Robert Plamondon's Poultry & Rural Living Newsletter, February, 2011
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News From the Farm
Eight Thousand Subscribers!
This newsletter now has over 8,000 subscribers! Thank you all. (Makes me feel bad that I didn't get a newsletter out in December or January. Such are the perils of having a full-time job, a farm, a publishing company, and a family!)
Nice Weather For February
We've been having a typical Oregon winter, with lots of rain in January but quite a bit of sun in early February. Temperatures have risen into the Fifties and everything is looking green and almost spring-like. Far more normal and innocuous than the weather in other parts of the country!
Protect Your Flock With Niteguard
My verdict: A complete no-brainer — use this to protect your flock from predatory birds! My results haven't been so good against raccoons, but we'll try doing it according to the instructions this time (duh!) and see what happens.
Baby Chick Time!
Treats For Chickens
People who keep chickens as pets give them treats on general principles, but why would someone with large flocks do it? Many reasons!
When I go out to collect the eggs, I give the hens about a third of a bucketful of whole wheat as a treat. I scatter it in the grass as if I were sowing it, and call to the chickens, who come running. I give them less grain than they want, so they know they have to hurry or they'll miss out. Chickens are social eaters, just like people.
This has several benefits:
Keep in mind that the hens have access to chicken feed and whole corn 24/7. They don't need the whole wheat. But they like it, and if they have to scramble to get their share, they will.
Tempting the chickens with treats doesn't do a lot, nutritionally, most of the time. But chickens are sensitive creatures, and if the weather is too hot or too cold, or if they're not feeling well, or if they've feeling stressed after being scared (such as when they've been chased by a dog or a child), they go off their feed. And if they don't eat, they stop laying.
Competition makes them eager to eat when they wouldn't otherwise bother. When things are going well, this doesn't have much of an effect, but when things have gone a little sour it helps keep their feed intake up and prevents egg production from crashing.
This is one of those techniques that hasn't been well-documented scientifically, because scientists keep their flocks under controlled conditions, so the need never arises! But outdoor flocks are subject to stresses that research flocks aren't, and it's a good technique.
For people with the right feeders, the simplest treat is water. Farmers used to dribble about a quart of water down the middle of a big eight-foot feed trough, which would moisten a small amount of feed. The hens would go nuts and scarf it all down.
With all these techniques, less is more. If you give more treats than they can clean up in, say, 20 minutes, they get bored and, after a few days, will stop reacting to the treats. But for those few days you can increase their feed consumption substantially by feeding more treats than usual, which is helpful during a temporarily stressful period.
Norton Creek Press Best-Seller List
Here are my top-selling books from January (Have you bought your copies yet? Lots of other people did!):
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!
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.
February is the last of the laid-back, off-season months for most of us. March will introduce baby chick time. Those of us interested in selling eggs at farmers' markets, though, are probably busy with pullet chicks already, since if you get commercial layer chicks right at the beginning of the year, they'll by laying by Memorial Day, the traditional start of the farmer's market season. For the rest of us, there's something to be said for dragging your feet until March or April.
February To-Do List
Cribbed from Jull's Successful Poultry Management, McGraw-Hill, 1943.
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Copyright by Robert Plamondon. Permission is granted for copying if it's attributed to me, and if it includes a link back to the original page on www.plamondon.com.
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