Robert Plamondon's Poultry Newsletter, September 6, 2005
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Brooding Chicks in September?
Summer is waning. Time to brood more baby chicks!
No, really! September and October are great brooding months. It isn't as cold or as wet as in early
spring, and chicks are still readily available from most hatcheries. By the time the weather gets
really cold, the chicks will be fully feathered and will be as hardy as the adult birds. Whether
you want one last batch of broilers or some more laying hens, now is the time.
Fall brooding is just like spring brooding, really. You probably ought to be on the lookout
for roost mites in the brooder house if there have been chickens there recently, and you need
to be more alert for problems related to overheating, but otherwise it's just the same.
September chicks will start laying in the spring, which may cause a serious egg surplus if you have
plenty of old hens. But they'll keep laying all summer, when your old hens take a break.
I talk about about year-round brooding in my book,
Success With Baby Chicks.
You can buy
from my listing on eBay (see below), or from Amazon.com. Give it a try -- I frequently refer to it
myself, and I wrote it!
Great Deals On eBay
Sales on eBay are still slow, as they always are at this time of year,
but once again 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:
Time to Light Up the Hens
September 1 is the traditional time to start using artificial lights on the hens. Lights for laying
hens date back to 1880 or so, when people used kerosene lanterns for the task. (I much prefer electric lights!)
I haven't lit my hens yet, because my setup involves hundreds of feet of extension cords snaked across
the pasture, and I refuse to plug them in until the dry season is over. I'd look pretty dumb starting
a grass fire on my own farm!
I occasionally run into people who insist that lights act like caffeine on hens, making them
jittery and irritable. In my experience, it's the complainers who are jittery
and irritable, not the hens. My hens go inside at dusk and go to sleep,
even though the lights are on. (Interestingly, lights work at stimulating egg production even if the
hens are asleep.) I sometimes have lights in some houses and not others. I can't
tell which house a hen came from by the way it looks or acts. Lights, in short, are not a big deal
one way or the other, from a hen-happiness point of view.
Lights help increase fall and winter egg production, partly at the expense of spring egg production.
Because I have far too few eggs in the fall and winter and too many in the spring, this is a good deal!
Generally speaking, lights will increase total production by no more than 15%.
I covered the basics of hen lights a couple of years ago in
News From the Farm
We're at the season where we're maximally overextended, so we're tired and grumpy and looking forward
to winter. It doesn't help that I'm still flying to San Francisco every week, either.
The pigs learned how to escape from their electric-fenced enclosure every day. Some batches
of pigs don't respect electric fence; others do. I don't know why. Frequent escapes are a pig's
way of telling you, "Time to call the butcher!" It's also their way of making it so that you aren't
sad to see them go. It's kind of them, don't you think?
Our lambs have similarly begun to sneer at electric netting, though in their case a dead battery
was to blame. (I can't believe that anyone still makes an electric fence charger without a built-in
voltmeter. Without one, the first sign of a fading battery tends to be that your livestock has vanished.
Manufacturers take note!)
We had renewed predator activity, which has died down quite a bit once the federal trapper came in
and caught two raccoons. I love the USDA-APHIS wildlife services program!
As I mentioned before, it's the dry season here. There's still green stuff on the pasture, but less
every day. Pretty soon our nice orange egg yolks will merely be yellow. Though Western Oregon has a
wet winter, summer and early fall are very dry. It'll certainly start raining by Halloween, but it's
anyone's guess whether we'll see any rain before then.
New Life for Big Old Refrigerators
We have a couple of glass-fronted sliding-door refrigerators like grocery stores use. One's a very
old Husssmann unit that was used as a milk refrigerator, I think, and a newer one that was used for
The Hussmann's refrigeration unit died a few years back, and the technician, who lives down the
road, recommended that we buy a cheap window air conditioner, saw a hole in the side of the refrigerator,
replace the thermostat with one that goes down to refrigerator temperatures, and run with that!
So we did, and it worked great for four years -- and died last week. The original refrigeration unit
died every six months or so, and cost $350 to get running again. The air conditioner cost $179. So
I'm declaring victory.
I've written up the experience on my
September To-Do List
Inspired by a similar list in Jull's
Successful Poultry Management, McGraw-Hill, 1943.
- Repair roofing.
- House pullets (if raised on range).
- Do not overcrowd!
- Cull molting hens.
- Begin artificial lighting.
- Cull any poor pullets.
- Provide additional ventilation.
- Gather eggs more frequently in warm weather.
- Remove soiled litter.