« FöregåendeFortsätt »
being very thick at both ends, and yet tapering off a little at each. They are by no means good mothers of families, even when they do sit, which they will not often condescend to do, proving very careless, and frequently trampling half their brood underfoot. But the inconveniences of this habit are easily obviated by causing the eggs to be hatched by some more motherly Hen.
It has been noticed that this variety of Fowl frequently loses nearly all the feathers on the body, besides the usual quantity on the neck, wings, and tail ; and if they moult late, and the weather is severe, they feel it much. Nothing else can reasonably be expected to take place with
everlasting layer.” It often happens to the Guineafowl ; and the reason of it is plain. If the system of a bird is exhausted by the unremitting production of eggs, it cannot contain within itself the wherewithal to supply the growth of feathers. The stream that will fill but one channel cannot be made to keep two at high-water mark; and therefore Mr. Leonard Barber justly observes, “ With regard to an anxiety about their constant laying, in my opinion nature ought not to be forced, as it requires a rest. But some people think it cannot be right if their Hens do not lay every day ; and I would advise such to have some early spring Chickens, which would begin laying in the autumn and continue mostly through the winter, and their old Hens would commence in the spring.”
I have had Hens laying every day, but never wish them to continue the practice, as nine times out of ten they suffer afterwards.”—H. H.
It is doubtful whether they are even yet thoroughly acclimatised, for continued frost at any time much injures their combs ; frequently causing mortification in the end, which has terminated in death. A warm poultry-house, high feeding, and care that the birds do not remain too long exposed to severe weather, are the best means of preventing this disfigurement.
Some birds are occasionally produced handsomely
streaked with red on the hackle and back.
This is no proof of bad breeding if other points are right. On the contrary, it is as near as may be the sort which Columella's relation might have kept in Spain,* at the time when he was improving the native sheep by the importation of rams from Morocco eighteen hundred years ago.
The Chicks are large, as would be expected from such eggs, entirely shining black, except a pinafore of white on the breast, and a slight sprinkling under the chin, with sometimes also a little white round the beak and eyes ; legs and feet black. They do not get perfectly feathered till they are three parts grown ; and therefore, to have these birds come to perfection in this country, where the summers are so much shorter than in their native climate, it is necessary to have them hatched early in spring, so that they may get well covered with plumage before the cold rains of autumn.
The black, however, is not the only valuable race of Spanish Fowl, although certain metropolitan dealers, who have no right to offer an opinion, if they do not choose to give information on the subject, presume to affirm that there can be no such breed as speckled Spanish, it being characteristic of that breed to be perfectly black. But Mr. Swainson justly complains of the deficiencies and the conduct of this class of people ; and it is surprising that, since the establishment of the Zoological Society, they have not seen both the impolicy and the impracticability of withholding information on natural history from the public; for I cannot suppose the folly of any attempt to mislead. “Our first idea was to have drawn up (in the volume on Birds) as complete a catalogue as possible of all such foreign birds as were to be met with in our public or private menageries, distinguishing such as were known to have bred in confinement, and had consequently become
* “ M. Columella patruus meus acris vir ingenii, atque illustris agricola.”_Lib. vii. c. 2.
domesticated, from such as were merely acclimated, or accustomed to our climate. This, without doubt, would have been the most desirable plan of proceeding, and would have given that information to the lovers of aviaries, which is now so much wanted; but further inquiry showed us the utter impossibility of doing this, from the total absence of the necessary materials. It has not been heretofore the custom of recording, in print, information of this nature. Those persons whose trade lies in the buying and selling of living birds, and of which there are several in London, are not persons capable of writing upon such matters, even had they the inclination to reveal what they no doubt consider the secrets of their craft. The Zoological Society, on the other hand, by embracing within its objects the whole animal kingdom, has hitherto found itself so occupied, and its attentions so distracted by the multiplicity of its concerns, and the paucity of its working members, that nothing worth mentioning has been communicated to the public on this interesting subject. However desirable, therefore, such an exposition as we at first contemplated would be, it never can be carried into execution, unless by the powerful and united assistance of those who direct their time and attention almost exclusively to the rearing and
management of birds.”--Animals in Menageries, Part II. “ Birds,” pp. 147, 148.
A major in the British army, in whose opinion as a naturalist and a man of education we have as great confidence as in that of any mere fowl-dealer, states, “ There are two varieties of Spanish Fowl, the Black, and the Grey, or Speckled, the latter being of a slaty grey with white legs. In Spain there must be many varieties of everlasting layers, for I have seen a lot abroad that differed widely in appearance, single combs, double combs, and great variety of colour."
Mr. Barber says, “Being of opinion that our breed of Fowls required improvement, and having heard from a Spanish friend that they had a very fine breed in the part of Spain he came from, which were chiefly white or speckled,
I last year (1846) got him to procure me some, and finding that they were such excellent layers, and that they were so much admired by every one who saw them, I got another importation about a month since (Nov. 6th, 1847), amongst which there are three speckled black and white, in shape and carriage very much like the spangled Hamburgh (except being much longer in the leg), having top-knots and a tuft of feathers hanging under the throats, and white legs. The others are pure white, in shape and carriage exactly like the black Spanish, only wanting the white cheek-patch. They are much larger and broader than any of the black I have ever seen, and they are very fine in the neighbourhood of London. The Cock that came with the first lot is entirely black, and long in the legs, but without the white cheek-patch. In my opinion they are the most useful and orn amental breed of Fowls both for the breeder and amateur. are equal in size and number to those of the black Spanish. Some of mine last year weighed three, and some four ounces each. They appear very healthy and hardy. My Fowls came from the neighbourhood of Xeres de la Frontera, in Andalusia, about twenty-five miles from Cadiz. They have cost me about 108. each, including freight, duty, and expense of clearing.
Another gentleman says, “I have a few chickens out, from Mr. Barber's Andalusian Hens, some of which seem to be the true old black Spanish, and others of a grisly white, one of which has evident signs of a large future muff, but not the slightest semblance of a top-knot at present. They are without exception the very largest and finest Chicks I ever saw, coming as they do out of eggs fine certainly, but which do not exceed many of my own.”-H. H.
Some of these birds are of a blue or grey, or slaty colour. Their growth is so rapid, and their eventual size so large, that they are remarkably slow in obtaining their feathers. Although well covered with down when first hatched, they look almost naked when half-grown, and
should therefore be hatched as early in the spring as possible.
The cross between the Pheasant Malay and the Spanish produces a particularly handsome Fowl, and probably very much resembling the old Hispanic type.
A black Spanish Cock has been taught to visit the sill of his master's bed-room window every morning, and continue crowing till he was rewarded with a piece of bread.
Mr. Barber subsequently adds, “ The tufted Fowls I had from Spain have not proved such good layers as the speckled single-combed. I have kept a correct account this season (1848) of the number of eggs I have had from them, and it amounts to above 1400, and they are still (Sept. 11th) laying. I began the season with twentythree Hens. One has reared a brood of Chickens. Two died early in the season. This is a much larger number than I have ever had from any of the Black Spanish I have kept. There is one great imperfection in these Fowls, which I think it right to mention, and that is, I have lost nine from laying, or rather, attempting to lay, soft eggs, and they have all been Hens which laid the largest eggs. However, I am inclined to think this is in a great measure owing to the confined space in which they are kept. There is no doubt of it, and that the evil would cease were the Hens indulged with a more extended range, where they could help themselves to chalky earth, lime-rubbish, and other natural medicines that are perhaps unsuspected by us.
We cannot too much insist upon the value of early Pullets for laying purposes in the autumn and winter after they are hatched. No Fowls can surpass the Spanish in this respect. A correspondent (J. S. W.) believes that they are also more precocious in their constitution, and that, in consequence, the Pullets lay at an earlier age than those of other breeds. He had two Black Spanish Pullets which were hatched on the 2nd of February, and commenced laying on the 18th and 19th of the July