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Hens For More Eggs

( Originally Published 1915 )

Aim.—To learn how to breed hens for more eggs.

Preparation.—The average American hen lays less than 80 eggs in one year. Five hundred hens from different countries, but all entered and kept for the year in the North American egg-laying contest at Engelside, near Philadelphia, averaged over 170 eggs each in one year. These hens were bred to lay more eggs. The champion hen of America, in the Oregon contest, laid 303 eggs. She, too, was bred to lay. Mr. Tom Barron, of England, was one of the first to do scientific breeding for more eggs, and his hens led in each of the four great American contests. From these facts, do you conclude that there is anything in breeding for more eggs? How do you think it is done? How do you think Tom Barron handles his hens? One more egg from each hen would add something like $4,000,000 to the egg values of the American poultry raisers each year. The income from eggs now equals the income from the gold and silver mines combined. Can we double it without increasing the number of laying hens? Is breeding hens for more eggs worth while? Would you like to learn how to breed hens for more eggs?

Presentation.—Before we begin the study of how to breed hens for more eggs, there are certain things which we should have in mind. One is that the breeder can be much surer of what he is doing if he is a master of the laws of breeding, especially the law of averages, the law of hybrids, the law of reversion, and the theory of mutants.

Another thing which we should bear in mind is the fact that a hen bred to lay more eggs may not be able to do so because of poor housing, poor care, or poor feeding; therefore the breeder should be master of housing, care, and feeding, but of these we must learn in other lessons.

The third thing which we should know is that a hen is born with all of the embryo eggs that she can ever have. She probably has more than she will ever lay, but hens differ very much in the number that we can get them to lay the first or second year. What would be the advantage of having hens that laid most of their eggs the first and second years? The fourth thing to remember is the fact that the maximum profits on a hen laying eggs to sell in the market may he obtained by the end of her first year of laying. If she is a very good layer, it pays to keep her the second year for eggs to set.

A fifth fact to bear in mind is the fact that a hen will lay more eggs, the eggs will be better for food and keep longer if the male bird does not run with the hen. And a sixth fact to remember is that man has developed hens for different purposes. The Asiatic—Langshans, Brahmas and Cochins—were bred to develop meat. The Mediterranean—Spanish, Red Caps, Leghorns, Hamburgs, and others—were bred to lay large numbers of eggs but not necessarily large eggs. Some States require thirteen small eggs to make a dozen. The Americans, Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Buckeyes, Wyandottes and others, were bred for both meat and eggs. These double-purpose hens have been leading in some of the egg-laying contests for both number and number of pounds of eggs laid in a year. The last and seventh fact which we need for our lesson on how to breed hens for more eggs, is the fact that different markets not only demand different sized eggs but may demand different colored eggs.

Certainly a man starting to breed hens for more eggs should start with stock known to be bred in the past for laying a reasonable number of reasonably fair-sized and right-colored eggs for the market. Having these hens, how may he determine which are the heavy layers and which the light layers? That is the problem the first year. During the year which he takes to learn this he may sell infertile eggs in the market. Why does he not care to set the eggs?

The trap-nest is the device in-vented for determining which are heavy and which light layers. (Teacher have present and explain the trap-nest, Figs. 141 and 142.)

Comparison.—Compare the trap-nest method with the method commonly used in the district. Compare the buying of male birds from egg strains.

Generalization.—There are two methods of breeding, first the trap-nesting, and second, using the male birds from trap-nested stock.

Application.—Read to learn if there be a still better method. Visit a poultry plant where the hens are being trap-nested. Or, better, take charge of part of the poultry flock at home for a home project and trap-nest hens so as to breed for more eggs.

Aim.—To teach the sources and uses of nitrogen in plant growth.

Preparation.—Why do boys and girls eat? Yes, in order to grow. Do you think that plants have to have food in order to grow? Yes, they do, but their food is somewhat different from ours. Plants need some ten or thirteen elements of which you are to learn when you study chemistry. Now it will be sufficient for me to tell you that among these elements is one called nitrogen, and of this we are to learn where plants get it and what they do with it.

Presentation.—Notice the air about you. It is called a gas. But it is a mixture of two or more gases. Four-fifths of the air is nitrogen, and yet much of the hard work of your father and mother is done in order to get food containing enough nitrogen. Nitrogen makes muscle. We may get it from lean meat or from plants, especially the legumes. If plants contain it, and if we let the plant decay in the soil, the next plant living in that soil may take up that nitrogen for its food. In what forms do farmers haul old decaying plant stems back to the field? Yes, in barn-yard manure and from the compost heaps. But that does not give us enough nitrogen to make large crops on all of the fields. So I must tell you of some wonderful little plants called bacteria. These bacteria that I am to tell you about live near or on the roots of plants whose seeds are in pods. What plants have seeds in pods? Yes, beans, peas, clovers, alfalfa, vetch, some trees and shrubs, etc. These little bacteria are so small that you cannot see one of them without a very good microscope, but you can see many of them clustered together. Here (teacher showing nodules) are some of the clusters. Each cluster is called a nodule and contains many thousands of bacteria. Now these little plants have the peculiar and very helpful power to take nitrogen from the air in the soil. You see the soil breathes much as we do. When a strong gust of wind comes the air is drawn out of the soil and then, when the wind slacks up, the air rushes back into the soil. This gives the soil frequent changes of air and from this air the bacteria take nitrogen, some of which they store up in their bodies and some of which they give to the surrounding plants. Even other kinds of plants which grow near may take some of the nitrogen from the bacteria, so that corn is better for having cowpeas growing in it and wheat for having clover growing in the wheat field. This nitrogen taken up by the plants gives them dark green leaves. Plants without nitrogen are apt to be yellow. Plants with plenty of nitrogen grow larger of leaf and stem and look stronger. If stock eat the leaves and stems they make muscle out of the nitrogen, and then, if we eat the meat, we get muscle. In that way the little bacteria really toil to lay up food for you and me.

There are a number of other sources of nitrogen. The farmer may use some of the commercial fertilizers such as sodium nitrate, nitrate of potash, ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate and others. But these are expensive. If the farmer is careful to conserve his barn-yard manure, much of the nitrogen is returned to the land.

Comparison.—Dig up clover, sweet clover, alfalfa, cowpeas, soy beans, garden peas, garden beans, peanuts or vetch, and compare the nodules. Which are the largest?

Generalization.—Nitrogen is muscle-making food. Plants get it from decaying plants or animals, from commercial fertilizers and from the air. If plants are getting nitrogen from the air, they have on their roots bacteria which form clusters called nodules.

Application.—Plant a square rod of alfalfa, vetch, soy beans, cow-peas, or other legume. Leave a path and plant another square rod with inoculated seed. Study the difference in the size of the nodules. Learn how farmers of the district inoculate their legumes.

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