Keep your hens busy and healthy and they will repay you for your efforts. In the morning give them enough small grain scattered in their litter to keep them interested. This gives them needed exercise and a good appetite for a good dinner at noon, which they will serve themselves from the hoppers, at night all they can eat of mixed grains. This with a little green food and plenty of fresh water will insure good returns.
The growing and conditioning of exhibition fowls is not as much of a secret as many would have us believe. It has been rightfully said that the conditioning of a prize winner should begin with its grandparents. A bird must, of course, have the proper breeding behind it in order to come close to standard requirements. Having this and being well grown, an exhibition fowl to be in good show condition must be in good health, well feathered and full of vitality.
While shape and color are governed mostly by breeding, improper care and feeding will affect condition and color of plumage and thus give the bird a handicap that could be avoided.
Chicks hatched from eggs laid by hens that possess vitality should have the vitality necessary to make a steady growth. It is an old, but true saying that: “well hatched is half grown.” A good chick is one that can be kept growing every day.
Exhibition is more or less of a strain on a bird and requires vitality to go through the show season and then be fit for the laying or breeding pen. Exercise is very essential. The best form of exercise comes through scratching for their feed. All scratch feeds should be buried in a deep, loose litter and not scattered around on a board door or a hard dirt yard. Make them dig for it.
It requires plenty of protein to make growth – flesh, bone and feathers – and it is a physical impossibility to put enough protein in a hard grain mixture, generally spoken of as scratch feed; yet a majority of beginners, and many who have been raising chickens for years, seem to think that a scratch feed ration will form a complete ration. Get that idea out of your head and keep it out, if you expect to get the best results. While a good scratch feed will contain about ten per cent of protein, this is not enough and you must furnish the balance in some other manner and the best form is through a good mash feed and green vegetable feeds. Plants store up a great deal of energy from the sun’s rays. Also the sun takes away that which it gives, and any vegetable dried in the sun will lose a great deal of that energy. Therefore, shaded dried green food for Winter feeding is much better. Also the leaf plant will furnish more than will the root. Clover and alfalfa leaves will furnish more protein and nourishment than will such roots as mangels, turnips, etc.
There are many good dried mash feeds on the market and they are better and cheaper than anything you can mix at home because they contain a larger variety of ingredients and are better mixed than you can mix by hand. D. K. Hale
The arrival of hot weather from June to October calls for special attention in the handling and management of Bantams. You should bear in mind that Bantams cannot be expected to thrive in the blaze of the sunshine no more than they can in the very cold weather. It is during the extreme hot and the cold weather that Bantams need special attention to prevent them from getting sickness. During the hot summer months the aim of the Bantam fancier should be to keep the Bantams cool. The heavily feathered birds such as the Cochins must endure a great deal of suffering if proper care is not given them. Foods used during this period should be of a cooling nature and by all means do not overfeed. If your runs are not naturally shaded they should then be provided with a covering that will keep out the hot rays of the sun. Often where no shade is provided the birds seek shelter in the roosting houses and this should be avoided for the Bantams become inactive with the lack of exercise. Bantams are often bred and reared late in the season and for that reason the breeders must be given first class attention by being kept cool and busy. Where Bantams are run on large ranges and the run cannot very well be covered and bushes and trees are lacking, I have found that fences three by six feet are placed in various spots of the run help to provide plenty of shade. You will find they throw off a good shady plot and the Bantams will spend a good deal of their time back of them. Back of each of these screens should be placed a water vessel and fresh water supplied twice per day. Where Bantams cannot get to a dust bath it should be provided and kept in good condition.
The little chicks and especially those that are intended for exhibition must be well protected from the sun otherwise the plumage will suffer. The early hatched birds that are putting on their cockerel and pullet plumage will do best if provided with the coolest part of the yard. The males should be run separately in small runs and the females run four or five together. Your chance of winning at the early fall shows depends on the care you have given them to protect them from the sun and rain. By all means do not prevent the fresh air from getting at your birds at all times. The baby chicks and mother should always be well protected from the sun. Have the backs of the coops facing the sun and it will throw enough shade to keep the little fellows cool. In shade place the food and water supply. To insure the runs to be in good condition they should be spaded up twice per week, raked and watered. I have seen runs where the ground was so hard it was cracked and to be sure the fancier had trouble with lame Bantams. I have found that a canned goods box placed in the run with the back to the sun is a good place to place the water vessel to keep it cool. The box is large enough to allow three or four Bantams to drink at a time.
The roosting quarters should be provided with good ventilation but the draft omitted. During the day the sunshine should be allowed to shine in at all parts of the interior. It is a disease germ destroyer and prevents dampness. The roosting quarters should be whitewashed every month during the hot weather and a weekly spraying with a good disinfectant. The whitewashing and spraying should be done in the morning on a sunshiny day so that it will be dry by evening.
You will find that during the hot weather is the time your birds will be bothered with lice the most and the motto of every Bantam fancier should be “Cleanliness”. The coops should be cleaned weekly, that is the floors and new covering provided. Even if you have already examined the coops and birds and found them free from lice, do not take it for granted that they will remain that way all summer unless you give them the proper attention every day. Watch the Bantams and when necessary dust them with a good insect powder (one suggestion would be food grade D.E.). A little can also be added to the dust bath each day.
To be successful with Bantams and poultry in general you must give them the proper attention 365 days per year. You must know or find out their requirements for each season of the year and take care of them accordingly. Let’s raise more and better Bantams. George Fitterer