Robert Plamondon's Poultry Newsletter, September 10, 2006
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My September 11 Story
Five years already? It hardly seems possible.
After the initial shock of the terrorist attacks died down a little on September 11, 2001, I
realized that the shutdown of the nation's commercial airline flights meant that baby chicks
that should be going out to farms by airmail were going to be stranded. September is at the tail
end of the hatching season, but many thousands of chicks are still being shipped by air every
What happens to day-old chicks if their shipment is delayed? They die, that's what. The odds
were that every chick that hatched during the airline shutdown and was sheduled to ship out
by air was doomed.
On the other hand, not all chicks are shipped by air; some are shipped by surface mail.
So I called up Phinney Hatchery in Walla Walla Washington, which is within ground-shipment
distance of me, and offered to buy up to a hundred stranded egg-type pullets if they had any
that needed homes. They did, and on September 13 I received 65 Black Sex-Links and 35 Rhode Island
Reds safe and sound in the mail. I also posted what I was doing on the
discussion group at Yahoo, so other people could rescue chicks if they wanted.
In this world, no
good deed goes unpunished, and the first response was savage criticism for my insensitivity.
How dare I think about baby chicks at a time like this? One poster said that my message should be
silently ignored. I was amazed! (I have since learned that there's nothing like livestock issues
to bring weirdos out of the woodwork. Anything unusual will set them off.)
Of course, the general response from the PasturePoultry members was approval and interest, and
I'm sure that together we saved hundreds or even thousands of chicks. By the next week, shipments
were back to normal.
In addition to saving the chicks, this may have given some people their first taste of fall
brooding, which is one of the best-kept secrets in poultrykeeping.
September and October are great brooding months, probably better than spring brooding. In my
part of the country, the weather is warmer and much drier than in early spring. The dryness
makes almost every aspect of poultrykeeping easier, and the fact that the weather is cooling off
is especially useful when raising broilers. As they approach full size, broilers have trouble coping
with hot summer weather. Cool fall weather is easier on them.
Maybe the best thing about fall brooding is that it allows you to brood more chicks per
year without buying any new equipment. There are two ways for someone with a small flock to
brood twice as many chicks: Have twice as many brooder houses and twice as much brooder
equipment, or use the same equipment twice.
This works especially well if you have a small brooder house that you use only for brooding (or for
brooding plus raising broilers), with separate, larger houses for hens. This allows you to
keep the brooder house close to home, where it's easier to provide electricity and piped water,
and where (ideally) you can hear the chicks cheeping if anything goes wrong.
Most hatcheries have a good selection of breeds through September and into October, with
the commercial breeds holding out the longest. It's safest to plan to brood your rare breeds
in the spring and commercial breeds in the fall.
In most climates, if your chicks are reasonably large and fully feathered by December 1, they'll
do fine through the winter in uninsulated housing. October 1 shouldn't be too late unless
you're in a truly arctic
You don't need any special techniques for fall brooding; it's the same as spring brooding,
though probably a little easier.
News From the Farm
One of the weird things about Oregon's Coast Range is that we get all sorts of winter rain (60-90
inches), but you're lucky if you can drill a well that gives much water. Our well gives only
a quart per minute, which is terrible even by local standards.
As you can imagine, we used to run out of water all the time. Our well holds about 160 gallons
of water, and when this runs out, all we get is a pathetically thin trickle. It's sort of hard
to run a household, an egg-washing machine, a broiler butchering operation, and an ice machine
under these circumstances.
A few years ago we added a 1,500 gallon black plastic storage tank, which was light enough
that the guy who delivered it rolled it off his trailer and over to where we wanted it. We
rerouted the output of our submersible well pump so it poured into this tank. The output of the tank
went into a new pump (a jet pump this time) that provided pressure to the house and other
Adding the storage tank made life worth living again. Instead of running out of water whenever
we used 160 gallons (which is easy to do), it took 1,500 gallons before we got into trouble. As
it turns out, it's almost impossible to use 1,500 gallons of water unless you water your lawn (which we don't)
-- or burst a pipe.
So life has been good. Plenty of water, in spite of a slow well. But we had all these leaks.
The kitchen faucet dripped, we had a little drip on the jet pump, and we even had a drip where
the water came into the house. I had to put a bucket with a drain line under that pipe fitting.
The last straw was when a union holding two PVC pipes together let go, draining our tank
After fixing the pipes,
our well had 24 hours to come up with enough water for us to butcher a big batch of
broiler. We squeaked by. After four days, we're now up to
400 gallons of reserve water in the tank, which is more than enough to get us past a peak-use day.
After putting everything back together again, I finally realized -- in one of those Homer Simpson-like
"D'oh!" moments -- that turning down the water pressure might help. 55 psi didn't sound all that
high to me, but when I turned it down to 35, all the leaks went away.
If you have a slow well, consider a storage tank setup. It's only moderately complicated, and in
fact you can buy the whole setup as a single unit -- for example, from
Reid Plumbing Products.
(Their Web site is interesting, too.)
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.