Profitable Fowl for the West

Encaustic, photo transfer and mixed media on birch cradled panel. 12”X36”, 2014

Part of what was considered to be women’s work was often barnyard labor: raising livestock such as cows, pigs, sheep, goats, turkeys, ducks and chickens. These were valuable sources of food, clothing and household goods for the family in the form of meat, eggs, milk, cheese, butter, gelatin, soap, candles, fertilizer, leather, feathers, down, and wool, all which was utilized and made by the women as well. The raising of livestock and their products also provided an important source of regular income for the homestead, much in the same manner as the women’s gardens did.

 I got one hundred baby chicks in April but have only sixty eight left. My brooder house was old and draughty and the brooder didn’t keep them quite warm enough on windy nights. They are doing well. I have about forty more of our own hatching with two hens to come off this week.

I have no turkeys this year. I lost a great many with roup last year so the neighbour who took my breeding stock will return young turkeys this fall – if she has any. The last time I heard from her she was just about fed up with the turkey business as the wind storms had practically demolished the straw shed they had so carefully built for the turkeys.

Quotes from Anne Pringle Hemstock’s letter to her Aunt Nell, May 31, 1931. Anne came to the Hanna, Alberta area from Chatsworth, Ontario in 1918. Letters: The Alberta Women’s Memory Project, Athabasca University

 I have raised about 80 chickens. Set all the hens I could. Only have a dozen… We have no cow or chickens now. Can’t be bothered with them until we can get settled down. Can’t be moving cows and chickens back and forth…We have 2 doz. chickens, a pig and three horses. That is all the livestock so far…We have four horses and a cow and calf, and about eighty chickens… It keeps me pretty busy with a cow to milk and pigs and chickens to feed…We have 30 little chickens so far with 4 hens. 3 more hens have set.

Quotes from letters by Gertie Chase to her mother, 1918-1923. Gertie came to the Wapiti River area, Alberta from Tonasket, Washington State in [1918]. Letters: Provincial Archives of Alberta PR1973.0569. Photograph: Unidentified woman with chickens and turkeys, Peace River, Alberta. University of Alberta: Bruce Peel Special Collections Library PC004617