Robert Plamondon's Poultry Newsletter, August 13, 2003
News From the Farm
Our older hens are starting to go into early molt. Some are in their third laying season, which means we've really kept them for one season too long for a commercial egg operation like ours. I messed up my production planning last year, and didn't start as many pullets as I should have, so we kept the old girls over for another year. It's about time to start turning them into stewing hens, though.
Our February-hatched pullets are now laying quite well, so our total production has held up in spite of the older hens' slump. This is why we started pullets in February, which is not my favorite month for brooding.
There's another slump that hits in November, when the hens who kept laying through the summer and early fall finally throw in the towel and molt. These hens take their time before starting to lay again. Many winter-hatched pullets will go through a partial molt at this time, as well, but will start laying again fairly quickly, so the February chicks don't fill in very well for this second, deeper slump.
Poor fall production is where the traditional April/May chicks come to the rescue. Pullets in their early months of laying are resistant to going into molt, and will lay up a storm when the rest of the flock is taking it easy.
In the old days, when most chicks were hatched in April and May and were laying well by November, November was when everyone sold off their old hens. We will do likewise. As usual, the farmers of 50-100 years ago knew their stuff,
The Psychology of Chores
A few years ago, I was using my chore time so efficiently that I hardly spent any time with the chickens. I'd fill up the range feeders every couple of weeks and collect eggs twice a day. The whole process had become so rushed and mechanical that I was barely paying attention to the hens at all. This resulted in a reduction in the quality of care. Since I wasn't paying a lot of attention, things started to slide.
When I realized what was happening, I changed my methods slightly. Before collecting the eggs, I'd scatter a bucket of scratch feed in the grass for the chickens. There's something about feeding animals; it promotes a bond. I'd walk across the pasture scattering grain until it was all gone, and then walk back along the line of chickens, getting a good look at them. It changed my whole attitude towards them. It also let me spot problems. It even got a lot of hens off the nests and out of my way for the egg collection! And it make poultrykeeping fun again.
Audiobooks for Farmers
Nevertheless, not all chores are fun. I use books on tape from the library to keep myself entertained when driving or doing chores. I even do this while riding a tractor, using earbuds or headphones that can be popped out of their headband and slipped into my hearing-protection earmuffs. I go through at least three audiobooks per week.
While the library lets you listen to audiobooks for free, they may not have the titles you want to listen to. I've found that the most affordable method of getting audiobooks is to get them electronically, buying an MP3 player and joining audible.com's audiobook club. They usually have a deal for a free or reduced-price MP3 player, which is generally something that fits quite nicely in a shirt pocket. Your subscription lets you select a certain number of books per month, which you download to your computer over the Internet and to your MP3 player over a USB port.
The price is very low, lower even than renting books from outfits like Books on Tape, but the audiobooks are yours to keep.
I've been a member since 2000 and have been very happy.
For more information on audible.com, click here.
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Copyright 2003 by Robert Plamondon. Permission is granted for copying if the material from here to the end of the message is left unaltered.
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