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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/751

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GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON BIRDS

order to have them ready before their first moult, which takes place when they are about ten weeks old. The Aylesbury "duckers," as the duck fatteners are called, get their ducklings to scale four pounds and over when eight or nine weeks old. Ducklings should be bedded on straw in an airy shed, kept clean and only let out to feed, when they should have all they will eat and drink, and then be driven back to the shed The food should be mixed fairly moist, and consist of mixed meals, ground oats, biscuit-meal, barley-meal, sharps or well-boiled rice, to which a little fat is added. They should not be permitted to swim, and should be sheltered from the sun. As soon as the adult quill-feathers appear on their wings, they go back in condition and are troublesome to pluck; therefore, unless killed before that stage is reached, they should be turned out, and kept until about three or four months old. Flint grit should be put in their water-trough while they are fattening.

Fattening Geese for the Table.—Goslings are generally allowed their liberty during the summer, and have little food except the grass they gather. It is not advisable to shut them up when the time comes to fatten them; they should simply be well fed morning and evening, and permitted to range at liberty and eat all the grass possible, for grass forms a considerable portion of their food. A mixture of boiled rice, sharps and various meals should be given them in the morning, and maize or wheat at night, the latter being put in the water-trough. They should be allowed all the food they will eat for three or four weeks before killing. If shut up they can be made fatter; but fat geese are not desirable, for they lose too much weight in cooking.

To Choose Poultry.—When fresh, the eyes should be clear and not sunken, the feet limp and pliable, stiff dry feet being a sure indication that the bird has not been recently killed; and if the bird is plucked should be no discoloration of the skin.

Fowls, when young, should have smooth legs and feet; the cock bird is young when it has smooth legs and short spurs; hens when young have smooth legs. The bones of all young birds are soft and gelatinous and they always harden with age; the end of the breast-bone when young is soft and pliable; when otherwise, it may be accepted as sure evidence of the advanced age of the bird. The signs of an old fowl are its stiff, horny-looking feet, long spurs, dark-coloured and hairy thighs, stiff beak and bones. Game fowls, and those with dark-coloured legs, are better for roasting then for boiling. White fowls, such as Dorkings, are more suitable for boiling.

Turkeys.—Turkeys, when young, have short spurs and smooth black legs; when the legs are pale, or reddish and rough, and the spurs long, these marks may be taken as sure indications of age. When freshly killed the eyes should be full and bright. Norfolk turkeys are considered the best; the cock bird is usually selected for roasting, and the hen for boiling.

Geese and ducks when young have yellow feet and bills; as they