Chicken Keeping 100 Years Ago

I’ve always been interested in how things used to be done, that wonderful TV series about the Victorian Kitchen Garden fascinated me and some of my old gardening books contain advice as relevant today as when they were written.

It’s a window into a different world, a world where people had time if little money as against today’s world where few have time and even the poor are rich by the standards of 100 years ago.

Anyway, I found a web site selling copies of American poultry keeping books from the turn of the century and I couldn’t resist. Being electronic copies, I didn’t have to wait more than a few minutes whilst they downloaded.

Unlike some of my old gardening books where chemicals were the latest thing and anything that moved had to sprayed out of existence, these chicken keeping books are organic in nature. They just hadn’t invented the chemicals, nobody could even imagine genetic modification.

These are books written for an age where you didn’t look on the internet for a chicken coop, you built one to suit your needs and no power tools either! I love the way the authors use language as well, so much more formal than today. This quote from Making a Poultry House will give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

While no one style of hen house can meet all the conditions for all localities, almost any good model may be adapted to almost any locality, or at least suggest adaptable features.
The descriptions of houses that have been adapted as here given may easily suggest other modifications.

The full collection consists of five volumes and I got two bonus downloads as well. These are:

THE PRACTICAL POULTRY KEEPER – By Lewis Wright – 1904 – 344 pages.

This 344 page publication was considered one of the most in-depth and comprehensive guides to successful backyard chicken & poultry keeping. It covers everything you could want to know from hatching to dispatching although we have much easier ways of dealing with pests like worms and mites nowadays.

200 EGGS PER YEAR PER HEN: HOW TO GET THEM – By Edgar Warren – 1912 – 104 pages.

Of course this isn’t a huge level of production by today’s standards but it’s still got valuable suggestions and methods for maximising production of value to the modern day small scale poultry keeper.

POULTRY APPLIANCES & HANDICRAFT – By George B. Fiske – 1902 – 136 pages.

How to make and use time saving chicken keeping & management devices to ensure you’re chickens require as little of your time as possible. Some of the ideas are a bit Heath Robinson, but all the more fascinating for that.

clockwork chicken feeder


This was the book for building a poultry house in its day. Still has some valid points for today, especially if you’re looking to build a hen house on a budget

POULTRY HOUSES & FIXTURES – Fully Illustrated. The Reliable Poultry Journal Pub. Co. 1919 – 116 pages

Very much a ‘how to’ book for the reasonably capable amateur. Here’s a quote from the introduction:

As the completed work now stands we believe that it meets the requirements of practical poultry keepers to a degree unequalled by any similar publication.
It contains complete and thoroughly tested plans for each type of house that is likely to be required for the use of fowls

There’s more information and detail on the Chicken Keeping Masters web site.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
4 comments on “Chicken Keeping 100 Years Ago
  1. Alison Hill says:

    Interesting stuff John. Even for a non-chicken type.
    (Grocer’s apostrophe in fourth paragraph though – sorry, can’t help it.)

  2. John says:

    Thanks Alison – now Val’s picking on every diary entry wot I rote šŸ™‚

    I will now go and kick myself!

  3. Just read the latest newsletter, loved it especially the happy christmas. I dont care about being politicly correct I love christmas, its my holiday so HAPPY CRISTMAS to you and Val hope you enjoy Grannie Annies turkey.

  4. vicky pring says:

    hi there, we live in a victorian house and whilst digging the garden we found an old porcelain has been suggested that it could have been made for a baby to play with or to make hens lay eggs.i would be grateful if anyone knows about this(my little girl wants to take it to school,for show and share!)thank you

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