Robert Plamondon's Poultry Newsletter, May 11, 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.
Get 'Em Cheaper On eBay
Japanese "I Love Eggs" Song
You've got to click this link. It's a song and an animated video entitled "Egg Song" by "I Love Eggs." It's cute and it's more or less in English!
The Dollar Hen
I love this book. Milo Hastings did many things. He was a poultry scientist, a science-fiction author, and a playwright. He invented the electric forced-air cabinet incubator. Early in his career, in 1909, he wrote a classic book on practical poultry farming called .The Dollar Hen
Several things make this book unique. One was the fact that, when Hastings was the poultry scientist for the Kansas Experiment Station, they had no funds for experiments, so they sent him all over the place to find out how the poultry industry of that time really worked. He had a better idea of what worked and what didn't, what was profitable and what was fantasy, than anyone I've come across.
True, his book was written almost 100 years ago. On the other hand, many of us are reinventing the small farm, and there are a lot of things we can learn from the small farmers of prior generations. This was certainly true for me -- I modeled many aspects of my farm on Hastings' advice!
Many of his main points are as true now as they ever were. For example, he insists that a farmer's time is too valuable for him to spend it in profitless activities like carrying water around in buckets, and profit is too hard to come by for him to waste his money on expensive chicken houses. (No matter how many lightning rods and window boxes you put on the chicken houses, the hens just don't seem to care.) He also points out that all the profit comes from selling premium-grade products. Most of the volume is in the lesser grades, but there's almost no profit to be made from them.
The chapter on incubation is very comprehensive, and I found it very useful, especially with still-air incubators (he hadn't invented the cabinet incubator at the time the book was written). The chapter on Experiment Station work gives a very interesting method of the usefulness and pitfalls of experimental work.
Give the book a try! You can buy .The Dollar Hen from me (click the link), or order it from your favorite bookseller.
The Merry Month of May
It's been a very wet May so far, which the chickens don't mind, but it's making it awfully hard to mow. Anyway, the tractor starter is on the blink again. I have to replace the ring gear on the flywheel which requires serious disassembly. Time to punt and let the tractor guy take a swing at it.
After well over a year of being unable to produce eggs as fast as our customers wanted to buy them, we have a surplus. This is good -- if you don't have a surplus in May, something's wrong! So we dropped our prices by 50 cents a dozen and have been running a special at the Farmer's Market -- buy a broiler, get a dozen eggs free. This way, we're getting some new customers for both broilers and eggs.
The reason we have a surplus is partly that it's May, when every hen with a pulse is laying like crazy. Later, the older hens will start to quit on us. The other reason we have a surplus is that the pullet chicks that I got around the end of October are in full lay, and the ones I got in mid-December are starting to lay. There will be a brief pause, then the February batch will kick in sometime during July, and then the April batch will start to lay in September.
All three brooder houses are full (two have broilers, one has turkey poults), so I won't be able to brood any pullets for a while. Since I live in a mild climate, summer brooding isn't difficult, the way it is in places where the summers are blazing hot. Heat kills chicks much more quickly than cold does, but I don't have this problem. So I'll probably brood chicks in August.
I usually brood 150 chicks at a time, and get them out on pasture around 6-7 weeks. Any earlier, and they fall prey to...I'm not sure what. Predators that leave older pullets alone, anyway, but attack younger ones.
With our broilers, it's different. We keep them in portable hoophouses which are surrounded by electric netting to keep predators away. (Do yourself a favor and use garden netting, which is low enough to step over.) Our broilers are never allowed out of the hoophouses, which are moved by hand every day to a new patch of grass. Broiler chicks grow so fast that they can be moved onto pasture at 14-21 days if it isn't too nasty out.
Anyway, we're getting over 25 dozen eggs a day right now. So our AquaMagic egg washer decided to bust its main drive belt. Rather to my surprise, we found the part number on the old belt and got one from a local distributor, and didn't have to order one from the National Poultry Equipment Company. Not that I would have minded, except it saved us an overnight delivery charge. I ran out of egg baskets and filled up all my buckets by the time the belt was installed!
Egg Baskets, Egg Buckets
Speaking of which, there are only two containers I think are suitable for egg collecting. One is wire egg baskets. Their open construction lets the eggs cool faster.
The other is galvanized buckets. The right kind of galvanized bucket is one with a convex dimple in the bottom. That way, the first eggs you put into the basket don't want to roll every which way. The raised part in the middle discourages them from careening to the other side and cracking. I hate plastic buckets because they have flat bottoms. Also, they're too deep for easy handling. A 12-qt. galvanized bucket is the most convenient size and has many uses besides carrying eggs.
I think that woven baskets get dirty too easily, and are impossible to clean. I don't like collecting directly onto egg flats; too clumsy. I tried adding handles to milk crates and collecting onto flats in the milk crate, but it was too awkward.
Join the American Pastured Poultry Association
Or at least check out the APPPA Web site. APPPA has an immense wealth of information that comes to you in the form of their newsletter, APPPA Grit. It has producer profiles, opinion pieces, how-to articles, everything. It leans towards pastured broiler production, but free-range eggs, turkeys, and waterfowl get their innings, too. There's a lot more in the newsletter than ever gets onto the Web site.
Most APPPA producers operate on a small scale, so a lot of the advice is sized right for backyarders and hobbyists.
May To-Do List
Inspired by a similar list in Jull's Successful Poultry Management, McGraw-Hill, 1943.
In May, the amount of labor starts to fall, assuming your spring chicks are all off to a good start. The labor requirement will reach a minimum in the summer months, the pick up again as winter approaches.
If you like this newsletter, please send copies to all your friends!
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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