Your Chickens in January, 2017 [Newsletter]

chickens in range houses and snowNews from the Farm

  • Happy New Year! We’ve been having unusual cold this winter. Not record-breaking, but with more cold and snow than usual: many days with snow on the ground and temperatures down to 17 °F or so. That counts as cold by Western Oregon standards.
  • Before the cold set in, we took our last two pigs to the Woodburn Auction Yard. While selling pastured pigs at auction is no way to make money, it cuts our losses. (We raised a record eight pigs and sold six to our customers.)
  • Around here, the nastiest weather and the biggest chance of power outages happens between December 15 and the end of January, so we tend to take it easy this time of year. We’ll be brooding more and more baby chicks in a little while.
  • The chickens are holding up well. They don’t mind this kind of weather if they can stay dry, stay out of the wind, and have plenty of feed and water. Of these, the water is proving the most troublesome, since our pasture watering system is mostly just endless lengths of easily frozen garden hose.

Farmers’ Markets? In Winter?

Our local Corvallis Indoor Winter Market has been highly successful. It’s been operating for more than a dozen years and gets bigger every year.

How do you do an indoor winter market? Not by importing produce from sunnier climes! In January, local producers have root vegetables, nuts, eggs, poultry, cheese, meat, baked goods, honey, and other products. And soon the local greenhouses will provide flowers, early vegetables, and vegetable starts. Winter markets are apparently still unusual, but they can probably be duplicated anywhere. Ours gets positively mobbed! read more...

Your Chickens in December [Newsletter]

News from the Farm

Our  farmer’s market season ended the day before Thanksgiving. We have a mild climate here in Oregon, but don’t kid yourself: an outdoor farmer’s market in November can be challenging! One market was canceled due to high winds. We’ve had some heavy rains, with 3.5 inches of rain falling on Thanksgiving day alone! This flooded our back pasture, and the hens there were wading through a couple of inches of slow-moving water for a day or two. They weren’t enthusiastic about this, but they didn’t panic, either. Things are now back to normal. One of the things that’s part of the package when you do old-fashioned free range is that weather matters more than it does with confined chickens. Now that it’s December, the weather is turning cold right on cue, with snow in the forecast for the first time today.

Free range hens on snow
My hens in snow, a few years ago.
  • Egg production has recovered somewhat, probably due to our use of lights, as discussed in my October newsletter.
  • We had some mystery predators killing a few hens on the back pasture. This seems to have stopped after we added some solar-powered anti-predator blinky lights. I’m trying the Yinghao anti-predator lights: so far, they seem excellent, both fancier and cheaper than the Nite Guard lights I use on the front pasture. Both models have simple red LED lights that blink all night. These are supposed to make predators think they’re being glared at by other predators. They work pretty well.
  • My Neighbor Invented the Modern Christmas Tree

    One of the inventors of the modern Christmas tree, Hal Schudel, lived a mile or so up the road from us. He introduced all sorts of innovations, including hauling out the trees by helicopter to eliminate the need for roads and their attendant erosion, and the introduction of the Noble Fir as a premium Christmas Tree. Hal, who was once an agronomy professor at Oregon State University, knew a good tree when he saw it! He also figured out how to raise them sustainably in bulk and help many farmers make a living from them. He passed away two years ago at the age of 96. read more...

    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! read more...

    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. read more...

    Save Money on Chicken Feed

    How can you save money on chicken feed? Here are a few time-tested methods.

    Can My Chickens Find All Their Feed Themselves?

    Not really. In the old days, farms and kitchens were so wasteful, with so much grain spilled by the horses and milk cows, and so much garbage thrown out the back door (or, in town, the front door), that flocks of skinny chickens could survive without further attention.

    With an increase in our understanding of sanitation and nutrition, opportunities for self-feeding flocks are few and far between.

    And because we know about nutrition now, my theme today is: read more...