Robert Plamondon's Poultry Newsletter, March 25, 2005As 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.
Success With Baby Chicks
Well, Amazon.com got tired of selling The Dollar Hen for $11.95, and they're charging list price ($18.95) for it again. If you missed out on their sale, you can still save $1.90 if you buy it from me.
But that's not what I want to talk about today. It's spring, and I should be pitching the marvels of my book, Success With Baby Chicks. So I will! This is the only book anywhere devoted solely to getting your baby chicks through the brooding period, the most difficult and crucial period of their lives. Get things in the brooder house right, and things tend to go well for the rest of the chickens' lives. Do it wrong, and they will never fully recover.
I wrote this book after my wife Karen and I had raised thousands of chicks over many years. Sometimes the chicks did wonderfully, sometimes they didn't. There didn't seem to be a lot of pattern to it. Eventually I set myself the task of reading everything I could find on the subject, especially stuff written 50-100 years ago, when flocks the size of ours were normal and practices that worked with small farms were the focus of a lot of research. I learned one trick after another, most quite simple, really, and eventually my results got quite a bit better.
You can save yourself many days of research and years of trial and error just by reading my book. Not that things are perfect now. There are still things I can't do much about, such as when chicks get chilled during shipping, and the occasional predator who becomes wise about electric fencing once the chicks are out on free range. But once the chicks are on the farm, what happens to them is my responsibility, and they do a lot better now.
Many people have told me that the chapters on insulated electric brooders are worth the cost of the book. I tell you how to make a 200-chick brooder out of one sheet of plywood, a couple of 2x2's, and two lamp sockets. The last time I built one, it took me two hours from start to finish, including the time I spent hunting for my hammer. These brooders are easy to build, reduce the electricity it takes to brood chicks to about one-third what you'd use with overhead heat lamps, and they do a better job. And that's just one of the topics I cover.
I have a sample chapter posted on my Website, too. Check it out.
Get 'Em Cheaper On eBay
Have you ever dyed brown eggs for Easter? It works! They take dye a lot better than you'd think, and the lurid, too-familiar egg-dye colors are mellowed in interesting ways by the darker shells.
Spring is Here
Egg production is starting to shoot up here on the farm. The biggest egg-production months are April and May, and we're seeing a good run-up to it.
Lights For Baby Chicks
It helps to keep the lights on in the brooder house for the first three days so the chicks can find their way around, and especially so they can recognize the water, which is hard for them to find in gloom. Do this even if you're using lamp brooders, unless the heat lamps are doing a great job of lighting up the feed and water.
Until the weather gets a lot warmer, don't forget to surround your brooding area with a draft guard: a circle made of cardboard or something about a foot tall, to eliminate floor drafts. It's very important, especially if you're brooding with overhead heat lamps. Some people brood in old stock tanks or wading pools just for the built-in draft guards (though I think these are terrible brooders once the chicks start to fly).
Recently, I've used a draft guard made from aluminized bubble insulation. It works great. Aluminized bubble insulation is just one or two layers of bubble wrap with a layer of aluminum foil bonded to both sides, but it's wonderful stuff. It's waterproof, rotproof, weatherproof, can be cut with scissors and attached with tape or staples, it's light, and it's cheap. A lot of hardware stores carry it. It's pretty good insulation, too. Not great, but good enough, and very easy to use. It's the duct tape of insulation. It makes a good draft guard, and it's more reusable than cardboard because you can hose it off when it gets dirty.
I use draft guards for 3-4 days, usually. Once the chicks start getting vigorous and stratch at the litter, they tend to dig holes under the draft guard and escape to the other side, where they can't find the way back. So I try to remove it before that happens.
To clean small quantities of eggs, sanding the crud off works pretty well. A loofah works best, but a sanding sponge is is okay. This should be done with a dry sander on dry eggs.
Roost Mite Control 101
We're having an early spring, and we've even seen some early roost mites.
Roost mites live in cracks and crevices and emerge to suck blood from your chickens. They are almost too small to see unless they've been feeding, at which point they swell up with stolen blood. If you feel invisible bugs crawling up your arms after collecting eggs or dealing with the chickens, you've got roost mites. If you see little red or red-brown dots on just one side of eggs, you have roost mites (they were crushed when the egg was laid). If you pull out a handful of nest-box litter and it moves on its own, you have roost mites. They're very common. I'll be talking about them like a broken record until the weather gets cold again. After predators, they're the biggest threat to your hens.
The quick fix for roost mites in the nest boxes is 5% Malathion dust in the nest box (Pyrethrins is the organically certified equivalent). Scraping roosts and wooden nest boxes clean and then painting them with an oil (preferably a non-drying or slow-drying oil) gives longer-lasting protection. Used motor oil thinned with kerosene is traditional; linseed oil thinned with kerosene smells a lot better. I mean to try linseed oil thinned with turpentine for an old-timey, slower-drying effect. Whitewash works, too, I'm told. I haven't tried it. So does lime-sulfur spray. It gives a longer-lasting effect than Malathion, but not as long as oil. It's very safe. It smells like rotten eggs, though.
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Copyright 2005 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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