They also eat incessantly. The optimistic friend who has never kept chickens, but thinks it a marvelous idea, will tell you that scraps from the table will take care of all that and even save you the garbage collector’s fee. Such a person is still living back in the 1890’s when food was cheap and seven course dinners and hearty suppers were the rule. Today’s orange skins and banana peels are no diet even for a chicken. So, one must buy feed for them. This should be offset in a measure by the eggs normally laid by well-fed and tended pullets. Also as time goes on and setting hens hatch chickens, which in turn become eventually broilers or fresh producers of eggs, according to results you will decide whether or not you want to continue in the chicken business.
Another method widely advocated is to buy week-old chicks from a mail order house or other firm dealing in such stock and bring them up without aid of a mother hen to gather them under her wings. Here a brooder is necessary since the chicks are of tender age and must be kept warm. These brooders are of varying sizes and prices and may be had from the same mail order houses that are glad to sell the chicks as well. This is more complicated than the other old-fashioned method but a little guidance from some one understanding the procedure along with consistent care on your part will probably bring a majority of your brood to broiler size.
Taking on a cow to support is a much more serious thing. Not only does a well-bred, tuberculin-tested animal cost a fair sum to acquire, but she must be comfortably housed in a clean, comfortable cow barn. Bulletins from the Department of Agriculture will give the requirements not only for her shelter but for her proper care. She needs at least two acres of pasturage and this can’t be all stones and bushes. She must be milked morning and evening without fail and at regular hours by some one who knows how. She must be groomed. Her stable must be cleaned regularly. When the yearly calf is born one must sit up nights with her. All this, if she is to remain in good condition. In gratitude for it she will give milk, three or four times as much as a small household can consume. Possibly a market can be found for this excess or one can turn to butter making and add a pig to the barnyard family. Even this accommodating scavenger cannot live by skim milk alone but must have it augmented by corn or prepared feed. He must also have proper shelter and a run. Thus does one thing lead to another, once one gets beyond the chicken stage of farming. It is obviously nothing for the daily commuter to attempt unless he is prepared to pay for the services of a competent hired man.