Canadian Poultry Magazine

Hen Apartment Houses

By G.S. Vickers   

Features 100th anniversary Notable People Business/Policy

October 1929

On Walnut Hills Poultry Farm, just outside of Columbus, Ohio, a 40×80-ft dairy barn has been modeled and converted into a six-storey poultry house capable of housing about 7,000 layers.

Walnut Hills Farm is owned and run by brothers named Morse.  I don’t know, and neither does anybody else for a certainty how their hen apartment home is going to turn out.  But if it does work, and similar houses now being tried out in the East also pan out, then the poultry business is going to see the biggest revolution it has ever seen.

Last summer a number of Ohio poultrymen made a trip East to look over poultry farms in that section of the country.  When they got down in some of the congested poultry sections of New Jersey they found a good share of the poultry yards around the houses grown up in weeds.  The layers were being confined to the houses at all times.  Often the pullets too were being reared in confinement, then moved to the laying quarters, there to be confined the rest of their lives. 


They visited one large farm with a four-storey house which, when full, took care of 10,000 layers.  The pullets on this farm were raised in confinement.  The owner of this farm is talking about building a house to take care of 100,000 layers.

In talking with the owners of these poultry farms the Ohio folks were told that the principal reason for keeping the birds was to prevent worm infestation and keep down disease.  Most of the Jersey poultrymen had only a very limited amount of land, all of which had become contaminated, and the only way the disease can be handled was to keep the birds away from the source of trouble – the soil.  The New Jersey people said that their egg production was just as good and in many cases better than when they used to let their birds outdoors.  Many had records to prove this point.  At the well-known Vineland Egg-Laying Contest all birds are kept confined.

This happened more as the result of an accident than anything else.  One year they kept the birds shut in so as to give the grass in the yards a chance to grow.  They laid so well during this time that they have never been out since and the egg records are now higher than when the birds were allowed on range.

For two or three years now poultrymen at the Pennsylvania State College have raised their chicks in confinement with very small losses and excellent egg production from pullets so raised. Going a little farther, they have secured good hatchability of the eggs produced by these confinement – reared pullets. There is other evidence also of similar nature, which I won’t bother to give, which shows that you can secure heavy egg production in confinement with good stock and proper feed.

The Ohio birds in that six-story house at Walnut Hills had not been in long enough when I was there to know what they were going to do.  Of course a lot of people will say that they won’t be able to keep egg production at a high and profitable level.  That remains to be seen.  It is just a question of whether birds in confinement will lay well.  How many stories high the house is seems to me to be immaterial.

If won’t do any good to turn our faces away and run from this problem.  Problems of such nature don’t vanish by anyone’s running.  They have the habit of catching up and forcing the fight.  The ultimate outcome will be the same as for all other problems. The more efficient and more progressive will continue to make money while the least efficient will go under.  We may have to change our ideas and methods of operation but we have done this a great many times before.  Witness the great change in brooding and incubation methods within the last ten years.

It seems to me that this whole question resolves itself into the following questions:

1.)  Do we know enough about feeding at the present time so that we can keep birds in confinement and possible raise them in confinement without in any way injuring them? In other words do we know enough to put in the fed what the birds know enough to get when outdoors?

2.)  If we don’t, will we find out within a short time in the future?

3.)  Can we get as good results in confinement as when on range?

4.)  Is the danger from disease greater or less under such a system?

5.)  Is the extra feed expense enough to cut any figure?

Certainly the apartment house has many advantages, the principal ones being:

1.)  Great labour saving.  The number of birds one man can handle is greatly increased.

2.)  Economies in house construction.

3.)  Less ground needed.

4.)  Minimizes danger of disease and worms from contaminated soil.

So keep your eyes on the developments in apartment-house poultry-farming.  The man who is able to select the good ideas and gets in early is the god who usually makes the money.

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