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, August, 2011

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News From the Farm

High Production

We're powering through August with more eggs than we know what to do with, which doesn't usually happen! Our secret this year has been to brood pullet chicks every two months or so, so there are always hens just starting to lay. August is normally a month where productivity sags noticeably as some of the old hens start to molt, and the increasing scarcity of fresh eggs can is usually impacting farmers' market customers by now, with production declining until the end of the year and then slowly picking up again. I'm not sure how the other egg vendors are doing, but we're doing great!

Fresh, Fresher, Freshest

We were surprised to learn that we seem to be the only local egg producer using a 30-day "sell-by" date. If we pack eggs on August 18, the sell-by date is September 17. Everyone else uses a 45-day sell-by date. October 2? That seems like a long time! The older the eggs, the thinner the whites and the weaker the yolks.

Our chicken is the freshest available, too. Karen butchers the day before the Farmer's Market, so you won't get anything fresher than that! If we don't sell out at the market, it goes straight into the freezer. People are paying premium prices for our stuff, and having the coldest, freshest chicken and eggs at the market is the least we can do.

Karl's Diabetes

It's been a month since my son Karl (17) came home from the hospital, and he's doing very well, settling into the routine more easily and cheerfully than we had any right to expect, and his blood sugar levels are nicely under control. Thanks to all of you who sent your best wishes!


September 1 is the traditional time to start using lights to encourage hens to lay, and it's mid-August already, and I haven't given the issue a moment's thought! To get a head start on the issues, read the Lighting for Hens article I wrote in this newsletter way back in 2003, and I'll give you an update next month.

Save Money on Chicken Feed

Are you as tired as everyone else of paying record high prices for feed? What can you do about it? Whatever you do, don't under-feed your chickens! They'll stop growing and laying, and, anyway, it's not nice!

Here are some ways to get results:

  • Buy high-quality feed from a reputable dealer. High-quality feed is expensive, but it's a bargain compared to low-quality feed. Chickens have a high metabolism and and a low tolerance for contaminated feed and low-quality feed, so ingredients that pigs or steers could tolerate can really hurt your chickens. The only safe course of action is to give your chickens as much high-quality feed as they want. Don't compromise on this. High-priced feeds tend to provide more value because cheap feeds are bulked up with cheap ingredients like mill run—ingredients with relatively low feeding value and that the chickens don't like much, anyway. So always keep one feeder full of the highest-quality feed around.
  • Supplement with low-cost whole grains. In a second feeder, offer whole grains of whatever kind you can get cheap. It's not uncommon to be able to buy whole grain by the sack for half the price of chicken crumbles or pellets. Whole grains keeps for a long time without going bad and are often available for low prices from local farmers or grain wholesalers. Here in the Corvallis area, Venell Feed sells grain for much lower prices than feed stores. We keep feeders full of whole corn for our layers all the time. If whole wheat is cheaper than chicken feed in your area, it can be used with chickens of all ages. Oats and barley are hard for chickens to digest when they're younger than 6-8 weeks old, but are okay afterwards. Cracked grains don't keep anywhere near as well (when I use it, it often goes moldy on me), and a lot of places use finely cracked grains that chickens don't like. Chickens prefer whole grains and coarsely cracked grains.
  • Supplement with whatever else you can find. If you have something else the chickens might like, go ahead and try it! The trick is to never take away their chicken feed. Chickens like variety and they like fresh feeds better than chicken feed, so they'll give alternative feeds every consideration. Our chickens have proven ravenous devourers of leftovers, apples, vegetables (though you need to cut vegetables with thick skins in half so they can get at the insides), popcorn, grass clippings, milk, and, really, just about everything imaginable. But they know what's good for them and will ignore feeds that don't have anything they need or that have gone bad. Sure, if you stake away their chicken feed, you can force them to eat stuff that's bad for them, but what's the point in that? The key is to trust them to eat what's good for them. If they turn their noses up at something you offer them, take it away.
  • Supplement with range. Chickens like foraging on grass range and can get a lot of vitamins and proteins from bugs and, more importantly, fresh green plants. Most of the time, though, the available forage is very short on calories. I read one estimate that the average farm can support just one hen per acre, year-round, because most of the year there just aren't enough calories! When bugs, seeds, or berries are especially abundant, the chickens can feast, but this amounts to only a few weeks per year. Let's not look down on forage, though, because the nutritional profile of pasture-raised chicken and eggs is jaw-droppingly superior to confinement-fed products. This nutritional superiority is the advantage foraging brings. On a year-round basis, feed savings are small or even negative, because outdoor chickens expend more energy than indoor chickens, since it's often cold and wet out there!
  • Watch your fuel and labor costs. If you have to drive long distances to haul feed, your time and fuel start adding up. Combining trips, finding a closer supplier, or even having feed delivered (oh, the luxury!) can really make a difference here.
  • Buy in bulk if you can. You can get price breaks for buying bagged feed by the ton or loose feed in bulk, so long as you can get past the "use it or lose it" shelf life issues. Mixed feeds and cracked grains should be used within a month or they'll go bad on you, while whole grains will last a year in storage. This can provide you with real savings, though protecting the feed from weather, rodents, raccoons, and time can be a challenge.
  • Use deeper feeders. Grown chickens will waste a lot of feed if you give them the chance. They'll toss bits of feed onto the ground and then never pick it up again. The cure for this is deep troughs or tube feeders with deep feed pans, and to fill the trough or pan no more than 1/3 full. Appropriate feeders are surprisingly hard to find, since people like the convenience of using the same feeder for baby chicks and adult birds. It's a mistake, though. Practically every feeder you can find is really just a baby chick feeder. In the average feed store, only the great big tube feeders with the deep feed pans, the ones that hold 30 pounds of feed, are appropriate for adult birds. Some stores don't stock these at all!
  • Use coupons. Purina is a feed that I've had good luck with. It's usually priced kind of high, but they do various promotions and coupons that can make the prices competitive again for many users. I once subscribed to a poultry newsletter that had a Purina coupon in every issue, and the coupon was worth far more than the price of the newsletter! Maybe the other big feed outfits do this, too.
  • Get rid of the chickens you don't really want. A lot of flocks would be happier with fewer roosters, because the more roosters you have, the more they fight, and a rooster eats 100 pounds of feed a year without laying any eggs. Maybe I shouldn't have 16 roosters when I never incubate any eggs? And what about those old hens that only lay in the springtime? You can save a lot of money by keeping only the chickens of real value to you. Two options are butchering them or selling them on Craisglist.
  • Use more productive breeds. A modern hybrid layer will not only lay twice as many eggs as a heritage hen, she'll lay more steadily throughout the year, which is quite hard to achieve with heritage breeds. If you must use heritage breeds, keep in mind that only a few breeds were ever successful on American farms: Rhode Island Reds, New Hampshire Reds, Barred Rocks and White Rocks for brown eggs, and White Leghorns and California Grays for white eggs. You can use any breed, of course—I sure have!—but today's topic is saving money, and when the topic is saving money, productivity matters. (When in doubt, choose Barred Rocks, because they're usually docile and friendly and lay about as well as the other old farm breeds.)
  • Read up on poultrykeeping. There's always more to learn. When I first got interested in poultrykeeping, I spent a lot of time in Oregon State University's Valley Library, where I surveyed 100 years of poultry literature—which is a great way to gain perspective on a topic, if you have the time! I read more than 100 books in the process, many of which contained at least one nugget of information available nowhere else, and a few of which were classics that cried out to be put back into print. If I had confined myself to the most readily available sources, I doubt I'd still have chickens today. Reading from a broader cross-section of authors alerts you to more options and enhances both your success and your pleasure.

Buy My Books for Less!

Get Deep Discounts Online

Want to get my books for less? Online bookstores have started offering three of my titles at deep discounts, with prices lower than I've ever seen! The best deals at the moment are from

These prices mean that if you buy Feeding Poultry, you save more than the price of either of the other two books!

Other online bookstores are discounting the same titles, including Barnes & Noble.

Read "Back-to-the-Land Adventures" for Less

I've dropped the retail price of my three "back-to-the-land adventure" books to $9.95 for your affordable reading pleasure: Ten Acres Enough by Edmund Morris, Gold in the Grass by Margaret Leatherbarrow, and We Wanted a Farm by M. G Kains (author of Five Acres and Independence). Karen and I really enjoyed these books when we were getting started in our "back to the land" effort, and we're sure you'll enjoy them, too!

Norton Creek Press Best-Seller List

These are my top-selling books from July:

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

  2. The Dollar Hen by Milo M. Hastings

  3. A Thousand Miles up the Nile by Amelia B. Edwards.

  4. Ten Acres Enough by Edmund Morris

  5. Success With Baby Chicks by Robert Plamondon

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.

August To-Do List

August is a pretty easy month, so far as chickens are concerned. This is just as well, because it's harvest season. Cornish-Cross broilers need to be babied through the heat, otherwise it's about the same as always. If your chickens are on grass range, you may see a decline in product quality as the grass browns off. Chickens can't digest grass that isn't bright green and won't bother eating much of it.

The days are starting to get noticeably shorter. September 1 is the traditional time to turn on the henhouse lights, so this month is a good time to see if the lighting system is still operational. (I don't use lights anymore myself.)

September and October are good times to brood baby chicks, so call up your favorite hatcheries and see what's available. Usually only commercial breeds are available in the fall, and sometimes even these sell out. So get your order in early!

More to-do items:

  • Seek better paying egg markets (egg prices rise at this time of year).
  • House early pullets (move them into permanent quarters before they start laying, if you have separate grower and layer houses).
  • Replace litter.
  • Cull molting hens.
  • Isolate any sick chickens.
  • Provide additional ventilation.
  • Gather eggs more frequently in warm weather.
  • Cull weak or unthrifty individuals.

List 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 from time to time. You can read my blog at, or subscribe to it via RSS in the usual way.

You can also receive notifications of blog updates by email: Subscribe

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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Gardening Without Work
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Success With Baby Chicks
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