Types and Breeds of Poultry
This is a small selection from A Study of Farm Animals, by Charles S. Plumb, published in 1924. Plumb was a professor of animal husbandry in the College of Agriculture at Ohio State University, and published several books on farm animals and judging livestock. This piece covers the categorization and features of chickens as farm stock.
“The types of domestic fowls may be classified into four groups, namely: Egg-laying, meat, general-purpose, and ornamental. For some time poultry students have discussed these types, but more especially three, which from a practical point of view are the only ones of interest to the farmer. These three are the laying, the meat, and the general purpose fowls. Good examples of each of these types are common all over the country. The breeds are also sometimes divided into two classes, sitters and non-sitters, according to whether or not the hens have the desire to sit on and hatch a nest of eggs.
“The egg laying type of fowl, according to Prof. H. R. Lewis, should show a well balanced, deep, nearly rectangular body, well developed in breast and abdomen. Great depth of body is especially desirable, but apparent depth must not be due to loose feathering, which is generally shown by an evidence of loose thigh feathers. Large capacity is essential, if a hen is to lay long and heavily. Such capacity is designated by a body that is deeper at the rear end of the keel than at the front end. The underline should be fairly straight and the back should be comparatively horizontal. Prominent breast development and evidence of a long keel are desirable qualities in a high-producing hen. The general body conformation of a heavy producer conforms very closely to a rectangle with pronounced angles rather than smooth curves. A male shows the same general characteristics as a female except that the abdomen is not so deep. Fowls of this type vary somewhat in size and weight as well as in flesh-producing capacity. The Leghorns are small, the hens weighing around 3 pounds, and do not produce much meat on the body, while the Minorcas are larger, the hens weighing about 6 1/2 pounds, and may carry a good amount of flesh when in best condition. The fowls of this type are of European ancestry and are usually known among poultry specialists as the Mediterranean breeds.
“The meat type of fowl is said to be comparable to the draft horse, beef cattle, mutton sheep, and the fat hog. It is squarely built, compact, thickly fleshed, wide of back and breast, and heavy of limb. Fowls of this type, when fat, have a carcass thickly covered with meat, and are especially valued for roasting. The hens, as a rule, are of sluggish disposition and are inferior egg producers. The meat type fowls sometimes weight 10 to 12 pounds. They are of Asiatic origin, and are represented by the Brahma, Cochin, and Langshan breeds.
“The general-purpose type of fowl, as might be supposed, is valued for both egg and meat production. This type is medium in size, has considerable fullness of breast and width of back, and fattens to advantage. In egg production some general-purpose breeds have excellent records. Standards and weights vary, but 7 pounds for the hens and 9 for the cocks are satisfactory. Fowls of the general-purpose type, as a rule, belong to the American breeds, of which the Plymouth Rock, Wyandotte, and Rhode Island Red are the most common examples.”