30 NOVEMBER 1872, Page 9


NO one that hasn't the love of cocks and hens in 'em can tell the comfort of 'em, and the company they can be," said an old lady, whose heart was wholly centred and whose life was chiefly passed in her little poultry yard, to an amused listener, who was forcibly reminded of her words at the recent great Poultry Show at the Crystal Palace. It was the finest Show on record, and even to those who have not "the love of cocks and hens in 'em," a most amusing scene in all its aspects. There were the birds to be looked at, and the people who came to look at the birds, the genuine poultry fanciers, and the mere outside public ; there was sparkling sunshine, and a display of chrysanthemums which the Temple Gardens might have envied. The flower decorations were beautifully arranged, so that the prosaic ducks had the air of dwelling in a bower, and the dead poultry, which all looked as though they had died that aldermen might dine, were laid out as daintily as Imogen. The prodigious length of the lines of cages was broken in the centre by a large space dividing the southern from the northern nave, and adorned by a superb floral pyramid, above which waved the boughs of a stately Scotch fir. The occupants of the southern nave belonged to the more strictly useful orders of poultry, those of the northen nave to the more rare and ornamental. The space adjoining the stage on one side and the great orchestra on the other, was filled with an amazing number and variety of pigeons; whose soft cooing came in with a pleasant undertone, amid the tumultuous and overbearing crowing of the countless cockron both sides, and especially of the long ranks of game-cocks, who kept on challenging all creation to combat with a periinacious valour truly amazing. The game-cocks were so beautiful, with their proud gait, their trim wings, and clean-shaven gills, the red wrath in their piercing eyes, the vigilance of their heads, that one could not feel enough disgust for the cruel scalping of them. There was a kind of fascination—after a few minutes, during which the noise was almost irritating—in the crowing matches, in the sustained emulation between North and South, and in the great variety of tones which made themselves distinct through the tumult. A lengthy catalogue of crows might have been made out, from the emphatic and prosy utterance of a big "speckled Hamburk," who delivered his challenge after the fashion of a city herald, to the ringing, decisive word of command of a game pullet, with sea-green legs, and the red eye of a demon, whose owner had been obliged to obstruct his possible view of his neigh- bour by closing the wire orifices of his cage with paper,---from the crow dictatorial of the domestic Dorking, plainly intended to assert his headship of the family, to the crow exultant of the young cock, without responsibilities, who approved of Crystal Palace barley, and found his perch to his liking. It appears that the spirit of revolution is abroad in the kingdom of domestic birds. The supremacy of the Cochin China is disputed by the Light Brahmas, which are decidedly prettier. Great numbers of both adorned the Show, and the Cochins were charmingly clumsy, fluffy, and awkward-looking, with their peculiar suggestiveness of very fat thighs badly dislocated and imperfectly set, and an unequal distribution of weight about the front of their persons. Their rivals, the Brahmas, with their sharp heads, fine crests and combs, and soft grey plumage, which looks as much like fur as feathers, are very beautiful ; but among the Cochins there were birds who were unmistakable pets, and had the confident air proper to that position. The individuality of the large, fat, well-tended creatures makes itself felt after a few minutes, and the visitor becomes quite critical about combs and wattles, detects the true rose-comb from the rose-comb which has been nipped in the bud, and diagnoses the bird's health from his tints—!more or less on or off the line of red sealing-wax—feeling his pulse, so to speak, in the pendant glories of his gills, and knowingly suspicious of any lurking purple, combined with an inclination to lie down. Here are birds with legs as clean and tight as a racer's, with taper claws, and a dainty method of picking them up in walking. They will not live in damp soil. Among them are the proud Black Spaniards, with their tradition of the brown, dusty turf of Spain, where the ground is crumbly, worms are easy to be got at, and gentlemanly fowls are not obliged to flounder in mud for a living. Here are hardy birds, with thick, sound, ser- viceable limbs, plebeian toes, and comfortable feather gaiters, who mind the weather no more than Mr. Charles Kingsley, and take to the mud like its "larks." Here are " Silkies," beautiful creatures, with a fine-lady-like bearing, and hints of jewels in their ears, conveyed by tiny tufts of bright colour, now blue, now red ; soft grey Andalusian; and curious Polish fowls, black and glossy, with rich puffs of white plumage set round their flue- pointed heads ; Malays, wonderfully speckled in graduated rings, white on black, and black on white ; stately Houdans, recently introduced and highly esteemed, with pendant bags at their necks of feathers whose roots are black and whose points are white ; Bantam game-cocks, fierce pigmies of battle, and a pretty Chinese variety whose bones are black. Of poultry, there are 105 classes, and in all handsome prizes have been awarded. The prizes were on view in a great stand in the central space, and among them there are several choice specimens of silversmiths' work. No. 682 is the heaviest bird in the show ; he looked uncomfortable and lethargic. There were turkeys as big as South-American ostriches, shy, shrinking birds, who stood sideways, and suggested to the observer that they bad fathomed the vanities of Poultry Shows, and divined their not remote connection with Christmas ; and huge geese, which stood bolt upright and cackled angrily. One in particular had such irate eyes, and was so emphatic in his appeal to Mr. Wilson, that it was evident he had a grievance against the executive, and was pressing it. Ducks do not gene- rally excite enthusiasm in their uncooked state, but no one could resist No. 2,139, a Mandarin, of a beautiful boat-like form ; or No. 2,136, with his scarlet coral beak, his rich black velvet side; his exquisitely pencilled wings, with the large-sized outer feather lapped over them, and the changing tints about his head and throat, flickering with each agile, darting, instantaneous motion. Among the rabbits were seine beautiful creatures, others were merely large, one, with eyes like huge wine-red carbuncles, was distinctly clever-looking, and it appeared on inquiry that the facts corresponded with appearances. On the second day of the

Show the prize birds were put up to auction, which caused a most amusing and animated scene, attended with results so satisfactory to all parties concerned that arrangements have already been made for another Poultry Show, when it is expected that the "entries," which on this occasion numbered 3,217, will be much more numerous. A few of the sales are worth recording. Three birds of the useful classes in poultry brought respectively £20, £13 13s., and £10 10s. Three birds and one pigeon brought £50, and one pair of pigeons was sold for £20. The pigeons were wonderfully various and beautiful ; perhaps the quaintest were in the Jacobin class, two singularly grave birds, who sat in a corner, looking absurdly like two ladies of the mitten, ruffles, and calash epoch, waiting in full dress, with their black silk hoods carefully disposed on their wires round their venerable faces, for the arrival of their sedan-chair.

On the last day of the Show, the " Homing " birds were dropping in from Antwerp. It was curious to see them brought in one by one, and returned to their cages, after due inspection of the verifying stamp upon the wing, looking smart and sprightly after their long flight.

To look at the lines of feathered creatures in their cages and to think of how they got there, was a subject for contemplation as deep as that in which the historic apple-dumpling plunged George III. The birds might all have been batched at the Crystal Palace, the rabbits might have sported there since their earliest dawn of life and infancy, so perfect was the ordering of every- thing. But fifty men had worked for twenty-five hours at a stretch, horses and vans had been tearing from the various rail- way stations to the Palace until all hours of night, the building had been a vast wilderness of baskets and a Babel of bird voices until all the feathered guests had been transferred to the cages so carefully prepared for them, with everything needful for refresh- ment after their several journeys, and the maintenance of their health and spirits for the ordeal of exhibition. Fifty tons of coals had been consumed in bringing up the temperature of the building to that of the domestic hearths and homes from which the birds were temporarily banished, and the scullery of the refreshment depart- ment had been turned into a kitchen for them. The food was barley meal made into paste with water, Indian corn, and cabbages, of which all except the pigeons partook. The quantity was upwards of two tons for the four days' supply, and even the omnivorous ducks quacked content, if not repletion.

Hardly less amusing than the birds were the spectators. There is a peculiar earnestness about the genuine poultry-fancier, which sets him or her unmistakably apart from the jkineltr. There is a kind of enthusiasm at shows which is open to suspicion. Raptures about roses are not always genuine, dogs, even cats, may facilitate flirtations, and be used as pretexts for meetings elaborately itn- promptu. But business-like candour and simplemindedness char- acterise the fanciers of poultry. They come unaccompanied, they even come in Bath chairs; they carry poultry-books with them, and compare the text with the living illustrations, and they


speot Mr. Crook's ingenious inventions for elevating domestic birds to the extreme height of comfort and refinement of manners with interest and sympathy only exceeded by the sentiments of women inspecting the later fashions in baby-linen and berceaunettes. Who, indeed, however uninstructed in the ways of fowls, could con- template without emotion that delicious little chalet, with sloping roof and peaks resplendent in polish, capable of being rolled on its castors to any portion of the proprietor's domain, with its wired- in inclosure, its nicely graduated plank affording easy access to the cleverly-contrived door, its admirable internal arrangements, its practicable nests, its perfect ventilation and lighting, and the charming contrivance by which the eggs may be abstracted at the back, " unbeknownst" to Partlet, counting her undisclosed chickens to the proud and expectant hope of Chanticleer. Nothing could be more perfect than the house, and the wire nests, the enamelled iron feeding-troughs, and the reversible drinking-machine which is always full of water and cannot be emptied accidentally. If the poultry could only be levelled up to the perfection of their establishments nothing would be left to be desired. That they are susceptible of education a casual observer may convince him- self. Here is an authentic anecdote concerning two remarkably fine Cochins, which have been distinguished on the recent occasion by public favour. They arrived under the personal care of their owner, and being unpacked, made no vulgar demonstration of wonder or strangeness, but stood calmly by his side, undismayed, while he administered to each of them a restorative dram of port wine, and by the aid of a small flask of oil and a fine sponge polished up their beaks and sleeked out their head and neck feathers. These preliminaries completed, the pair stalked beside their master to their cage, allowed themselves to be lifted in wit1 acquiescent docility, and received his lingering farewell for the night with as much appreciation as if each had had fur and four feet.