Four Oaks hens never have laid one-cent eggs, and never will. They would quit work if such a price were suggested. Ninety per cent of the eggs from Four Oaks have sold for thirty cents or more per dozen, and the demand is greater than the supply. The Four Oaks certificate that the egg is not thirty-six hours old when it reaches the egg cup, makes two and a half cents look small to those who can afford to pay for the best. To lack confidence in the egg is a serious matter at the breakfast table, and a person who can insure perfect trust will not lack patronage. If, therefore, a hen will lay eight dozen eggs, she is welcome to say to an acquaintance: “I have just handed the Headman a two-dollar bill,” for she knows that I have not paid fifty cents for her food.
Of course the wages of the hen man and his food and the interest on the plant must be counted, but I do not propose to count them twice. Four Oaks is a factory where several things are made, each in a measure dependent on, and useful to, the others, and we cannot itemize costs of single products because of this mutual dependence. I feel certain that I could not drop one of the factory’s industries without loss to each of the others. For this reason I kept a very simple set of books. I charged the farm with all money spent for it, and credited it with all moneys received. Even now I have no very definite knowledge of what it costs to keep a hen, a hog, or a cow; nor do I care. Such data are greatly influenced by location, method of getting supplies, and market fluctuations. I furnish most of my food, and my own market. My crops have never entirely failed, and I take little heed whether they be large or small. They are not for sale as crops, but as finished products. I am not willing to sell them at any price, for I want them consumed on the place for the sake of the land.
Corn has sold for eighty cents a bushel since I began this experiment, yet at that time I fed as much as ever and was not tempted to sell a bushel, though I could easily have spared five thousand. When it went down to twenty-eight cents, I did not care, for corn and oats to me are simply in transition state,—not commodities to be bought or sold. They cost me, one year with another, about the same. An abundant harvest fills my granaries to overflowing; a bad harvest doesn’t deplete them, for I do not sell my surplus for fear that I, too, may have to buy out of a high market. I have bought corn and oats a few times, but only when the price was decidedly below my idea of the feeding value of these grains. I can find more than twenty-eight cents in a bushel of corn, and more than eighteen cents in thirty-two pounds of oats. But I am away off my subject. I began to talk about the hen plant, and have wandered to my favorite fad,—the factory farm.