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, December 9, 2009

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News From the Farm

The farmer's market season is over, and about time, too! The weather was getting pretty nasty for any kind of outdoor shopping. The turkeys and broilers are mostly gone -- we're holding a few over for Christmas. The pigs are long gone. We have one batch of pullets in the brooder house that we'll put out in pasture houses as soon as the weather warms up a trifle.

Our winter brooding season will start on December 16 with 100 day-old pullets.

So now it's our slow season, though it's not as slow as all that. I'm trying very hard to find time to get new titles into print! I have a couple of fascinating poultry books that need to be back in print, and a bunch of non-poultry titles that are crying out for new life.

In other news, we got rid of the horrible old living room/dining room carpet that we should have replaced when we moved onto the farm in 1995. It was way past its prime, especially with an elderly incontinent dalmatian in the house. We had Corvallis Floor Covering put in Mohawk brand laminate flooring, and we're very happy with it. As an unexpected bonus, the dog ceased having accidents once the old carpet was gone. This was the first major home improvement in a while. Makes us want to do more!

Keeping the House Comfy With Wood Stoves and Electronics

It's woodburning season again. I like wood heat, and we've got quite a bit of seasoned wood in the shed this year. But man does not live by wood heat alone. This winter I've increased the comfort in my home by adding spiffy new programmable electronic thermostats to my ancient electric baseboards. This helps heat the odd corners of the house while saving on energy. The old thermostats didn't work very well, and half the time they kept the rooms too warm. And there was no nighttime setback. I like a cool house at night.

So I installed these spiffy Aube TH106 thermostats everywhere. I have five of them now. The house is a lot more comfortable. These are proportional control thermostats, meaning that they'll run the heaters at 20% of full power if that's all it takes to keep the room warm, giving very accurate temperature control. It also means they back off nicely when I stoke up the wood stove.

They even have a power indicator bar, so I can see how much money I'm wasting because I haven't stoked up the stove! Very nice. Highly recommended. I got mine from Amazon. (I buy a lot of things from Amazon. To me, they are to the rural dwellers what Sears, Roebuck was when I was a kid, only more so.)

I also wrote a blog posting on this topic, which goes into more detail.

Freezing Weather vs. Water for Your Chickens

Cold weather hit us all of a sudden: when I woke up this morning, it was 10°F outside, the coldest it's been in years. Dry though, with no snow at all, unlike last year's cold snap.

Birdbath Deicers for Chicken Waterers

The chickens don't mind the cold very much but find it much easier to drink water than ice. I've made this possible by adding birdbath deicers (birdbath heaters) to the waterers. These are AC-powered electrical heaters designed to keep water liquid for bird baths, but they work in any kind of open pan or bucket of water.

I like rugged units with a built-in thermostat. My favorite is the Allied Precision 200-watt bird-bath de-icer, which will melt quite a bit of ice in a short time. I like this feature because my deicers are on the same circuit as the henhouse lights, so they're only on 14 hours a day. When they turn on in the morning, the waterer may be frozen solid.

I use these deicers in a galvanized automatic pet waterer similar to the one below. Maybe it runs cool enough to use in a plastic waterer: I don't know, because I chickened out and didn't try it. Instead, I bought a 50-watt "K&H Pet Products Ice Eliminator BirdBath De-Icer" to use in my plastic waterers. It takes a lot longer to melt the ice, but I'm sure it would work great if hooked up 24 hours instead of my wacky 14-hour cycle. With only 50 watts, it has shown no sign of melting my waterer, even when empty.

Obviously, these deicers are versatile enough to be used in birdbaths, buckets, or pan-style waterers. They have thermostats, so they don't waste electricity or get hot when the pan goes dry.

Tips for Long Runs of Outdoor Extension Cord

I use hundreds of feet of extension cord on my pastures. Here are a few tips:

  • Extension cords are for temporary installations. If it's going to be permanent, "real" wiring will work better and require less maintenance.
  • Use electrical tape to wrap all the connections, such as where the birdbath deicer plugs into the extension cord. I have unwrapped such joints after several years and found that the contacts were still shiny. This is very much not the case when the joints are not wrapped!
  • Use outdoor-rated cords in a highly visible color. Some maniacs offer green extension cords for sale. I wouldn't touch these with a stick. Orange and yellow are good.
  • Use heavy-duty three-way adapters. The big orange rubber ones are usually good. Cheap indoor stuff corrodes pretty quickly in an outdoor environment.
  • Use three-prong extension cords and a grounded power source. Grounds are important in outdoor power usage. A circuite tester like the one below costs almost nothing and is good for your peace of mind. You can get one in any hardware store.
  • You probably can't use GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) circuits. They'll trip all the time due to minute current leakages at the joins between cords and heaters. Too bad.
  • A fuse or circuit breaker with the same current rating as the extension cords is a good idea. I use a ten-amp fuse (my smallest extension cords are rated for 13 amps, but they don't make 13-amp fuses).
  • Discard or carefully repair any cord that gets damaged. Let's all be careful out there.

Actually, I've never had much trouble from my wacky setup. I mostly have to keep an eye on the cords to prevent them from getting damaged, or replace them when they do. It's the possibility of damage that makes extension cords so inferior to permanent wiring, which is installed in a way that make it hard to hurt, such as underground.

The spiffy thing to do, of course, is to run both water and electricity underground to your chicken houses. I can't do this for my portable houses, for obvious reasons, but I should do it for my brooder houses.

Automatic Chicken Waterers for Pasture

The automatic pet waterers are not the best chicken waterers in the world except for one thing: they always work. They are extremely tolerant of freezing and of sediment in the water (my livestock water is pumped straight out of a brook). All of the other waterers I've tried are either destroyed by freezing or don't work properly unless they're given filtered water.

My waterers are fed by hundreds of feet of ordinary garden hose. I find that the cheapest hose is iffy, but one grade up from that is okay. Garden hose withstands freezing very well. In my climate, daytime highs are almost always above freezing, so I only get a few days a year where I have to carry water to the chickens.

I don't know why, but a lot of people shy away from the obvious solution of using long runs of garden hose or extension cords or electric fence wire, and work really hard to find an alternative. I've tried the alternatives, and long runs going back to the house and barn work best for me, so long as you don't have to cross anybody else's roads or property to get there.

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 November's top-selling books from my publishing label, Norton Creek Press.

  1. Fresh-Air Poultry Houses by Prince T. Woods, M.D.
  2. A Thousand Miles Up the Nile by Amelia B. Edwards
  3. Ten Acres Enough by Edmund Morris
  4. Success With Baby Chicks by Robert Plamondon
  5. The Dollar Hen by Milo M. Hastings

A Thousand Miles Up the Nile climbed to #2. This is a fascinating Victorian travel book by the sprightly Amelia B. Edwards, who traveled up the Nile in 1874 and wrote this best-selling book about it. She became fascinated with Egyptology on the trip and founded the Egypt Exploration Fund, which among other things funded the work of Flinders Petrie, the first modern Egyptologist.

In Elizabeth Peters' Egypt-themed mysteries, the character of Amelia Peabody Emerson is clearly based on Amelia B. Edwards, and for this reason A Thousand Miles Up the Nile reads like a sourcebook for Peters' excellent mystery series. Peters, by the way, is an Egyptologist herself, and has two books about ancient Egypt under her real name, Barbara Mertz

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 Fresh-Air 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 TODAY on My Books

Every week, I'm auctioning copies of every Norton Creek Press title on eBay. Lucky bidders are still getting books for a penny! One auction ends today, so be quick! Buy books for pennies on the dollar and then give them away at Chrismas in an impressive display of cut-rate generosity!

December Notes

December weather tends to go from bad to worse, with freezing and power outages to keep things interesting. (See one of my blog posts about winter experiences with free-range birds in open housing.) On the other hand, most people don't have any baby chicks in the brooder house in December, and adult chickens are relatively tough, so December is something of a low-stakes gamble.

Later in the winter, though, people start brooding their early chicks, so the stakes get higher. If you want to have pullets laying well by the start of a traditional Farmer's Market season (Memorial Day), you need chicks in January. If you hatch your own eggs, that means hatching eggs in December. Slow season? What slow season?

Not to mention that the hatchery catalogs will start arriving right after Christmas, with special low prices on early chicks. By January 5, you'll be on fire to start the new season!

December To-Do List

Inspired by a similar list in Jull's Successful Poultry Management, McGraw-Hill, 1943.

  • Do final winterizing before things get really nasty. Stake down portable houses.
  • Ensure plenty of liquid water for your chickens in cold weather. Warm water is better than cold if you can manage it easily.
  • Give your chickens as much feed as they want. Winter is no time to save money on feed. Keeping warm requires lots of calories.
  • Use artificial lights to maintain the rate of lay and to give the chickens enough light to eat by on those short, dark winter days.
  • Remove wet or caked litter. If you use the deep litter system, toss it into a corner, where it will heat enough to dry out and decake itself in a few days.
  • Clean out brooder houses and make ready for early chicks.
  • Put out rat bait in empty houses (use bait stations and bait blocks: they're less messy and more foolproof than other methods). Nobody likes using poison, but having rats invade the brooder house is worse. (Been there, done that.)
  • Get your brooders and incubators ready for the coming season. Lay in spare parts (heat lamps for brooders, thermostats for incubators, etc.)
  • If you have a breeding flock, figure out your matings now.
  • Sit in front of the fire and read poultry books.

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, 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 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
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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