Exercise For Laying Hens

My collection of vintage poultry books and pamphlets have charming graphics, and they’re worth seeking out just for that, but they also are filled with excellent advice. Three things were consistently recommended: sunshine, greens and exercise. Even as flocks became larger, and feed was bought instead of grown on the farm, this advise still held true. In 1929 the Wirthmore Feeds company put out a booklet. You’d think they’d have a vested interest in confined birds that ate only their product, and a lot of it. But, no! The cover showed busy chickens outside on grass.

(As an aside, I so want that apron!)

Even inside the barn Wirthmore advised a system that encouraged the hens to scratch and mill about.

So, before you toss handfuls of mealworms and cracked corn to your girls, remember the advice from the Wirthmore Feeds company. What your hens need are exercise, healthy foods and fresh air. Sounds like words of wisdom that I should follow, too.

PS For a useful vintage egg record chart see this post.



  1. Healthy food, fresh air and exercise aside, these pictures are fantastic… especially the one with the blue apron!

  2. I do love the artwork. If only life could be just like that picture! I have a scan (Cornell U. Library) for my nook reader of 200 Eggs Per Year: How to Get Them, A Practical Treatise On Egg Making and Its Conditions AND Profits in Poultry by Edgar Warren, 1899. I wonder, if in your collecting, you may have a hard copy of this book.

    I like to sit and read parts of it now and then for relaxing time, not only for the old fashioned recipes for feed, breeding, cleaning (“How to Rid a House of Vermin”) and medicinal treatments, but also just for the fabulous English language they used in those days. The English sounds like it belongs with these pictures!

    • I don’t have that one. I’ll keep an eye out for it. I just bought a book from the 1920s written by a woman rancher in Texas about how to run a successful poultry business. Chicken ranches were one of the few businesses open to women.

  3. I’m the lady with 4 austrolorpes…..2 have been laying but we just had one that laid a bloody cracked egg in the garden…I’m scared…should I be?

    • Sometimes there are issues with the first egg. There’s lots of clues to look for – was the blood a slight smear on the outside? A large blood spot on the inside? Was it cracked because the shell was very thin or because the hen laid it without care? Check your hen’s vent and see if there’s blood or if it’s clean. Is she behaving normally and eating and drinking or standing still and apart? Very likely, it’s nothing to worry about. Being observant usually calms fears!

  4. So fun to read all the blogs, comments, advice and look at the great pictures, watch the cams. I could spend hours on your site Terry, and sometimes have to set myself a time limit then tear myself away. Thank you for all the information and just plain fun!

    Next summer I plan on getting more chickens and hopefully a couple of goats (have to build a shelter and develop a relationship with a good farm vet first.) Your site will be my first go to place for information, never having had goats before.