Robert Plamondon's Poultry Newsletter, February 21, 2004As 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.
News From the Farm
Chicken Houses on the Move
I still haven't ordered my baby chicks. Shame on me! I've been repairing winter damage and I've been moving the chicken houses. All my chicken houses (almost 20 at last count) are small, between 8x8 feet and 8x12 feet. These are basically sheds on 4x4 skids. I move them thirty or forty feet at a time to a fresh patch of pasture every few months, leaving the mud and manure behind. This is a very old-fashioned way of keeping chickens, and works well if you have a lot of space and a tractor that starts up when you want it to.
I had some trouble with the tractor, which turned out to be the float-bowl valve in the carburetor, which was stuck almost shut. You wouldn't believe how simple a tractor carburetor is! I took it off (two bolts), took it apart (only a few parts), sprayed it all with carburetor cleaner, put it back together, and voila! Very different from my experience with automobile carburetors.
I've started using Marvel Mystery Oil in my gas to prevent this from happening again. The idea is to leave an oil film on the surfaces of the gas tank and the carburetor to prevent rust. There was definitely some rusting in the carburetor. Marvel Mystery Oil also seems to dissolve rust. I used to get a little in the sediment bowl of the carburetor (from the gas tank), but not anymore.
But back to the chickens. It's amazing what shifting them a few feet will do. It gets them off the mud and onto turf again. It leaves all the old manure behind without actually shoveling any. Moving the houses improves my quality of life! And also that of the hens.
My houses have open fronts, and the hens come and go as they please. Most of the houses are so open, they don't have doors, just open doorways. When it's time to move them, I hook the house up to my tractor with a chain, and shoo the hens out. Then I move it, usually about thirty or forty feet.
Chickens have a strong homing instinct. If you move their house a short distance, they will roost in it at night as if nothing had happened. If you move it too far, they'll roost on the ground on the spot where the house used to be. Then you have to spend the next several nights picking sleeping chickens off the ground and hauling them to their new home. This is not fun. But once you get the hang of how far to move the houses, it doesn't have to happen to you.
My other piece of advice is to move the houses a very short distance with a new batch of hens, who are more easily confused than the experienced ones.
Egg Production Way Up
Egg production is picking up amazingly. A couple of weeks ago it was climbing steadily, but right now the difference is noticeable every day! Some grades of egg, particularly Jumbos, now exceed demand. Soon we'll have to have a sale on selected grades, and then we'll have to lower prices across the board. Another sign of approaching spring!
Next Week: First Chicks of the Season
Next week, Karen will get her first broiler chicks. I'll get my first pullets shortly afterwards. Tomorrow's big chore is to prepare my brooder house for them.
Both of us will be using insulated electric brooders of the kind described in great detail in Success With Baby Chicks. I also have the original Ohio Experiment Station report on them on my Web site. These brooders cost about $20 to build, can brood up to 250 chicks (depending on size) and can be put together in 2-3 hours. Give 'em a try -- you won't regret it!
My Web Site
Some of you may not realize that I have a lot of general poultrykeeping information on my Web Site. If you're mostly familiar with the Norton Creek Press pages, you may not have come across the other areas yet. Allow me to recommend:
Brooder Quickstart Chapter
Here's a link to a sample chapter that everyone ought to find useful over the next few months: the "Brooding Quickstart" chapter from my book Success With Baby Chicks.
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Copyright 2004 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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