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 Newsletter, June, 2011

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News From the Farm


It was a long, wet, cold spring, but summer weather and summer vacation have hit at the same time. Fine with me! There's nothing like warm weather and sunshine to make outdoor work attractive and to draw crowds to the farmers' markets. Saturday's market in Corvallis had such crowds that a lot of vendors sold out, especially the ones with fresh strawberries. The farmers did their best, and the stacks of berry flats reached to the sky. Such is the hunger for the first berries of the season that they were all gone in no time.

This time of year is very good for grass-fed chicken and eggs, because the fresh green grass that their distinctive flavor and nutrition is so abundant and palatable at this time of year. A local gourmet told us yesterday that right now we're producing the best chicken he's ever eaten!


The crow problem I had earlier was solved sooner than I expected. Plenty of people told me that crows would just learn to raid the feeders and nest boxes when my back was turned. But hundreds of crows got the message after I shot three or four of them. Which is just as well, because playing scarecrow is a nuisance, and gunfire annoys the chickens. (Real scarecrows have never worked for me at all.)

Four-footed predators are being held at bay right now by the electric fence. While we have the same fence year after year, its effectiveness varies according to the mood of the predators. Sometimes they're shy, sometimes they're bold, and I've never seen much of a pattern to it. I just know that investing in a really powerful AC fence charger is a good idea.

Chicken Coops in Summer

Are your chickens going to keep cool this summer? For most of us, this is the time of year when our chicken coops are bursting at the seams, since baby chicks soon outgrow their brooder houses.

In addition to their need for more space, your chickens are more sensitive to heat than cold, so the tightly enclosed brooder house that kept the baby chicks safe and warm earlier in the season can be dangerously hot and stuffy now. Summer housing needs plenty of ventilation. This not only promotes health by protecting the birds' delicate respiratory system, which is sensitive to poor air quality (think "miners' canaries"), it gives you cleaner, drier, better-smelling chicken coops.

In the old days, chickens were often reared in "range shelters" once they outgrew the brooder house. These range shelters had chicken-wire walls for maximum ventilation, but they were used only during the summer season, which makes them of limited interest to most of us. Still, there are plenty of traditional ways to give summertime ventilation to our year-round houses:

  • Open the windows or remove the sashes altogether.
  • Replace the doors with screen doors.
  • Add large vents at the back of the coop for cross-ventilation. ("Ventilation without drafts" doesn't apply to summer. Drafts in summer are good!)
  • Build a fresh-air poultry house, or convert an existing house to the fresh-air concept.

My best-selling book is Fresh-Air Poultry Houses by Prince T. Woods, M.D. Thoughtful readers know that a chicken coop can either pay big dividends or cause big headaches, so it pays to build it right! Fresh-Air Poultry Houses is by far the best book ever written on the topic: clear, thorough, and with plenty of examples of how to build new houses and remodel old ones. The concepts in this book have been largely forgotten in the decades since it was published, and if you look online for chicken-house designs, many are little more than brooder houses with delusions of grandeur. Your chickens deserve better, and will thank you for their new house. Now, what can I do to help you see things their way?

June Sale: Get Fresh-Air Poultry Houses for 20% Off

If you order in June, you can get Fresh-Air Poultry Houses for 20% off through Amazon Marketplace Click the link above, then click on "New From $13.49" to get the best deal.

Save $10 on Feeding Poultry and Genetics of the Fowl

What's summer without a big fat book to read? So I've also put some copies of Feeding Poultry and Genetics of the Fowl at $10 off. Click on one of the links above, then click on "New from $29.95" (Feeding Poultry) or "New from $34.95" (Genetics of the Fowl) to get the best deal.

Egg Washing

I get a lot of questions about egg washing. Here's a list of egg-washing tips that people find useful:

  • Clean eggs keep a lot better than dirty eggs, but most flocks produce 30% or more dirty eggs. Now what?
  • If you wash eggs without using a sanitizing rinse, they keep even worse than dirty eggs. This was discovered in the 1880s, when the invention of refrigeration allowed eggs to be stored in the spring (when they were cheap and abundant) and sold in the fall and winter (when they were scarce and expensive). But only clean, unwashed eggs could be stored successfully.
  • If you wash eggs with a sanitizing rinse, they keep at least as well as clean, unwashed eggs, and often better. This was discovered in the 1930s (and yet a lot of people still don't know this now, 80 years later.) See my Egg Washing FAQ for more information.
  • You can do sanitary egg washing by hand with a double sink.When I did this, I immersed them first in hot soapy wash water and then in hot bleachy rinse water. Wipe the egg until it's clean with a paper towel or a loofah and then put it in the rinse water. Dry on a towel. I used plastic "washer flats" from Kuhl Corp. when handling eggs this way. You can use essentially the same process without immersion, spraying the eggs with the wash and rinse solutions instead of dipping them, and this will satisfy the USDA and many states' dislike of immersion washing.
  • The original automatic egg washers were immersion washers, which were essentially big buckets of water into which you placed egg baskets. The machines agitated the water to clean the eggs. They work okay if operated properly, though not as well as washing them by hand or using brush-type washers. The pitfall is that few people seem able to resist the lure of, "Let's run just one more basket before changing the water," so the USDA and many states don't allow them.
  • Brush-type washers like the AquaMagic (recently renamed to "Sani-Touch") are very good but very expensive new and hard to find used. I have a 50-year-old AquaMagic Model 60, and it's still going strong. These candle, wash, dry and optionally grade eggs in one operation, are much more sanitary than immersion washers, and they get the eggs cleaner.
  • A more affordable brush-type egg washer is the Gibson Ridge Farm Portable Egg Washer, which I haven't used myself (everything else I mention here, I've tried personally). At under $2,000, it's by far the lowest-price brush-type washer I've seen. (If you have used this machine, please send me an email and tell me how you like it!)
  • Dry cleaning is also a possibility, and is allowed in many states without a sanitary rinse, because it's wetness that helps bacteria penetrate the shell. A lot of people use sandpaper or sanding sponges, but I like loofahs the best.
  • I'm told that egg washing is illegal in some parts of the world, such as the EU, but that it continues on the sly using improper methods. Sigh.

Norton Creek Press Best-Seller List

These are my top-selling books from May:

  1. Fresh-Air Poultry Houses by Prince T. Woods, M.D.

  2. Success With Baby Chicks by Robert Plamondon

  3. Feeding Poultry by Gustave F. Heuser

  4. The Dollar Hen by Milo M. Hastings

  5. Genetics of the Fowl by Frederick B. Hutt

All of these are fine books (I 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" into print -- techniques from the Golden Age of poultrykeeping, which ran from roughly 1900 to 1950. I've been adding an eclectic mix of non-poultry books as well. These include everything from my science fiction novel, One Survivor, to the true story of a Victorian gentlewoman's trip up the Nile in the 1870s, A Thousand Miles up the Nile. See my complete list of titles at the bottom of this newsletter.

June To-Do List

If your flock consists of laying hens, June is an easy month. If there are broilers in the mix, not so much, since (for us, anyway) things are still ramping up. Warm weather is coming (it's already here in some parts of the country). Remember that chickens don't like heat very much and really love shade in sunny weather. Don't let their drinking water get hot; they may refuse to drink, and this can kill them on a hot day. Roost mites multiply quickly in warm weather, so if you get a scratchy feeling up your arms after collecting the eggs, it's time to spray (pyrethins are organically correct and work very well).

On my farm, at least, June is a time of increased predator activity, so keep an eye on those fencelines!

To do in June:

  • Market or butcher surplus cockerels.
  • Cull early molting hens.
  • Replace litter.
  • Provide shade on range.
  • Provide additional ventilation.
  • Gather eggs more frequently in warm weather.
  • Cull weak or unthrifty individuals.

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

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 can use social media to stay in touch:

  • 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, friend me and follow my antics.

This newsletter is sent out occasionally by Robert Plamondon to anyone who asks for it. Robert runs Norton Creek Press.

Norton Creek Press Book List

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36475 Norton Creek Road
Blodgett, Oregon 97326

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