1ReabingoCourse for farmers
PUBLISHED BY THE COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE OF CORNEL UNIVERSITY,
FROM NOVEMBER TO MARCH, AND ENTERED AT ITHACA AS SEOOND-OLASS
MATTER UNDER ACT OF CONGRESS OF JULY 16, 1891 L. H. BAILEY, DIRECTOR.
S. W. FLETCHER, Supervior.
SERIES IV. ITHACA, N. Y., No. 16.
POULTRY. NOVEMBER, 1903. BUILDING POULTRY-HOUSES.
BY JAMES E. RICE.
OULTRY-KEEPING is an exacting business. The four corner-
stones upon which success rests are:
(1) Suitable buildings, properly located.
(2) The right foods, skilfully fed.
(3) Good fowls, carefully bred.
(4) Facility and ability to hatch and rear chickens.
To these should be added a willingness to work, a love of the business,
and marketing ability. Not the least in importance is the matter of
building the poultry-plant.
FIG. 157. A double scratching shed can be built between two houses with little expense.
A good use for interior stone fences is to make a raised foor in a hen-house.
State of New York- Deartnment of Agriculture.-Farmers' Reading-Course Bulletin No. 16.
1. The site of the building.
The location should be dry and sheltered.-If the ground is not dry
naturally, it should be made so by underdrainage. Damp ground means
cold ground, because rapid evaporation cools the soil. It also means
oo"0' unhealthful soil, because the air and
.-" sunshine cannot penetrate to purify
.. .. ...... ... .. it. Muddy ground means dirty
feet, and dirty feet make dirty eggs.
A low place, though more shel-
[I [f i tered from the wind, may be many
degrees colder than a higher spot
L a few rods distant. Cold air settles
in low places. Avoid locating poul-
try-houses where cold air can settle.
--.....- Secure warmth by building in the
lee of a windbreak or a hill, or in
front of farm buildings. Buildings
FIG. 15& A long walk when houses are that face the south will get the
separate, largest amount of exposure to the
sun's rays. Other things being equal they will be warmer and dryer and
more cheerful. An eastern exposure is usually preferable to a western
exposure, barring prevailing winds from the east; because, like flow-
ers, hens prefer morning to after- _______ o0
A poultry-plant should be built
with a view to saying steps.--
The form and location of poul- A ... YARD
try-houses have much to do with
their convenience. Time is ,.----- -------.'
A man would have to walk 1,320 A
feet to go the rounds of the 16
houses shown in Fig. ,158. Most -
men feed their fowls three times,
water once, gather the eggs once,
and clean house once daily, mak- FIG. 159. Steps saved by bringing houses
ing six trips a day. This would together.
make him walk 7,920 feet a day, or 547 miles a year. Walking
four miles an hour it would take 136 hours, and at I2Y2 cents an
hour would cost $17. If the 16 houses are brought together into one
continuous house (Fig. 159) he makes the round by walking 540 feet. Six
trips a day would make 3,240 feet a day, or 223 miles a year, taking 55
hours and costing $6.97 per Tot.ol Roof
- - - Ig~ft.
year, a saving of 324 miles, Ift.
of 81 hours, and of $o1 a
year. A horse and cart to -Totdi Sides_
carry the feed and water, ...........--........ ............l...
eggs, litter, cleaning, etc., FIG. i6o. Material used in construction. To go
in case of the colony plan, with Fig. 163.
and a trolley through the continuous house, could be made to save two
or three trips a day-reducing the amount of travel proportionately.
2. The form of the building.
The form of the building influences the cost of construction.-Houses
built on the colony or separate plan cost more to build than a continuous
FIG. 161. One end of each house is saved by bringing them together.
house of the same capacity. (Figs. 158 and 159.) One end of each house
is saved by bringing them together. Supposing the buildings to be 15
feet wide and 6 feet high on the sides, the lumber saved would amount to
127Y2 feet for one house, equal to 2,040 square feet for 16 houses. If the
houses were double-boarded it would require 4,080 feet, beside other
materials and cost of building. The colbny houses are much cooler,
because more exposed.
A low house is easier warmed than a high one.-Solid walls radiate
heat rapidly. The best way to make a poultry-house warm is to build
it as low as possible without dan-
-"". ger of bumping heads. There
........"- "ir will then be ample air space for
S las many fowls as the floor space
will accommodate. Too much air
space makes a house cold. It
______-_-__" *cannot be warmed by the heat
given off by the fowls.
FIG. 162. Each of these three houses requiresgiven off by the fowls.
the same material. With the house seen in Fig. 165,
page 282, which is 15 x 15 x 6 feet,
there would be 1,912 cubic feet of air space, which, with forty hens weigh-
ing 5 pounds each, would allow 9-&- cubic feet to each pound live
weight. This is eight times greater than is recommended for each
pound live weight for other animals. The gable roof alone has 562
cubic feet air space, or 2- cubic feet
air space to each pound live weight.
Square houses economize lumber.-
The nearer square a house is-other
things being equal-the less lumber Pit
it will require (Fig. 172, page 287).
It is 72 feet farther around house A
than it is around house B, which has
the same number of square feet floor i
space. If the sides of the house are
6 feet high then one thickness of ----
boards would take 6 x72=432 feet. FIG. 163. Which is cheaper?
If the house is double-boarded it
would be twice as great, i. e., 864 feet, besides the extra material required
for 72 feet of framework, building-paper, nails, labor, foundation, etc.
The long, narrow house is colder because it has 432 square feet more of
The shape of the roof influences the cost of a poultry-house.-It takes
the same amount of material to build a gable roof, a one-pitch roof, or a
combination roof, if the pitch of the roof and the ground plan are
similar (Fig. 167, page 283).. The shape of the roof influences the cost
of the sides of the house. If we assume that the window is 6 feet high
in a building 15 feet wide, it would be necessary with a gable roof to
have both sides of the house the same height. This makes more interior
air space than is necessary and requires that the rear wall be I 2 feet
higher than would be needed with a one-pitch or combination roof. A
one-slope roof will cost the extra lumber to build 3 feet higher in front
than is required by the combination house. If an alleyway should be
A B C D
S Pen P Pen Pen P en |4 Pen P 8en
E desired along the back side of the house, or if
T 310.04 of.."
I~ I.oot ROs a large garret space is desired, the gable-roof
SS Shed hed style of house will be the most economical to
In order to build the three styles of -houses,
FIG. 164. Suggested each taking the same amount of material and
arrangement of alley- having the same pitch of roof and floor space,
sheds, and roosts. they would be as seen in Fig. 162, which would
make the one-pitch roof too low in the rear for
convenience. The steeper the pitch, the greater the comparative expense
of building a shed-roof house, as compared with the gable or combination-
roof house (Figs. 160 and 163). The steeper the roof, the greater the
cost for roofing and the longer it will last. Most roofs can be one-fourth
pitch. Shingle roofs should generally be one-third pitch.
Each form of roof has both advantage and disadvantage.-The single-
span roof is the easiest to build. It gives the highest vertical front
exposed to the sun's rays, which are reflected back, drying .the ground
and making a warm shelter. It throws all the rain water to. the rear,
lessening the length of eaves-trough one-half and keeping the front of
the house dry where no eaves-troughs are used. It allows the windows
to be placed high up. A tarred paper roof will last many years longer if
the slope is toward the north. It is cooler in summer if not exposed to
the vertical rays of the sun. The gable roof provides for a large garret
space which can be stuffed with straw, making the house warmer and
dryer. The combination house shares in the advantages and disadvan-
tages of the others.
The working unit in building a hen-house is the floor and air space
required for each hen.-A safe working rule is about 5 to 6 square feet
floor space, and 8 to io square feet air space for every fowl. The lighter
breeds, because they are more active and restless, require about as much
room as larger breeds.
Foundation walls should be built deep enough to prevent heaving by
the frost, and high enough to prevent surface water from entering.
FIG. 165. Cross section of house. Note wall construction, ventilating device,
and gable stuffed with straw.
Where large stones are scarce, sometimes grout walls may be made with
gravel or small stones; or the building may be set upon posts in the
absence of .these foundation materials.
Small focks lay better than large flocks.-Ordinarily we may expect
:o get more eggs from a small flock than from a large one. But every
time we double a flock we divide the labor. Forty to fifty seems to be
about as many as it is safe and economical to keep together. If more are
together the weaker are crowded and the individual fowl is lost sight of.
8. Walls and floors.
The walls should be insulated.-Matched lumber is cheaper in the end
than unmatched with battened sides. Planed lumber will pay for extra
cost in the saving of paint and brushes. For durability, painting build-
ings may not pay, but for appearances sake it is desirable. Lining with
tough building-paper always makes the laps tight. Make the walls double,
stuffing the space with straw rather than having a so-called dead air space,
or the same material built solidly together (see
Fig. 165). With the solid wall, heat passes Sun from
through rapidly. The same is true, though Ap/mto
to a much less extent, of a dead air space, Sept.zist.
in which the air becomes as cold as the outside /
boarding, and in turrt, by San at
direct contact, cools off the ... /
Inside boarding. This
occurs less quickly
I-' .- when the space is
./ / stuffed with non-con-
., .... ducting material.
Stuffed walls will not
FIG. 166. Place thewindows high. be necessary over the
entire house except in the very coldest regions; or the coldest sides may
be stuffed in the milder section, and not at all farther south. It costs
about the same to build a double- Total R. 0 __ ,'
battened wall with unmatched .... ... ........... ..........................
boards, solid together with paper
between, as it does to make two Total Side.
single walls of matched boards -..- .------- --'/
with one lining of paper and the
space stuffed with straw. With -
vertical boarding, every board Pitch
serves as studding and saves -- -
Dampness is fatal to hens;
drain to promote dryness.-It is
better by far to have a cold, dry /
house than a warm, damp house. FIG. 167. The shape of the roof influences
The warmer the air the more the cost.
moisture it will hold. When this moist air comes in contact with a cold
surface condensation takes place which is often converted into hoarfrost.
The remedy, therefore, is to remove the moisture, as far as possible,
by first cutting off the water from below which comes up from the soil.
The water-table is the same under a hen-house as it is outdoors. Dirt
floors are therefore damp. Stone
filling covered with soil is hard to
"7 clean, and only partially keeps out
dampness. Board floors are short-
lived if the air is not allowed to
circulate under the house. If the
foundation walls are not tight the
7 floors are cold. In any case they
harbor rats. A good cement floor
is nearly as cheap as a good
matched-board floor, counting lum-
ber, sleepers, nails, time, etc. When
... `-7 .. .. .~- -..7-- -- j once properly made it is good for
FIG. 168. Make yards long and narrow. all time. It is practically rat-proof,
easily cleaned and perfectly dry,
cutting, off absolutely all the water from below. If covered with a little
soil, or straw, or both, as all kinds of floors should be, it will be a warm
floor. In making cement floors first fill in with small stones or coarse
gravel, if possible, for drainage.
Then work in and smooth* off
about one to two inches of mortar,
made by mixing thoroughly while
dry one part good cement to three
parts sharp sand, then wetting and
thoroughly mixing again and again
and again. Other things that can
be done to keep dampness out of
the air is to use absorbents, like
dry dust, land plaster, or South
Carolina rock on the droppings,
which should be frequently re-
moved; and by keeping plenty of
dry straw or buckwheat hulls on
the floor or for litter overhead.
Aj1 : B -
FIG. 169. Saving steps in yard arrangement.
Sunlight is a necessity to fowls; it carries good cheer, and tends to
arrest or prevent disease.-Too much glass makes a house too cold at
night and too warm during the daytime, because glass gives off heat at
night as readily as it collects it in the daytime. Much glass makes con-
struction expensive. Allow one square foot glass surface to about 16
square feet floor space, if the windows are properly placed. The windows
should be high and placed up and down rather than horizontally and low
(Fig. 166, page 283). In the former the sunlight passes over the entire
floor during the day from west to east, drying and purifying practically
the whole interior. The time when sunshine'is most needed is when the
sun is lowest, from September 21 to March 21. The arrows in Fig. 166
represent the extreme points which the sunshine reaches during this
period, with the top of a 4-foot window placed 4 feet, 6 feet and 7 feet
high, respectively. With the highest point of the window at 4 feet, the
-,. .. : .. .
FIG. 170. Small yards restrict liberty, require much fencing and increase labor.
direct sun's rays would never reach farther back than 9 feet; at 6 feet
it would shine 13/2 feet back, and at 7 feet it would strike the back side
of the house I foot above the floor.
Window-sash with small glass seriously obstruct the light. Very large
lights break too easily and are more expensive; 8 x o1 is a good sized
glass to be used in a 12-light sash, making it about 3 feet 9 inches high
by 2 feet 5 inches wide. Use two of these for a house about 15 feet
square. Single sash are usually less expensive than double sash of the
same size, and the cost for window-frame is less. Single sash may swing
from the side or top, or be made to slide to one side. They can be opened
and closed quickly and completely, and are against the wall where they
are least apt.to be broken. With double sash this is more difficult. White-
washing the inside of a house makes it as much lighter as an extra window.
4. The interior arrangements.
Alleyways are expensive and do not always economize labor.-They
occupy one-fourth to one-fifth of the entire space of the house, which
would accommodate one-fourth to one-fifth more hens, or would give the
same number of hens one-fourth to one-fifth more room. Twenty to
twenty-five per cent of the total area of a building is too much to pay for
a free passageway.
Every time one enters the pen from the alleyway he opens and
shuts twice as many doors as he would in a similar house without an
alleyway, if he passes from pen to pen and returns outside (except
FIG. 171. Scratching sheds and sunlight.
in case of a full section scratching shed-house). (See Fig. 164, page 281,
A and B.) If alleyways are boarded up tight one cannot see the fowls
without opening the doors. If they are not tight they encourage
The nesting and roosting conveniences can be so arranged that
most of the work may be done from the alleyway, which might be a
saving of labor. But in so doing one would not be among the fowls,
which would be a decided disadvantage.
Long houses should always be divided by tight partitions either
cloth or board, between every two pens at least, to avoid draughts.
Otherwise cold and dangerous air currents will be formed whenever
windows, doors, or ventilators are open.
When air is warmed it e#aFads and rises; cooling has the opposite
rfft.--Provide the houses with good ventilation. Pure air is as neces-
sary to good egg-production as pure food and pure water. Damp air
may be removed by ventilators, which will necessarily make the house
a little cooler. Warm air rises. Therefore the best ventilator is one that
has an out-take near the floor, with a tight, wooden shaft leading up
through the warm air of the house to the roof and out at the peak.
The wood not being quickly affected by cold will not cause counter-
currents of air in the shaft. The in-take air should be received from the
bottom on the outside and conducted to the ceiling, before being allowed to
__ enter the room (Fig. 165,
I'xs-'o. A pd page 282). This avoids
/-"'-r- B ,' direct draughts and causes
l I'-B around the circulation necessary for the
/0o'fs''fO C /o" removal of the moisture. The less
the difference between the inside and out-
/xars''fs.t D o side temperatures and the quieter the air
the more difficult it is to ventilate. The
i s. E o' tighter and warmer buildings are made the
/// aund easier they are to ventilate. The larger the
amount of air space the less need there will be
FIG. 172. Square houses for ventilators, provided there is a change of
economize lumber, air through windows or doors during the day.
(Consult King on Ventilation.) Stuffing the sides and roof of the house
with straw to prevent condensation of moisture will help to keep the
moisture in the air so that it can be removed by ventilation.
Pure air is as necessary to good health and good egg-production as
pure food and pure water. It will require a perfect system of ventilation
and considerable personal attention to keep the air in a poultry-house as
pure as it is outdoors. It will therefore often be found advisable to
adopt the scratching-shed plan of house, which allows fowls some dis-
cretion in choosing an open air temperature.
Extremes in temperature may be modified by careful ventilation.-It is as
important that houses be kept cool in summer as it is that they be
kept warm in winter. Therefore, remove the windows in hot weather.
Curtains over windows, though adding to trouble and expense, can
be used to advantage during night-time in the coldest weather, and during
the daytime in the hottest season. Hens must be kept comfortably warm.
This is particularly true at night, when the body is less active. The great
difference between summer, when hens naturally lay the most eggs, and
winter, when they always lay the least eggs, is a difference in temperature
and sunshine. Therefore we must build our poultry-houses so that we
can overcome this condition as far as possible, consistent with cost.
Exercise is necessary to insure health; scratching pens provide for
this.-Hens do not like confinement. The fact that hens can go in and
out freely from house to shed seems to be a deceptive form of liberty which
they crave and which is not provided in a single, close compartment-house.
The fact of having been in the cooler air during the daytime seems to
make the fowls less affected by the cold of night. In practice, hens are
FIG. 173. Suggestion for roosting and nesting device. Front view.
generally found to be more healthy and to lay more eggs in a year when
proper scratching sheds are provided. The relative size of the shed and
closed compartment will depend upon the location. The farther south,
the larger should be the scratching shed and the smaller the closed pen,
even to the extent of having all open sheds with cloth fronts and with
hooded roosts. Such houses are far warmer than is generally supposed.
The farther north one goes, the smaller should be the scratching shed
and the larger the closed compartment, until in very cold sections the open
sheds might be entirely undesirable. Ordinarily they should be about
There are several ways to provide scratching sheds, each one possessing
some advantage over the other. Figure 164, page 281, shows three styles.
Plant C has the advantage of a scratching shed as deep as the house, which
is thus better sheltered from the wind. It has the disadvantage of having
more doors to open and close in passing through a long house. Plan D
does away with two doors, thus saving time, and is no more expensive
to build; but it is more exposed to the wind and will make-a somewhat
dark corner unless a window is placed at the back of the scratching shed.
Plan E is all scratching shed except a small, warm roosting-room. This
would be a little cheaper to build but would not be adapted to the coldest
sections. The fronts of the open sheds should generally be provided with
heavy cotton cloth doors to keep out sleet and snow during heavy storms.
They may be hung at the top
and raised by a pulley, or
sliding doors with cloth win-
dows can be used.
Hens are easily frightened.
Anything that causes uncer-
.. tainty or suggests danger re-
68 tards egg-production. There-
fore every house should
provide a retreat. This is
done by placing the opening
through which the fowls pass
S' to and from the shed and the
house at the back side instead
Iof the front side of the par-
tition. (Fig. 164, C.) When
r any one approaches the shed
the hens retreat without alarm
FIG. 174. Roosting and nesting device. End view.
to the house, or to the shed
if the alarm were to come from the other direction. Placing the opening
at the back side also prevents the wind from blowing into the house. It
should be raised eight inches above the floor to prevent the litter from
being scratched out.
5. Fences and yards.
Fences are expensive and increase labor.-To fence separate yards for
the pens in Fig. 158 would require 27Y rods of fence, which would cost
about $20. Every time a division fence is taken out each flock has twice
as much liberty as it had before. When all the division fences are
removed each flock enjoys 16 times as much liberty as it had before.
Fences increase labor. The labor of cultivating and seeding 16 yards is
much greater than it would be if all were in one field. Again, one would
have to open and shut about 0oo gates a day in caring for the stock in
buildings arranged as in Fig. 158, page 278. Large flocks can pasture
in the same field. Hens know enough to return to their own roost. The
biggest bump on a hen's head is the bump of location.
Make the yards long and narrow.-Double yards are desirable (Fig. 159,
page 278). They allow a rotation of green crops. This practice converts
the filth, which would become a source of danger, into a valuable food crop.
Where several breeds are kept, or many small breeding pens are desired,
the following plans, given in Figs. 168 and 169, page 284, are suggested
to save steps:
The shape of the fields, the slope of land, and the location of the other
farm buildings will have much to do with the shape of the yards and mode
of access to the buildings. Generally the yards should be long and narrow,
so as to make cultivation easy. Two rods wide and eight rods long is a
good-size yard for forty or fifty hens, although more room would be better.
This permits a row of fruit-trees in the center for shade, which is a neces-
sity. If the nearest point of access should be from the north (Fig. 169) it
would be better to have the houses on the west at B, instead of at A.
6. Fixtures for cleanliness and comfort.
A dust bath is as essential to a hen's health and happiness as
a water bath is to the health of a human being.- By it they
scour off the scurf and scales from the skin and rid them-
selves of vermin. The finer, lighter and dryer the dust the
better; because the dust must be light and fine to get into the
breathing pores of the lice and so kill them. Sandy loam is
often better than sand or some kinds of road dust which are
cold and heavy. Wood ashes \ and coal ashes lighten it up.
The best place for the dust bath a is in the open, air of the
scratching shed. Here the dust quickly settles
and the hens Wooden Cover that are not
dusting are not WaterPan/ compelled to
breathe it. I Platform Fowls are apt
to stand upon Floor the edge of a
dust-box and FIG. 175. Supply pure water. befoul it. The
interior arrangement of a poultry-house should not occupy the floor space.
The hens need it all. The floors are more easily cleaned.
Cleanliness is important; movable fixtures make it easier to clean the
house.-For the most part interior fixtures should be portable to facilitate
fighting mites (Figs. 173, 174). Generally they should not be allowed to
touch the sides of the house. If they do, the wall must be kept tight and
vermin proof. Roosts should be on the same level to prevent fowls from
fighting to get to the highest place. They should be placed in the warmest
spot, out of the reach of draughts
and as high as possible without
injury to the fowls in descending.
They should be close, so that fowls
( can snuggle together and keep each
other warm; and enough space
j should be provided so that they can
Separate during warm weather.
Allow six to twelve inches for each
fowl. The form of perch most to
FIG. 176. For broody hens. be desired seems to be a piece about
two by three inches, with the narrow edge rounded. Under the perches
should be a platform to catch the droppings, far enough below to permit
cleaning without removing perches.
Hens are secretive and prefer darkened nests.-They like to hide their
nests: therefore these should be partly dark. They are less apt to eat
eggs in dark nests. A good place for the
nests is under the dropping board. They
should be so placed that the eggs can
be gathered without stooping. Hens like
to fly up to lay. Nest boxes should
generally be about one foot square and
six to eight inches deep, so that the nest
material will prevent the eggs from
breaking and the hens cannot roll eggs
from one nest to another. The parti-
tions between nests should permit hens
to go from one nest to another, other-
wise they will fight and break eggs.
Fine straw is the best nest material; saw-
dust stains eggs; excelsior wads up and
sticks to hens' toes; rye straw is too FIG. 177. Grit box easy of access.
coarse. Provide nest eggs. The hen then feels a sense of security. That is
why hens like to lay in the same nest. Figs. 173 and 174 are suggestions
for roosting and nesting arrangements which we have been using with
great satisfaction. They can be modified to suit conditions.
Water basins should be large enough so that when filled the water
will last for twenty-four hours. Then we know that the hen will never
suffer from lack of water. They should be easily cleaned and should be
made of such material that they will not break if dropped or frozen. The
best water dish is a galvanized iron refrigerator-pan with corrugated
bottom and with top larger than bottom. It should be placed a little above
the floor, with a cover to prevent its becoming dirty (Fig. 175, page 290).
Every pen should be provided with a hanging coop, with slat sides and
bottom in which to place broody hens or extra males (Fig. 176). A self-
feed grit box should be placed where the hens can have constant access to
it and cannot roost upon it (Fig. 177).
In this Bulletin the attempt has been made to take up the parts of a
poultry-plant in detail, to discuss the principles involved in their con-
struction, leaving each one who reads to solve the problem of applying
the principles to his own conditions. There is no one best poultry-house
for all, but there is a best poultry-house for each one. May you build it!
To THE READER:
If you are interested in this Bulletin, you should secure other literature
which will add to your knowledge of the subject. The Reading-Course
Bulletins are designed merely to introduce the subject. They are brief
and elementary; you should supplement them with reading from other
sources. We do not care to recommend certain books and bulletins over
other publications on the same subject; but in connection with the subject
considered, in this Bulletin we believe that you will find the following
publications of special interest. The books can be bought of the publish-
ers. A list of Poultry Bulletins will be given in a succeeding Bulletin.
I. Poultry Craft. Robinson. Farm Poultry Publishing Co., Boston,
2. Farm Poultry. G. C. Watson. The Macmillan Co., New York.
3. Biggle's Poultry Book. Farm Journal, Philadelphia, Pa.
6. The Poultry Book. Harrison Wier. Revised by W. G. Johnson.
Doubleday, Page & Co., New York.
7. American Standard of Perfection. T. E. Orr, Beaver, Pa.
8. The New Poultry Book. L. E. Wright. Orange Judd Co.
9. Diseases of Poultry. D. E. Salmon. Geo. E. Howard & Co.,
Washington, D. C.
io. The Business Hen. H. W. Collingwood. Published by The
Rural Publishing Co., New York.