Robert Plamondon's Poultry Newsletter, July 16, 2003
New Article of Mine Published by ATTRA
Last year I wrote a lengthy article on housing for pastured and free-range poultry for the good folks at ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas). This is now posted on their Web site at http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/poulthous.html . The article is written from the point of view of a small-scale commercial farmer, and for this reason the housing designs are extremely simple and inexpensive. But this ought to be worth reading even if you intend to build something fancier, since many issues are the same regardless of the degree of trim and finish in the final chicken house.
I'm mentioned in another ATTRA publication (one I didn't write) at http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/poultryoverview.html.
Today's Chicken Joke
Diner: How do you prepare your chickens?
Waitress: We just tell them they're going to die!
Most of you are aware that I operate a shoestring publishing company, Norton Creek Press, out of my basement, and that I have four books in my catalog (which I will list in a minute). But there are other books that are worth reading besides the ones I publish myself, and I'd like to put in a good word for Storey's Guide to Raising Poultry: Breeds, Care, Health by Leonard S. Mercea.
Like many of my favorite books, this one is written by an experienced Poultry Specialist for the Extension Service, meaning that Mercea has worked with everyone from backyarders to big commercial growers, and has been exposed to the full range of types of poultrykeeping, the problems of each, and their solutions. This makes the book very practical. This link will take you to the book's page on Amazon.com if you want more information.
Summer Waterer Tips
We have a brooder house full of ducklings, and we started having water problems a couple of days ago. The symptoms are that the ducklings are crowded around a Little Giant Automatic Poultry waterer with no water in it. The problem is that this sort of gravity-feed waterer will not refill if ducklings (or chicks) are pushing down on the bowl, trying to get at the nonexistent water.
This sort of thing happens if there are too few waterers, if they refill very slowly (due to clogged screens or low water pressure), or if the poultry act as if they have one brain cell between them, and they all want to drink at the same time. This last problem is mostly likely to come up at dawn, when all the birds realize at the same time that it's light enough to see, and that they're thirsty.
Once they start fighting over the waterer, their struggles can keep it empty most of the time. Those of us who took psycology will recognize this as a Skinner Box delivering intermittent reinforcement, just like a slot machine, and it keeps the birds glued to the waterer (or the gamblers glued to the slot machine; take your pick).
All-night lights might be an adequate stopgap in a brooder house, but a second waterer will be much more reliable.
Another thing to keep in mind with the Little Giant waterers is that they will come apart if the birds peck at them long enough. Either the bowl will unscrew itself from the stem, causing the house to flood, or the stem will fall off the body of the waterer, causing the bowl to fall to the floor. Once the stem falls, the birds will actually peck at the adjusting nuts until they, too, fall onto the floor, unless you've tightened them with two pairs of pliers so they are peck-proof. Good luck finding the missing parts once they've hit the floor!
Bell waterers won't have this problem, but, because they are 100% plastic, they tend to split at the top in a hard freeze, flooding the house as soon as it thaws. I prefer metal-valve waterers like the Little Giant, which I have found to be very freeze-proof.
By far the best thing to do is to install two waterers from the very start, so you can support twice as many birds and have at least a partial backup if one fails.
Also, install the waterers so there's room for the birds to get at them from all sides. A waterer tucked into a corner makes the house less cluttered, but one out in the middle of the room can accommodate four times as many birds.
All these issues are described in even greater detail in my book, Success With Baby Chicks.
Another tip: Chicken (and no doubt other poultry) don't like to drink hot water, and aren't even very keen about going out into the hot sun to take a drink. So it's best to keep your waterers in the shade, near places where the birds congregate on hot days. With automatic waterers, keep at least the last few feet of water hose in the shade as well, so it can cool down on its way to the waterer.
If you like this newsletter, please send copies to all your friends!
Copyright 2003 by Robert Plamondon. Permission is granted for copying if the material from here to the end of the message is left unaltered.
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