Novel live stock[edit | edit source]
Occasionally we hear stories of the wealth which is being made on a frog farm here or there. But as a rule little commercial success has attended attempts in this direction.
The difficulty lies in feeding them. A single frog can be fed by dangling a piece of meat before it, but it would be impossible to feed thousands this way. There are so many enemies that few tadpoles become adult frogs; besides, the frog is a cannibal and will eat not only the larvae or eggs, but the tadpoles and young frogs as well.
Frog culture is successful in some places where ponds are large enough to be partitioned, separating the tadpoles and young frogs from the old ones, and where insects are abundant enough to supply food naturally for them. Near San Francisco there are a number of frog ranches. Even in 1903, according to Mary Heard in _Out West,_one ranch sold to San Francisco markets 2600 dozen frogs' legs,netting $1800. This was considered poor. Frogs' legs are sold to hotels and restaurants, and bring in New York, according to size and season, from fifty cents to a dollar a pound.
Tons of frogs come to New York markets each year from Canada,Michigan, and from the South and West. Few people outside of the cities eat them. The United States Fish Commissioners reported the product in one year: Arkansas, 58,800 lb., valued at $4162; Indiana,24,000 lb., valued at $5026; Ohio, 14,000 lb., valued at $2340;Vermont, 5500 lb., valued at $825, etc.--a total of $22,953.
The enormous and increasing prices of large diamond backed turtles,and the cheapness of little ones shows that maturing, at least, if not actually breeding them, would be well worth investigation. Many wealthy New Yorkers send direct to Maryland for their supplies.
Where turtle meat is bottled or canned, the snapping turtle and the common box tortoise are sometimes used as "substitutes." Both are capital eating.
The carp is one of the most excellent fresh water fish, and is of great value on account of the facility of culture and the enormous extent to which this is carried on. "In Europe some artificial ponds comprise an area of no less than 20,000 acres, and the proceeds amount to about 500,000 pounds of carp per annum." (Hessel, in "Carp and Its Culture.")
It attains the weight of three to four pounds in three years without artificial feeding, and much more under more favorable conditions.
It lives to a great age and continues to grow all the while.
"In Europe it is common to see carp weighing from thirty to forty pounds and more, measuring nearly three and one half feet in length and two and three quarters feet in circumference."
It lives on vegetable food, insects, larvae, and worms, and will not attack other fishes or their spawn. It is easy to raise, and,provided certain general rules are followed, success will attend its culture.
The localities best adapted to a carp pond are those in which there is sufficient water at hand for the summer as well as the winter. A mud or loam soil is best adapted for such a pond. A rocky, gravelly ground is not suited for carp; the water should be the same depth all the year, as variation has an injurious effect on the fish.
Carp spawn in the spring. In stocking a pond three females are calculated to two males. The females lay a great number of eggs, but only a small number are impregnated. The most liberal estimate will not exceed from 800 to 1000 to one spawner, the aggregate per acre amounting to from 4000 to 5000.
The large cities containing large numbers of Europeans furnish the principal markets for carp. The Jewish people will not, as a rule,buy carp unless they are alive, so it is not an uncommon thing to see fish dealers in the Hebrew quarters pushing through the streets carts constructed as tanks and peddling the carp alive.
Some years ago carp ponds were quite a fad among farmers of the Central West. Americans have been slow to adopt the German carp as a food fish.
Trout, of course, can be raised, and the high prices which they bring, both in market and for fishing privileges, make them very attractive; but the cold running water needed makes opportunity for breeding them with access to a good market generally unavailable to owners of five acres.
There is another fish, famous for its eating qualities, which well repays effort put upon its production. I refer to the black bass. It is indigenous to the waters of the Eastern states, where it is usually found in creeks or rivers. It can be successfully bred in properly constructed ponds.
Mr. Dwight Lyell, in Forest and Stream, has this to say about a breeding place for the small-mouthed black bass. "The pond should be six feet deep in the center and two feet around the edge; the bottom should be of natural sand; water plants should be growing in profusion, particularly such aquatic plants as the Daphnia, Bosmina,and the Corix, to furnish food for the young bass. A good size for a breeding pond is 100 X 100 feet." For spawning, artificial nest frames are built in rectangular form. They are made two feet square without bottoms. On two adjoining sides these frames are four inches high and on the other two adjoining sides sixteen inches high. These frames are made because the bass needs a barrier behind which the spawning may be done and which will protect the nest when made. For raising the fish to a size large enough for food, ponds can be of any convenient size. In order to keep the water in healthful condition the pond must be fed by a flowing brook with some provision to prevent the water being disturbed by freshets. This can usually be arranged by a sluice to carry off the surplus water during heavy rains. Black bass raised in shallow ponds will take the fly all summer, so that considerable may be made from fishing privileges.
In the absence of minnows, which are the food of the bass, they must be fed on fresh liver cut in threads like an angle worm to tempt the fish. Even then the liver diet must be varied by feeding minnows from September until the bass goes into winter quarters. In no other way can fertile eggs be assured for the spring hatching. Minnows left in the pond all winter will breed and so furnish fry on which the young bass can feed tile next summer."
What has been said refers particularly to the small-mouthed black bass. The conditions are substantially the same for the large-mouthed bass (which grows to a much larger size), except that the bottom may be made of Spanish moss imbedded in cement.
There is a growing market for the young bass or fingerlings to stock streams and ponds. The relation between the producer of stock fish and those who expect to raise bass of a marketable size is about the same as exists between the professional seed grower and the market gardener. It is much better for the small farmer who has or can make an artificial pond to buy his fingerlings from the professional breeder, who has facilities which are too elaborate to be duplicated on a small scale.
Fish culture, except under government auspices, is little known in the United States.
_American Homes and Gardens _has an account of the breeding of pheasants, which is of interest. That it is possible to breed pheasants, even around an ordinary suburban home, is shown by Mr.
Homer Davenport, the famous cartoonist, who succeeded in breeding and raising some of the choicest pheasants on his place at Morris Plains, New Jersey.
A great variety of species are commonly bred, but all of them came from China or India. The pheasant can be tamed by careful handling,but cats and dogs and other small animals must be kept away. The pheasantry should be placed on high, well-drained ground with a southern exposure, where the soil is good enough to raise clover,oats, and barley. The quarters for pheasants and the management are very much like those for fancy chickens. The yard should be inclosed by wire netting both on sides and top to keep the birds from wandering away; and there should be houses for roosting and breeding with nesting quarters attached.
In Central Park, New York, the running space allotted to three or four birds is not more than ten by twenty feet, and Mr. George Ethelbert Walsh tells of a case where sixty pheasants were kept in excellent condition in a house ten by fifty feet, with five yards attached, averaging 10 X 25 feet. However, with pheasants, as with all the bird family, especially turkeys, the more ground they have for ranging the less liable they will be to disease. The chief difficulty in breeding game birds like the pheasant is to secure the insects, such as flies, maggots, and ant eggs, which are the natural food of the young. Sufficient green food like lettuce, turnip tops,cabbage, etc., must also be provided. There is always a market at fancy prices for more of the matured birds than can possibly be supplied.
Some people make money in breeding or training fancy birds like canaries, mocking birds, finches, parrots, and so on; but this industry can be carried on almost as well in rooms in the city as in the country. Specializing on any kind of animal rearing must be gone into with extreme caution, because in the breeding of animals there are many factors to be dealt with which do not confront the breeder of plants. Make haste slowly, and before branching out be sure that you master each step in its turn.
An industry which is practically unknown in this country, but which flourishes in Burgundy, France, is the raising of snails for food.
Those who are shocked by this will he surprised to learn that snail culture was practiced by the Romans at the time of the Civil War between Caesar and Pompey, as Jacques Boyer says in_ American Homes and Gardens. _The snail lays from fifty to sixty eggs annually. They are deposited in a smooth hole prepared for them in the ground and hatched within twenty days. So rapidly do they grow that they are ready for market six or eight weeks after hatching. The snail park is made by inclosing a plot of damp, limy soil with smooth boards coated with tar to prevent the snails climbing out, and held in place by outside stakes strong enough to withstand the wind. The boards must penetrate the soil to the depth of eight inches at least, and at a level with the ground they must have a sort of shelf to prevent the snails from burrowing under them. When the snail encounters an obstacle in its path, it lays its eggs, sensible beast. Ten thousand snails can be raised on a plot of land one hundred by two hundred feet. The ground is plowed deeply in the spring, the snails are placed on it and covered with from two to four inches of moss or straw which is kept damp. They must be fed daily with lettuce, cabbage, vine leaves, or grass; as they eat at night, they are fed shortly before sunset. Aromatic herbs, like mint, parsley, etc., are planted in the inclosure to improve the flavor of the snails.
In October, the snails having become fat through the summer, retire into their shells, the mouths of which they close with a thin gelatinous covering. They are now ready for picking, and are put on screens or trays which are piled together in storehouses, where they remain several months without food. When the fast has been sufficiently prolonged, the shells are brushed up and the snails cooked in salt water in a great pot holding about ten thousand. When cooked, they are immediately sent to the consumer in wooden boxes holding from fifty to two hundred. The business is a very profitable one, as the snail is considered a great delicacy by epicures.
Perhaps the silkworm is not exactly in place in a chapter on Novel Live Stock. It is at present not much more than an interesting experiment, but there will be money in silkworm culture as soon as a market for the product is developed. The main difficulty is lack of food, as the worm thrives best on the leaf of the white mulberry tree. Until a substitute is found, it will be necessary therefore to set out young trees, which in two years will bear enough leaves to supply food. The labor of silkworm rearing all comes in one month.
It can be carried on in any large, airy room The eggs are hatched by the summer heat, and the worm does not become a heavy eater until the last two weeks. It sheds its skin four times, and after the final moult it climbs into loose brush prepared for it and spins the cocoon. These are then dried and shipped.
At the South, where the climate is well suited for silk culture, an obstacle has been found in the unadaptability of the cheap labor,particularly colored labor, to the delicate handling, and especially winding of the silk from the cocoons.
Many people make money by breeding dogs. Not much land is required and very little capital, as kennels can be multiplied as demand increases. There is always a profitable market for dogs, and some of the lap species, like the King Charles spaniel, bring fabulous prices. Hunting dogs, such as setters, pointers, retrievers, really require a game country and a practical hunter who can train the puppies, to make much of a success of it; with these, if properly handled, the business is a safe one, as there is little other technical skill required beyond ordinary care, such as is given to domestic animals.
Cats are a better venture than dogs because they are sold to women who will pay any price for what strikes their fancy. Fashions in cats change about as fast as fashions in coats, but cats breed faster than coats wear out, so it is quick business.
Just now, coon cats, tortoise-shell cats, and bizarre colors of Persian cats are mostly in vogue, but the tailless Manx cat, and even freaks like the six-toed cat and Iynx cats always find a ready market.
Of course, these can be raised in the city, but if it is done in a large enough way to make a living out of it, the Board of Health and the neighbors will raise--something else.
Fishing and hunting are primitive industries of which we think only in connection with wild land. But every bay and pond and wood will supply at least some subsistence or profit to the intelligent seeker.
Oysters, clams, crabs, mussels, frogs, and common fish are found in abundance in many places, and help out with table expenses. Even English sparrows are delicious.
Almost any wild animal is much more wholesome to eat than pork.
Squirrels and even weasels are cleaner feeders than pigs, and the Indians eat them with great relish, while everybody knows the keenness of the darkies for "coon." Most snakes are better eating than eels and not near so repulsive--when you get used to them.
The woodchuck is a nuisance to the farmer, covering his field with loads of subsoil from the burrow and then eating the tender sprouts;and the farmer does not know enough to eat his tender corpse, but he is good to eat. If a rabbit and a chicken could have young, it would taste like a woodchuck
Muskrats, mink, raccoons, and gray and fox squirrels are easily trapped; and the skins of those killed in that way find a steady market. Skins of poisoned animals do not sell so well, as they are rough and dry.
In order to be profitable, these do not need to pay very well in proportion to the time they take, since they are hunted as recreation and at odd times.
But there is a larger field in raising wild animals, which our Western people have not been slow to avail themselves of, and we hear of men being prosecuted for breeding wolves, coyotes, and bobcats, a kind of lynx, to get the government bounty for the snouts or scalps.
In a legitimate way profit may be had from such animals.
Ernest Thompson Seton has an article in _Country Life in America,_on raising fur-bearing animals for profit; this offers a good chance for small capital and large intelligence. He suggests the beaver, mink, otter, skunk, and marten, and says that whoever would begin fur farming is better off with five acres than with five hundred. He describes two fox ranches at Dover, Maine. They raise twenty to forty silver foxes a year, on a little more than half an acre of land. The silver fox's fur is one of the most valuable on the market and sells at an average of $150 a pelt, that is, $3000 to $6000 gross for the year's work. Foxes are not expensive to breed,their food consisting chiefly of sour milk and cornmeal or flour made into a cake, and a little meat about once a week.
The capital required is small. A fence for the inclosure should be of one and a half inch mesh No. 16 galvanized wire, ten feet high,with an overhang of eighteen inches to keep the foxes from escaping,and is about the only outlay except for purchase of stock.
Stakes should be driven close to the fence to keep them from burrowing out.
They are naturally clean animals, and with careful attention are free from disease. Mr. Stevens reports that in his two years'experience he has had twenty to thirty foxes and lost none by disease, while Mr. Norton, with five years' experience, carrying thirty to forty, reports that one to two die each year.
They breed as well in captivity as in their wild state, usually bringing forth a litter of six or seven in the spring. These breed the following spring and their fur is ready for market the following December. And now breeders sell fine stock to other breeders who are entering the industry, sometimes getting three to four hundred dollars per pair. Mr. Seton remarks, "I am satisfied that any man who has made a success of hens can make a success of foxes, with this advantage for the latter a fox requires no more space or care than a hen, but is worth twenty times as much, and so gives a chance for returns twenty times as large."
This is an infant industry, but if others can get the same results,it will pay handsomely. To get the best furs, however, requires a district where the winters are cold and long.
There are a few skunk farms in the West. It is said that the scent gland can be taken out, though that is not necessary, and that the farms do well. Their oil is also said to be valuable. But while skunks are so common there cannot be much in breeding them.
If your fancy goes to "critters" rather than crops it is much better to raise game birds. Wild turkeys raised under a hen or in an incubator and made pretty tame (if too tame they do not thrive so well in a small area), "wild" ducks, grouse, partridges, quails,even wood ducks which build their nests in trees are no longer experiments.
All the common enemies you have to contend against are foxes, dogs,cats, rats, mink, skunks, hawks, owls, crows, frogs, turtles,snakes, poachers, game legislators, and disease.
It has been calculated that one pair of quails and its progeny would produce five or six million birds in eight years if there were no losses. But so would chickens; and probably you will not get that many.
All about these game birds is set forth in an advertising booklet called, "Game Farming" of the Hercules Powder Co., which has offices in a dozen cities, so we need not enlarge.