Pages 961 through 990 of "The Poultry Book, Volume 3" apparently compiled and edited by Harrison Weir. Published in New York in 1905. Highly recommend checking it out on Google Books, not only because this text as it appears here lacks punctuation, but also because it lacks the excellent photographs and illustrations found in the original. A really invaluable resource for anyone with these birds.
Available on Goole Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=33tIAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA784&lpg=PA784&dq=silver+fire+houdan&source=bl&ots=jQqHga56St&sig=tXO7numFClcmut8LgmPCDmhWMfg&hl=en&sa=X&ei=l0qsT4DvJMPLgQev0vnLBA&ved=0CF0Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=silver%20fire%20houdan&f=false
Rev CE Petersen, Maine
THE origin of the Houdan is clouded in obscurity After years of careful research I can find no authentic information on the subject This is not to be wondered at as we find the same difficulty in tracing the origin of breeds that have come into existence long after the Houdan was even known by the name it now bears The origin of this name is well known as it is simply taken from a town in France bearing that name and from which place it was first imported but what name the fowl went under before that time is another matter The first public mention of the Houdan by its present name was in The Journal of Horticulture June 3 1862 There were also figures of the breed as it then looked There is no doubt in my own mind that the breed had existed in France long before 1862 All the noted French writers are almost unanimous in their views regarding this matter giving to the Houdan a very early date making the fowl as ancient as France itself Monsieur P Megnin in his valuable treatise EleVage et Engraisse ment des Volailles speaks of the origin of the Houdan thus The essential characteristics of the Houdan are a mixed plumage of black and white a half crest and five toes on each foot This indicates that they are derived from the common five toed fowls that existed in the time of Columella and which are still met with in the north of France and Belgium and the old crested race of Caux Lewis Wright and other English writers consider that the Houdan is of recent origin and that it is a cross between the Polish and Dorking fowls I do not agree with this If the Houdan was of recent origin and Dorking blood was used in its make up it would assert itself sometime or other in
((**This account of the Houdan by the noted breeder and fancier the Rev CE Petersen of Maine is without doubt the most complete and comprehensive chapter ever written on this breed of fowl Houdan breeders will appreciate it all the more because it contains a general summary of the methods practised so successfully by the author himself Most of the photographs used in this chapter were arranged by Mrs Marie S Petersen wife of the author Editor 1))
the manifestations of Dorking characteristics Dorking blood may have been introduced after the Houdan was introduced into England but little is known as to the time it was imported into England In a letter dated August 27 1901 Harrison Weir writes as follows I cannot say when the Houdan first came into England As long as I can remember there has been in the farmyards of Kent and Sussex a fowl similar to the Houdan but not under that name Some were imported from France in 1860 I secured some in 1864 and liked them very much Part of the first birds sent over had the stag horn comb and it was some time before the fancy world settled on the leaf comb In color they were white mottled with black The first English book on poultry mentioning the Houdan and then under the name of The Normandy Fowl was Wingfield and Johnson's Book of Poultry published in 1853 They describe the fowl as follows The Normandy Fowls are entirely speckled in black and white they have a small erect topknot drooping backward like a lark crest The plumage of the male bird is much darker than that of the hen In shape they are lengthy but become contracted toward the tail The cock's tail is of great length his comb and wattles are also of large size The chickens are very peculiar having at first perfectly black backs and white breasts but they gradually become speckled like the old birds They have five claws and the skin of the leg is pied black and white This however turns to a blue leg with a whitish foot in the adult birds This as far as I have been able to discover is the first published description of any fowl coming within a reasonable certainty of being the Houdan In his book on poultry 1834 Moubray says The genuine Poland has five toes It is more than possible that the bird here mentioned is the one about which Mr Weir wrote me and said A bird similar to the Houdan has existed as long as I can remember in the farm yards of Sussex and Kent It may be wise to leave the field of speculation here and go back to the year 1865 when the American history of the Houdan begins In the spring of that year a Mr Dorose made an importation of some very fine birds IK Felch the veteran fancier of the United States at that time being interested in this importation bought most of the progeny from Mr Dorose These he shipped into several States thus making an early distribution of well bred birds In 1867 at Worcester Mass the first Houdans exhibited in America were seen and it is of no little interest to know that the exhibitor was the famous temperance lecturer John B Gough Mr Felch who was the judge says They were as evenly broken in black and white as I have ever seen them since Comb was both what was called leaf and antlers They were large fine birds much larger than at the present day The accompany ing illustrations taken from The Agriculturist May 1867 will give an idea of what these early Houdans looked like They were much lighter in color and the comb of no established shape The strawberry leaf shaped and antler shaped combs or a mixture of them all was the order of the day The topknot for we cannot call it a crest was small straggly of the all over the head type In fact it was not a fancy fowl at that day They were mated for meat and eggs satisfied their French owners more than the beauty of their plumage Utility and beauty could not even be imagined by them the first attained the other side was of little consequence Since then such improvements have been made in the Houdan by American that we should almost be justified in calling the present day Houdan American creation The color of the plumage is much darker than in the early importations The white mottling in a well established strain is small and distributed all over the body of the fowl The ill shaped strawberry comb is a thing of the past In place of it we have the much V shaped comb The honor of this great improvement as to shape of comb is entirely due to the untiring efforts of America's Houdan breeder Daniel Pinckney His Houdans for a lifetime well known in every show room of note in the United States into the matter regarding the V shaped comb I asked Mr Pinckney any Creve blood was used by him in fixing this form of a comb To question he answered as here stated No Creve blood was used to introduce the V shaped comb into my strain of Houdans I began them in 1871 Several years after I raised a cockerel which was a fine bird but with a very small V shaped comb I mated him to a pen hens that also had small combs From this mating I kept on and breeding the smallest combed birds until I finally established what now known as the V shaped comb At that time Capt James E was an importer and breeder of the Houdan Making a visit to my home he there saw for the first time the V shaped comb This he much preferred to the open leaf comb which he said gave the fowl a much aristocratic appearance It was through Mr White's efforts that V shaped comb was finally adopted by the American Poultry Association and the change made in the Standard of Perfection This V shaped comb is now the established and accepted standard the Houdan fancy in America No one desires to go back to the old type though there are still some critics that seem to think that the leaf is Houdan characteristic and ought to be bred I think differently and does every other Houdan breeder in this country The V shaped comb has come to stay while the leaf has gone forever If there has been any failure on the part of some of our American Houdan fanciers it certainly has been in neglecting the all important point size I well remember some of our early experiences when I laid the foundation of our strain I was desirous to obtain birds of good size and true Houdan shape but everywhere I failed most woefully Finally I had to make an importation and got all I wanted in this respect The females in size dwarfed whatever stood up against them In shape they represented the ideal bird we had so much coveted In 1875 the Standard gave ten points for day Standard makes am rightly informed in Standard the scale will The English Stand eighteen points for lack following weights Cock pounds cockerels six six to seven pounds pounds It then adds better Our Standard lowered the weight time it calls for cocks at six pounds hens six pounds Even these exhibition halls at the exhibited under than miserable apology for and best table fowls ever country I shall always tinent remark made bj disappointed exhibitor size while our present only six points If I the next edition of the be dropped altogether ard makes a cut of of size and calls for the from eight to nine to seven pounds hens pullets five to six if larger so much the has continuously until at the present seven pounds cockerels pounds pullets five weights are scarce in the present time more being over weight This is a one of the most beautiful introduced into this remember a very per TF McGrew to a much whose birds in the pullet class at the Boston show he had passed without any mention whatever When approached by the exhibitor about the matter Mr McGrew who had done the judging said I do not pass on Leghorns in the Houdan class The birds were not any larger
The Houdan as a Utility Fowl
As to the value of the Houdan for utility purposes there is much to be said in its favor In fact it would be hard to say too much And if it was not for our American fad of yellow skin and legs I sincerely doubt whether there would be a more popular breed in America to day As it is it is gradually coming more and more into favor Where a few years ago the Houdan was not seen outside of our large exhibits like New York and Boston there is hardly a show anywhere at the present time within the bounds of the United States or Canada where exhibition displays of Houdans may not now be seen The climax was reached at Boston in 1900 where 135 specimens were on exhibition That the establishment of the American Houdan Club in 1898 did much to popularize this most excellent fowl is an undisputed fact but the fowl itself has the qualities in it that will make it popular wherever it is introduced and given a fair trial It is not only beautiful but in ever particular a useful fowl for domestic purposes There are none better A few of the many points of true excellence it possesses are these 1 Quick to grow and feather as a chick making broilers almost as soon as the Wyandotte Plymouth Rock or Brahma 2 Fertility of eggs nearly every one producing a chick under favorable conditions 3 Early laying of pullets 4 Great productiveness of the females Hens three to five years old lay nearly as well as when they were young 5 Largeness of its egg and the pure white shell 6 Ease of confinement and perfect contentment in restricted quarters 7 Perfect quality as a table fowl both as to flavor of flesh and the very small percentage of waste when dressed the loss being only about one eighth part 8 Small eaters 9 Hardy of constitution adapting themselves to all kinds of climates and conditions 10 Good winter layers when given any kind of decent care and attention Surely these qualifications are enough to entitle the Houdan to better recognition That objections have been made to its crest I cannot deny nor pass by without mention It has been said by those who do not favor the Houdan that if it is left out in cold rain storms the crest becomes water soaked and colds and sickness follow I know from experience that the Houdan is not more likely to suffer from rain storms than any other breed They can stand as much exposure as or perhaps more than most other breeds They are hardy and robust of constitution Sickness is almost unknown to them We must have hardy fowls in Maine where zero weather is the order of the day and not the exception The crest is a great help in winter to shield the comb from freezing In this way it becomes a help in cold climates to increased egg production Another objection has been made because of a white skin and pinkish white feet The American public demands a fowl with yellow skin and feet As this is simply a fad it is hardly worth taking into consideration The Houdan when dry picked and put up as it ought to be makes a handsome carcass and finds a ready market. In an editorial in the Baltimore Sun George 0 Brown writes as follows on the merit of the Houdan fowl In the great rush for new creations in poultry the sterling qualities of the Houdans and other well established breeds are being sadly overlooked by the new generation of fanciers The booming of new breeds has not only become a fad but a veritable science from an advertising point of view The excellence of Houdans as table fowls is not equaled by any other breed The breast meat is of rich juicy tender quality free from stringiness The bones for the size of the carcass are unusually small The Houdan chicks are thrifty hardy rapid growers showing great vigor when first hatched The eggs of the Houdans are pure white and so large that it seems a sacrifice to sell them by the dozen when compared with the size of eggs of other breeds except possibly the Black Spanish The fertility of Houdan eggs is simply remarkable often every egg that is put in a nest hatches in fact their hatching qualities are not surpassed by any other breed It is to be hoped that much stress will be given to the fact that Houdans are a utility breed in as strong a degree as they are fancy If the breed had received as much attention as the Plymouth Rocks and some other breeds have Houdans would to day stand as high in utility as any breed The fact that the legs of the Houdan are bluish white should be no drawback The real test of excellence or desirable qualities of a table fowl is in the eating after they are cooked A yellow leg may be admired on a dressed fowl in some sections more than others but it is in no way an indication of desirable quality In France a nation of epicures the characteristic color of the legs and the five toes are a certificate of quality A dressed turkey is almost identical in color with the carcass of a dressed Houdan No one disputes the quality of a good cooked turkey on account of color of legs or carcass Knowledge is a great dispeller of prejudice even when the prejudice is handed down from one generation to another without attempt at investigation One thing that used to be classed as against the Houdans was their non incubating qualities Now that incubators and brooders are so popular and in such universal use that characteristic further enhances the Houdans value Complaint used to be made that their eggs were too large that they spoilt the sale of eggs of other breeds There are plenty of sources where Houdans and their eggs may be sold at prices above general retail market prices There are plenty of people who are always ready to purchase extra quality in fowls or eggs and who are willing to pay an extra price for the same Superior quality and size in any commodity command their worth over smaller or less desirable articles In these days when poultrymen are giving their flocks humane sanitary and business attention by providing good houses scratching sheds runs etc and giving a healthful varied diet there is no reason why crested breeds should not prove as healthy as other breeds One thing that has resulted in belittling the Houdans is the miserable specimens that have been exhibited around at agricultural fairs specimens which were in reality a libel on the size and appearance of the breed At one time farmers were so prejudiced against Jersey cattle that they were called fancy cows and were not considered in a utility degree at all The fanners simply did not know their utility worth Now they do and many dairy herds are almost entirely composed of Jersey cows The Houdans because of their uniform mottled black and white plumage their showy crests and beards or muffs and their five toe peculiarity are conspicuous objects or in other words because their make up renders them handsome are concluded to be fancy fowls only but they are just as deceiving as the Jersey cow Their attractive looks are not their only desirable qualities a real utility worth goes hand in hand with them The French people as before stated are epicures and all their breeds of poultry though generally odd in appearance possess the very highest degree of useful or desirable utility merit Such unstinted praise from a man who knows should do much to convince the poultry loving public of the great value of this breed for utility purposes Another great authority on the merits of our different breeds is Michael K Boyer whose name as a poultry expert on all matters pertaining to the subject is familiar in the United States and England. He makes this statement regarding the Houdan as a utility fowl I bred Houdans for several years both in Virginia and in New Jersey and found them excellent layers The objection to the color of their eggs which was white was greatly offset by their size I even had customers who were brown egg cranks that would pick out our large white Houdan eggs in preference The Houdan is not only a good layer but her eggs are remarkably fertile For winter layers if provided with a good warm house and fed plenty of nitrogenous food they are equal to the best I would like to see the Houdan fowl more popular than it is It is the best French breed that we have and should be more universally bred here in America A noted English breeder Henry Thornber in an article contributed to The Book of Poultry among other things in regard to the Houdan as a utility fowl says There can be no question of the value of this breed as layers and as table breeds A properly reared and properly fed Houdan of a good laying strain hatched in March or April should commence to lay in October and should be laying three eggs per week by the end of November From my experience I find that they soon run up to four eggs per week generally about the latter end of January or middle of February After this according to my egg recording books there i seems to be no increase in the number per week until about the middle of April when there has been an increase for most of my pullets to five eggs per bird per week which high rate has lasted till about the middle of June Toward the latter end of June there has been a diminution to three per week and by the end of July I have been having only two per week per bird After this latter month the laying quickly ceases and the birds go into molt which with a little care and the use of Douglas mixture should not last more than about five weeks They come on to lay again very quickly after the completion of the molt and according to the behavior of my birds there seems to be practically no shrinkage in their laying powers during their second year of laying although they start laying rather later and continue until a later part of the year The succeeding molt after the second year's laying appears more prolonged and more exhausting and I find a very considerable reduction in the number of eggs afterward My laying stock average per annum has varied from 1 60 to 189 eggs I get a number of eggs of quite a tinted appearance rather deeper than cream color among the rest the majority of which are snow white yet the birds are all bred the same and have been so for some years I have never been able to account for it Selected birds have done much better than the above My breeding fowls are kept in pens each comprising seven pullets or hens and a cock in pretty large runs There are five of these breeding pens which are also fed a little differently from the general flock Thirty five birds selected to breed from as good layers have averaged for four years counting from November 1 to November 1 as follow 1896 7 all from pullets 207 1897 8 about 20 per cent hens the rest pullets 203 1898 9 about 25 per cent hens the rest pullets 208 1899 1900 all from pullets 226 I consider a Houdan worthy of the name of a layer when she lays 200 eggs between the beginning of the November after being hatched and the beginning of the following November.
Characteristic Points of the Houdan
The Cock A Houdan cock fully grown should not weigh less than seven pounds the Standard requirement That weight should have been attained when the bird is in good breeding condition Size in a Houdan is of great importance I would emphasize this requirement by having the Houdan Club instruct its judges never to give the blue ribbon to an undersized bird male or female In form the Houdan is a squarely built fowl somewhat resembling the Dorking in shape a fairly long body indicative of a good supply of breast meat low on the feet the hock coming nearly up into the fluff of the body The shoulders saddle and back are very wide The latter straight with a slight drooping toward the tail which should be carried moderately low and abundantly furnished with saddle and sickle feathers A Houdan with an upright tail is not in good taste with the massive build of the breed The breast should be conspicuous for breadth and fullness When I say fullness I mean a good rounded breast coming well forward the breast bone deep in the keel extending from the forepart toward the tail that there may be ample room for the production of flesh The wing should be carried well up properly developed large heavy and muscular The thighs large with legs firm of medium length and moderately thick The fifth toe should be quite distinct well developed and curving gently upward The head should be of medium size carried well up and surmounted by a large crest composed of evenly mixed black and white feathers in texture they should be similar to those of the hackle falling well backward upon the neck and sides of the head incasing as it were the head in a half circle It should not be of the topsy turvy kind with feathers in it standing up straight and front falling forward over the eyes of the bird but a crest perfectly smooth high in front making a natural background for the comb falling backward upon the neck in an unbroken mass This is the crest of a well bred Houdan giving style and finish to the whole bird The beard should be strongly developed and pendulous in shape it should be long and full not a few feathers curling upward between the wattles with a split or division in the middle The muffling should be in abundance hiding the ear lobes and almost covering the face curving upward to the back of the eyes and there joining the crest The comb must be V shaped the smaller the better but well defined natural absence of comb is not to be desired Free from side springs cr extuberances of any kind.
The Houdan hen like the cock should be a full square bodied bird weighing not less than the required six pounds seven or eight pounds would be still better She should have a broad straight back sloping imperceptibly toward the tail The crest should be large globular full and compact with the feathers closely overlapping and enough of them to more than fill your hand Females with fallen crests should be discarded An evenly mixed crest of black and white is of course here as in the male bird to be desired The comb as in the cock V shaped but very much smaller in a well bred specimen the crest should almost hide it Short but stout shanks fifth toe well developed and as in the cock curving gently upward The color of the plumage in both male and female should be black and white black to predominate and of a good greenish tint The white should be clear without the slightest tinge of straw color the frosty and grayish mixture which is neither black nor white should not be present There is also a kind of black with a rusty tinge to it that is not at all desirable neither is the only too much prevalent purple black and where there is also bronze bars present it is of course a good deal worse The Standard calls for black and white evenly mixed in the proportion of three black feathers to one white This is the stumbling stone to so many fanciers They will continue to exhibit birds that are too dark in color These birds are all right in the breeding pen but it is not what the Standard calls for nor is it Houdan color Yet a bird may be very dark and for all that be evenly mottled with white all over the body This is the kind of mottling we desire No judge will pass such a bird for being too dark in color neither is such a bird likely to fail in her first moult nor in the breeding pen It makes a great deal of difference whether the white is all in one or two places or evenly distributed all over the body A feather all black with a little pure white on the end is what makes a beautifully spangled bird and all right for breeding as well as for exhibition purposes On the other hand a bird with great splashes of white here and there on the body with wings of a color that the Standard does not call for any more than all black splashed all over with white describes fairly well what I mean Such a bird is not fit to exhibit and useless in the breeding yard Wingbows and secondaries black Primaries black and white The feet should be pinkish white mottled with black. The eye a bright red In characteristic wide awake and alert in all its movements
How to Mate for the Best Results
The first essential to future success is the perfect health of the birds from which the breeding pen is to be made up And of such vital importance is this selection of healthy spirited birds that if neglected will simply invite absolute and complete failure and disappointment after disappointment in future operations We might have ever so fine a bird but if it lacks in constitution it is of no value in the breeding pen Every chance is in favor of such a bird transmitting its own lack of constitution Usually there is not enough strength and vitality for the transmission of some of the good points it possessed And still worse her undesirable qualities would be intensified Line breeding must be resorted to so as to obtain best results and fasten the distinctive qualities and characteristics of the birds so they will reproduce themselves If in the very beginning of the formation of a strain weakly and unhealthy blood is introduced the result will of a necessity be fatal to success Inbreeding therefore without good material and skilful application is useless with both it is almost irresistible The females should as near as possible be of the same type Whatever their faults are in other respects as far as type is concerned they should be uniform By so doing and securing a male bird of true Houdan shape and type we shall obtain that uniformity of character so noticeable in a first class strain The first thing of importance in the male bird is size He should never be below the Standard weight and if two or more pounds over so much the better He should have no grave defect of either body or limbs Good well formed feet in the male bird is of the first importance On this point I find his influence very potent I consider the crest of great importance in the male I would never use a small crested bird for stock purposes In color I prefer a male darker than the Standard calls for of a good greenish glossy black with as good a clear white mottling as is to be obtained In temperament he should have a great deal of vivacity and restless activity He ought moreover to delight in caressing the females to be gallant in defending them inviting them to eat and be incessantly taken up with his mates If he is sulky selfish persecuting and domineering divorce him immediately Sometimes an old male exhibits these characteristics and is of little use In making a choice between two males equally fine in feathers always choose the most courageous The good qualities of the female are of no less importance than those of the male In selecting females to be put in the breeding yard a minute examination of their combs is of great importance Never use a female with a large ill shaped comb In this respect their influence is very great however good the male may be in this point Never breed from a hen with a curved middle toe one with a bumble foot should also be avoided These defects are hereditary Once bred into the flock they are difficult to eliminate The crest should be well formed A little topknot will not answer A large smooth and globular crest with well shaped beard and muffling is desired Never use a female with a ragged or a fallen crest if fine smooth crested males are wanted In wattles as well as in comb the influence of the hen is very potent Regarding the age of breeding stock we may take for granted once and for all that nothing but mature stock should be used if best results in vigor and stamina are wanted My experience has been that two year old birds on both sides give the best results but fully matured yearling birds will give good results and can be bred with impunity Of course the breeder of long standing knows the breeding value of his old stock birds whom he can depend on while in a pullet mating the breeding value is not so well known Here it is that the skill of mating and the value of good blood comes in but even good blood in unskilful hands may be ruined and years of judicious breeding may be upset by one mistaken cross Any one with money enough can buy prize winning birds but he cannot keep them up to their high standard until he understands the art of breeding Those who have high class exhibition birds are most particular regarding the selection of breeding birds and will take any amount of trouble that would be regarded by the inexperienced as unnecessary So then when eggs for hatching are wanted or stock birds don t buy as cheap as you can but as good as you can afford and from some established breeder that has been in the field for years and knows the breed you want by long and intimate acquaintance For a dollar saved in buying breeding birds or eggs is in a good many instances the other dollars lost The very best to be had is none too good The subject of mating these birds for the production of stock equal to the parents is important Of course let it be clearly understood that if one parent fails in any one particular point the bird mated to it should excel in that point For instance if the cock should be a little faulty in comb I should mate him to a hen extra good in this particular If he should be too short in back mate him to hens not failing in this respect and so on I may also state that double mating is not necessary whatever as both sexes of the highest merit can be bred from one pen No need in Houdans for a pen for cockerels and another for pullets No breed in existence will breed truer to individual characteristics than the Houdans My preference is a dark male bird with a good greenish black for color to put with standard colored females This mating will produce good colored birds of both sexes perhaps a trifle too dark for exhibition but they will moult into fine cocks and hens of the kind that will keep their color for years If exhibition pullets are wanted that is of the kind that some judges desire even mottled white and black a lightish cockerel mated with dark hens will give the desired results but such pullets will go to pieces as far as color is concerned after the first moult The mating I like the best and that every time will give the very finest results is a two year cock of standard color mated to hens in their second season who have moulted into the standard colors Here we have everything thing that is desirable and we are never disappointed in the offspring from such a mating As the Houdan cock is a vigorous fellow care must be taken to mate him with a sufficient number of females say from five to eight and most every egg will be fertile Rearing and Management Houdan chickens are pretty little creatures when first hatched In their black and lemon colored furry garb if viewed for the first time a breeder may be apprehensive that something is wrong with his chicks They don t resemble their parents at all The black is on their backs with a speck or two on their necks and on the top of their heads while all the rest of the body is white One of the first things we notice in a good strain of Houdans is that the chickens have a projecting poll of fluffy down The extent of this will determine the size of the future crest the bird will have when fully grown To some extent the same may be said of the beard and muffling some chickens having a veritable cravat under the front part of the neck The fifth toe is also in full evidence at this early date It will show beyond a doubt its future shape Houdan chicks develop feathers with great rapidity One can almost see the feathers grow and unfold The day after hatching the wing feathers are visible The feathering proceeds at an amazing rate When chickens of other breeds are still in their furry garb the Houdan is all but fully feathered As growth progresses they grow darker and darker in plumage When about three months old they are a pretty evenly mixed black and white The black will continue to increase until in the mature bird we have a plumage such as is required by the Standard Under no circumstances will it be wise for the inexperienced breeder to discard a young bird because of what may in the beginning look like a badly colored bird As a general rule if the strain is right the color of the chicks will be correct There is one exception to this rule I have already mentioned that in the newly hatched chicken a black spot is visible on the top of the head If the chicken should be minus this black spot and the poll entirely white one can be sure of a very light crested adult bird Though the body of the bird will gradually grow darker until maturity is reached I have never seen the same change take place as far as the poll is concerned If a minute speck of black is visible over the bill of the chick we will have in the adult bird a crest with a black frontage but with too much white in the back If the black runs up on the head nearly meeting the black on the neck we shall have a dark crest almost black Where the black is found in minute specks two or three of them we shall have an evenly mixed crest These early manifestations of crest color are so sure that the experienced breeder can in most every instance pick out the chicks that give promise of future excellence This from the very beginning makes it possible to separate promising chicks and give them necessary care Now and again a chick will first appear with spots of a reddish brown These will all disappear without leaving a trace as the bird grows older In my opinion this is the old theory of a thrown back to the common ancestor of the fowl tribe Gallus Bankiva I do not know a single breed that will not now and again produce the original red When a violent cross is made from another strain the red spots are more apt to appear than in a strain of years standing No strain can be said to be absolutely immune from this curious reappearance of early characteristics in former ancestors The rapidity with which the Houdan chick develops its feathers emphasizes the necessity of good nutritious food In this respect many breeders of the Houdan fail to bring their birds up to the required Standard feathers are visible The feathering proceeds at an amazing rate When chickens of other breeds are still in their furry garb the Houdan is all but fully feathered As growth progresses they grow darker and darker in plumage When about three months old they are a pretty evenly mixed black and white The black will continue to increase until in the mature bird we have a plumage such as is required by the Standard size We say size knowingly for if the size is there a bird in good breeding condition will be up to the Standard weight also The drain on the system at this time is great If proper food is not given them the results will be under sized specimens Give them all they require and no more Good sound food fresh water grit and common sense in their administration is all a Houdan chick will need It is a saying at the National Poultry Company establishment in England land that you cannot kill a Houdan chick It is literally true Energetic vigorous active always on the move it will subsist where some breeds would starve An American writer once said If there is a hole in your garden fence a Houdan chick will be the first to find it If the poultry yard gate blows open the Houdan chick will be the first out No need of coddling that kind of chicks they are bom with a desire to live and to take their own part in the struggle for existence I do not feed them the first twenty four hours after they leave the shell The majority do not need any food until then The rest will not suffer by waiting a few hours longer For the first meal I give them a little fine grit after which I feed them bread and milk for the first week or two that is crumble the bread and moisten it with milk Notice I said moisten not wet it This in my experience will clear the crop and gizzard as no other food It may be followed with pin head oatmeal cracked wheat millet and any other small grain the chicks can put away I use a great deal of hulled oats I know of no better frame builder for the youngsters Green bone may be used sparingly if it is to be had From the time the chicks are hatched I mix just a little bonemeal in their food It is a fine ingredient to help growth Wherever it is used there will be few or no complaints of bowel trouble or leg weakness Early hatched chicks must be provided with green food of some kind Lettuce can be sown in a shallow window box When a few inches tall it will supply all the green food needed These early chicks should also be fed their last one or two meals by lamplight Chicks hatched in February and March for the fall exhibitions will need this extra care Night this time of the year is much too long for chicks to go without food They soon learn to know what the gleam of the lantern means and will come running out from under the hen or brooder hover to get their last meal When the mother shakes off her chickens they must be moved to quarters where they will not crowd one another They will thrive best if kept in small flocks A lot of light colored birds I have always found to be the final result where a number of half grown chicks were kept in ill ventilated crowded quarters where the heat was extreme There is no doubt that the growing chickens do best where each brood can be accommodated with a separate house and run but it very frequently happens that the amount of room at the disposal of the owner does not allow this When this is the case see that all of the chickens are of the same age or nearly so Chickens of larger growth will crowd out their younger companions and gorge themselves with food unless special provision is made so that all will get their proper share I watch carefully the growth of the crest as soon as it appears Those that promise well are separated from the others They need attention and particular care in feeding As their crests develop day by day their opportunity for fair treatment in sharing the daily rations grows I have found by experiment that these large crested pullets will not once in ten times get a morsel of food if thrown among the chicks piece by piece If the birds are not to be used or sold for exhibition the matter is easily adjusted by cutting away the crest from around the eyes This of course is out of the question where the birds are to be used for exhibition purposes Some of the best crested birds I ever saw in the exhibition halls of this country failed in size To my mind there is no doubt that it was owing to lack of attention in feeding This treatment is needed only for the pullets The differently shaped crest in the cockerel never obscures its vision to the same extent as with the crested exhibition pullet The Houdans bred for utility purposes only need of course no such attention Their crests usually are not large enough to be a hindrance in their development To get fine birds the cockerels at from eight to ten weeks old should be separated from the pullets They should not be allowed to perch too soon as the result is likely to end in crooked breast bones A week or two later the whole of the youngsters should be carefully scanned and all but the really promising ones should be disposed of Twisted or fallen crests deficiency or deformities of toes crooked breasts backs and beaks will of course preclude any idea of prize winning These defects will of course not be found in a well established strain of Houdans where careful selection has been the rule for years Do not at this time discard any birds that may seem deficient in crest or beard development They will continue to fill out and develop until mature In fact the crest and beard will be finer and better after the first moult Houdans improve in beauty as they grow older It is very common to have cockerels fully three parts fledged before the beard is developed to any great extent When three months old the birds are large enough to show with absolute certainty their future exhibition or breeding qualities Birds that at this time give full proofs of their value as show specimens must be separated and given special attention in feeding and care Their quarters must be kept scrupulously clean Plenty of straw and a good dust bath will keep the plumage clean There is nothing that will clean a bird so neatly as straw At this time it is of great importance to look after the crest If a large and well developed crest is desired carefully go over it and remove all awry feathers With the finger nail open the sheath enveloping parts of the feathers It is astonishing the difference this makes in the growth and filling out of the crest This care is responsible to a great extent for that perfect crest development so necessary in an exhibition specimen Washing the crest with water in which a little carbolic soap has been dissolved will clean the scalp and keep away intruders Another important matter at this time is to see that drinking fountains are used in which they cannot immerse their crests If this is not done the crest will become draggled and unsightly falling over the eyes When this occurs the birds will pull the feathers out of each other's crests
Preparing for Exhibition
Very few men are wise by their own counsel or learned by their own teaching for he that was taught by himself had a fool for his master Remembering this wise saying of Ben Jonson I have given my own methods in preparing Houdans for exhibition and those of others gathered from various sources As the show season approaches the birds should be separated Give them a rather more liberal diet but excess should be strictly avoided There should be no approach to fattening if you do not want to ruin the birds for future use in the breeding yard A single coop should be given each specimen if possible as this will facilitate handling and encourage tameness in the specimens prepared for exhibition Very often really good birds are passed by the judge simply because they are of a wild or timorous nature crouch in the corners of the coop and look their worst instead of their best Many an exhibitor knows this too well On the other hand a tame well trained bird will stand upright in front of the coop appearing pleased to court observation I begin handling my birds when they are only a few days old I can pick them up most anywhere They seem to like it and seem to know that I am their friend Never use a fretty afraid of you suspicious of everything hen for a mother She will soon teach the whole brood her own wicked ways and make work harder Valuable birds are frequently unfitted for exhibition through untimely loss of their feathers more particularly those of the tail This is mainly caused in small yards by their being constantly worried by tyrannical companions To get away the unfortunate bird rushes into corners and out of the way places to escape punishment In a little while the mischief is done After yarding the birds intended for exhibition watch them carefully so as to be sure that they are on good terms Wherever conditions are such that it can conveniently be done each bird should be penned singly at least one week before exhibition to receive the finishing touches and get used to the pen As a good method of preparing choice cockerels for exhibition it has been suggested to place them like younger school boys under the ken of a superior and older monitor who by his influence can keep the youngsters under surveillance To any one observant of the manners and habits of poultry this domineering spirit of the older cocks is naturally familiar and forms an excellent discipline for training the younger ones To those who have regarded the consequential bearing of a young cockerel subject to the delicate attentions of two or three wide awake hens this must have been plainly obvious and has led more than one successful breeder to pursue this plan of placing some days before the intended exhibition a promising cockerel with one or two hens thereby bringing him out with no mean opinion of himself so that when he appears at the show he will after the previous lift treatment exhibit his quality and style to the greatest perfection of Houdan excellence In making a pen for exhibition be careful that the birds match one another as much as possible in markings size crest and style the cock must match in general appearance the females he is to accompany If one of the females should have a much larger crest than her companions she will completely outshine what c itherwise would have been good birds The same thing is true where a female is much larger than the others Never put an old passe cock in an exhibition pen To the intelligent breeder it only shows deficiency 1 n exhibition males I have always maintained that the cock unfit to breed from is also unfit to exhibit and should be debarred from competition Fowls should under no consideration be sent to a show with their crops full of hard grain The treatment of birds on their return from the show room is frequently of still more importance Although a Houdan will stand the fatigue and excitement of showing as well as most breeds the feeding and care at many shows are guided more by a sense of convenience than by what is most required on the part of the birds Such fowls not properly cared for often evince a feverish tendency on their return home Be careful how the birds are entered and see that each label is fastened where it belongs Be equally watchful that the right bird is put in the proper place The day previous to sending the birds to the show their crests should be thoroughly washed and their feet carefully cleansed and polished A nail brush will do good service in cleaning their legs After drying a few drops of sweet oil well rubbed into their legs will put a fine gloss on them and very much improve their appearance Do not oil the red on the male bird as the slightest exposure to dust will make these parts look infinitely worse for the operation diluted vinegar will give the desired result without any attendant drawback Whenever we accompany our birds to the place of exhibition and we generally do we attend to these things the morning the judge is to handle them We also see that the water cup is empty otherwise the birds will wet their crests which makes them appear unsightly From shell to exhibition it is these little things that bring the bird into full perfection The old birds need the same careful attention A watchful eye should be kept over them continuously providing they are to be used for exhibition purposes Many a fine Houdan has been ruined by being left to itself after the show season was over Particularly during the time of molting they need the most attention and the best of care otherwise a good crest development is an absolute impossibility It takes from six to eight weeks to properly grow a good full crest I prefer to have the birds molt their crest before the rest of the feathers When I know that the crest feathers are dead and dry in the quill I pluck them all out being of course careful not to pluck out any feathers in progress of growth and there are always some few All the strength of the bird's system will be expended in growing the new crest which most always will begin to grow out in a week's time The birds thus treated should be kept in a place where no strong light will enter They should be kept separate otherwise they will work on the old motto Scratch me and I will scratch you This will usually end in eating of the budding feathers During this time no other time will do feed to each bird twice a week as much saccharated carbonate of iron as will lay on a penny At the same time mix a little melted fat in the soft food The result will be surprising Follow this treatment during the general molt but alternate with a tablespoonful of sulphur to every six fowls that is give the carbonate one day and the sulphur the day following Don t give the sulphur on wet days This treatment will put the bird through an easy and quick molt and will give the much desired glossy greenish sheen to the plumage During the period of molting we will observe that all fowls are in the habit of cleaning their feathers from the sheath which covers the webbing while the feathers are growing It is impossible for the bird to perform this act to its crest and unless personally taken in hand it will often never properly grow a full crest During the time the crest is growing examine the bird occasionally and if any of the sheaths of the feathers appear dried up carefully run your thumb nail through it and in a short time the webbing will properly expand All this means time and trouble but to the genuine fancier who is always something of an enthusiast no trouble is too great as long as the desired result is attained When the prize or cup is carried off as the reward there is the satisfaction of feeling that success was honestly earned