hen.

But the author goes on to say that it is only the first cross that is desirable to produce a large fowl. It states that if one allows “..the half-breed fowls to breed together the stock will rapidly degenerate.” It goes on with this good advice, “Caponize the cockerels and fatten the pullets for hte fall and winter markets, when they will bring a good price.” I don’t know how to caponize and I do not understand that entire process.

I wondered if my mixed chicken breeds would produce strong young. This book says no. This may help me decide what to do with those birds who I call my ‘Brochins’. My funny way of mixing Brahma and Cochin.

It also states that the Buff Cochin is a favorite among the chicken fanciers. But they are not popular among farmers because they are poor layers. Well I do keep a few birds just because they are fancy. But as the years go by, I become more and more a farmer. My selection of chicken breeds is starting to reflect that.

He notes that all the other Cochin varieties are good layers, except for the Buff. Now I wonder how different the Buff Cochin is in 2017 compared to the 1884 Buff Cochin. Breeds evolve and change.

He states the Buff is a docile bird, which I can confirm in my barnyard observations. And this lovely quote, gives me something to think about as I close this post; again regarding the Buff Cochin, “They are very quiet and docile, and as sitters and mothers can not be excelled by any thing that wears chicken feathers.” I value quite highly chicken breeds that can successfully reproduce on their own.

Illustrations of chicken breeds from 1884

Illustrations of heritage breed chickens from an 1884 farming manual.


Farm manual from 1885 title page, includes chicken breeds and much more

Title page of the 1884 farm manual, “The People’s Farm and Stock Cyclopedia”