Robert Plamondon's Poultry Newsletter, December 29, 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.
Baby Chick Season is Here
Hurray! It's the first day of Baby Chick season! I can tell becaue my catalog for Phinney Hatchery arrived in the mail today. It's practically spring!
And, in fact, I have 100 Barred Rock pullets from Privett Hatchery in one of my brooder houses, ten days old. That's right; you can get chicks in mid-December if you want. Some hatcheries shut down briefly for the holidays, but hatch up to around December 15. And of course January is the beginning of their busy season.
Cold-weather brooding is pretty straightforward if you know how to do it. I followed my own advice, as given in Success With Baby Chicks, and things have been going very well. Keep floor drafts down and use enough heat. With an insulated electric lamp brooder, (a topic I spent two chapters on in the book), freezing weather is no problem.
Anyway, before spring hits and you try to do all your farm activities all at once, why not buy a copy of Success With Baby Chicks? (Just click on the link.) Catch up on your reading and get a little planning done before spring fever makes us all a little crazy. I know that, as soon as the first whiff of spring is in the air, planning is out the window and it's go, go, go!
While our poultry keep us at home during the holiday season, the farm work dies back to just enough to keep us from feeling cooped up in the house, and it's very pleasant.
Where Did December Go?
I meant to do a newsletter at the beginning of the month, and here it is December 29!
The weather has been unusually mild, so far, with very little freezing and without even the usual torrential Oregon winter rains.
Our batch of 300 pullets has been moved out of two brooder houses and into three houses on our back pasture. This is the largest group of same-age pullets we've ever done. We surrounded the three pasture houses with two rolls of electric garden netting (great stuff -- only 20 in. high, so you can step over it) to keep the hens away from the pullets, but the pullets stated pecking at each others' tailfeathers -- a sure sign of crowding -- so we took it back down again. Also, the pullets hated one of the houses and refuse to sleep in it, and preferred sleeping outside or even in one of the range feeders. We wised up eventually and stopped putting them into the house they don't like. I still don't know what's up with that.
This reminded me of a point I'd learned before but that doesn't come up much on my farm. Feather picking and cannibalism are "diseases of crowding" in chickens, and the birds can still be crowded even when they have a fenced yard. With plenty of space, these problems vanish almost overnight, even if they were well-established in the brooder house (which god forbid). But going from a crowded situation to one that only less crowded might not work. Add some stress (like the stress of moving) and things might get worse instead of better.
Another source of stress was a lack of feeder space. One giant range feeder wasn't enough for 300 pullets. Two feeders, widely separated, proved to be plenty. The one waterer I provided was sort of marginal, but the rains are picking up and the drainage ditches will provide plenty of waterer space for the next several months, so that problem is solving itself.
Anyway, whenever you increase the number of birds you're working with, be alert for signs of trouble. Doing the same old thing with "just a few more birds" can blow up in your face. Being lavish with space and equipment can save a whole lot of trouble. Let's all be careful out there.
I'm slowly getting my decrepit nest houses fixed up, so the doors work properly. The idea behind nest houses is that they're full of nests, not roosts, and the hens lay in there but don't eat or sleep there. That keeps them clean and uncrowded.
Well, if you don't have doors that work, the hens start sleeping there, and you get lots of chicken poop in the nests. It's hard to keep doors on chicken houses; the latches, the hinges, or the doors themselves give up the ghost. I've got two of my three nest houses back together, and the results are gratifying. Clean eggs! And the hens are forced to sleep in the roosting houses, where the electric lights fool them into thinking that it's always springtime.
Books Available on eBay
I mentioned this last time, but it's worth saying again: I'm auctioning books on eBay every week, and some people are getting really good deals. Check it out:
December To-Do List
Yes, I am very late. Here's what we've been supposed to be doing...
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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