Norton Creek Poultry and Chicken Lore
Books from Robert Plamondon's Publishing Company, Norton Creek Press.

Success With
Baby Chicks

Robert Plamondon
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Gardening Without Work
Ruth Stout
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Poultry Production
Leslie E. Card
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Genetics of the Fowl
F. B. Hutt
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Feeding Poultry
G.F. Heuser
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Robert Plamondon's Poultry Newsletter, February 11, 2004

As always, if you're tired of this newsletter, please scroll down to the bottom of the message for easy instructions to make your subscription go away.

Don't Forget to Buy My Books!

Much as I like corresponding with all of you by email, I couldn't afford to do it if this newsletter didn't result in book sales! I've been shyly putting my book plugs at the bottom of the newsletter, but I figure we all know each other well enough that I can put them at the top.

Of course, it's getting into baby chick season, so the timeliest book in my lineup is my own Success With Baby Chicks. Follow the link to get the full sales pitch, but basically, my goal was to let you know all the practical chick-brooding techniques that I've been able to learn through eight years of research and poultrykeeping.

If you're interested in the possibilities of free-range egg farming or practical back-to-the-land literature, The Dollar Hen by Milo M. Hastings makes fascinating reading. Mind you, it was published in 1909 and talks about profitable egg farming in the old days, but Hastings had a wonderful grasp of fundamentals. There's a lot to be learned from this book. I reread it several times a year.

Interested in what goes into chicken feed and in the possibility of formulating your own rations? Curious about the nutritional benefits of free range? Feeding Poultry by Gustave F. Heuser is a very enlightening book. This one dates from the Fifties, which is recent enough that all the vitamins and amino acids had been discovered, but old enough that factory farming really doesn't dominate the author's thinking. There's an excellent chapter on green feed (including pasture), and a great many feed recipes, many of which depend less on synthetic ingredients than most modern ones. It talks about the pros and cons of all common feed ingredients and a number of oddball ones (you won't believe this, but it mentions whale blubber at one point).

Finally, if you do your own chicken breeding, or even if you're just interested in the possibilities, Genetics of the Fowl by Frederick B. Hutt is a complete gold mine. Sure, it was published in 1949, and there is more up-to-date data available on the Web, but what does it mean? Hutt's book is far more than a list of genes; it gives innumerable examples of practical breeding. Not only is the last chapter devoted to this topic, but it's a thread that goes through the entire book. I reread this book a couple of times a year, and I don't do any of my own breeding!

Okay, enough advertisement. On with the show!

News From the Farm

Wow -- sunshine, highs in the fifties, bright green grass -- it's false spring in Oregon!

My wife Karen has already ordered her first batch of broiler chicks, for delivery next week. The Corvallis farmer's market season starts in mid-April, and we'll have broilers from day one. Our winter lull is ending!

The hens are doing nicely. Production is climbing steadily, as I trust it is for everyone who isn't suffering from unseasonably nasty weather. Hens are very sensitive to increasing day length, and respond to it when all the other indications are that it's still deep winter.

I'll be ordering my first baby chicks later this week. I have to make up my mind whether to order them from Privett in New Mexico, a hatchery I've been very happy with, or the local Oregon hatchery, Shanks, which Karen has used for broiler chicks with great success. I don't like switching from a winning combination, but there's something to be said for locally obtained chicks, which are shipped by ground in Post Office trucks, than out-of-region chicks shipped by air. The difference is that out-of-region chicks may start in wildly different weather conditions than we're having here, and the hatchery manager has to find a good compromise when figuring out how many airholes to leave open. When the chicks start and end in Western Oregon, this problem doesn't really exist.

Prepare Before You Buy

For the first time in a long time I'm going to actually follow through with my resolution to have the brooder house ready before I even order the chicks. This is especially important with the first brood of the year, since all sorts things may have gone haywire over the winter, or simply be in need of repairs which I've forgotten all about.

The first brood of the year has the possibility of adverse weather as one strike against it; the chicks shouldn't face any additional challenges!

I have a terrible tendency to procrastinate, so it's best to arrange things so that my my procrastination leads to late chicks being housed in a perfect brooder, not timely chicks being housed under improvised conditions.

Rodent Control

The other thing that's very important is for me to put down rat bait right away. If I can get rid of the local rat population (if any) before the chicks arrive, the chicks will be safe and I can remove most of the bait. I don't like poison any more than you do, but rats appeared on the scene after we'd been in business a few years (all that feed, I suppose), and they love killing baby chicks. I've tried traps without success, and rat-proofing the houses has only been partly successful, so I'm using bait.

I like the bait blocks with the holes in the middle, which can be attached to a wall or a block of wood with a big-headed nail or a piece of wire. This keeps the rats from simply dragging the bait away and filling tunnels with it. The big 1/4 pound bait blocks are also good. I put these in lengths of 1 1/2 in. or 2 in. PVC pipe with 90 degree elbows at each end (just pressed on; not glued). The rats can't drag the blocks around the corners.

The other important thing is to clear away any hiding places near the brooder houses, so critters can't lurk. Brush, equipment, lumber; this shouldn't be allowed near the brooder house if you can help it. That way, any rodents are exposed to the usual predators, such as owls, hawks, and cats. Let Mother Nature do as much of the work as possible!

February To-Do List

Cribbed from Jull's Successful Poultry Management, McGraw-Hill, 1943.

  • Look for better stock (are there better chickens than what you've been using?).
  • Hatch baby chicks.
  • Remove damp or dirty litter.
  • Provide warm drinking water.
  • Brood early chicks.
  • Replace litter.
  • Adopt a sound feeding program.
  • Plan to keep a flock of at least 2/3 pullets (that is, brood enough pullets that you can cull most of your old hens in the fall, when they stop laying).

If you like this newsletter, please send copies to all your friends!

Copyright 2004 by Robert Plamondon. Permission is granted for copying if the material from here to the end of the message is left unaltered.

This newsletter is sent out occasionally by Robert Plamondon to anyone who asks for it, plus the customers of Norton Creek Press, publisher of:

Norton Creek Press
36475 Norton Creek Road
Blodgett, Oregon 97326

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