New York State Egg Laying Contest
The New York State Egg Laying Contest was established by an act of the New York State Legislature in 1920 and was supported by an annual appropriation from that body. The contest was administered by the Poultry Department of the State Institute of Applied Agriculture (now Farmingdale State College). While the majority of contest entries were from New York State farms, there were over the years many entries from Michigan, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Ohio, and even Canada.
The October, 1920 issue of the Long Island Agriculturist, published in Mattituck, Long Island, featured the opening of the first annual contest on their cover. "This contest is attracting the attention of the poultry world, because it is the first one to undertake to accumulate data on breeding records in connection with the egg-laying contest." (1) In 1920, there were 50 pens entered. By 1926-1927, there were 100 pens entered, with 10 birds per pen.
The birds used in the contest were housed at the Institute year round. The contest ran for 51 weeks of the year. Each day, all of the eggs from each pen were weighed to the nearest quarter of an ounce. At the end of the week, an average weight per egg for all eggs laid by the competing pullets was calculated. "To obtain the yearly average, weekly averages are added together and divided by 51" (2). Many birds died throughout the year. In the 1927-1928 contest, 437 birds died. To make up for lost entrants, each farm sent extra birds that would only be used if one of the original birds died. Major causes of death that year were Roup, Infectious Bronchitis, and Diptheria. Thirteen birds died from Cannibalism.
Before 1929, the contest plant consisted of 54 houses, each 10x12, with yards 40x40. "Two contestants, or flocks share the same house, as in the case of many other prominent contests." (3) These houses were located behind Hicks and Cutler Halls (Hort and Ag, see upper left of first picture to the left), where Horton Hall now stands. It is a fitting location, as D. Hart Horton, the buildings namesake, was head of the Poultry Husbandry Department. Although it was not used until the following year, the 1928-1929 contest report contains pictures of the New Contest Plant, a long rambling building that held all the participating pens. It was "460 feet long by 20 feet wide, with a 28 foot service building in the center." (4) The new plant used both artificial heating and artificial ventilation, and for the first time artificial lighting was used in 1929-1930. It was located near where the current entrance loop approaches the golf driving range. One wing of the Contest Plant building burned in October of 1945.