Robert Plamondon's Poultry & Rural Living Newsletter,
December 9, 2009
This newsletter goes out to people who signed up for it. If
you don't want to receive it anymore, see the instructions at the
bottom of the page. (If that doesn't work, send me an email.)
On the other hand, if you know anyone who might enjoy this
newsletter, please forward a copy to them, and they can use the
form at the bottom of the page to sign up!
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
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.
Poultry Houses by Prince T. Woods, M.D.
- A Thousand Miles Up the Nile by Amelia B. Edwards
Acres Enough by Edmund Morris
With Baby Chicks by Robert Plamondon
- 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
Peters, by the way, is an Egyptologist
herself, and has two books about ancient Egypt under her real name,
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 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 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 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
To subscribe or unsubscribe from this mailing list, use the
handy box below: