A few years ago, some old boards, an old door, and a dozen barrel staves or lath was deemed a sufficient house for poultry, but that day is past.
Poultry World, April 1873, p. 48
The short article that ran with the drawing of Jacob Beier's poultry house praised the beauty, as well as the evidence of well-cared-for poultry that lived within it, as evidenced by the chimney, which provided warmth and cooked food and the windows that could be opened for ventilation. The article went on to say, "The pains and expense bestowed upon the feathered stock of the country, in the way of improved buildings, is a gratifying sign of progress."
Progress? Only twenty-five years later, there was quite a controversy between farmers over whether the insulated, heated houses were best or the open-air houses. Previously unknown diseases were wiping out entire flocks, because the buildings were breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses. Air quality was horrendous, as many people wrote of the stench. Combs and feet were freezing because of the high humidity in the buildings during the winter.
Once of the most vocal proponents of open-air housing for chickens was Prince T. Woods, M.D., who wrote articles and books for more than two decades. His 1924 book, Modern Fresh-Air Poultry Houses (p. 14) said:
Nature made fowls to live in the open. She provided cock and hen with generous garments of feathers; arranged for constant replacement and repair, heavier underfluff of soft warm down for cold weather wear, a complete new outfit at least once a year, nearly perfect protection against both heat and cold as well as from storms. Housing them is an artificial condition wholly for Man’s convenience and chiefly essential for comfort in care and management and protection against thieves both two and four legged.Woods received a lot of criticism for his opinion and was called heartless and lazy, but he was not alone. It really looked like the open-air poultry movement was finally gaining speed in the 1920s, but as we all know, it didn't last. Today's commercial poultry farms have put their hens not only in buildings but in tiny little cages where they never see sunlight or fresh air.