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Nineteenth century poultry woes

Poultry powder

A friend recently donated some old photos to the York County Heritage Trust Library/Archives. The family farmed in Chanceford Township for generations, and there were a few things mixed in pertaining to farm life.

One item was a recipe to treat chickens for poultry cholera, also known as fowl cholera. I gather that it is still a dangerous, highly contagious disease, but today there is a vaccine to prevent it.

The detailed recipe and instructions for administration of the 1870 remedy are transcribed below.

What I found most interesting was that these instructions were hand written in pen on both sides of a piece of tablet paper. The farmer’s name was filled in with pencil, right before the threat of
a $100 penalty if the recipe is shared. I have a feeling that each farmer had to pay for the recipe up front.

Poultry powder for Cholera.
2 oz. granulated Sulphite of Soda
2 oz. ground Mandrake
2 oz. Copperas
2 oz. Sulphur
2 oz. Epsom salts
Put in two gallons of water or milk and mix well.

Pen the sick for a few days and give them ½ to 1 teaspoon full of this powder on lard the size of a well[?]. And this water to drink. Make a slop of bran and this water for sick and well for their feed for a week if the disease is on the place. If they are sick, do not feed any corn excepting well soaked in this water.

As a prevent give to your poultry once a week. About 100 will consume this quantity in a day, and expressly for Daniel Conrad use only and not to give, tell or furnish medicine to any person to avoid a penalty of $100. Secured April 7th, 1870.
By J. J. Early
Palmyra, Lebanon Co., Pa.

P.S. Keep the sulphite of soda in a bottle and corked, as a prevent only 1 oz. of mandrake.

Here are the descriptions of the various chemicals, according to Dictionary.com:

Sodium sulfite: a white, crystalline, water-soluble solid, Na 2 SO 3, used chiefly as a food preservative, as a bleaching agent, and as a developer in photography

Mandrake: a narcotic, short-stemmed European plant, Mandragora officinarum, of the nightshade family, having a fleshy, often forked root somewhat resembling a human form.

Copperas (ferrous sulfate): a bluish-green, crystalline, saline-tasting, water-soluble heptahydrated solid, FeSO 4 ⋅7H 2 O, used chiefly in the manufacture of other iron salts, in water purification, fertilizer, inks, pigments, tanning, photography, and in medicine in the treatment of anemia.

Sulphur: A nonmetallic element that exists in several forms, the ordinary one being a yellow rhombic crystalline solid, and that burns with a blue flame and a suffocating odor: used especially in making gunpowder and matches, in medicine, in vulcanizing rubber, etc.

Epsom salts: hydrated magnesium sulfate, MgSO 4 ⋅7H 2 O, occurring as small colorless crystals: used in fertilizers, the dyeing of fabrics, leather tanning, etc., and in medicine chiefly as a cathartic.

Raising chickens wasn’t, and isn’t, easy.