Miss Harriet M. Purdy
One of Canada’s earliest and strongest supporters of R.O.P. testing is a Balcarres, Saskatchewan poutlrywoman with an enviable record as an industry worker, breeder and experimentor. Miss Harriet M. Purdy, known to her friends as “Hattie” has become widely known in the poultry industry for her high producing R.O.P. flocks, a fast-feathering strain she selected and developed, for cross-breeding work. Chicks from a small hatchery she has operated since 1927 have been shipped to almost all areas in Canada and some exported to England and a lot more of her stock has gone to farmers from the R.O.P. Co-operative Hatchery in Saskatoon. Experienced in poultry production, she used her knowledge to benefit the industry by holding numerous offices in poultry associations. Miss Purdy has always been in the forefront of attempts to better Canada’s poultry industry.
Harriet Purdy was born at Condie, Sask., a short distance out of Regina, the provincial capital. The Purdy family moved to Regina in 1910. Young Hattie attended Albert Public School and Regina Collegiate Institute. In 1925, on the death of her father, the family moved to Balcarres and established their farm known as “Aspenridge”, where Miss Purdy, her mother and brother Lawrence and his family still live. Lawrence is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan, college of Agriculture. Two other brothers also graduated in Agriculture. One mastered in animal nutrition and has continued in that field.
Upon moving to Balcarres a small 110 egg Buckeye incubator and two tiny kerosene brooders were purchased. This was Miss Purdy’s first modest start in the poultry business in which she has been a leader for 35 years.
STARTED IN R.O.P. IN ‘26: Miss Purdy’s first flock of 75 pullets average 184 eggs per bird, a good average for this period. Clyde Soule of the University of Saskatchewan, Extension Department, recommended the flock be entered in R.O.P. Miss Purdy agreed and entered her flock in 1926. Record that year did not start until December when the flock was banded, nevertheless, several birds qualified. Miss Purdy’s flocks have been in the R.O.P. since, one of the longest records of continuous pedigree breeding in Canada.
An entry of Barred Rocks was made in the Egg Laying Contest at Indian Head and repeated there as long as the contest continued. Although unsuccessful in taking top honors at the contest her entry came close to the top on several occasions. In the 1929-30 contest she came first with the largest number of birds to be registered. According to Miss Purdy, the contest was a lot of fun and resulted in considerable publicity for those who made good records. Many newspapers carried a weekly report of the pen standings and the contestants were kept informed as to their position in the contest. As a breeding proposition, however, it was not satisfactory because of the small number of birds involved and because of disease hazards, particularly respiratory disease.
In 1946-47 Miss Purdy had more birds pass the progeny test, both male and female, than any other private flock owner in Canada. Her R.O.P. entry of 349 pullets had a hen house average of 242 eggs and 97 percent of the pullets certified. Her record in R.O.P. has always stood high with a long list of 300 egg birds as well as good flock averages. The best record was 297 eggs in 305 days which was the length of the R.O.P. production year.
In 1945 a fast-feathering pullet was discovered in the flock. By careful testing and record keeping over the next few years this characteristic was transmitted to the whole flock. That, in itself, was no mean breeding achievement!
A flock of Light Sussex was purchased in 1945 for breeding purposes. Shortly after cross-breeding experiments were started resulting in a pen that made a good record at the Ottawa Random Sample Test in 1958-59. This pen stood fourth for all breeds and had the highest production in the test of all heavy breeds with 229 eggs per chick started. Besides entries in the Ottawa test, pens have also been entered in the Alberta test. Miss Purdy’s entries have stood up near the top in these tests with birds of similar type.
Her flock was entered under Section 3 of the R.O.P. policy in 1957 and there have been 8 test pens since that time. Birds have been supplied for other matters with breeders co-operating on a hatchery breeding program.
Miss Purdy has operated a small hatchery at home almost continuously since 1927 and has shipped wing banded R.O.P. chicks to most provinces in Canada. She was one of the founders of the R.O.P co-operative hatchery at Saskatoon and held various offices in the organization while in operation.
In 1930 Miss Purdy exhibited two hens at the World’s Poultry Congress at London, England. One bird was sold to a Mr. R. Smith of Osset, Yorkshire. He liked the bird so well he tried to import eggs but with poor results until he finally purchased two more lots of live birds and had them shipped from Saskatchewan. Progeny of these birds did very well at laying trials in England.
Miss Purdy has been active in poultry association work. In 1928 she was chosen to represent the producers at a meeting of all branches of the poultry industry which resulted in the formation of the Poultry Division of the Saskatchewan Department of Agriculture. Prior to this date extension work had all been under the University of Saskatchewan.
ACTIVE IN ORGANIZATION WORK: In 1944 Miss Purdy was a delegate to the National Poultry Conference at Ottawa, representing the Saskatchewan R.O.P. breeders. She was strong in support of a shorter trap nest week and worked strenuously for a change. It was considered a real victory when the shorter trap period was adopted. In 1946 she was a guest speaker at the Manitoba Hatchery and Flock Owners Association meeting in Winnipeg and during that year was also a speaker at the Saskatchewan Poultry Congress, held in Regina, possibly the most outstanding poultry meeting ever held in the province.
Monetary returns from her poultry flock used to be quite satisfactory, but for several years the picture has changed. R.O.P. no longer seems to mean anything to the hatcheryman and they prefer to handle chicks which have the backing of large international organizations. And with the short hatching season on the prairies, returns to the smaller breeder have been disappointing, which may necessitate a change in the nature of the business. A very fine poultry flock of over 3,000 birds however has been established which is an outstanding achievement, but the real reward has been watching the industry grow and participating to the full in its development. Many have sought Miss Purdy’s counsel on poultry matters and her opinions are held in high regard. She has a host of friends in the poultry industry.
Today her laying pens and test breeding pens are mechanized, with labor for feeding reduced to a minimum. The poultry breeding at Aspenridge has, over the years, had a marked effect on the upgrading of Saskatchewan poultry. Thousands, tens of thousands, of breeding cockerels from her pedigreed pens have gone onto prairie farms; many to British Columbia and eastern provinces. As of now, her brooding pens do not look so attractive because they comprise two and three way breed and strain crosses, and the Aspenridge Barred Rock is the only one cog in the wheel that’s now revolving in the fiercely competitive struggle to evolve better and still better layers.
She is a lady who accepts a challenge. Under rugged prairie farm conditions, with dust storms and droughts and sub-zero winters to contend with, the maintenance of breeding flocks in less than good buildings in the early days must have meant great sacrifice of her own comfort. That she persisted, and succeeded, is highly credible, and has won her national recognition within the industry.
While poultry has been Miss Purdy’s absorbing interest she has found time for many other community activities. She has taught Sunday School for many years and has consistently been a member of the Balcarres Horticultural Society. All in all a most active and creative life.