Robert Plamondon's Poultry Newsletter
I'm finally moving my mailing-list software into the new century. My old majordomo-based mailing list software was klunky and its output was increasingly mistaken for spam by the big service providers, so it's time for a change.
If you're seeing this newsletter for the first time, I'm sure you signed up for it way back when. It just didn't reach you! Things should be better now.
As always, if you've lost interest in my monthly poultry newsletter, please unsubscribe with the link at the bottom of the page. On the other hand, if you're delighted, share it with your friends!
News From the Farm
Late July means warmer, drier weather, with some parts of the farm running short on the kind of bright green grass that free-range chickens prefer. Over the years, this has become less of a problem, since the hens add a lot of fertility to the soil, extending the green season. If things continue to brown off, our egg yolks will start fading from their springtime orange through dark yellow and maybe into a medium yellow. Compounds that are green in the plants become yellow or orange in the yolks; there's a definite relationship between beta carotene level and yolk color.
July also means that the farmer's market is in full swing, with chicken end eggs selling briskly. This year, we also have small flocks of duck and turkey eggs as part of the mix. The duck eggs have an especially loyal following, with a few customers who are allergic to chicken eggs and others who simply prefer them.
Moving into August, we're already seeing the transition from the spring egg surplus to the fall egg shortage. Chickens naturally lay best in the spring, but humans want eggs year-round. Non-factory-farmed eggs become hard to come by around this time, and prices will rise, to stay high until February or so, when the supply once more briefly exceeds the demand.
We have half a dozen pigs on one of our pastures. Pigs are fun, so long as they don't get out! If you give them enough space, and the weather is reasonably dry, they produce odors at all and are very low-maintenance. A patch of rough pasture, with interesting plants to grub up, a shady place to sleep, and a 24-hour supply of feed is the definition of hog heaven.
Pigs are strong, though, and smart, and have a lot of time on their hands. Lightweight hog panels tied together with cord and held up with T-posts at the ends and in the middle of each panel are just barely enough to hold them in. We've had mixed results with electric fence, because the dominant pigs will make the low pig on the totem pole rush the fence, and if they get it down, they'll daintily step over the remains and head for parts unknown.
Probably a really good high-tension perimeter fence will hold them in. Or not. I'm curious to hear from my readers about that one. It won't be worth the expense if it doesn't work!
Do You Have Your Credit Card Reader Yet?
Did you accept credit card payments at your last garage sale? I've been using my free Square card reader with my iPhone for a while now, and we accept credit/debit payments at the farmer's market. Square will send you a reader for free, and it works with most tablets and smartphones. No up-front fees, no commitments. The transaction fee is around 3%.
We've been doing the farmer's market since 1996, and one of the biggest barriers to sales is that people run out of cash. And, every year, they carry less cash; people are getting out of the habit. And they're getting out of the habit of carrying their checkbooks around even faster. So if you sell stuff, even just on Craigslist once in a while, you'll want one of these.
Our bedroom has four windows in it, and the Oregon summer days are loooooong, so the room is super bright even with the blinds closed. I finally invested in a sleep mask to see if that helped me sleep between 5:00 AM and the time I actually wanted to get up. It worked! This made a big difference in my energy.
These are my top-selling books from July:
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 readers.
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 lady'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.
August To-Do List
August is a pretty easy month, so far as chickens are concerned. This is just as well, because it's harvest season. Cornish-Cross broilers need to be babied through the heat, otherwise it's about the same as always. If your chickens are on grass range, you may see a decline in product quality as the grass browns off. Chickens can't digest grass that isn't bright green and won't bother eating much of it.
The days are starting to get noticeably shorter. September 1 is the traditional time to turn on the henhouse lights, so this month is a good time to see if the lighting system is still operational. (I don't use lights anymore myself.)
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.
Adventures in Social Media
And if that's not enough, you can use Facebook to stay in touch. If you're on Facebook, friend me and follow my antics.
This newsletter is sent out occasionally by Robert Plamondon to anyone who asks for it. Robert runs Norton Creek Press.
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