Robert Plamondon's Poultry Newsletter, August 4, 2006
Sorry about the long gap between newsletters. I was super-busy...
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New Pastured Poultry Book!
I mentioned this last time, but it's worth saying again. The
Raising Poultry on Pasture
by APPPA (the American Pastured Poultry Producers' Association), has
got more information than you can shake a stick at. It has articles written by a large number
of pastured poultry farmers, who have taken Joel Salatin's ideas and run with them.
The book has 246 pages of articles from APPPA Grit, the
invaluable APPPA newsletter. APPPA Grit is written by and for small egg and poultry producers --
specifically, those raising pastured or free-range chickens.
We've been members of APPPA for years, and recommend that you not only buy the book,
but join right now!
Chapter 1 Overview of Pastured Poultry
Chapter 2 Brooding
Chapter 3 Pastured Poultry Genetics
Chapter 4 Shelter Design
Chapter 5 Day-Range Systems
Chapter 6 Equipment
Chapter 7 Eggs on Pasture
Chapter 8 Turkeys, Ducks, and other Poultry
Chapter 9 Poultry Nutrition and Health
Chapter 10 Processing
Chapter 11 Marketing
Chapter 12 Record-Keeping and Insurance
Chapter 13 The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Chapter 14 Resources
Chapter 15 Index
This is not a book to be missed! Anyone who is interested in having a few chickens,
or in farming, ought to read a copy.
Where to Buy Your Copy
You can buy the book from me.
I offer a low price and flat-rate shipping, so if you buy one of my other books, you save even more!
I'm also auctioning copies off on eBay.
You can also buy the book
directly from APPPA.
APPPA offers $5 off for member, or $10 off with a new membership or renewal, so what are you waiting for?
Finally, you can buy the book from
or any other online or brick-and-mortar reseller.
News From the Farm
Predators have been giving us fits, but things seem to have calmed down enormously now.
The main problem has been bobcats. I don't know what the deal is, but bobcats used to be
elusive in our neighborhood, but this year I started seeing them in the daytime! They must
be tremendously overpopulated if they're taking that kind of risk.
The Federal Trapper (who works under the USDA-Aphis Wildlife Services Program)
came out and set some snares, and we started collecing chicken-eating predators. Mostly bobcats
(five so far this year), but also a couple of coyotes and a raccoon or two.
All the snare are
set right next to where the chickens are; we only want to catch the chicken-eating predators,
not predators in general. When we first moved here, we didn't have a predator problem at all --
the predators were all too shy to prey
on our chickens very much. But every time our city-dominated county governments ratchets down
the funds for the Wildlife Services program, the predators get more numerous and aggressive. And
it's not just livestock that get killed -- it's pets, too. We used to have half a dozen
barn cats, and now we're down to one.
For a while we were catching something every day or two, but we haven't caught a thing in two
weeks, and predation seems to have stopped as well. It seems to me that it's ecologically sound
to keep enough pressure on predators that they stay in their ecological niche, and don't spill
over into generalized pet-eating, trash-can-tipping, and so on.
During the period of high predation our hens' egg production dropped dramatically and the hens
acted weird. Being chased and killed isn't just bad for the hens that get eaten, it's terribly
stressful for the entire flock. As soon as the predation stopped, the hens returned to normal and
the egg production soared.
We're learning from the trapper. If you do it right, you can be selective about what gets
caught in your snares. A favorite technique is to place them in game trails that are basically tunnels
in the brush that are too low to be used by deer and such.
There are a number of sites about trapping. Most of these sites also sell the equipment (snares,
live traps, game calls, instructional videos, etc.)
We have used live traps with some success, but snares have worked better for us. Live traps
are better in areas with lots of loose pets. I use a .410 shotgun to dispatch predators caught
in a live trap. This relatively weak shot charge doesn't hurt the trap or present much of a richochet
danger, but at short range it dispatches the predator immediately.
I don't particularly like trapping, but you need to take care of your flock or get out of the
Forage Plants for Hens
What kind of forage plants do hens like/
It turns out that they aren't picky at all. But when you give them pasture or other forage, keep
the following rules in mind:
- Chickens don't like tall grass; shoving through tall grass takes work and it interferes with foraging.
Chickens like grass to be less than six inches high.
- Chickens can digest bright green forage plants (clover, grasses, whatever), but once the color
begins to fade, the plants are too woody to be digestible.
- Chickens love shade on sunny days. Old-time poultrymen planted rows of widely spaced sunflowers
or corn to provide shade. This also provides protection from hawks. Don't put the plants
close together, or the chickens will hide their eggs among the plants. The sunflower heads
or ears of corn were fed to the chickens by knocking a few stalks over and letting the chickens do
all the threshing.
- In parts of the country with summer rainfall, ladino clover was considered to be the best
summer pasture for chickens if you're going to go to the trouble of plowing and planting. But there's a
school of thought that says that permanent pasture is best (simply mow whatever's there, and
never plow or seed). The chickens get more variety that way.
- In places with mild winters, oats were considered to be the best cool-season forage. Here
in Western Oregon, cool-season grasses in general do great 9-10 months out of the year, but
they're dead as a doornail during the summer.
- Another trick that used to be very popular was to grow thousand-headed kale or any of the other
large varieties of kale. Feeding was often done by cutting a plant and hanging it from a string upside-down in
the chicken house, just off the floor, and the chickens would eat the leaves. Kale grows all
winter in the Pacific Northwest and provided off-season vitamins that old-time poultry rations
- Pasture improves the flavor, texture, and appearance of poultry and eggs, but it doesn't
save you any money on the feed bills. People say it does, but it doesn't.
August To-Do List
Inspired by a similar list in Jull's Successful Poultry Management, McGraw-Hill, 1943.
- Seek better paying egg markets (egg prices rise at this time of year).
- House early pullets (move them into permanent quarters before they start layign).
- Replace litter.
- Cull molters.
- Isolate any sick chickens.
- Provide additional ventilation.
- Gather eggs more frequently in warm weather.
- Cull weak or unthrifty individuals.