Norton Creek Poultry and Chicken Lore
Books from Robert Plamondon's Publishing Company, Norton Creek Press.

Success With
Baby Chicks

Robert Plamondon
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Gardening Without Work
Ruth Stout
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Poultry Production
Leslie E. Card
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Genetics of the Fowl
F. B. Hutt
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Feeding Poultry
G.F. Heuser
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Robert Plamondon's Poultry Newsletter, July 30, 2005

As 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

One of the many things I like about F. B. Hutt's Genetics of the Fowl is that he devoted a very large chapter at the back to "Breeding in Practice," where he tells you what works and what doesn't in real life, rather than just giving you lists of interesting genes and leaving you to flounder around.

But in addition to this, he goes through all the chicken genes and not only tells you what they do (such as determine whether a chicken has white or colored feathers), but how the researchers figured this out and what question marks remain. It gives tremendous insight into the process of figuring out breeding problems.

This book won't appeal to everyone, but if you're interested in breeding chickens, it's a must-have. Yes, it was written in 1949, and there have been advances since then. But this book gives you a better grounding than any other. For example Crawford's Poultry Breeding and Genetics is vastly larger and more up-to-date, but it's aimed at an audience of poultry scientists, and reading it is pretty heavy going. (Besides, its list price is $300.) You'll really want to read Genetics of the Fowl first.

Professor Hutt was an interesting man. He worked on many different aspects of genetics, and pioneered work in many areas, including breeding for disease resistance (which works, but is harder than you'd think). He investigated the chromosomal nature of genetics. He worked out practical breeding plans for improving egg production, which turns out to be very dificult.

He also wrote a book on practical dog genetics, Genetics for Dog Breeders.

Anyway, if you're interested in breeding chickens, you need a copy of Genetics of the Fowl. You can buy it directly from me, from my listing on eBay (see below), or from

Disgustingly Good Deals On eBay

Sales on eBay are slow in the summer, but I'm taking a chance and putting more books on the auction block. You may get a really good deal -- the last buyers sure did! Check it out: My items on eBay

Free-Range Eggs Are More Nutritious

Mother Earth News published an article called Free-Range Eggs Are Really More Nutritious. It reports new research which confirms what everyone already knew, which is that supermarket eggs are as nutritionally empty as it is convenient to make them.

In the old days, everyone kept their breeding flocks on free range because the eggs hatched better and the chicks were healthier. In other words, the layer rations were nutritionally deficient, and range made up for it.

In fact, the numbers on the nutrition label on an egg carton are identical to the ones I read in a poultry book from the early Forties, for eggs from confined flocks. (I think it was Jull's Successful Poultry Management.) The text also mentioned that eggs from free-range flocks had much higher nutrional value. So it's not as if this fact has ever been a big secret.

Of course, the big guys don't use free-range for their breeder flocks (the flocks whose eggs get sent to the incubator instead of the supermarket). Instead, breeder flocks get a diet with much higher vitamin levels and some other good stuff. Looking at it the other way, if you assume that the ultimate benchmark of egg quality is its ability to produce a healthy chick, table eggs are intentionally kept below this standard by most producers.

Which is not to say that the producers are bad people, just that most consumers assume that all eggs are alike, and buy the cheapest ones available. You can go broke pretty fast marketing a quality product to people who aren't paying attention to quality!

News From the Farm

The High-Tech Life

My wife Karen farms full-time, but I'm also a free-lance technical writer. My client is a Silicon Valley start-up in the network acceleration business. (You should see all the computers in my basement!) Recently I've been flying to the Bay Area and back every Thursday. So if you've sent me an email and haven't heard a response, now you know why.

I like high-tech stuff. I didn't move to the country to escape modern society, I moved because I like living in the country. Like everybody else, I have satellite TV and everything!

I carry a PDA because I need to be beeped at when it's time to do things, and it's hard for me to imagine how farmers ever got along without cell phones.

I think the thing that surprised me most about life on the farm was how high my electricity bill would be. Refrigerators, ice machines, brooders, fans, and computers -- it adds up!


Karen is doing rotational grazing with lambs this year. This is her second batch of lambs. Our previous lambs were housed in the barn and were always getting into the range feeders and eating chicken feed. These are up on the back hill, confined with electrified netting that gets moved every few days.

I thought the last batch came out kind of small, but maybe we just didn't keep them long enough for them to put on weight.

Lambs aren't much trouble if you move the fencing often enough. They'll escape pretty quickly if they run out of grass.

One upside of this is that they're grazing ahead of the broilers. Broilers don't like tall grass, and the lambs are keeping it nice and short for them.


Our pigs are showing no respect for the electric netting we're attempting to confine them with. They're escaping and getting into the chicken feeders. Soon they'll learn how to eat hens, so we're moving the pigs to the hen-free end of the property, and will use a better, stronger electric fence.

Pigs are a lot of fun when they don't escape all the time. They're always very healthy and always seem to be having a good time, especially if you have some scrub land that they can root up to their heart's content, with some shade for them to sleep in.

Our pigs eat a lot of hard-boiled free-range eggs. We save all our cracked and dirty eggs for them. We hard-boil and then freeze them during the off-season.

July To-Do List

Inspired by a similar list in Jull's Successful Poultry Management, McGraw-Hill, 1943.

  • Market or butcher surplus cockerels.
  • Cull early molting hens.
  • Use moist mash for layers in hot weather (no more than they will finish in 20 minutes).
  • Make special disinfection of pullet quarters (in anticipation of moving them off range and into winter housing).
  • Provide additional ventilation.
  • Gather eggs more frequently in warm weather.
  • Cull weak or unthrifty individuals.

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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36475 Norton Creek Road
Blodgett, Oregon 97326

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