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Robert Plamondon’s Poultry and Rural Living

beth_feeding_small_barred_rock_pulletsI’ve been writing up practical poultry tips on this website since 1997. Somebody had to!

When we moved back to Oregon in 1995, we soon started raising free-range chickens. There was little information on free-range poultry back then, and most of it was wrong. I embarked on a literature survey of the past 100 years, to find out what ideas and techniques worked and what didn’t. We put the more likely ones into practice, and also wrote them up here on Plamondon.com.

Day-old Black Sex-Link chicks and an Ohio heat-lamp brooder.
Day-old Black Sex-Link chicks and an Ohio heat-lamp brooder.

We’re still raising grass-fed chickens, eggs, turkey, and pork on the same farm today, using the same techniques shown here. My monthly newsletter gives some news about the latest goings-on plus a to-do list appropriate to the time of year.

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Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.

FAQ: Chicken Feeding Tips

Here are my most reliable tips on feeding your chickens: feeding them simply, feeding them cheaply, and feeding them well.

1. How Can I Save Money on Chicken Feed?

Here are some tips:

  • Girl feeding free-range chickens by handAvoid “cheapskate feeds.” There are a lot of cheapskates out there who don’t care about quality. Most mills have a line of cheapskate feeds that you need to avoid, because they’re bulked out with fillers like wheat-milling byproducts that have little nutritional value. Cheapskate feeds often have keywords telling you what they are; words like “Country,” “Thrifty,” and so on. You’ll save money if you quality feed.
  • Buy from the best. Ask your practical-minded acquaintances who the best feed mill is. Usually the verdict is almost unanimous. Buy from the best feed mill: it’ll saves you money.
  • Use the “grain-on-the-side” method described further down in this FAQ.
  • Minimize feed waste. Most feeders on the market are really just baby chick feeders, no matter what the manufacturers say. Their feed pans are too shallow, and the chickens throw feed in all directions. In some tube feeders, it pours over the side on its own! Losing at least 10% of your feed to the poor design of the feeder is very common. Find the deepest feeders you can get your hands on, or make them yourself. Never fill trough feeders more than 1/3 full. Spend more time watching your flock. If you slow down, you’ll notice things and everything will magically improve, including the bottom line.
  • Get a book about poultry nutrition. A lot of what you’ll read on the Internet or hear from your neighbors will be nonsense, and you’ll want to immunize yourself. Also, it helps to have a complete reference manual handy! The best poultry nutrition book in print is the one I reprinted myself, Feeding Poultry by G. F. Heuser. There are other excellent books on the topic, but they are all out of print. (I can’t figure that out.)
  • Read my blog postings on saving money on chicken feed.

2. Do I HAVE to Feed Free-Range Chickens (or can they find their own feed?)

Remember: Chickens can’t find feed that isn’t there, and the more chickens you have, the less feed there is to go around. You have to match the number chickens to the feed supply, or nature will do it for you through poor health and starvation.

How it was done in the old days. A farmer of 100 years ago might have kept a dozen hens and a rooster through the winter, and allowed the hens to hatch a brood of chicks each in the spring, giving, say, 72 chicks plus the original 13 chickens, or 85 birds total. The old rooster would be sold after the chicks had hatched. The old hens and most of the young chickens would be sold in the fall, and one cockerel and twelve pullets would be kept through the lean months. By having 85 chickens during the fat months and only 13 during the winter, the amount of supplemental feed needed by the chickens would be minimized.

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Robert Plamondon
at
Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.

Flyover States and the Election

I live in the country. I have a farm. I’ve spent most of my career in high-tech: I’ve lived in the city, too. So I’m fluent in two languages: urban and rural.

I rarely post here about politics, since politics doesn’t get the cows milked. And this isn’t about politics anyway: it’s about mindset. I’m just using the election as an example.

Take a look at the 2016 presidential election map, showing the results by county:

The Urban/Rural Divide

2016 Presidential Election by County
2016 Presidential Election by County

What we’re looking at here is not a division between Republicans and Democrats, but between rural and urban. The urban areas mostly voted Democrat; the rural ares mostly voted Republican. What’s up with that?

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Robert Plamondon
at
Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.

Your Chickens in November [Newsletter]

Robert Plamondon’s Poultry Newsletter, November 2016

News from the Farm

Hey, let’s experiment with giving the news in bullet-point form!

  • Just three more weeks in our 2016 Farmer’s Market season. Here in Corvallis, we’re among the proud-but-shivering vendors in the November outdoor markets.
  • Karen reports that the seasonal decline in egg production seems to have ceased, thanks to her use of lights in the henhouses, using methods summarized last time.
  • Four of our six piggies have been converted into pork, ham, and bacon for customers, and we’ve lined up a customer to take the other two as-is. Which is just as well, since it’s been raining like the dickens (or even the Bulwer-Lytton). Pigs plus rain equals mud, at least when they’re living the kind of outdoor lifestyle our pigs do. Our pigs have just a little Port-a-Hut shelter to sleep in, not the usual spacious roofed pig shed with a concrete floor.
  • We’re not doing Thanksgiving turkeys this year. Why not? One reason is that heritage-breed turkeys have a distressing tendency to escape and vanish en masse into the woods, never to return. We were hatching our own turkey eggs until the breeding flock skedaddled. And just to rub it in, about twenty wild turkeys are hanging around the farm, bold as brass.
  • I suspect that modern broad-breasted turkeys are more likely to stay put, partly because they’re less agile, partly because they dislike going far from the feed trough, and partly because they grow at least twice as fast, leaving that much less time for them to get any funny ideas. This would involve buying day-old poults during the summer, since spring-hatched poults would be the size of hippos. A neighbor down the road has a nice flock of white broad-breasted turkeys that are still where they’re supposed to be.
  • We won’t be doing many new projects until the new year. My current feeling about brooding pullet chicks in the winter is that it’s a great idea once you get the moves down, but, for our personal convenience, not during the holidays. January is soon enough.

Publishing News

Jack & the Magic Software: A Future Fairy Tale

Jack &the Magic Software
Jack & the Magic Software

My science fiction novel, One Survivor, contains a number of things that might seem extraneous in a book that starts with a space battle. This includes three fairy tales, a prophetic flight simulator run, and much else. I’ve broken out one of the fairy tales as a stand-alone Kindle e-book: Jack & the Magic Software: A Future Fairy Tale.  It’s yours for a measly ninety-nine cents.

Win a Free Copy of Feeding Poultry!

Feeding Poultry by Heuser
Feeding Poultry

If you hang around with poultry enthusiasts, you hear a lot about how to feed chickens. People talk endlessly about feeding: what to feed, how to feed it, and which changes in feeding to make in response to any imaginable problem. But you can stand out by having something few of them have: an actual book on poultry nutrition!

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Robert Plamondon on sabyoutubeRobert Plamondon on sabtwitterRobert Plamondon on sabstumbleuponRobert Plamondon on sablinkedinRobert Plamondon on sabgoogleRobert Plamondon on sabfacebookRobert Plamondon on sabemail
Robert Plamondon
at
Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.

Replace Dead Cooling Units with Air Conditioners

old refrigerators upgrade
You can repurpose retail refrigerators

I have an old Hussmann refrigerator with two sliding glass doors, that was originally used as a refrigerated produce case in a grocery store (I use it to store eggs from my free-range egg farm). This was a nice unit in its day—it’s built like a battleship—but its refrigeration unit is shot, and was an inefficient dinosaur even when it ran properly.

These old refrigerators are good news/bad news. The good news is that their decrepit refrigeration units mean that you can buy them almost nothing. The bad news is that their decrepit refrigeration units mean that they’re worth almost nothing.

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Robert Plamondon on sabyoutubeRobert Plamondon on sabtwitterRobert Plamondon on sabstumbleuponRobert Plamondon on sablinkedinRobert Plamondon on sabgoogleRobert Plamondon on sabfacebookRobert Plamondon on sabemail
Robert Plamondon
at
Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.

Don’t Let the Chickens’ Water Freeze

Keeping the chickens’ water ice-free during the winter can be a struggle! Here are some easy ways to make it happen.

Galvanized Buckets for Winter Waterers

Galvanized pail for eggsThe classic technique for full-grown chickens is the old bucket switcheroo: when you go out to tend the chickens, you bring out a galvanized bucket of warm water, and leave it for them to drink from. When you leave, you take away the partly empty bucket you left for them last time, because if it’s not empty, it’s frozen. You bring the frozen bucket inside with you and leave it in a place where it will thaw a little, so the ice will slide out easily.

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Robert Plamondon on sabyoutubeRobert Plamondon on sabtwitterRobert Plamondon on sabstumbleuponRobert Plamondon on sablinkedinRobert Plamondon on sabgoogleRobert Plamondon on sabfacebookRobert Plamondon on sabemail
Robert Plamondon
at
Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.