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death, the surest way of coming at the truth, and preventing further malpractices, is to hold a formal inquest, with a post-mortem examination ; and after a deliberate investigation to punish firmly, by rebuke or dismissal, any outrage on the laws of humanity.
Well might Aldrovandi caution his poultry-loving readers :-“Qui itaque factum (fructum ?) ex his avibus percipere volet, fidum in primis aliquem eligat oportet. Nisi enim, qui curam habet Gallinarum, fidem domino servet, nullus ornithonis quæstus vincet impensas. Ejusmodi altor, qui nempe in Gallinarium scandit, et ova colligit, et quæ incubantur, manibus versat, Gallinarius curator, vel custos rectè dicetur.” “Therefore, he who wants to enjoy a profit from these birds ought, in the first place, to select some faithful body. For, unless he who has the care of the Hens remains honest towards his lord, the gain will not cover the expenses. An attendant of this sort, namely, who climbs into the hen-house, and col. lects the eggs, and turns by hand those which are incubated, will rightly be called the Hen-keeper, or guardian.'
As to the casualties arising from the neglect or ill-temper of servants, every farmer who has live stock to be tended, has had abundant proofs. There is a peculiar idiosyncracy in some individuals, which fits them to take charge of certain animals. Some female servants in the country have quite a passion for bringing up poultry, and by their care and kindness will rescue apparently moribund Chickens and Turkeys from the threatening jaws of death. A groom or stable-man almost always despises poultry. A gardener thinks it beneath him to look after them. A clever little girl often makes an excellent poultry-tender : boys are as michievous and untrustworthy as monkeys. When there is anything in hand requiring peculiar watchfulness, it is not a bad plan, if possible, to attend to it one's self.
Pure Dorking Hens are sometimes barren. I had one, a perfect model to the eye, short, square, compact, large, with plumage, comb, and weight all that could be wished
Pullet that a fancier would have chosen to perpetuate the breed. But she never laid, nor showed any disposition to sit, and in consequence of her uselessness, at about two years old was brought to table. The carving-knife soon demonstrated a mal-formation of the back and side bones, and showed that the models of the breeder may sometimes be too highly finished. The Cocks, too, with all their outward trappings and sturdy build, I must suspect to be deficient in vigour. If many Hens are allowed to run with them, clear eggs will disappoint those who want large broods of chickens. Three, or at most four, Hens to a Cock will give the most successful results. These and a few other apparently trifling facts seem to show that with the Speckled Dorkings (a variety of great antiquity) the art of breeding has arrived at its limits. That it has limits is well known to persons of practical experience. Sir J. S. Sebright says “I have tried many experiments of breeding in-and-in" (for the sake of developing particular properties) upon Dogs, Fowls, and Pigeons : the Dogs became, from strong Spaniels, weak and diminutive lap-dogs; the Fowls became long in the legs, small in the body, and bad breeders.”
“ There are a great many sorts of fancy Pigeons; each variety has some particular property, which constitutes its supposed value, and which the amateurs increase as much as possible, both by breeding in-and-in, and by selection, until the particular property is made to predominate to such a degree, in some of the more refined sorts, that they cannot exist without the greatest care, and are incapable of rearing their young without the assistance of other Pigeons kept for that purpose. The Art of Improving the Breeds of Domestic Animals,
As mothers, an objection to the Dorkings, is that they are too heavy and clumsy to rear the chicks of
smaller and more delicate bird than themselves. Pheasants, Partridges, Bantams, Guinea-fowl, are trampled under
foot and crushed, if in the least weakly. "The Hen, in her affectionate industry in scratching for grubs, kicks her lesser nurselings right and left, and leaves them sprawling on their backs. Before they are a month old, half of them will be muddled to death with this rough kindness. In spite of these drawbacks, the Dorkings are still in high favour ; but a cross is found to be more profitable than the true breed. A showy, energetic Game-cock, with Dorking Hens, produces chickens in size and beauty little inferior to their maternal parentage, and much more robust. Everybody knows their peculiarity in having a supernumerary toe on each foot. This characteristic almost always disappears with the first cross, but it is a point which can very well be spared without much disadvantage. In other respects the appearance of the newly-hatched chicks is scarcely altered. The eggs of the Dorking Hens are large, pure white, very much rounded, and nearly equal in size at each end. The chicks are brownish yel. low, with a broad brown stripe down the middle of the back, and a narrower one on each side ; feet and legs yellow.
Of this breed Mr. Alfred Whitaker thus expresses his opinion :-"I agree
with you fully as to the usefulness of this description of Poultry, but I do not view them exactly through the same medium as to their beauty. Compared with the Pheasant-Malays, they are short-necked, and there is no arch or crest to the neck.
Their colours vary from a streaked grey to a mottled or spotted brown and white.
A neighbour here has some of the finest I ever saw; the Cocks with very full double combs, and the Hens generally with reddish-brown spots on a white ground. To my eye the Cocks look heavy and stupid, neither the head nor the tail being usually carried in an erect position, or with any semblance of spirit. As regards size they are magnificent. I saw one on my friend's dinner-table three days since quite as large as an ordinary Hen Turkey; it was a Cockerel about seven months old. My experience of their laying and breeding qualities
agrees mainly with your statement, except that I should lay still stronger emphasis on their fatal clumsiness as mothers, which I am inclined to think is aggravated by their extra toe behind, and the great length of their back toes. They frequently trample to death their chickens during the process of hatching, and in a small coop they demolish them at a fearful rate. I think they never should be cooped with their chickens : but a still safer course would be to hatch the eggs under a mother of a less rough physique, or perhaps by Cantelo's hydroincubator.” The only question is, how the Hen is to be employed when the sitting fit comes on, for they are most persevering sitters. I have successfully hatched both Turkeys and Geese under Dorking Hens. The latter will stand a great deal of trampling and kicking about without taking much harm from it. Mr. Whitaker continues, “ I have crossed the Dorkings with Pheasant-Malays. The first cross produces a fine bird, which is large, though not prolific; but if you were to cross the breed with each other, they dwindle to nothing. The doctrine of breeding is yet ill understood. I am disposed to think that, where you have a real variety, breeding in is the natural and best mode of procedure; but that, when you cross two thorough breeds, you have no guarantee that the cross breed will be good further than the first result.”
It is a question how the Speckled Dorkings were first introduced. Some maintain that the pure White Dorkings are the original breed with five toes, and that the Speckled Dorking is a recent and improved cross, by which the size was much increased, between the original White breed and the Malay, or some other large stock of poultry. From this opinion I must entirely dissent, on the ground of strong, though not absolutely conclusive, evidence to the contrary. It seems to me that Columella's favourite sort of Hen could not differ much from our Speckled Dorkings. He says, 6 Eæ sint rubicundæ vel fuscæ plumæ, nigrisque pennis.
Sint ergo matrices probi coloris, robusti corporis, quadratæ, pectorosæ,
magnis capitibus, rectis rutilisque cristulis. Generosissimæ creduntur quæ quinos habent digitos,” &c. “Let them be of a reddish or dark plumage, and with black wings. Let the breeding Hens, therefore be of a choice colour, a robust body, square built, full breasted, with large heads, with upright and bright red combs.
those are believed to be the best bred which have five toes.” Except that there is no mention of speckles (and he never describes minute markings) the whole description almost exactly tallies with our birds of the present day. Pliny's account agrees with this : “Gallinarum generositas spectatur cristá erectâ, interdum gemina: pennis nigris, ore rubicundo, digitis imparibus.” “Superiority of breed in Hens is denoted by an upright comb, sometimes double, black wings, ruddy visage, and an odd number of toes.” Lib. x. C. lxxvii. It appears that Columella had the White sort, but he rejected them; for he advises “ evitentur albæ ; quæ ferè cum sint molles ac minus vivaces, tum ne fecundæ quidem facilè reperiuntur.” “Let the white ones be avoided, for they are generally both tender and less vivacious, and also are not found to be prolific,” faults which are still attributed to them. I cannot, therefore avoid believing that from the robust dark-coloured, five-toed Fowl, white individuals have been from time to time produced and propagated, exactly as we see in other species of Gallinaceous birds that have long been in domestication-Pea-fowl, Turkeys, and Guinea-fowl, for instance; and as the white variety of these is mostly smaller and more delicate than birds of the normal plumage, so the White Dorkings are inferior in size, and perhaps in hardihood. I think also that there is no instance of any white species of Cocks and Hens having been found wild ; which is some argument that dark and gaudy colours are the hues originally characteristic of the genus.