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THE COCHIN-CHINA FOWL.
WHETHER the breed now under consideration did really come from Cochin-China or not, is probably known only to the party who imported them, if to him. But from whatever Oriental region derived, it is a most valuable variety, and the only fear is that statements of its merits have been set forth so highly exaggerated, that they must lead to disappointment, and cause the breed to be as much undeservedly underrated, as it had been before foolishly extolled.
The size and weight ascribed to them are enormous. To give an idea of their height and magnitude they have been styled the Ostrich Fowl. It is an old, but very bad system of giving names, to affix that of some other creature, indicating certain supposed qualities; for such titles are apt to induce notions of relationship, or hybridity, which are not easily dislodged from the minds of many people. China Fowls have been averred in the Agricultural Gazette (Sept. 30, 1848) to weigh, the male birds from 12 to 15lbs., the hens from 9 to 10lbs. ; and Mr. J.J. Nolan, of Bachelors' Walk, Dublin, was stated to have the very finest breed extant, that is, of course, attaining those weights. They certainly must be very fine indeed, if the above account is not fabulous ; for the weights specified are those of respectable Turkies, not of Fowls. My own Cochin-China Fowls, obtained from the Messrs. Baker, and now about eighteen months old, weigh, the Cock, 6lbs. 5 oz., the Hen, 4lbs. 6 oz. Some allowance must be made for the circumstance that both are moulting, and that the Hen has laid fairly during the season, and has not yet (Oct. 4) relinquished the charge of her second brood of Chíckens. She laid exactly three dozen eggs in the spring, and then sat. After rearing her chicks admirably, she again laid a
smaller number of eggs, and sat. The best Cockerel and Pullet of the brood hatched April 5th, and which have had only ordinary care and feeding bestowed upon them, now (Oct. 4) weigh 5lbs. 8oz., and 3lbs. 13oz., respectively.
Wishing to know what truth there was in the unauthentic statement that there were such things as Cocks weighing 15lbs., and Hens 10lbs., I applied to Mr. Nolan for further information, and not having received any reply, conclude that he is not in a position to supply such birds to his customers ;-a supposition which has been confirmed by a private letter from a gentleman then staying in the neighbourhood of Dublin.
But the reader will be better able to judge what weights Fowls may be reasonably expected to attain, after the inspection of the following lists of the live weights of various poultry, with which I have been obligingly favoured. But as the birds are generally out of condition, in consequence of their being mostly now on the moult, and also from the late wet season, the weights are less than they would be under more favourable circumstances.
One list (H. H.) gives
6 Black Polish Cock, three years old
Among these, the Malay Hen was moulting, and not up to her usual weight by nearly a pound. It will be observed that there is a great relative difference between the Pullets and the grown Hens of the Polish breed. All the Polish increase much in size and beauty the second moult.'
Another list, kindly furnished by Mr. Alfred Whitaker, gives
“ Pheasant Malay Cocks, two years old (average)
Ditto Cockerel, five months old
LBS. . 16
“The Dorkings belong to a neighbour, and are very fine
The Hens, it will be seen, approach nearer to the weight of the Cocks than is the case with the Pheasant Malays. The Spanish Hen is about to moult, and is rather underweight."
Our own poultry-yard furnishes these :-
12 13 White China Goose
11 13 Common China Goose, Cynöides, six years old 10 10 Cochin-China Cock, about sixteen months old, moulting 6 5 Ditto Hen
6 Malay Cock
6 14 Ditto Hen
4 Pheasant-Malay Cock
5 7 Ditto Malay Hen, moulting Game Cockerel, about five months old
oz. 0 6
3 2 3 2 2 2 2 2 2
Golden Hamburgh Cockerel, just arrived from a long journey, about five months old
8 Ditto Pullet
4 Cochin-China Cockerel, six months old
14 Another ditto
13} Silver Hamburgh Cockerel, after travelling, about five months old
1 Ditto Pullet ditto ditto
8 Black Polish Hen, moulting
0 Golden Hamburgh, ditto
3 Andalusian Cockerel, four months old
8 Ditto Pullet ditto
64 Black Spanish Cockerel ditto
11 Ditto Pullet ditto
11 Silver Polish Cockerel, four months and a half old 141 Golden Poland Pullet, about five months old
8 White-crested Golden Poland Pullet, ditto.
It will appear from the foregoing, that for a Cock, of any breed, to reach 71 lbs., even live weight, he must be an unusually fine bird ; but this has to be doubled before we can rival those Cochin-China specimens, in whose existence some persons appear to believe. It has also been incorrectly asserted that “the disposition of the feathers on the back of the Cock's neck is reversed, these being turned upwards; the wing is jointed, so that the posterior half can, at pleasure, be doubled up, and brought forward between the anterior half and the body :" the only foundation for which absurdity is, that in some of the half-grown Cockerels, certain feathers, the wing coverts, curl forwards; but the curling disappears with the complete growth of the plumage. But the long bow is stretched even yet a little further; they sometimes lay two, and even three Eggs a day, and that within a few seconds of each other. No doubt of it; however physiologically improbable the performance of such a feat may be. And an American newspaper kindly informs us how other Hens may be taught to follow so good an example. “ A cute Yankee has invented a nest, in the bottom of which there is a kind of trap-door, through which the Egg, when laid, immediately drops; and the
Hen, looking round and perceiving none, soon lays another !”
Perhaps,” writes my correspondent from Ireland, “Mr. Nolan would not object to obtain a certificate of the qualities of his Cochin-China Fowls, from some gentleman who has bred them.” One thing is clear. The weights of English specimens do not approach those assigned to the Irish birds. But, in justice to the Messrs. Baker, I must believe that they have supplied the genuine variety. The portraits given in Mr. Richardson's Pamphlet on Domestic Fowl, are, we are led to infer, taken from Mr. Nolan's birds, though it is not so stated explicitly; and however rudely executed, they still are striking likenesses of the birds sent out by Baker, the only difference lying in their alleged weight. As to the charge that Malays are often called, and sold to the uninitiated, as Cochin-China, it is unnecessary to observe further than that, besides the great difference in the birds themselves, there is no motive for the cheat; fine specimens of the one fetching as high prices as the other. Firstrate Malays are exceedingly dear in London. I have heard of as much as 51. being asked for a superior Cock; but, then, he was to be “ as big as a donkey."
The sequel, however, to the romance of the 10lb. Hens and the 15lb. Cocks, is, that on the 14th of October, a complaint is published: "I was induced by the article from your correspondent, ‘S. F.,' in a late paper, to send a competent person to Dublin, for the purpose of procuring a pair of Fowls of this breed, and, to my chagrin, I find they are not near so good as those I already possess from Messrs. Baker, Beaufort-row, Chelsea. Had the information appeared as a paid advertisement I should not complain." The Editor states that he publishes this complaint, just to remind correspondents of their responsibility when undertaking the work of advice; a responsibility, we take the liberty of adding, which, if a connection could be proved between the anonymous romancer and the Fowl-dealer, might lead to a charge of