Robert Plamondon's Poultry & Rural Living Newsletter, November 5, 2009
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News From the Farm
Our first windstorm of the season is upon us, so we scurried around today staking down all the henhouses.
Our chicken coops are 8x8-foot metal-roofed, plywood-walled sheds on skids, and they can flip over in
high winds. Tying the windward corner of the coop to a T-post prevents this from happening.
Egg production is way down, so Karen is asking me to set up lights in the henhouses again, which I
haven't done for a couple of years. Though we
would have been advised to start on September 1 for best effect, I don't have this up and running yet.
I have a brief description
of my technique in one of my earliest newsletters. I hope to have a more complete treatment in time
for next month's newsletter.
There's been a lot of interest in my announcement of the grass-fed egg movement,
Earth News (among others) running with it. My
discussion group gained over 600 members overnight and
has lively conversations on the topics you'd expect. Grass-fed eggs used to be what everyone ate, but the move
to confinement started in the 1920s, and everyone has had plenty of time to forget the moves that were second
nature to our grandparents. So we're resurrecting old techniques and inventing new ones.
In spite of our electric fence, we had a brief outbreak of predation, with as many as five dead hens
being found in a single day.
I set some snares along the more likely-looking game trails onto the pasture, and caught a couple of
raccoons. It seemed as if the carnage was too great to be caused by a mere two raccoons, but our losses
stopped entirely. Just goes to show, you never can tell. (I don't know about your neck of the woods,
but snaring is perfectly legal in Oregon to protect your livestock, and if you
do it right,
is nearly as targeted as shooting them -- but with the advantage that you don't have to be able to stay
up all night or see in the dark. I don't like snaring much, but I have a duty to protect my chickens.)
Believe it or not, the farmer's market season hasn't ended yet, and won't until the day before
Thanksgiving. Our Wednesday market goes until 6 PM, at which point it is quite dark. We're lighting up
our booth with 12V white LED Christmas tree lights.
And if the farmer's market is still going on, that means that Karen is still butchering broilers. Our
broiler season ends when the farmer's market ends -- it's not fun to raise grass-fed broilers in an Oregon
winter, though laying hens are no problem. Although the weather can get pretty cold the last few weeks,
the last few broilers are nearing full size at that point, and big chickens tolerate cold far better than
Our bigger, better brooder house is almost complete. The exterior is painted and everything, but the
are still some finishing touches to do. I'll do a photo tour when it's complete.
We'll be brooding pullet chicks in December (though maybe in the smaller
brooder house) and probably again in January, though usually our goal is to start a batch of pullets every
other month. We like winter brooding, which has always worked well for us. I give the techniques in my book,
With Baby Chicks
Norton Creek Press Best-Seller List
I started Norton Creek Press in 2003 to bring the "lost secrets of the poultry masters" back into print --
techniques from the Golden Age of poultrykeeping, which ran from roughly 1900 to 1950. I've recently started
adding an eclectic mix of non-poultry books as well.
Here are October's top-selling books from my publishing label, Norton Creek Press. Ten
Acres Enough (a back-to-the-land book) has reappeared on the list at #2.
The other titles were all on last month's top five list.
Poultry Houses by Prince T. Woods, M.D.
Acres Enough by Edmund Morris
- A Thousand Miles Up the Nile by Amelia B. Edwards
With Baby Chicks by Robert Plamondon
- The Dollar Hen by Milo M. Hastings
All of these are fine books (I only publish books I believe in).
If you're like most readers of this newsletter, you want to buy
Poultry Houses and Success
With Baby Chicks
first. These cover the basics of healthy, odor-free, high-quality chicken housing and zero-mortality chick
brooding, respectively, and get rave reviews from customers, who often buy extra copies for friends!
Christmas is Coming! Get a Good Deal on My Books
Every week, I'm auctioning copies of every Norton Creek Press title on eBay. A few lucky bidders have
gotten books for a penny! Activity seems to be growing week by week, so don't pity me too much. But there
are still plenty of deals to be had. Take a look! Buy books for pennies on the dollar and then give them
away at Chrismas in an impressive display of cut-rate generosity!
November is traditionally the worst laying month, though particularly
nasty winter weather may cause production to be even worse during cold snaps.
In the old days, this egg shortage meant that it was the month of maximum egg prices.
Most people aren't brooding any baby chicks
at this time of year, so it's a quiet month on the farm.
The reason the hens aren't laying is because many of them are molting. Even your best hens may molt in November, so you
don't want to cull non-layers from your flock this month. The culling season is July through October,
when your good layers are all still laying,
and any non-layers are a waste of feed. Culls are where stewing hens come from. You can also get rid of chickens through
an ad in Craigslist or your local paper. You can get a few dollars for old, live hens and spare yourself the chore of
As winter approaches and the weather deteriorates, keep an eye out for needed repairs or changes in management. Portable
houses can blow over in winter storms, leaks in roofs can cause misery in winter rains, etc.
Make sure you have a fully functional set
of foul-weather protective clothing (coat, overalls, boots, hat, gloves) so the lack of appropriate gear doesn't
make you reluctant to go out into the
weather for chores.
November To-Do List
Inspired by a similar list in Jull's
Successful Poultry Management, McGraw-Hill, 1943.
- Provide warm water in cold weather.
- Attend a farm show.
- Clean and store outdoor equipment.
- Order any necessary brooder parts. You're likely to start brooding again in January, and that's right around the corner!
- Use artificial lights. See this discussion from a 2003 newsletter.
- Remove litter that gets wet or disgusting, or pile it in a heap in a corner until it composts into something drier and less nasty (this only takes a few
days). Add more litter as required. Don't be stingy with litter.
- Don't let the house get too dark. Chickens don't like eating or drinking in the dark.
Read My Blog
Recent Blog Posts
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 http://www.plamondon.com/blog, or
subscribe to it via RSS in the usual way.
New! You can also receive notifications of blog updates by email:
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 special deals on books,
updates to Web pages, new blog posts, 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.
This newsletter is sent out occasionally by Robert Plamondon
to anyone who asks for it. Robert runs Norton Creek
Press, publisher of:
Norton Creek Press
Norton Creek Road
Blodgett, Oregon 97326
If you like this newsletter, please send copies to all your
Copyright 2009 by Robert Plamondon.
Permission is granted for copying if it's attributed to me, and if it includes a link back to the original
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