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will be constantly quarrelling and fighting, breaking their eggs, and killing their squabs and squeakers. The window on the roof should not open to the east, and should be made so as to form a platform, for the birds to alight on when open, and to admit light and air when closed. We cannot here enter into very minute particulars of treatment, but would enforce the necessity of frequent cleaning, and fresh sand or coarse gravel on the floor, with a little chalk or old mortar, and a sprinkling of salt, for the birds to go to when they please: lime in some shape is essential to the formation of their egg-shells, and they will pick the mortar from between the bricks all around if they have not a supply provided for them. Rats, mice, and cats must be guarded against; the first are very destructive of both eggs and young, and the last of old birds as well. Near to the entrance of the pigeon-house should be a thimney or other conspicuous object, painted or washed with white, as a landmark for the birds when flying home.
A good and safe kind of pigeon-house is one made of wood, and fixed well up against the side of a building, with a separate entrance for each compartment, or it may be a round structure like a barrel, fixed on the top of a post or pole, and, by an arrangement of ropes and pulleys, made to draw up or down, or it may be made easy of access by a rope or other ladder. But whatever or wherever the house may be, it should always have an elevated position.
A pair of runts, or dove-house pigeons, if allowed to breed, will soon stock the house, and keep up a good supply of eggs and squeakers. If new birds are introduced, they should be young ones, as those fully grown, who have been used to another house, will be pretty sure to return to it. A barbarous practice prevails of plucking out the larger wing-feathers to prevent the flight of such birds; but this should never be done: the mutilated birds frequently become diseased and die, besides which, as soon as they recover their powers of flight, they will be the more likely to leave a place where they have been so cruelly treated.
Grey peas, with an occasional change of wheat, oats, or barley, and the small beans known as pigeons' beans, which should be at least a year old, are the best food. Rape and hemp-seed are sometimes given as a stimulant; but the last is of too heatmg a nature, and should be given very sparingly, if at all. Both grain and seed should be clean and sound; if decayed, they will be full of mites, which are mischievous to the birds. A little green food is desirable: mustard and cress, lettuce or cabbage, if grown within reach, will be taken by pigeons if they are at large; if not, something of the kind must be put into their house or enclosure, taking care that the refuse is not left to decay.
Pigeons are said to be fond of strong odours; and to sprinkle the floor of their house with lavender, or assafoetida, or anything that smells powerfully, is thought to be a good means of inducing new-comers to remain. To fatten squabs, give maize steeped in water, and keep them under an inverted hamper, or where they can have air without much light.
The Turtle, the Ring, and the Stock-Doves are the kinds most usually kept: they do very well in large wicker cages, but better in houses built like those for pigeons, with which they will sometimes associate.
The first and third of the above-named are but summer visitors to this country in their wild state, the second is always with us, and is commonly known as the Great Wood Pigeon, the Cushat, or the Queen: it is the largest
of our native doves, and is a very handsome bird; it has a crescent-shaped mark of white, which nearly encircles the neck, and relieves the dark ashy grey of the rest of the plumage. The iridescent play of colours about the neck, which is observable in most of the pigeons, is very conspicuous in this bird.
Doves may be fed and treated like the pigeons generally.
We have now got into a different division of the animal kingdom, and jumped from feathered to furred, from two to four-footed pets, creatures that live wholly upon the earth, and, being destitute of the organs of flight, cannot escape, as birds often can, from man and other enemies. Many of them are very useful to us: they yield us food and clothing, and in other ways minister to our numerous wants, and for this reason alone, but more for the higher motive of humanity, they demand our tender care and consideration.
But about rabbits, of which 80,000 are annually sold in London alone, these come chiefly from Ostend and other parts of France and Holland, where rabbit-breeding for the supply of the markets is chiefly carried on. In this country there are few large breeders who do it systematically for purposes of profit, as it has not been found to pay. Rabbit-warrens there are in a great many places where these animals burrow and breed, and from these we have a large supply of tender delicate flesh to eat, and of soft brown skins of which to make muffs and other articles of comfort and utility.
Varieties Of Rabbits.
Great are the mysteries of rabbit-breeding, and strange the names given to some of the varieties. Rabbits are classed in four divisions: Warreners, Parkers, Hedgehogs, and Sweethearts. The first of these inhabit the sandy warren, where their burrows honeycomb the earth, and afford a rich spoil to the poacher as well as to the wild cat, the stoat, the weasel, and other "varmint," as the country people call all four-footed depredators. The
second are found in the gentleman's park, where they are more protected, and from whence they sometimes drive their near relatives, the hares. The third are vagabond rabbits, living in holes in banks and chalk-pits, and all sorts of out-of-the-way places, and wandering about the country in a very unsettled manner: they are the gipsies of their kind. The fourth arc the tame rabbits so sleek and well fed, who live a life of ease and comfort, and have nothing to do but to eat and grow fat, that they in turn may be eaten and help to produce fatness on their devourers. But what are these? mere plebeians, that belong not to the aristocracy of rabbitdom, before we enter the sacred precincts of which we may mention one or two other kinds which are not strictly of the "fancy" order.
There is the Silver-sprigged rabbit, a modern introduction into this country, having a black coat mottled over with grey hairs; and there is a larger variety coloured much like a hare, with flesh of a deeper tint and more gamey flavour than that of most rabbits; and there are the large white and white and
yellow kinds, with delicate flesh on their bones, and plenty of it: these we often see in hutches, but then they are all flesh and fur, nothing more—mere brute weight, as a fancier would say. They may do very well for boys to keep, and people who want them to eat and clothe themselves withal; but the "club" would not look at them: they must have animals with ears, wonderful ears, of prodigious size, and of a certain shape and inclination, without which a rabbit is nought. Now these ears must not slope backwards as those of vulgar rabbits do, they must "lop," and they must both lop in an equal degree; some perverse creatures will insist on cocking one ear, and lopping the other: away with them! kill, skin, cook, and eat them! do anything you like with them; they are outcast pariahs, and do not belong to the "fancy." Then again these wonderful ears must lop in a particular way; the forward or "horn lop," which makes a droop over the forehead, will not do; neither will the "oar lop," on which the ears spread out like the wings of a bird, or a man's arms in the act of swimming. That, however, is the nearest point to perfection, which is the Real or Perfect Lop, which is so rare that our breeder thinks himself fortunate if he can rear twelve of these in a year out of the offspring of twenty of the handsomest and most perfect does he has.
In the real lop, the ears in their descent from the head describe the curve which we see in the neck of the swan when it swims with its head somewhat raised: the open parts of the ears turn inwards, and the tops touch the ground when the animals stand. The pair of ears are of an equal length and breadth, so as to be a perfect match. Another point of great importance in the fancy rabbit is the dewlap beneath the chin: it should be large enough to support the head of the creature like a cushion, when she lies on all fours.
Fancy rabbits may be of a slaty blue colour, or white, or a mixture of tawny and white, which is called tortoiseshell; but whatever the ground colour may be, they must have certain peculiar markings, in accordance with which they are distinguished as Blue or Black Butterflies, &c Then there are marks called "the chain," and "the saddle," and the more distinctly these are made out, the more perfect is the rabbit considered.
Shape or " carriage," as it is called, is another point of excellence: a finely arched back, reaching at least two inches higher than the top of the head, is essential; and the head held so low that the muzzle may almost, and the ears quite, touch the ground. As much as ten guineas is sometimes given for a well-bred fancy rabbit, and some that have taken prizes at the rabbit shows which are held periodically throughout the country, fetch immense prices.