The Blue Book

Believe it or not, there’s a book on raising poultry in Hawaii. It was published in 1947 by Charles M. Bice, who was the Extension Poultry Husbandman for the University of Hawaii’s Agricultural Experiment Station back when the University of Hawaii’s main focus was still on agriculture. It’s title is simply Poultry Production in Hawaii.
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I call it the blue book, because over the years the threadbare copy we have is slowly fading through the most beautiful shades of blue. It is the first item in my personal sanctuary of books about chickens. It belonged to our grandfather, Mike Asagi. His name is written on the inside front cover. The wonderful Hawaii State Library System also has a few copies in circulation, but the copy I saw was bound with a brown material, perhaps another printing.
The book may be 60 years old, but it is site specific and is full of no nonsense information about starting up a small poultry farm here, the old fashioned way. It contains information on raising chickens, turkeys, muscovy ducks and squabs in Hawaii. Some may look at the information it contains as outdated, but for anyone interested on how things were done before the boom of industrialization – this book might be something worth reading.
According to Bice, the first commercial poultry operation in the islands started right here on O’ahu. The book states that in 1903 Mr. Charles H. Bellina had established on his Palolo Valley ranch a flock of more than a thousand imported layers. His operation grew to 5,000 hens 11 years later when moved to Kuliouou, where he expanded in another way as well, adding a dairy component to his farm.
Site specific information that may be of interest:
– Bice writes that popular breeds of chickens that do well in Hawaii’s climate conditions are: Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire, Leghorn (White), and the Plymouth Rock (Barred and White)
– Almost an entire chapter is dedicated to nutrition knowledge that farmers worked with at that time. Also, it is interesting to note that the UH Agricultural Experimental Station was busy in this particular area helping farmers assess local vegetation that complemented the dietary needs of chickens. He has an “All Hawaiian Emergency Rations” recipe table, something that might come in handy should the farmer find herself cut off from feed supply for a short period of time. The recipe is measured in pounds of different varieties of meal and grit. As a supplement to this mixed meal diet, he added:
5 pounds per 100 birds daily
1. Koa haole leaves
2. Pigeon Pea leaves
3. Sweetpotato vines
4. Honohono grass, plus sunshine — coral sand in hoppers

He goes on about local grasses, how they should be untreated with chemicals and finely clipped since chicken bodies, like human bodies, are not built to digest long grass or hay. It can get clumped in their crops. Other supplements he includes are lettuce, Chinese cabbage, cabbage, alfalfa, leaves of young oat plants, cull sweet potatoes (cooked if you can), cull avocados, cull bananas, cull papayas, coconuts, peanut meal, prickly pear, pineapple bran. He says that they love succulent greens and that the greens should be cut in shorter lengths for easier eating and less waste. Also, a word of caution to avoid attracting grasshoppers as they carry eggs of the gizzard worm.
Chapter 13: Records and Accounts – The Laying Flock–Pullet and Cockerel Raising–The Incubator Enterprise has actual tables that are direct examples in the style of ledger record book, with customized layouts. I don’t know how else to describe them except for grandfatherly in their simplicity, practicality, and charm. Keeping track, keeping records. One form has columns for “Hired Labor” and “Family Labor.” Snaps you back to the days of paper and pencils, instead of macbooks and quicken. Nostalgia or clarity?
– The last chapter is dedicated to Back-yard Poultry Production. Here he mentions that the meat and egg shortage during WWII, caused many housewives to manage backyard flocks to supplement their family’s meals. He goes through starting the flock, feeding, culling, capons, housing and records, ending with a short pop quiz (all the chapters end with this touch of correspondence school brand of self-education).
I’m sure when it was written, the intention of this book was to give a farmer or future farmer the tools to take on raising poultry as a business in Hawaii and to encourage backyard flocks, to fortify the economy here and help feed the growing population.
More than half a century later could any of this information be still relevant? When you really get down to it, this could depend on what you value, what is of relevance to you.
In the midst of the field of dry text, data tables, and strictly informational b/w photos, you find a paragraph like this:
“Among the chief characteristics found in successful poultrymen are the love of poultry and willingness to devote a great deal of their time to the care of their stock. Poultry raising is a 365-day-a-year occupation; therefore one must have the desire to live and work with poultry. If one is to get the most out of the enterprise, this desire must be greater than the desire to make money.”
This book was published at a time when poultry farms still considered themselves to be a business and not an industry, when the egg or the chicken you were gratefully savoring was raised less than a thousand miles from your house. And you probably knew the farmer or someone related to the farmer. And because of this, the farmer felt the value of what she or he was doing those 365 days a year.

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