Robert Plamondon's Poultry & Rural Living Newsletter, October 5, 2009
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News From the Farm
The season is beginning to wind down, and things are a little quieter. I took advantage of the
relative calm to take my son Dan and head down to Texas for a week to visit relatives. A good time
was had by all.
Then last weekend I took my other son, Karl, up to Seattle to visit
Brickcon, the big Lego convention, part of which was open
to the public. We took the train, as we generally do. The Amtrak
Cascades long-haul commuter trains are a great way to travel. I once used them to commute to
Vancouver WA for seven months (see my
writeup of the urban-to-rural train commute).
We're building a bigger, better brooder house, with a concrete floor and three courses of concrete
block to make it rot-proof and rat-proof. See the writeup in my
blog. More later, when it's finished.
After joining Facebook a month ago, I've acquired about 100 friends, mostly readers of this newsletter.
Aw, shucks, folks -- I'm flattered! Plus over 40 followers on Twitter. I hope to be adequately entertaining.
Introducing the Grass-Fed Egg Movement
I'm trying something new: starting a "grass-fed eggs" movement as a way of promoting great-tasting eggs from happy
outdoor hens. People have become cynical about the term "free-range," which often doesn't mean what people want it to mean.
Everyone wants free-range eggs to be eggs from happy outdoor hens who have something better than a barren yard to forage around
in, but that's not what they get. So I'm hoping my the as-yet unsullied "grass-fed eggs" term will fare a little better.
You probably already know that grass-fed eggs are the best-tasting eggs ever, have superior nutrition, are environmentally
friendly, and the flocks are way more picturesque, aesthetically pleasing, and fun than the alternatives.
But lots of people don't know this yet!
It's an easy sell, though. We just have to spread the word.
I picked the term "grass-fed eggs" because it doesn't quite make sense -- eggs don't eat grass, or anything else, for that matter. So when
people see the term, they have to ask about it. (Of course, it's the hens that eat the grass, not the eggs.)
The cartoon was chosen for the same reasons: To evoke the idea of happy outdoor eggs (or maybe chickens) in a way that has some
appeal, but which still makes people ask the question.
Once they ask the question, we can pony up the answers without boring them. Much better than buttonholing people and
talking to them about eggs when they haven't asked!
I don't like rigid definitions, so my take on grass-fed eggs is that the
ideal is "great-tasting eggs from happy outdoor chickens who get lots of fresh green plants to eat." But mostly
the key is to acknowledge the ideal, while doing the best you can under the circumstances. It's hard to have grass-fed
eggs or happy outdoor chickens when there's six feet of snow on the ground. It's hard to have free-range hens in a suburban
backyard. Do the best you can, and don't let people tell you that your approach isn't pure enough.
This is also my answer to the supply-and-demand problem. Hardly anyone is making a living from growing grass-fed eggs,
so consumers need to hook up with people who are doing it as a sideline -- or raise a few hens of their own. The small scale
of most operations blurs the difference between consumers and producers: many people have hens some of the time, but not
always. So this is not a consumer movement or a producer movement, but a "people who like grass-fed eggs and happy outdoor
One of these days, someone will figure out a business model that allows people of ordinary ability to make a living at
grass-fed egg farming. When that happens, the eggs will become a lot easier to find in stores.
But that hasn't happened yet. Not even close. I certainly haven't quit my day job! So let's start with the problem in
front of us: popularizing the notion and hooking up consumers and producers. With enough demand, commerce on a larger
scale will follow.
To help get the ball rolling, I've ponied up three sets of resources:
- A Web site at http://www.grass-fed-eggs.com. This is the clearinghouse
of information that's coming from me. It's still sort of skeletal, but check it out anyway.
- A discussion group at Google Groups. This is the clearinghouse
of information from everybody who cares about grass-fed eggs: producers and consumers. Topics will include how to find
grass-fed eggs, how to sell them, backyard housing, predator control, dealing with neighbors who don't like chickens, and so on.
Post your questions here!
- A line of Grass-Fed Egg merchandise. As I already mentioned,
when someone sees your "I Heart Grass-Fed Eggs" T-shirt or shopping tote or mouse pad, they'll ask you
about it. This gives you the chance to give them your spiel and maybe press some eggs into their hands to ensure their
conversion. It's also a good way for people who are already sold on the concept to identify each other. We're pretty scattered!
Anyway, check out the Web site, the discussion group, and the goodies. I'm hoping we can change the world one egg at a time,
with a totally grass-roots, non-hierarchical movement. I expect it to be great fun.
Buy Grass-Fed Eggs Merchandise
Norton Creek Press Best-Seller List
Here are September's top-selling books from my publishing label, Norton Creek Press:
Poultry Houses by Prince T. Woods, M.D.
With Baby Chicks by Robert Plamondon
- A Thousand Miles Up the Nile by Amelia B. Edwards
- The Dollar Hen by Milo M. Hastings
- Feeding Poultry by G. F. Heuser
All of these are fine books (I only publish books I believe in).
If you're like most readers of this newsletter, you want to buy
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!
Get a Good Deal on My Books
I'm auctioning copies my books on eBay. Why, I'm not quite sure -- they usually go pretty cheap!
Last time I did this, one book went for a penny! So check it out: it might be just what you need.
You Can Help Me Out
Write a Review
If you love any of my books, you can really help me out if you write a review. Just a few lines
about the book -- for example, describing one thing you found fascinating or helpful -- can make a big
difference. Readers take reviews very seriously. And why not? It's a lot more convincing when
you praise one of my books than when I do!
If you're an Amazon.com customer,
you can help me if you post a review there, since it's now the
world's most popular bookstore. It doesn't matter whether you bought your copy of the book from
Amazon.com or not,
just that you're a customer.
Non-Amazon venues are also good, of course.
Ask Your Library to Order a Book
Some people routinely request that their libraries order a book, rather than buying a copy themselves.
The idea is that, if you buy the book for yourself, you're the only one who benefits from your
good taste, while if you ask the library to buy it, plenty of like-minded patrons will benefit.
(You also use the library's money
instead of your own, but that's not the real point.) Many libraries are delighted to do this, since requested
books are more likely to get read. Libraries are one of the oldest forms of social media!
Some publishers don't like libraries -- they think that more copies of their books would be sold if people
couldn't check them out for free -- but I think libraries are great. I'd be very pleased if more libraries
carried my books. It helps get the word out.
October To-Do List
Inspired by a similar list in Jull's Successful
Poultry Management, McGraw-Hill, 1943.
Traditionally, October was a month where pullets were just about to lay, and were moved off the pasture where they had been raised and
into winter quarters, which were henhouses much closer to the farmhouse and more convenient for winter access. At the same time, many
of the old hens were still around, creating the temptation to overcrowd the henhouses. The usual technique was to cull all the early-molting
hens but to keep the rest for another year. About half of the old hens would be sent to market this way.
With modern hybrid layers, the flocks are much more uniform, and most of the flock will molt at once. Only a few percent will molt
early. So the idea that you can sort the flock into winners and losers doesn't work as well as it used to (which is a good thing).
It only takes a few months of warm weather to make you blind to the needs of approaching winter, so this month's checklist is
particularly useful -- but only if you follow it!
- House pullets (if raised on range).
- Do not overcrowd!
- Repair doors, windows, cracks, roofs, watering systems, lighting systems.
- Freeze-proof your watering system.
- Replace litter. (If using the deep-litter method, replace enough of it that the house won't be filled to the rafters by spring.)
- Make final culling of molters (next month, pretty much the whole flock will molt)
- Cull any poor pullets. ("One strike and you're out" is the rule unless your birds are pets.)
- Remove damp or dirty litter on an ongoing basis.
- Use lights on layers. (14 hours of light a day between September 1 and April 1, bright enough to read a newspaper at floor level, is traditional.
Incandescent bulbs are much more trouble-free than compact fluorescents. Don't even think about using "indoor-only" compact fluorescents in a
- Get equipment under cover. Don't forget the lawn mower.
- Stake down range houses so they won't blow away.
- Summer houses such as tarp-covered hoophouses should have their tarps removed so they won't collapse under snow loads.
- Flag pasture obstacles and equipment with something tall if there's a chance that you won't mow in the spring until the grass is as high as an elephant's eye.
You won't remember if you put it off.
Bleach bottles stuck on the tops of T-posts are traditional.
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 a few
times a week. You can read my blog at http://www.plamondon.com/blog, or
subscribe to it via RSS in the usual way.
New! You can also receive notifications of blog updates by email:
Adventures in Social Media
And if that's not enough, you should use social media like Twitter to keep track of my doings, as well:
- Twitter. I've started using Twitter several times a week to announce updated Web pages, new blog posts and newsletters, amusing links,
and other interesting stuff. Check it out.
- Facebook. If you're on Facebook, so am I! You can
friend me and follow my antics that way. My Facebook updates are almost identical to my Twitter updates.
- Stumbleupon. Stumbleupon
(a social bookmarking service) is one of my favorite ways of wasting time.
One advantage of subscribing to my favorites
on Stumbleupon is that I'm easily bored by politics, bureaucracy, dogma,
and stuff like that. If you don't like that
stuff, either, you'll find the raw, unfiltered stream of farm-related pages on Stumbleupon to be pretty painful.
I don't thumbs-up stuff like that, so you ought to find my favorites helpful, or at least soothing.
Admittedly, I also give a thumbs-up to virtually all of my own
Web pages, but the fact that you're reading this indicates that you've built up a pretty high tolerance to me.
Take a look.
This newsletter is sent out occasionally by Robert Plamondon
to anyone who asks for it. Robert runs Norton Creek
Press, publisher of:
Norton Creek Press
Norton Creek Road
Blodgett, Oregon 97326
If you like this newsletter, please send copies to all your
Copyright 2009 by Robert Plamondon.
Permission is granted for copying if it's attributed to me, and if it includes a link back to the original
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