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following, and kept it up through the winter.
The constant use of a memorandum-book would fix many of these interesting little facts. It would be useful to institute a competition between different breeds. An experiment with a lot of Chickens of distinct varieties, hatched on the same day, and reared in the same yard under the same treatment, would be instructive if the results were noted.
THE SPECKLED DORKINGS.
For those who wish to stock their poultry-yards with Fowls of the most desirable shape and size, clothed in rich and variegated plumage, and, not expecting perfection, are willing to overlook one or two other points, the Speckled Dorkings * are the breed to be at once selected. The Hens, in addition to their gay colours, have a large flat comb, which, when they are in high health, adds very much to their brilliant appearance, particularly if seen in bright sunshine. The Cocks are magnificent. The most gorgeous hues are frequently lavished upon them, which their great size and peculiarly square-built form display to the greatest advantage. The breeder and the farmer's wife behold with delight their short legs, their broad breast, the small proportion of offal, and the large quantity of good profitable flesh. When fatted and served at table, the master and mistress of the feast are satisfied. The Cockerels may be brought to considerable weights, and the flavour and appearance of their meat are inferior to
Those epicures who now and then like a Fowl killed by dislocation of the neck without bleeding (the more humane way) will find that this variety affords a tender and high-flavoured dish. The eggs are produced in reasonable abundance, and though not equal in size to those of Spanish Hens, may fairly be called large. They are not everlasting layers, but at due or convenient intervals manifest the desire of sitting. In this respect they are steady and good mothers when the little ones appear. They are better adapted than any other Fowl, except the Malay, to hatch superabundant Turkeys' eggs. Their size and bulk enable them to afford warmth and shelter to the Turkey-poults for a long period. For the same
* So called from a town in Surrey, which brought them into modern repute.
reason, spare Goose's eggs may be intrusted to them; though in this respect I have known the Pheasant-Malays to be equally successful.
With all these merits they are not found to be a profitable stock if kept thorough-bred and unmixed. Their powers seem to fail at an early age. They are also apt to pine away and die just at the point of reaching maturity. When the Pullet ought to begin to lay, and the Cockerel to crow and start his tail feathers, the comb, instead of enlarging and becoming coral red, shrinks and turns to a sickly pink or even to a leaden hue; and the bird, however well fed and warmly housed, dies a wasted mass of mere feathers, skin, and bone. It is vexing, after having reared a creature just to the point when it would be most valuable for the table or as stock, to find it" going light,” as the country people call it ; particularly as it is the finest specimens, that is, the most thorough-bred, that are destroyed by this malady. I do not believe that the most favourable circumstances would prevent the complaint, though unfavourable ones would aggravate it, but that it is inherent in the race and constitution of the birds. They appear at a certain epoch to be seized with consumption, exactly as, in some unhappy families, the sons and daughters are taken off all much at the same age. In the Speckled Dorkings the lungs seem to be the seat of disease, and it is to be regretted that no dissection was made in cases where I had the opportunity.
A gentleman who has kept this breed of Fowls for nearly twenty years, suggests that the foregoing remark ought to be taken as the exception, and not the rule ; of course it must, otherwise the whole race would have long since been extinct. Moreover, a degree of robustness and fecundity, which would be pronounced considerable in Curassows or Pheasants, may justly be called feeble in Cocks and Hens. The same word will have a different measure of force when applied to different objects. He says, that having been careful to introduce a fresh, well-selected Cock-bird or two into the walk, every second or third year at farthest, he
has found the race uniformly hardy, healthy, and prolific. The remedy is one of the best that can be devised; but the necessity for adopting it confirms, instead of disproving our opinion, that the Cocks of this breed are deficient in vigour. We are inclined to think that for persons who live in grassy and thick-wooded situations, long-legged Fowls are preferable to short-legged breeds like the Dorking, they being carried higher above the damps and dews, besides having a longer leverage of limb (if such an idea is not altogether fanciful) to assist them in scratching for the worms and insects with which such localities abound. For instance, the average success of many country-people in rearing young Turkeys, is greater, all along, than that with Chickens.
Such people as are careless about seeing the full complement of five toes, are advised to try the Surrey Fowls, a nearly allied breed, or, as some call it, an improvement of the Dorking. They are a very fine variety, and may be had genuine from any of the respectable London dealers. The Old Sussex, or Kent, are closely related to these, if not absolutely identical.
But the serious and fatal maladies of Fowls are difficult to trace to their cause, and still more difficult to cure by the application of any remedy. It is unnecessary to more than allude to the volumes of absurd, irrational and impracticable directions, that have been printed on the subject. Many illnesses which we suppose to be of natural and spontaneous origin are, there is no doubt, brought on by the neglect and cruelty of boys and servants. Our domesticated animals are dumb; they cannot tell their master what ill-treatment they have received in his absence; and they often severely, cruelly, suffer the displeasure of some ill-natured underling, who dare not show his temper in higher quarters. Many a fancied or real wrong has been expiated by the Horse, the Dog, the Cat, or the Poultry. Nay, there is no concealing it, and mothers should listen to it, and think of it, as a motive to keep their lips guarded and their brow serene—many a harsh word spoken in a
moment of irritation has been revenged in shakes and pinches upon the helpless infant.
In a communication with which I have been favoured by Dr. Bevan, the able author of the “ Honey Bee,” he says, “ Just about roosting-time one of the Cocks (of a very choice breed), was found apparently lifeless at the back-door, lying on its side as though it had been knocked down, which I really believe it had. I brought it to the fire and placed it in a basket of hay. It soon began to move, and became violently convulsed.” The worthy Doctor made a correct diagnosis of the malady, and so avoided the mortification of administering a long list of nostrums in vain. Some years ago we had a most beautiful Dorking Cock, the admiration of ourselves and of all who saw him. After a time he became ill, weak, and dejected; got worse, and died. Every ordinary comfort and care were afforded, but we did not try any of the extraordinary recipes that are current.
Bye-and-bye the discovery of cruel treatment to my pony elicited the fact that the stable-boy was in the habit of making the Cock“ drunk ;” a process which is effected by seizing the bird by the legs, and whirling him round and round in the air, till the centrifugal force shall have sent the blood to the head, and produced apoplexy. The amusement consists in seeing the Cock stagger and reel when placed upon the ground, and gradually recover, as it unsteadily walks off, “ Tipsy Hen” is an agreeable variation of the sport. The cook had seen and was indignant; but the lad's mother, when he entered my service, had, like the enchantress of romance, given her son a word
To the angry threat of the cook that she would tell of the atrocity, it was replied, “ If you do, I will tell that every time it is your Sunday out, you go to see the little boy you had two years ago." Cook was thunderstruck at the mention of her misfortune," and was tongue-tied. And so the machinery of households goes on.
I have subsequently found that in all cases of suspicious