Robert Plamondon's Poultry Newsletter, September, 2011
And if you know anyone else who will enjoy this newsletter, please forward a copy to them!
News From the Farm
Production Still High
It's unusual for us to have production in September that's as high as it was in June, but that's where we are right now. I attribute this to having a young flock this year. Hens in their second laying year would laying fewer eggs by now, but most of our hens were hatched within the last year. They're still laying well, and with a little luck will keep laying through the winter.
September: Time for Hen Lights?
I won't be using lights on my hens this winter. It helps, but it's a nuisance, too, especially because I have about a dozen small chicken houses scattered around the pasture, and lighting them involves more than five hundred feet of extension cords! Lighting will encourage the hens to lay more eggs during the fall and winter off-season, which is important for many producers. Not so much for us, though, when so much of our sales are through seasonal farmers' markets.
If I were using lights, I'd follow the traditional recommendation of providing 14 hours of light, bright enough to read a newspaper by at floor level, starting September 1 and ending on March 31, using a timer to turn the lights on and off at an appropriate time, and a photocell unit to keep them off during daylight hours. I'd use incandescent bulbs because compact fluorescents don't start properly in cold weather.
There's a myth that lighting involves keeping bright lights on the hens 24 hours a day, and this makes them act like they've downed sixteen double-espressos. The people who promote this concept have obviously never seen a commercial laying operation. The amazing thing about commercial henhouses is how dim the lights are! Egg stimulation happens at very low light levels, so if there's enough light to read a newspaper, it's light enough for maximum production. Under dim lighting, hens are not very active, and spend the lights-on time after dark sitting quietly on their perches.
Lights can increase production by up to 15% by deferring the molt and, more than that, lighting makes production more even during the year, without the sharp peak during the spring or the trough during the fall and winter. It has more effect on breeds that don't lay very well than on those that do, and on older hens than younger ones.
I'd use lights if my setup were a little different. Because my chicken feeders and waterers are out in the open, when it's rainy, the hens get rained on, and keeping warm puts a metabolic load on them that encourages molting, which I don't think lights overcome. And when it snows (which it does once or twice in an average year), it takes a while for the hens to realize that they can walk on snow, and they'll go hungry until they figure this out. This also encourages a molt. So I'm asking a lot from my lights if I expect them to overcome all of this! Most people don't have these problems because they don't do all their feeding and watering outdoors. (Laying a trail of hay on top of the snow helps the chickens overcome their reluctance to go outside, by the way.)
(Read more about Lighting for Hens.)
Karl's Adjusting Well to His Diabetes
Karl still has some pancreatic function, meaning that he's still making some insulin on his own. While our doctors have basically said, "It won't last; forget about it," there's ample evidence that this can be protected. 100 mg of niacinamide looks promising and safe. We're also using R-alpha lipoic acid in the form of Insulow, which has been shown pretty conclusively to reverse damage caused by high blood sugars, so it makes sense to guess that it will help prevent it as well.
The other important point is that the more carbs you eat, the harder it is to control blood-sugar levels and the more likely you are to see complications, so it's crucial to keep his carbs down, and we're experimenting with low-carb and no-carb alternative foods. I've been watching my own carbs since 2008, and Karen has for even longer, so this isn't new to us.
(I can't praise Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars too highly. It's a thorough, thoughtful, and readable book about diabetes management, written by the first person ever to use a blood-glucose meter as a personal diabetes-control tool.)
School started last week, and the folks there are doing a great job helping Karl with lunches. Since he's autistic, he needs some oversight, though he takes all his own blood-glucose readings himself and writes them in his log. While he doesn't perform his own insulin injections, he selects the site each time and basically tells his helpers what to do!
There Goes the Neighborhood
There are reports of strange people and strange cars appearing at strange times here on Norton Creek Road. On a dead-end road like ours, where everybody knows everybody and strangers stick out like a sore thumb, this is peculiar enough that we're keeping our doors locked for the first time. This is annoying, but I can use any happenstance as an excuse to play with a new technology! This one motivated me to investigate wireless webcams.
I'd heard that wireless webcams are the bee's knees when you want to monitor brooder houses and chicken coops for all kinds of trouble, and to stay on the lookout for predators wherever they might cause trouble. My initial experience shows that these cameras are very spiffy indeed! Like everyone else, apparently, I'm starting with the affordable Foscam FI8918W wireless webcam, which can be controlled remotely for pan and tilt, has a set of infrared LED's for night vision, and can be reached via Ethernet cable or your WiFi network. It does motion detection, so it can alert you when something has changed. It even has a microphone!
The software that comes with it, while klunky, has some good features, including a "send email on motion detected" feature. There are plenty of software packages out there that will use these webcams and provide additional features.
No doubt I will report in more detail in a later newsletter. In the meantime, the reviews on Amazon.com will give you an idea of what this device is good for. Keep in mind that this model isn't weatherproof, so it needs to be installed in a sheltered location.
Back in Print! Everyone's Favorite Gardening Book: "Gardening Without Work" by Ruth Stout
It's been a long time since I've come up with an out-of-print classic for you to read, but I think this one will make up for lost time: Ruth Stout's Gardening Without Work: For the Aging, the Busy & the Indolent. Ruth is my favorite organic gardening writer, and has been since I was a child -- her column was the first thing I read in each issue of Organic Gardening when I was ten. And she was everyone else's favorite writer, too. Amazingly, this book, in spite of its legions of fans, had been allowed to go out of print. Because of its enduring popularity, you'd be lucky to get a beat-up copy for $40. That seems a little steep! So now you can get your brand-new copy for less than half that price, because I've republished under my Norton Creek Press label. Here's what I say on the book's back cover:
Gardening Without Work: For the Aging, the Busy & the Indolent by Ruth Stout
And here's what I say in the book's Foreword:
More About Ruth Stout
Plotto: The Classic Plot Suggestion Tool for Writers of Creative Fiction by William Wallace Cook
Well, if I'm going to take the trouble of publishing one classic, why not two? Plotto is a method to help authors and screenwriters come up with plot ideas. Written by William Wallace Cook, who wrote fiction at an amazing rate and wrote a book, The Fiction Factory, about his methods, Plotto suggests plot ideas in much the same way that an unabridged thesaurus suggests words. It takes some getting used to, but it's yet another example of a book whose loyal following keeps the price of used copies at sky-high levels. Until now.
I don't know how many readers of this poultry newsletter write fiction, but I've been intrigued by this book for years, so I decided that it really needs to be back in print! See my Plotto page for more information.
These are my top-selling books from last month:
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.
September To-Do List
September 1 is the traditional time to turn on the henhouse lights. If you keep the day length at the traditional 14 hours between September 1 and April 1, you'll get more eggs during the lighting period and fewer during the spring, which is a good deal for most people, well worth the cost of electricity.
The folklore about lights turning the hens into zombies that shoot out eggs like machine guns is not true, by the way. Lights are infinitely less effective than this. Their effect is subtle and gentle.
I give a full treatment of henhouse lights in one of my earliest newsletters (from 2003). I don't use lights anymore myself. Dealing with a thousand feet of extension cords zig-zagged from house to house across the pasture eventually became too much of a hassle. But your setup would probably be far less complicated than mine.
As already mentioned, 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:
List inspired by a similar one in Jull's Successful Poultry Management, McGraw-Hill, 1943.
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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 http://www.plamondon.com/blog, or subscribe to it via RSS in the usual way.
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This newsletter is sent out occasionally by Robert Plamondon
to anyone who asks for it. Robert runs Norton Creek Press.
Gardening Without Work
by Ruth Stout
Poultry Houses by Prince T. Woods, M.D.
With Baby Chicks by Robert Plamondon
Dollar Hen by Milo M. Hastings
Poultry by Gustave F. Heuser
of the Fowl by Frederick B. Hutt
Acres Enough by Edmund Morris
in the Grass by Margaret Leatherbarrow
Wanted a Farm by M. G Kains
Dungeons Deep: A Fantasy Gamers' Handbook by Robert Plamondon
Survivor by Robert Plamondon.
Tom Slade Series by Percy Keese Fitzhugh. (Two volumes in
print; more on the way.)
Thousand Miles up the Nile by Amelia B. Edwards.
Plotto: The Classic Plot-Suggestion Tool for Writers of Creative Fiction by William Wallace Cook.
Who do you know who would enjoy this newsletter and benefit from its information? Neighbors? Fellow poultrykeepers? Friends?
Family? Don't leave them in the dark,
email them a copy so they can subscribe, too!
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.
Gardening Without Work by Ruth Stout
Fresh-Air Poultry Houses by Prince T. Woods, M.D.
Success With Baby Chicks by Robert Plamondon
The Dollar Hen by Milo M. Hastings
Feeding Poultry by Gustave F. Heuser
Genetics of the Fowl by Frederick B. Hutt
Ten Acres Enough by Edmund Morris
Gold in the Grass by Margaret Leatherbarrow
We Wanted a Farm by M. G Kains
Through Dungeons Deep: A Fantasy Gamers' Handbook by Robert Plamondon
One Survivor by Robert Plamondon.
The Tom Slade Series by Percy Keese Fitzhugh. (Two volumes in print; more on the way.)
A Thousand Miles up the Nile by Amelia B. Edwards.
A Plotto: The Classic Plot-Suggestion Tool for Writers of Creative Fiction by William Wallace Cook.
Who do you know who would enjoy this newsletter and benefit from its information? Neighbors? Fellow poultrykeepers? Friends? Family? Don't leave them in the dark, email them a copy so they can subscribe, too!
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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