Farmers Bulletin 1331: Back-yard poultry keeping

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Farmers Bulletin 1331: Back-yard poultry keeping was a USDA Farmers' Bulletin, originally written and published as "Farmers Bulletin 889: Back-yard poultry keeping" in 1917. The earlier version was revised in 1919 under the same volume number and again in 1923 as Vol. 1331.[1] Volume 1331 was revised again in 1926, 1932, and 1941. The 1941 version was renamed "Farmers Bulletin 1508: Poultry Keeping in Back Yards."

This page highlights differences between the 1923, 1926, and 1932 versions from one another and from the previous edition published in 1919. The remaining text that is unchanged across editions may be seen on the SourceWatch page for "Farmers Bulletin 889: Back-yard poultry keeping."

Inside the Front Cover

Both the 1919 and 1923 editions contain the same statement advocating the keeping of chickens in back yards. However, the value of the eggs is updated in the 1923 version to 40 cents a dozen, worth a total of $40 per year if 10 hens given 10 dozen eggs each. Furthermore the statement, "Remember that eggs produced by the back-yard flock cost very little, as the fowls are fed largely upon waste materials" is removed in the 1923 edition. This reflects the changes in feeding instructions in this edition, which no longer call for table scraps as a primary source of feed.

Kind of Fowls to Keep

The breed Jersey Black Giant is added to the list of recommended breeds in 1923.[2]

Procuring Stock

The 1919 and 1923 versions both say "The best way for the city poultry keeper to procure stock is to purchase it in the fall," but the 1923 edition adds "or to buy day-old chicks or hatching eggs.[3] A few sentences later, the 1919 version and 1923 versions differ. Whereas the 1919 version reads:

"Yearling or older hens will lay few or no eggs during the fall and early winter, while they are molting. Well-matured pullets, however, should lay fairly well during this period, so that an immediate return is realized from the investment. The purchasing of pullets in the fall is preferable in most cases to purchasing day-old chicks or to hatching in the spring. Usually little space is available for the raising of chicks, and, moreover, many city dwellers have had no experience in raising them. Hatching and rearing chicks also necessitates broody hens, or else investing money in incubators and brooders. Such an investment is often too great to prove profitable with the average small flock. If chicks are raised, they must be fed throughout the summer and no return will be obtained until the pullets begin to lay in the fall, except that the males can be eaten or sold."[4]

It is replaced in the 1923 version with:

"Day-old chicks are sold extensively throughout the country and can be obtained in any number desired at moderate prices. It is not so desirable for the suburban poultry keeper to purchase eggs for hatching, although this is done successfully by some persons. The raising of small chicks, especially under congested conditions or where very little ground is available, is much more difficult than rearing them where one has free range or large yards. Growing chicks should have plenty of green feed, which is best supplied by good grass range. When 200 or more day-old chicks are bought the only extra equipment required is a stove brooder, as all the chicks can be purchased at one time. If smaller numbers of chicks are to be raised it is usually preferable to raise them with hens."[5]

Another section about purchasing pullets from a farmer that is printed in 1919 but removed in 1923 reads:

"In some cases it may pay to make arrangements with the farmer to raise the desired number of pullets at an agreed price. Where the householder does not have an opportunity to go into the country or his pullets, he can often pick them out among the live poultry shipped into the city to be marketed. The advice of some one who knows poultry should be sought in making such a purchase, to make sure that pullets or young hens are obtained, and that the stock is healthy.[6]


This section remains mostly the same from 1919 to 1923, with the exception of the paragraph about the floor. The following text from 1919 is removed in 1923:

"Often a slight dampness can be corrected by filling up the floor several inches above the ground with sand, cinders, gravel, or dry dirt. Three or four inches of the surface of the floor, and of the run if a very small run is used, should be removed and replaced with fresh dirt two or three times a year. If the ground is so wet or damp that this condition cannot be corrected by filling, it is best to provide a board floor, as this will help to keep the house dry, will allow easier cleaning, and will promote the general health and welfare of the hens."[7]

In 1923 the passage reads:

"The floor should be filled up several inches above the outside ground level. A dirt floor is hard to keep clean, and if there are many buildings near by it is difficult to keep rats from being troublesome with such a floor. A dirt floor also makes the house very dusty and it can not be kept so clean as a house with a wooden floor. Three or 4 inches of the surface of the floor and a thin layer of the soil of the run, if a very small run is used, should be removed and replaced with fresh dirt two or three times a year. A board floor is the most practical type of floor for most small poultry houses, as it is absolutely dry and is easy to keep clean. A concrete floor may also be used but is more expensive and is not so desirable in the small poultry house, as it may be necessary sometimes to move the house."[8]

Whereas both editions recommend straw or leaves as types of litter in the coop, the 1923 version adds: "Leaves are not nearly so desirable as straw, as they break up very quickly and make dirt and dust."[9]

The other change in housing advice is for the feeding of broody hens. In 1919, the bulletin reads, "she may be fed or not, as desired. Not much difference will be found in the time required to break her of broodiness, whether she is fed or made to fast."[10] In 1923, the recommendation is to give her "one daily feed of a light mash."[9]

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles


  1. USDA Farmers' Bulletins, University of North Texas Digital Library.
  2. Farmers Bulletin 1331: Back-yard poultry keeping, 1923, p. 2.
  3. Farmers Bulletin 1331: Back-yard poultry keeping, 1923, p. 3.
  4. Farmers Bulletin 889: Back-yard poultry keeping, 1919, pp. 5-6.
  5. Farmers Bulletin 1331: Back-yard poultry keeping, 1923, p. 4.
  6. Farmers Bulletin 889: Back-yard poultry keeping, 1919, p. 6.
  7. Farmers Bulletin 889: Back-yard poultry keeping, 1919, p. 11.
  8. Farmers Bulletin 1331: Back-yard poultry keeping, 1923, p. 8.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Farmers Bulletin 1331: Back-yard poultry keeping, 1923, p. 10.
  10. Farmers Bulletin 889: Back-yard poultry keeping, 1919, p. 14.

External Resources

External Articles