When one has devoted all his time for twenty-one years, and part of his time for the six years preceding to the poultry business he can be pardoned for feeling that he knows many things about the business, and for having a somewhat skeptical feeling toward a brand new idea he has never seen worked out. I will freely confess that my visit to Sabrina Farms was made with my mind in its most critical state and really a tolerant attitude toward the new giant house idea that Mr. Shaw was trying out on his farm. After a delightful day spent in studying the farm, the buildings, the carefully kept records, and the personality of the proprietors, Mr. and Mrs. Shaw, I came away with the feeling that this new idea in poultry architecture was a success, and well worthy of emulation throughout the country.
One beautiful day last May, Mrs. Delano and the writer passed up the train and took the trolley from Boston to Wellesley. A short auto ride from the center of this beautiful town brought us to “Sabrina,” and we were welcomed by the proprietors. From the time we approached the farm I found my spirit changing, and the more I studied its possibilities, the more I found to admire, the surer I became that here was a farm that was bound to become one of the most successful in all America. The location is not only beautiful, but, absolutely ideal for poultry. The soil is excellent, but, a sandy loam that dries quickly, and has excellent drainage. Originally developed as a pleasure park, with a very large artificial lake, and several islands all walled in by granite to preserve them, the artificial features have been made part of the landscape by the softening processes of time, and Sabrina has one of the most beautiful settings I have ever seen anywhere.
More than forty acres are under cultivation this year, with corn the main crop. This acreage will be increased next year. Fine orchards have been started, and the older trees cleaned up and grafted. A fine lot of thoroughbred sheep are utilized to graze the extensive lawns, and save mowing. The poultry, geese, ducks, and pheasants are all kept under ideal conditions, and by following the laws of nature very closely. Mr. Shaw has built a roomy, homey bungalow on the largest of the islands in the lake. This island is roughly egg shape, and a white paling fence just back of the stone wall surrounding it helps bring out this appropriate out line for the home on this egg farm. It would be hard to imagine a prettier setting for a home. Splendid water forms vistas through the trees open up on every side. Ducks and geese were playing in the water everywhere, the paling fence keeping them from the home lawn and garden. I saw nest after nest full of goose eggs that were being hatched just where the parent geese chose to locate their nest, and a few early broods were already off. The home island is connected by three bridges with the main land. Were Mr. Shaw to make them draw-bridges, he might well feel like a baron of old, and sleep securely surrounded by a moat.
Naturally my keenest interest lay in this new mammoth house for 800 layers that I had heard of but, never seen. We were soon following the winding drive-way up the hill from the lake, until we reached the higher level where the poultry buildings are located. The large 60 foot square building was studied from all sides, before we entered same. The south front, and half way back on the east and west sides were windows that could be opened at either top or bottom. One piece twelve light regular storm sash. A very ingenious arrangement allowing this double method of opening same. They can also be taken out, and stored over head, and their places taken by muslin screens at will. The main floor is all one room, and 800 laying birds, have a superb exercising space in this roomy interior, with plenty of sunlight and pure fresh air. The ventilation is perfect, as the fresh air comes in the window openings, and the dead air passes up through ventilators and out above the roof. Enormous dry mash hoppers start about 15 feet from the front of the building, and run down the middle for about 20 feet. They have their bottom about 24 inches above the floor, so they do not interfere with the floor space. Foot boards, give ample room for the birds to stand while eating their requirements from the hopper. The hard grain is fed from an ingenious invention of Mr. Shaw. He places the grain in a large hopper which is mounted on wheels, and has a snout or opening near the floor. Running this through the deep litter places every kernel of grain next to the floor, and the birds have to scratch hard for their grain. Running east and west across the building about 40 feet from the front are the banks of trap-nests. These too are well off the floor, so birds can pass under them. In the rear of the building is the roosting room with ample accommodations for the 800 dwellers in this mammoth apartment. A wire partition makes it possible to confine the birds to this room at will, when cleaning the main building, or handling the flock in a more constricted space.
Above the main room is a large feed room, and plenty of space for grain storage. Mr. Shaw has taken advantage of a side hill to have the east side of the main floor just above the ground level, while the west side of the cellar floor is at the ground level, and the enormous cellar under the whole building gives him many things that all poultry farms need, and very few have. Through the center is a roomy hall or corridor, and the rooms all open from this hallway. It runs to within bout 18 feet of the east side of the cellar. On the right as you enter is a roomy, and well lighted carpenters or work room, that is well equipped with machinery for doing all kinds of wood work, next comes a fitting room for getting birds in condition, then an egg room, where there are ample accommodations for keeping eggs, then an incubator cellar well stocked with lamp machines. This brings us to the corner. Next along the east wall is a cold storage room, that is splendidly cooled by a large body of ice stored overhead in a large bin. Here are cooled and kept dressed poultry, and market eggs. The next two rooms are root cellars, then a mushroom cellar, and this brings us to the corner, another root cellar. Along the north wall as an L to the main hallway is the heater, and room for storing coal. Mushroom bins are cleverly placed around the heater, and a splendid income comes from these bins, and the other cellar. Next comes a large feed room, and shoots from the loft come down in the main hallway just outside the door to this room. Finally we come to a splendidly fitted up room for fattening birds in crates. Making all in all the best and most complete auxilary plant I have ever seen on a poultry farm.
There are two large yards in connection with this building, and the birds have access to them alternately, so that green stuff is kept away the foundation was being built for another building just like the one described above, excepting the cellar will be used for housing the tractor, and other farm machinery, and not as much money would be laid out in partition as on the original building. Mr. Shaw believes that ample storage room for housing Summer colonies, brood coops, as well as all machinery will pay in the long run, and he is certainly right. Most of us have to take the wear and tear on our smaller houses however.
For anyone interested in raising your own chickens for eggs you will be as keenly interested as I was to learn just how the birds wintered in their roomy quarters last winter. As you know it was a supreme test, as it was the coldest winter on record. Also, there were only 600 females in the house last winter, so it was not filled to capacity. Not-with-standing these facts, it was absolutely successful, and Mr. Shaw’s carefully kept egg records are ample proof of same. The birds when I saw them were in splendid order, and showed they had been in perfect health all winter. Mr. Shaw’s opinion of the house is best demonstrated by the fact he is building another. The saving of labor is sufficient to make the house attractive to every market egg man.
Between the two houses a long breeding house was being erected that will house the choice pens of White Wyandottes that will be Mr. Shaw’s specialty. This house will have ten or more pens each 8’ by 15’, and the usual open front curtains will be used. Yards will go from front and back of this house, so birds will alternate and have a green run all the time. Several colony breeding houses, and a male bird house will complete the present equipment for adult fowls. A good brooder house is now on the farm, and another will be erected this summer.
The many hundred sturdy youngsters coming on were very attractive. They had large grass range, and as soon as the corn fields were well started, the movable fences came down, and the chicks roamed at will through this ideal range. The roosting houses for these chicks differed from any I have seen elsewhere, and are well worth your study. They are all collapsible when erected, sides, back, front and top are all frames covered with wire netting, and heavy roofing paper. The sides are covered with paper only for the rear five feet, and the front has no paper. The roof and back are solid. This gives a fine roosting room at the rear, and a covered loafing place at the front. The buildings are anchored to the ground so they will not collapse in a high wind. A splendid shelter for a goodly bunch of chicks, and easily housed for the winter.
Mr. Shaw has been breeding carefully and well in a rather small way for some years, and is now planning for the future, and is building what is bound to be one of the largest and best poultry farms in the country. Expansion will come as needed, and only after the need for more house room has been demonstrated. Mr. and Mrs. Shaw love their White Wyandottes, and the fine quality in their flocks reflects this attitude. They also have a good flock of utility Reds and some of Uncle Isaac Felch’s heavy laying Brahmas. Novel labor saving devices are being freely introduced, and automatic drinking devices convey water to every flock on the place. Mrs. Shaw is just as keen a fancier as her husband and many splendid suggestions have come from her, and helped to make the farm successful.
Every fancier will welcome the Shaws to our ranks with open arms, and the same careful work they have done with layers, when applied to standard points will insure their success from the word go.
It will be an inspiration for you to go to Sabrina, and you will come away with brand new ideas, and full of enthusiasm from an hour or two spent with the Shaws. My regret at parting with the flock of White Wyandottes that I have worked on for over twenty years has been tempered greatly by the fact they have gone into such good hands, and, I know that their future development as one of America’s leading flocks of this grand variety is assured.