The mamals or ovens of Egypt are scarcely above nine feet in height, but they have an extent in length and breadth which renders them remarkable, and yet they are more so in their internal structure. The centre of the building is a very narrow gallery, usually about the width of three feet, extending from one end of the building to the other, the height of which is from eight to nine feet; the structure for the most part of brick. the entrance into the oven is through the gallery' which commands the whole extent of it, and facilitates the several operations that are necessary to keep the eggs to the proper degree of heat. the oven has a door, not very wide, and only as high as it is broad; this door, and many others in use in the mamals, are commonly no more than round holes.
The gallery is a corridor, with this difference from our common corridors, which have only one row of rooms, whereas that of the mamal has always two rows of them on both sides; namely, one on the ground floor, and another above. Every one upon the ground floor has one above, perfectly equal, both in length and breadth. The rooms of each row on the ground floor, are all equal, in length, breadth, and height. Reaumur observes, "We know of no other rooms in the world so low as these, being only three feet in height." Their breadth, which is in the same direction with the length of the gallery, is four or five feet; they are very narrow in proportion to their length, which is twelve or fifteen feet.
Every one of these rooms has its door or round aperture, about a foot and a half in diameter, opening into the gallery, the hole being wide enough for a man to creep through. All the eggs to be hatched are first ranged in these rooms. Four or five thousand eggs are put into each of them. These are the real ovens, so that the whole edifice, which is denominated a chicken oven, is an assemblage of many ovens set together, side by side, opposite and over each other, and in the course of the process a part of the eggs are warmed in the upper rooms, after having been previously in the lower.
Forty or fifty thousand eggs are hatched at once, or another account extends the number to eighty thousand. The eggs are spread on mats, flocks or flax, in each room upon the ground floor, where they contract their first and general warmth, during a certain number of days.
The heat of the air in the inferior rooms, and consequently that of the eggs, would rise to an excessive degree, were the fire in the gutter incessantly kept up. They keep it up only an hour in the morning, and an hour at night, and they style these heatings the dinner and supper of the chickens; they receive, however, two more meals, that is, luncheon and afternoon meal, the fire being lighted four times a day.
On the day on which they cease to light the fires, some of the eggs of each inferior room are always conveyed into the room above; the eggs had been too much heaped in the former, and it is now time to extend and give them more room.
The proper number of eggs from each inferior room having been removed into the room above, all the apertures of the rooms and of the gallery are closely and exactly stopped with bungs of tow, excepting perhaps, half the apertures in the arches or ceilings of the upper rooms, which are left open in order to procure there a circulation of air. This precaution is sufficient to preserve in the ovens, for many days together, the temperature which has been obtained; which indeed would be the case with ovens upon so considerable a scale in any country, more especially one so hot as Egypt.
Three hundred and eighty-six ovens are kept in Egypt annually, during four or six months, allowing more time than is necessary to hatch eight successive broods of chickens, ducks and turkeys, making on the whole yearly three thousand and eighty-eight broods. The number in different hatchings is not always the same, from the occasional difficulty of obtaining a sufficient number of eggs, which may be stated at a medium between the two extremes of forty and eighty thousand to each oven.
The overseer contracts to return, in a living brood, to his employer, two-thirds of the number of eggs set in the ovens--all above being his own perquisite, in addition to his salary for the season which is from eighty to forty crowns, exclusive of his board. According to report, the crop of poultry thus artificially raised in Egypt was seldom if ever, below that ratio, making the enormous annual amount of ninety-two million six hundred and forty thousand.
The chickens are not sold from the stove by tale, but by the bushel or basket full!
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