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, September 1, 2009

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News From the Farm

Issue Number Sixty

Wow, have I really done sixty issues of this newsletter? Sure enough! The first one was on July 3, 2003. I went on hiatus a couple of times, but always came back.

The Pig-to-Pork Transition

Our six pigs have been transformed into an impressive amount of freezer meat by the Farmer's Helper of Harrisburg, Oregon. The Farmer's Helper shows up with their mobile butchering rig (a fifth-wheel trailer) and kill the pigs right there in their pen, so they never know what's happening and suffer no distress. Much better than subjecting them to the stress of shipping them to a strange place beforehand.

Like all custom butchers, the Farmer's Helper butchers the pigs your way. Some of our customers don't like ham, for instance, and so instead of having the ham cured, they get it as leg-of-pork or as smaller cuts, whatever they like.

The way the custom pig business works for us is that customers have to order a pig or a half-pig in advance, since it's not legal for us to run around retailing meat to strangers without USDA inspection and a retail license, but selling shares in a live animal is hunky-dory.

After our call for orders last month, people responded nobly. Any more enthusiasm, and there wouldn't have been enough left for us!

Grass-fed pork is by far my favorite meat, and I'm saying this as someone who is regularly told that are eggs and broilers are the best ever!

Egg Shortage

Last month I complained about slack farmer's market sales. Now, with the markets swarming with harvest-season customers (in spite of the recession), we don't have enough product to go around! This always happens to us. The natural laying season of the chicken (with maximum production in the spring) simply doesn't align with the natural buying season of the consumer.

We're responding the way we always do, with a simple supply-and-demand pricing system. If our refrigerator is bursting at the seams with unsold eggs, we lower prices by a quarter. If there are tumbleweeds rolling across an empty refrigerator, we raise prices by a quarter.

Having a more consistent supply would be better. We need to raise more pullet chicks between January and March so they will come into lay during the summer, to bolster production when the older hens are slowing down.

Read My Blog

A lot of material that doesn't end up in this newsletter is published in my blog, which I update a few times a week. You can read my blog at, or subscribe to it via RSS in the usual way.

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Adventures in Social Media

And if that's not enough, you should use social media like Twitter to keep track of my doings, as well:

  • Twitter. I've started using Twitter several times a week to announce updated Web pages, new blog posts and newsletters, amusing links, and other interesting stuff. Check it out.
  • Facebook. If you're on Facebook, so am I! You can friend me and follow my antics that way. My Facebook updates are almost identical to my Twitter updates.
  • Stumbleupon. Stumbleupon (a social bookmarking service) is one of my favorite ways of wasting time. One advantage of subscribing to my favorites on Stumbleupon is that I'm easily bored by politics, bureaucracy, dogma, and stuff like that. If you don't like that stuff, either, you'll find the raw, unfiltered stream of farm-related pages on Stumbleupon to be pretty painful. I don't thumbs-up stuff like that, so you ought to find my favorites helpful, or at least soothing. Admittedly, I also give a thumbs-up to virtually all of my own Web pages, but the fact that you're reading this indicates that you've built up a pretty high tolerance to me. Take a look.

Norton Creek Press Best-Seller List

Gold in the Grass entered the Top Five list for the first time last month. It's a back-to-the-land book set in Canada after World War II, with a sustainable agriculture theme. I've always been very fond of this book and I'm glad to see that others are enjoying it, too!

Here are August'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. A Thousand Miles Up the Nile by Amelia B. Edwards
  5. Gold in the Grass by Margaret Leatherbarrow

September is the Best Time to Brood Baby Chicks

If you haven't tried brooding baby chicks in September and October, you should. It's actually easier than brooding them in March, because it's warmer and drier (most places, anyway). True, the weather is getting colder, but then again, the chicks are getting bigger and more cold-hardy every day, so it evens out. Chicks hatched by October 1 will be winter-hardy by Thanksgiving, which is more than adequate in most parts of the country.

Most hatcheries still have chicks in September and October. They'll mainly have commercial varieties, which is okay. (For eggs, I like the Red Sex-Links from Privett Hatchery in Portales, NM, which are available year-round.)

Because of the limited selection, you should plan on ordering exotic breeds in the spring. You can backfill with commercial strains in the fall.

Before doing fall brooding, you want to spruce up your brooding area, and skim through my book, Success With Baby Chicks one more time. I devote a great deal of time and attention to off-season brooding (summer, fall, and winter). And if you're one of those poor unfortunates who doesn't have a copy of my book, order it now! (Seriously. You should see the fan mail I get about this book.)

Fall chicks will start laying in the early spring.

September To-Do List

September 1 is the traditional time to turn on the henhouse lights. If you keep the day length at the traditional 14 hours between September 1 and April 1, you'll get more eggs during the lighting period and fewer during the spring, which is a good deal for most people, well worth the cost of electricity.

The folklore about lights turning the hens into zombies that shoot out eggs like machine guns is not true, by the way. Lights are infinitely less effective than this. Their effect is subtle and gentle.

I give a full treatment of henhouse lights in one of my earliest newsletters (from 2003). I don't use lights anymore myself. Dealing with a thousand feet of extension cords zig-zagged from house to house across the pasture eventually became too much of a hassle. But your setup would probably be far less complicated than mine.

As already mentioned, 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:

  • Repair roofing (winter is coming!).
  • House pullets (if raised on range).
  • Do not overcrowd!
  • Cull molting hens. (Hens that start molting this early probably won't start laying until spring. It would be cheaper and better to make chicken and dumplings out of them and replace them with baby chicks.)
  • Begin artificial lighting. (Traditionally, providing a day length of 14 hours between September 1 and March 31.)
  • Cull any poor pullets.
  • Provide additional ventilation. (Alway, always, always provide more ventilation than seems necessary.
  • Gather eggs more frequently in warm weather.
  • Remove soiled litter. (If using deep litter, shovel out some of it to make room for the additional litter you'll add over the winter, but only if it looks like the litter will get so deep it will make things impractical. "More is better" with deep litter.)

List inspired by a similar one in Jull's Successful Poultry Management, McGraw-Hill, 1943.

Cover Your Nakedness

Some friends and I have put together a T-shirt site, Artsy Android, with a line of T-shirts with poultry and back-to-the-land themes. Check it out!

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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Fresh-Air Poultry Houses
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