Never Let the Chicks Out on a Cold Day
Rebecca Johnson's husband died, the Maxwell woman had to support three young
children on her own. Cleaning houses and sewing did not pay enough, so Johnson
used her small inheritance to buy a house, eight acres of land, two cows,
a few pigs and several dozen hens. She raised chickens year-round, paying
careful attention to their needs. She built a hen house that was so warm her
hens laid eggs all winter. She later wrote, "I fed them cabbage, beets,
turnips, squash, onions, for I knew to produce eggs in winter I would have
to make conditions as near like those of the warmer months as possible…
I never let them out on cold days."
Soon she made enough money selling eggs for 18 cents per dozen to pay her living expenses and feed her animals. In the late 1800s Rebecca made her first incubator.
She's a Success!
Using incubators, Rebecca hatched
5,000 chickens in one season. Later in her poultry career, she hatched half
that amount in a single day! Eventually, she made $300 monthly during the
busy part of the year. Newspapers wrote about her skills. She received so
many letters asking for advice that she wrote a book. Rebecca published How
to Hatch, Brood, Feed and Prevent Chicks from Dying in the Shell in 1906.
In 1907 Rebecca received U.S. Patent No. 894,835 for an incubator alarm. The device alerted farmers to changing temperatures within the incubator. Later, she refined her invention so the thermostat raised and lowered the wick of a heat lamp.