Robert Plamondon's Poultry Newsletter, May 2, 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.
Genetics of the Fowl
If you're serious about breeding chickens, or want to read a fascinating book on the subject, you'll want to take a look at F.B. Hutt's classic Genetics of the Fowl. The original 1949 edition is being reprinted by me.
This book had been out of print for ages. It was to the point where I had to wait patiently for weeks just for the chance to buy an old copy in good shape for $100. Even if I'd been willing to pay more, there weren't any for sale. Poultry breeders do not let this book slip out of their hands!
News From the Farm
Spring is Sprung
The grass is so tall, it's almost scary. When am I going to find time to mow?
The warmer weather is making chick brooding easier and less risky. My first batch of 100 chicks is in pasture housing now, and my second batch of 150 is doing well in the brooder house. The first batch was delayed in the mail by a day, and in the end I lost about 20 chicks, all during the first week. The survivors have been very healthy. The second batch is doing much better. I've had to reduce the wattage in the brooder from the start because the weather is so much better.
Karen's older broilers have been on pasture for weeks now. She is switching from putting her broiler chicks on pasture at three weeks to putting them out at 14 days. They thrive better in pasture pens (no threat from coccidiosis, for one thing) if they are protected from chilling during their first week out of the brooder house. We do this with unheated insulated pasture hovers of my invention (inspired by a description in Milo Hastings in The Dollar Hen (another old poultry book I've brought back to life).
With egg-type pullets, I wait at least four weeks before putting them out in our drafty range houses, and generally wait six weeks. Part of the issue with pullets is that younger chicks panic easily and pile into corners. Chickens have weak lungs and are easily suffocated by this sort of thing. Older chicks flee instead of piling. This is less important with broilers because they are much less panicky than egg-type birds (or, at least, the ones we've used are), so this isn't as much of a problem.
Farmers' Market Paradise
We are very fortunate to be living where we are. Our local farmers' markets in Corvallis, Oregon are really great. We have an unusually long season (mid-April through mid-November), with several sizable organic farms as anchor businesses. Our climate allows many vegetables to be grown year-round, and we even have an indoor farmers' market between January and March, at which fresh greens can be purchased, along with vegetables out of storage.
Our local farmers feature premium produce, with lots of better varieties than can be found in the supermarket. You won't find gigantic flavorless strawberries at the Corvallis markets.
Which makes it a great place to sell free-range eggs and pastured broilers. Real farm chickens and eggs taste better than confinement-raised products, and the Corvallis consumers know quality when they see it, and are willing to pay for it. At 50,000 people, Corvallis is not a huge market, but it's bigger than we are -- we sell all our products locally. If Corvallis didn't have such a wonderful market, we'd have to take our products all the way to Eugene or Portland, adding up to three hours of additional driving to each market day.
It's worth checking out your local farmers' markets several times a year. The product mix varies through the season, and the vendor mix does, too, though not as much. Different markets have very different characters, so if you've been disappointed by one, you may be delighted by another.
Step-Over Electric Fences
We've had pretty good luck with electric netting that's only 20 inches high -- low enough to step over. The chickens can fly over it, but they're usually too dumb to fly over an obstacle they can see through. This gives better protection from predators than my usual 1-2 strand electric fences with aluminum fence wire. It provides a good way of confining birds temporarily, such as during their first few days of range housing.
Because the fence can be stepped over, it doesn't present much of a barrier to your getting in there and doing chores. I find full-height electric netting to be nightmarish. I always trip over it.
The trick with fencing chickens is to give them enough space that they aren't really squeezed, and to keep them from running out of feed. Hungry chickens are hard to confine, and who can blame them?
May To-Do List
Inspired by a similar list in Jull's Successful Poultry Management, McGraw-Hill, 1943.
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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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