Memories of the Poultry Industry of Cowling

i.) David Hoyle
ii.) Maureen Cowgill & Catherine Smith
iii.) Local Press, June 1939 – ‘Poultry Congress Delegates’
iv.) Local Press – Well known Poultry Farmers Death

‘Day Old Chick Industries in Cowling developing from pre 1914 to 1960’s.’

Early entrepreneurs sent men and boys buying ‘clocker’s’ or broody hens round the countryside of Craven. My Father as a youth worked part time from School for Frank Snowden – ‘Towatt’. A flat cart (2 wheels) and a one eyed horse to farms and amateur poultry keepers with instructions to pay no more than 2 shillings and sixpence per hen also to barter where he could, this he did between the ages of twelve and fifteen on a Saturday morning until bedtime. Suppliers were kept secret by buyers Father under threat of sacking and a good hiding should be betray his trust. Taking his own bating and cold tea .

Many householders tried small hatcheries in their home cellars with paraffin heated incubators for small customers; very few made the big time as competition was keen. The main hatcheries were folk with ability to inherit or buy small holdings enabling them to build or adapt old buildings. i.e. Barns, piggeries, cart sheds, etc into warmer, well floored spaces to house large American type incubators. Several makes purchased ‘Petersimes & Robbins’ were the most popular and also the most expensive, although family money was on occasion pooled to buy these incubators. profits were out of proportion to anything working folk could imagine, and fortunes were made quickly as efficiency and advertising were developed the 1920’s to the 1950’s were day old and hey days, a season of four months in the year of intensive sometimes round the clock hatching produced scores of thousands of day olds, they were taken to Kildwick station, boxed in hay 25 per box. Chicks were despatched countrywide on the strength of good advertising and good service. Pride and efficiency of breeding developed as industry developed. The big revolution cam in the early 1930’s as day olds were sexed by Japanese sexers. Cocks and pullets sorted with 95% efficiency was an enormous boost to sales. Mr Hattori, Mr Yoshida & Mr. Tamaguchi doing the mainstream, working among all the main hatcheries in the village.

Living all year in the village they had eight months of the year to develop their Tennis and table tennis in particular. To watch them at work was fascinating. Chicks were brought to them, sitting at small benches with two square holes having shoots underneath pullets being carefully packed and cockerels drowned immediately before they could develop appetites, a thousand per hour being normal. The incubators could hold up to 20, 000 eggs per hatch. Hey farm had 11 incubators and was probably the largest producer. Frank Snowden as President of the International Poultry Federation concentrated on top grade breeding. Popular breeds were light Sussex white, Leghorn brown, Black Exchequers, Ancona, Wyndottes, Buff rocks, Hamden Plume Well Summers & Rhode Island Reds. Unsold day olds were brought up in brooder houses up to 100 per enclosure to month olds, then sold as healthy egg producing pullets.
Sixty brooder enclosures needed a large brooder house, which was a long wooden building of 150ft x 25ft approx. Fowl Pest in 1951 followed by rail power and transport strikes, helped to close the industry locally.
Written by David Hoyle June 2005.

‘Our days in the chick hatching business’
Each year towards the end of January we would be thinking of starting our new season. It was a very busy time for those engaged in producing thousands of day old baby chicks. By the 1930s when electricity was available the big machines were being used, where formerly small paraffin incubators were used in cellars or outhouses.
Dad and one or two other men went to London to the World Poultry Exhibition to buy some of the latest machines made by Robbins of Denver, Colorado, USA. The large ones would hold 24,000 eggs. We also had them holding 18,000 and 15,000 eggs. We hatched on Mondays and Thursdays and sometimes on Sundays.

Our hatching eggs had to be collected each week in wooden cases that held 360 eggs, 30 eggs to a tray. These came from a Longridge and Ribchester area also Cumberland, Westmorland and Dentdale. Locally we collected Lothersdale and Cononley. The eggs had to all be placed on special trays pointed end down and then fastened into the machine and turned twice a day automatically, after about ten days we had to check the eggs with a powerful lamp to see which eggs were infertile or clear as we called them. These wanted to be removed and local bakers would use the eggs, also they took the cracked eggs we had no use for.

All the fertile eggs had to be transferred on to a different type of wire tray with a lid for the final hatching in 11 days time. We had many different breeds all the different coloured Leghorns which were termed as light breeds. Ancona’s, Black Minorca’s, Blue Andalucians, Rhode Island Reds, Light Sussex, Barred Rocks also the breeds were often crossed say Brown Leghorn with Rhode Island Reds. Sometimes we would hatch Indian Game or some bantams. There are such a lot of different breeds, many really lovely to look at but most people wanted good egg producers.

Throughout the years we had many different chick sexers, quite a number came from Hebden Bridge as that was like Cowling, a popular place for hatcheries, our last man was a local farmer/sexer. We used to advertise in the Farmers Weekly and the Poultry magazines.
After being sexed the chicks were despatched in cardboard boxes lined with hay and holes around the sides so they didn’t smother. The boxes held either 12 or 25 chicks, tied up with twine and labeled to the customer. All had to go to Kildwick or Skipton Station, and very few died in transit considering the thousands that were dispatched every week. We had customers all over England, Scotland and Wales, and also sent a lot to the Scottish Islands so the chicks had to go by ferry to their final destination.
The railways must have been very efficient in those days because a lot of live stock traveled by rail.
We once sent a stock cockerel to Malaya. Dad wondered if it would arrive alright as it had to go by sea taking between five or six weeks, but the purchaser said it arrived in good condition and he was delighted.
All our cardboard boxes were bought from Fields of Bradford and Birtwistle’s of Waterfoot, near Rawtenstall. The twine was always supplied by Metcalfe’s by the Queens Hotel in Keighley. All our chick and poultry food was purchased from Pearson’s Corn Mill at Glusburn. The Ray-o-vital chick feed came in cotton sacks, which made good tea towels.

When our season finished at the end of June all the equipment had to be scrubbed and disinfected the machines all cleaned thoroughly all the walls were brushed down and white washed. We had a Coke boiler to run the heating system and also a generator for the few occasions that the electric went off. After all the cleaning had been done we had to go to blood test all the stock we would be using for the following season, this was to see if they were carriers of BWD (Bacterial White Diarrhoea). Every bird had to be caught and a vein under its wing pricked then a sample of blood mixed with a drop of Antigen on a white tile, if the blood was clear it was alright, but if the blood was mottled that was a carrier and must be removed from the flock.

Sometimes we would travel every day to our destinations, it meant a very early start as there was lots of walking as many kept their hens a long way from the farm. Occasionally we would stay overnight to save a long journey.
There were some real characters amongst the old dales farmers that we met and we shall never see their like again.
Written by Maureen Cowgill and Catherine Smith, August 2005.

Rhode Island Red
Exchequer Cockerel

The Larger Hatcheries of Cowling East & West

Name Location
Benson’s – Bank Hatcheries Hey Farm
Hutchinson Bros. Lingfield Poultry Farm
Snowden Bros. North Ends Poultry Farm
Arthur Cowgill Woodville Poultry Farm
Frank Snowden Raikes Hall Poultry Farm, Lane Ends, Cowling
Arthur Stephenson Scar Hall Poultry Farm, Lane Ends, Cowling

Local Press – June 30th 1939

‘Poultry Congress Delegates’
Cowling Man to Visit U.S.A. Next Month

Mr. Frank Snowden, of Cowling, the well-known breeder and authority on poultry, figures in the list of delegates to represent the Government at the World’s Poultry Congress and Exposition at Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.

His inclusion in the list was communicated to him in the following letter from the Economic Advisory Committee to the Government:-
‘The Prime Minister has had under consideration the question of the representation of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom at the seventh World’s Poultry Congress and Exposition, which is to be held at Cleveland, Ohio, from the 28th July to 7th August, 1939. After consideration with the department, and other organisations concerned, the Prime Minister has constituted the following delegation to represent His Majesty’s Government at this congress’

Mr. Snowden’s name is among the list of nineteen men who comprise the delegation. Of this number, sixteen are distinguished civil servants with permanent positions at the Ministry of Agriculture. Of the three who represent the producing side of the industry, Mr. Frank Snowden is one.

The delegation will sail for America on July 19th, by the ‘Mauretania’ and the British Embassy in Washington has been informed of the official nature of the visit.

Apart from the number of official engagements which he will have as a member of the Government delegation, Mr. Snowden, as president of the National Poultry Council of Great Britain – a distinction conferred upon him this week at Blackpool – will be called upon to be spokesman for British Poultry producers and expects to have a full programme whilst in America.

During a lifetime’s work in the industry. Mr. Snowden has been responsible for many improvements in production and has done much to improve the status of British poultry both at home and abroad.

‘Loss to Cowling’
Well-known Poultry farmer’s Death.
Mr. Arthur Stephenson, a well known poultry farmer, of Braemar, Lane Ends, Cowling, died suddenly on Wednesday. He had visited Keighley on Tuesday, and in the evening attended a lecture at the Ickornshaw Sunday School. He was taken ill in the early hours of Wednesday morning with congestion of the lungs and heart trouble and passed away the same day. He was 59 years of age, and was one of the pioneers of the poultry industry. He started business nearly 40 years ago, and was one of the first in the district to send a hatching of chickens away by rail. His business at Scar poultry farm increased through hard work, and subsequently developed into one of the best known farms in the trade.
Mr. Stephenson was also one of the pioneers of the Labour movement in Cowling, and in the early days was the leading spirit among the small group of advanced radicals in the district. He was a disciple of Philip Snowden and had remained ever since a keen admirer and a close friend of the famous statesman. He and Lord Snowden kept up a regular correspondence and Mr. Stephenson was also a life long friend of Tom Snowden, of Bingley, ex MP of Accrington. The three got together whenever circumstances permitted and in former days spent several holidays together.
A self educated man, Mr. Stephenson was a keen student of politics with various branches of literature. He has travelled considerably and spent holidays in various parts of (text unreadable) being particularly fond of inspirational places of historical interest . (text unreadable) was a generous contributor to funds of the Labour party, but also a generous patron of various institutions in Cowling, where he resided all of his life and a valued supporter of the welfare movement. Few (text unreadable) Cowling were more highly esteemed and he had a great many friends. Mr. Stephenson leaves a widow and two daughters behind. (Mrs. T Snowden of Cowling and Mrs C Broughton of Cowling).
Mr. Stephenson died on 23rd January 1935.

Credits – Photo kindly contributed by Mr. Hugh Broughton, grandson of Mr. Arthur Stephenson