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 & Rural Living Newsletter, March 8, 2009

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News From the Farm

I came down with the cold that's been going around. You probably did, too. That wasn't fun, and my energy levels still aren't back to normal. If you're waiting for me to respond to an email, sorry about that. I'll catch up someday.

March has come in like a lion. A few spring-like days, a torrential storm, and now a light dusting of snow on the ground. The chickens don't seem to mind it, except during actual downpours. They don't like wind, though. Egg production is way up, so now both of our big refrigerators are in use. No sign of predators lurking near the fence. Life is good.

The Corvallis Winter Indoor Market is doing amazingly well. It runs every other Saturday, and we're breaking sales records. The place is packed! I think that part of the reason is the recession. People are eating out less, which means they're eating at home more. So they need more groceries. Which just goes to show that neither the economy nor the actions of individuals are all of a piece: it's mix-and-match, always. So we keep our eyes open and try to ignore the gloom-sayers. They're never more than half-right anyway.

Norton Creek Press Best-Seller List

Here are February's top-selling books from Norton Creek Press:
  1. Fresh-Air Poultry Houses by Prince T. Woods, M.D.
  2. Success With Baby Chicks by Robert Plamondon
  3. The Dollar Hen by Milo M. Hastings
  4. Feeding Poultry by Gustave F. Heuser
  5. A Thousand Miles up the Nile by Amelia B. Edwards.

Chore Load

Since having the cold, I've been running at reduced horsepower, and this reminded me of one aspect of farming that isn't often discussed: the work is bursty, with some periods of heavy labor and others less so, punctuated by emergencies where you have to drop everything and spend long, unplanned hours on the crisis du jour. Office and factory work are different: they're designed to soak up the same number of hours every day, and you get to take the weekends off.

So one thing that's different about farm life is that you have to keep your daily chores to a minimum -- say, 1-2 hours. Once they start exceeding this, then you can never find time for the lengthy projects that need to get done. Farming involves long hours of construction, repair, tractor time, field work, etc., in addition to the chores that happen every day. You have to find time for them all.

This is especially true if you have a full-time job and are holding down a weekend farmer's market besides. The amount of time available for daily chores plus everything else is limited, so the daily chores themselves must take up as little time as possible.

You can overdo it. I once stopped scattering grain in the grass every day, and by losing this close contact with my chickens, I started to lose interest in farming. You need close contact with your livestock if the farm is going to have any meaning. But every minute you can shave off your chores is a minute you can spend flexibly on whatever needs doing, whether work, play, family time, or even sleep.

You Need Another Chicken Coop

It's baby chick time, and half the poultrykeepers in the country are pondering the same issue: They need to brood chicks, but their chicken house is already full of chickens. What to do?

People often try to squeak by with half-measures They'll put off the inevitable by brooding chicks in the basement or the bathtub, but then they'll be forced to face the fact that they've got two flocks and only one chicken house. Little chicks and adult hens don't mix. Egg-type hens and broilers don't mix. Chickens and ducks don't mix. You have to have at least two chicken houses. And the one place where you can never get away with cutting corners is with baby chicks.

Once you realize this, life gets a lot easier. By the time your baby chicks reach full size, they can be put in with the older hens without much fuss. That means you can brood chicks in the spring, combine the flocks in the summer, and brood more chicks in the fall. Commercial breeds are available year-round, so brood any exotic poultry in the spring and commercial breeds in the fall, and you're home free.

So you need two chicken houses. That's the absolute minimum. Of course, no matter how many you have, you can use another one, but start with two. Your life will become a lot easier and your poultry will do better.

Fresh-Air Poultry Houses has a lot of interesting designs for smaller houses, and thorough descriptions of all the ins and outs. Though written in the Twenties, I've found it very useful (and other people are, too -- it's our best-selling book). Just keep in mind that building materials have changed, and you can use plywood and metal roofing if you want to, even though he doesn't talk about these!

March To-Do List

March is baby chick month, the big start of the poultry season for most of us. The hens start laying up a storm, baby chicks arrive in the mail or start hatching under mother hens, and we go from winter somnolence into furious activity almost without transition.

Easter is an egg festival because the surge in egg production represents the first fruits of the new season, a welcome source of fresh food at a time when planting season hasn't even started yet.

  • Brood chicks. (Time to think about buying a copy of Success With Baby Chicks if you haven't already.)
  • "Break up" broody hens.
  • Plant greens for chickens.
  • Begin chick scratch after two weeks. (According to Jull: I provide it at day one.)
  • Eat more eggs and poultry at home.
  • Hatch baby chicks.
  • Use artificial lights. (The traditional time to turn them off is April 1.)
  • Remove damp or dirty litter.
List inspired by a similar one in Jull's Successful Poultry Management, McGraw-Hill, 1943.

This newsletter is sent out occasionally by Robert Plamondon to anyone who asks for it, plus the customers of Norton Creek Press, publisher of:

Norton Creek Press
36475 Norton Creek Road
Blodgett, Oregon 97326

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Gardening Without Work
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Success With Baby Chicks
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