Robert Plamondon's Poultry Newsletter, October 22, 2006
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My Wife is a Certified Hero!
My wife Karen is a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) on the Blodgett-Summit
Rural Fire Department. Along with others, she has recently been honored with
an award for the rescue of a logger who suffered a nearly fatal injury deep in the woods
not far from here,
in an area so hilly and wooded that the Coast Guard was unable
to lower a basket stretcher to the ground from a helicopter. Instead, the
patient had to be carried over very rugged terrain in a stretcher, then moved
in an ambulance to a tiny clearing where a helicopter
Karen led the Search and Rescue team to the scene. Later, as the patient
was being carried to the nearest logging road, she helped unsnarl the rescue vehicles,
which had been parked in a way that would have prevented the ambulance from leaving
(there being no place to park except on the logging road itself.)
This was completed before the patient arrived at the ambulance.
Best of all, the patient not only survived, but walked out of the hospital
and expects to be logging again soon.
You can read the newspaper writeup from the
Corvallis Gazette-Times online.
If you're in an area served by a volunteer fire department, you should
join. You don't have to have any prior training or be a big hulking
specimen to help keep your neighbors' lives and homes intact. Karen's not
much over five feet tall.
Christmas is Coming
And what could make a better present than a book of distilled poultry
wisdom for one
of your chicken-keeping friends -- such as you, for instance?
I think that just about anyone who keeps chickens would enjoy my
With Baby Chicks,
which has over 150 pages of chick-rearing techniques. I spent a lot
of time in the basement of the Oregon State Universit library, discovering
how our grandparents raised chickens. The
farmers of 50-100 years ago were very clever. A lot of their techniques
have been forgotten because there's not a lot of continuity between the
small farmer of yesteryear and the small farmer, hobbyist, or backyarder
I've tested just about everything in the book. Not all the techniques are old;
a few are even my own inventions! My wife Karen and I brood well over
1,000 chicks per year, and the information in this book spells the difference
between the hit-or-miss results we used to have and the regular-as-clockwork
success we have today. You'll end up with more and healthier chicks with less
work if you use these techniques.
In addition, I spend two whole chapters on insulated heat-lamp brooders,
which you can build in a couple of hours and will save you a ton of electricity,
while making your chicks more comfortable, even in freezing weather.
You can buy
With Baby Chicks,
from my Web site, and I'm also auctioning off books on eBay, where people sometimes
get them for very low prices.
Live Longer By Not Paying Attention
I hope that fear-mongering stops being trendy sometime soon. I
hade been hoping that, once it turned out that California hadn't
slid into the ocean, the Cold War had ended, and Y2K hadn't caused
the end of civilization, the endless babble about
impending doom would die down for a century or two.
I mean, yes, I'm a free-range egg farmer, and you can't swing an
organically-certified cat without encountering a hundred sales
pitches that run, "modern life is poison, but, friend, this is your lucky
day, because you can buy the antidote from me!" I think this
Frankly, I have no idea whether you are risking or extending your
life by going down to the farmer's market and buying a dozen of my
eggs. You might get hit by a truck. Besides, if you follow the
ancient wisdom and believe that medicine has to taste disgusting to
be effective, factory-farm products must be adding years to our lives.
But fear-mongering is a big fad right now. Everyone is doing it.
We're supposed to be afraid of
avian flu, global warming, terrorists, chemicals, war, peace, inflation,
spinach, and, for all I know, Mom's apple pie.
I'm sure all this is bad for you. Fear and worrying are bad
for your heart. And the risk of all these fear-fads put
together is peanuts compared to the risk of heart disease! Not to
mention that most of them are outside our control. Better to take
care of ourselves first, so we'll still be here and grumbling away
100 years from now.
One of the reasons I moved to the country was to provide myself
with an exercise program. Heart disease is the preferred method of
keeling over in my family, and I hate exercise. But farm chores have
provided me with an exercise program that's very hard to escape, and
I'm in better health now than I was 11 years ago.
And in an attempt to extend my life even further, I ignore the
news and try not to pay any attention to fads, either: nutritional,
political, whatever. I've seen too many come and go, and most of
them are bunk.
In this, I'm following the example of my father, who became annoyed
at hearing about the Mideast crisis on the news every day, and listened
to music-only radio stations from then on. He told
me that this immediately increased his enjoyment of life.
Since he was never given
an opportunity to vote on the Mideast crisis, and no policy-makers
ever consulted him on this issue, there seemed to be no
This was in 1947!
While there are a lot of organizations trying to draw your attention
away from your own life and community, to focus you on issues that
are too distant for you to understand or affect very much,
it's probably best to favor direct action in
your own life and your own community -- like Karen did
by joining the fire department. My rule of thumb is: if it doesn't
get your hands dirty, it probably doesn't count.
Best Gizmo Ever!
One thing about farm life -- a lot of dirt gets into the house, and it's
hard to keep up with it. So I was very pleased when I discovered that someone
had come up with an affordable, reliable automatic vacuum cleaner, the iRobot
These little robot vacuum cleaners only weigh a few pounds, and will wander
around your house vacuuming the floor. They're fun to watch -- it's like bumper
cars. The Roomba will bump into something, spin around by some random amount,
and go whirring off in a new direction.
They're really good at not getting stuck, not falling down stairs, and stopping
if they get jammed by a three-inch bolt or other typical hazards in a farm
household. They aren't bothered by popcorn, pennies, most Legos,
or hair from short-haired dogs. (If you have long-haired dogs or long-haired
children, you'll want the pet model.)
The battery lasts for over an hour of vacuuming, and the unit tries to home
in on its recharging bay before it runs out of juice. All you have to do between
runs is empty out the dirt.
I'm still very tickled by these devices, and my floors are a lot cleaner than
they were before. I have one for upstairs and one for downstairs, and I've ordered
the new "Dirt Dog" (a similar unit designed for workshops and garages) for my
Fall is Here
The days are getting shorter, the weather is cooler and windier, and it has
been raining on and off. Fall is here.
The season is winding down. The brooder houses are empty. We won't get any new broiler
chicks until next year. The pigs were butchered some time ago, and in a month we
won't have any more turkeys or broilers, just hens.
This year I'm not going to bother with lights on our hens. I'm not sure they
do a whole lot under the conditions on my farm. All my feeders and waterers are
outside, so the hens have to go out into the weather to eat and drink. Hens that
are exposed to a lot of weather don't lay well in the winter, and the way
to fix this isn't through lights, but by reducing their metabolic load by
keeping them out of the rain.
One reason I use outdoor feeders is that indoor feeders attract rats. If I
use outdoor range feeders and move them every time I refill them, any rat
tunnels under the feeders get exposed quickly, and predators (owls, mostly,
I think) deal with the rats. This method breaks down when the feeders get
moved more rarely or when I provide more cover, such as when I hang a
feeder in a chicken house.
I'm thinking about using covered feed areas. The range feeders will still be
outdoors, but they'll have a roof over them. We have three 10x10' canopies in various
stages of disrepair. We use these at the farmer's market, but they get damaged
easily. Maybe we can strengthen these and use them as feed shelters.
Lights aren't a bad idea for hens if you also take the trouble to erase
all the other barriers to high production. Lights help, but what hens really
need is a steady supply of good feed, a perfectly reliable supply of water,
a shelter that gets them out of the wind and rain, and freedom from being
scared half to death by predators, children, or whatever. If you provide these
things without fail, lights will help you get good production all fall and winter.
If you're going to let your feed run out or your waterers freeze up, don't
October To-Do List
Inspired by a similar list in Jull's Successful
Poultry Management, McGraw-Hill, 1943.
- House pullets (if raised on range).
- Repair doors, windows, cracks.
- Do not overcrowd!
- Replace litter.
Make final culling of molters (next month, molting will be normal)
- Cull any poor pullets.
- Remove damp or dirty litter.
- Use lights on layers.