Robert Plamondon's Poultry & Rural Living Newsletter, August 2, 2009
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News From the Farm
Our pastured pigs will be butchered in a couple of weeks, and not a day too soon. They're learning how to escape, in spite of being
confined by electric netting. (They've learned that they can short it out by piling dirt against it.) Pigs are too smart for our own good.
Over the past week or so, we've had weather that's hot by anyone's standards, breaking 100 °F. That's very unusual for Oregon's
Coast Range. We can go years without seeing temperatures above 100. In spite of our highly ventilated and
well-shaded pasture pens (and a more-than adequate supply of water), some of our largest
broiler chickens expired during the heat. When heat waves come on suddenly, this tends to happen -- large, non-acclimated broiler
chickens can't cope. They keel over without any obvious preliminaries -- no visible signs of distress. Maybe they stop drinking.
It's something of a mystery to us. Our smaller broilers, laying hens, and chicks did just fine.
Slack Farmer's Market Sales
We're moving into harvest season, which is when farmer's market attendance usually swells. It's been rather muted this year,
presumably because the local economy is in the tank. As
always, the Corvallis farmers' market customers are more quality conscious than price-conscious, but there are fewer of them this year.
We have responded by attending an out-of-area farmer's market in McMinnville (which is where my mother lives, so we can combine
business with pleasure).
In addition to going to McMinnville, we're trying to attract new customers locally. We have the best chicken and eggs in the area, and if more
people tried them, we'd have more customers. It's as simple as that. Good economy, bad economy, there are plenty of
people who can afford high-quality food. The trick is reaching them.
An ad in the local paper that was coupled with a discount coupon failed miserably -- I attracted more people with a discount coupon on my
Norton Creek Farm Web page. Google allows you to aim little Adwords ads just at the local area, so
my ads show up in the Corvallis area if you search for things like "chicken" or "eggs," but this results in very few clicks. So much for paid
advertising. I'm better at getting attention for free, anyway.
New Venture: Artsy Android T-Shirts
I've been meaning to get into the T-shirt biz for ages, and have finally taken the plunge. For one thing, the only way to get a decent T-shirt with a
is to design your own! An artist friend of mine, Beth McBeth, kept egging me on,
and I finally did it. She and I and a couple of friends have created "Artsy Android T-Shirts," which so far consists mostly of the
Artsy Android storefront on Zazzle.com. There's also an Artsy Android
So far, our best-selling T-shirt features a picture I took a few years ago of Beth with a lapful of baby chicks, and the caption, "Farmers Get All the Chicks":
But we've done a whole bunch of back-to-the-land and rural-themed T-shirts as well.
I'm also quite fond of Beth's In
Touch With My Inner Child design.
I don't know if this will turn into a paying commercial venture, but it's been fun so far. We're using
Zazzle.com to print and ship the T-shirts, plus handling customer payments and returns. We
upload the designs; they do the rest. Sweet! And their T-shirts are high-quality. Their design tools are easy to use, too.
You might want to check them out yourself, and let your artistic
expressiveness run wild. (They do posters and greeting cards and other relatively formal arty stuff, too, not just T-shirts.)
There's no fee for uploading and publishing a design, so we have no up-front costs and no inventory. We are
risking nothing but our time (and reputations, if our designs are really bad!).
Our mix of offerings is eclectic and likely to get more so. I'm trying to focus on
back-to-the-land and rural themes,
but a lot of offerings have
themes, such as one that makes an obscure reference
to Seventies-era computer technology:
My EBCDIC Can Whip Your ASCII
Maybe I'm taking up too much space with this topic, but I'm finding the whole process fascinating!
We'll be branching out into coffee mugs and mouse pads and ball caps and other essentials of modern life soon.
Norton Creek Press Best-Seller List
Last year I reissued my first book, Through Dungeons Deep: A Fantasy Gamers' Handbook,
which I wrote when I was in college. It had a pretty good run with Reston Publishing in the Eighties. The reprinted edition
has been selling better than I expected, and made it onto the Norton Creek Press Top Five list this month, coming in at #4.
The other members of the Top Five list are old friends.
Here are July's top-selling books from Norton Creek Press:
Poultry Houses by Prince T. Woods, M.D.
With Baby Chicks by Robert Plamondon
- The Dollar Hen by Milo M. Hastings
- Through Dungeons Deep by Robert Plamondon
- Ten Acres Enough by Edmund Morris
Have You Knocked Out a Wall of Your Chicken Coop Yet?
A simple idea can have a lot of power. The simple idea behind Fresh-Air
Poultry Houses by Prince T. Woods, M.D. is that chickens would rather roost in trees than in most chicken houses -- and their instincts are
correct. Most chicken houses are inferior to pine trees when it comes to chicken health.
It's inconvenient to let your chickens roost in the woods, however, so the best thing to do is to build a chicken house that's better than a tree branch. That's
what Fresh-Air Poultry Houses is all about.
This has been the best-selling book at Norton Creek Press for many months running, and with good reason: the concept is sound, and he gives a lot of examples of
different people putting it into practice. If you read the sample chapter, you'll
get a good idea of what the rest of the book is like. Yes, the book is from 1924, but in all the hundreds of poultry books I've looked over, this one has
by far the best treatment of the subject.
As the sample chapter describes, the main issue with chicken coops is that they are grossly under-ventilated, which leads to excessive dampness, poor air
quality (with horrendous levels of ammonia being just one of the problems), and other ills. Opening up the chicken house is the answer.
Many chicken farmers converted their existing houses to open-front chicken houses by knocking out the south walls and replacing the siding with chicken wire.
This works better than you'd think. In fact, the farmers often knocked out the walls in the middle of winter,
and saw immediate improvements in their chickens' health!
So read the sample chapter if you haven't already. My houses are all wide open,
and my hens are never bothered by heat or cold, and the chicken houses don't smell, either.
Don't Forget My Blog
I have a farm blog that I update several times a week, just in case the monthly newsletter isn't
enough for you. It covers widely varying topics, though most are farm-related. Check it out!
August To-Do List
August is a pretty easy month, so far as chickens are concerned. This is just as well, because it's harvest season. Cornish-Cross broilers need
to be babied through the heat, otherwise it's about the same as always. If your chickens are on grass range, you may see a decline in product
quality as the grass browns off. Chickens can't digest grass that isn't bright green and won't bother eating much of it.
The days are starting to get noticeably shorter. September 1 is the traditional time to turn on the henhouse lights, so this month is a good
time to see if the lighting system is still operational. (I don't use lights anymore myself.)
September and October are good times to brood baby chicks, so call up your favorite hatcheries and see what's available. Usually only commercial
breeds are available in the fall, and sometimes even these sell out. So get your order in early!
More to-do items:
- Seek better paying egg markets (egg prices rise at this time of year -- we just raised ours by $0.25 per dozen. Recession or no recession, egg prices
rise once spring is over).
- House early pullets (move them into permanent quarters before they start laying, if you have separate grower and layer houses).
- Replace litter.
- Cull molters.
- Isolate any sick chickens.
- Provide additional ventilation.
- Gather eggs more frequently in warm weather.
- Cull weak or unthrifty individuals.
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
Norton Creek Road
Blodgett, Oregon 97326
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Copyright 2009 by Robert Plamondon.
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