Your Chickens in April [Newsletter]

We’re into the best time of year … spring! The weather’s getting nicer and our outdoor farmers’ market opens in less than two weeks, so we’re busy as can be, and loving it.

News from the Farm

At this time of year, our brooder houses are are full to capacity, with three batches of chicks in the brooder houses at the same time (one batch of pullets, two of broilers). And we’ll soon have to make room for goslings and turkey poults. Our first batches of broilers and pullets are headed out to pasture, and we’re refurbishing houses for them, and even building a new nesting house in anticipation of record egg production.

For the first time ever, we have chicks flying out of one of the sections of our brooder house, which has wire partitions that don’t quite go up to the ceiling. These are, of course, a Leghorn-type breed: California Whites: light, active, and surprisingly good fliers. They’ll have plenty of room to be active in when we get them out onto pasture later this week.

We’ve also entered the period of unbelievably rapid grass growth, where the pasture attempts not just to short out the electric fencing, but to eat the fences like Charlie Brown’s kite-eating tree. Separating the fence from the greedy pasture plants can be surprisingly difficult once the plants have really taken hold, but so far we’re doing a good job staying on top of things, mowing the area next to the fence and shifting the fence onto the mowed area. This is where step-in fence posts really shine.

Spring also renews the hens’ interest in foraging far and wide. They were staying closer to the chicken houses until a couple of weeks ago.

And, thankfully, we seem to have exited the mud season. Given Oregon’s dry summers, we shouldn’t have to worry about mud or standing water until mid-October or even November.

Publishing News: eBooks!

On the publishing front, I’m (finally?) offering some of my Norton Creek Press books as eBooks!

Amazon Kindle

  • Gardening Without Work by Ruth Stout, with a retail price of $12.49, or just $2.99 for those who bought the paperback from Amazon.
  • My science fiction novel, One Survivor, with a retail price of $5.99, or $0.99 for those who bought the paperback from Amazon, or free for subscribers to Kindle Unlimited.

Google Play Books

Unlike my Kindle books, my eBooks on Google Play Books are reproductions of the paperback: that is, they’re PDF files and are best read on devices that are tablet-size and up.

Fun fact: Search engines don’t index the contents of books on anymore, so it’s hard for readers to discover books that contain specialized phrases. If you search for “I lay there on my couch and suffered,” a caption from Gardening Without Work, you won’t find’s entry, but you’ll find Google Play Books’. Which is why I’m putting books onto the otherwise lackluster Google Play platform first. Once on the Google Play Books site, you can click through to the bookstore of your choice, so this works even if you never buy books from Google Play.

My Google Play Books are:

April Notes

Spring is here, and it feels great! For most of us, the worst problem is our tendency to bite off more than we can chew. So as you plunge joyously into far too many projects, remember to do your chores in a “youngest-first” order—that is, take care of baby chicks first, then your older birds, and the same for your other livestock. The tenderest critters need to be squared away completely, every day, without fail. The rest can put up with a few not-enough-hours-in-the-day delays.

The standard to-do list for April is:

  • Brood chicks! (In the old days, April and May were the big baby-chick months. Here in Oregon, this has switched to March for some reason, but it’s easier in April and May.)
  • Hatch baby chicks. (If you incubate chicks, now’s the time.)
  • Spread winter poultry manure. Don’t let manure accumulate until the end of the growing season: put it where it can do some good. (Poultry manure works great if you spread it directly on pasture. Composting is often unnecessary.)
  • Replace winter litter, which may be pretty nasty by now. (If you’re using the deep litter method, skim off a fraction of the litter if it’s getting too deep, and add some fresh litter.)
  • Give growing birds more room. They grow fast, and crowding leads to every kind of problem, often several at once.
  • Stop using lights on hens. (April 1 is the traditional date to turn off the lights; September 1 is the traditional date to turn them back on)
  • Provide more ventilation for comfort.
  • Remove wet or soiled litter.

List inspired by a similar one in Jull’s Successful Poultry Management, McGraw-Hill, 1943.

Norton Creek Press Best-Seller List

These are my top-selling books from last month:

  1. Gardening Without Work by Ruth Stout.
  2. Success With Baby Chicks by Robert Plamondon.
  3. Genetics of the Fowl by F. B. Hutt.
  4. Fresh-Air Poultry Houses by Prince T. Woods, M.D.
  5. Feeding Poultry by G. F. Heuser.

All of these are fine books (I publish books I believe in). If you’re like most readers of this newsletter, you’ll enjoy starting with Fresh-Air Poultry Houses and Success With Baby Chicks. These cover the basics of healthy, odor-free, high-quality chicken housing and zero-mortality chick brooding, respectively, and get good reviews.

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 NileSee my complete list of titles.

Recent Blog Posts

Here are some posts since last time, from my various blogs:

Adventures in Social Media

And if that’s not enough, you can use social media to stay up to date:

This newsletter is sent out occasionally by Robert Plamondon to anyone who asks for it. Robert runs Norton Creek Press.

I Publish Books! Norton Creek Press

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?

I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this issue. Most of my posts are based on input from people like you, so leave a comment below!

Author: Robert Plamondon

Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, is an expert on free-range chickens, and is a semi-struggling novelist. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years. In addition, he holds down a day job doing technical writing at Workspot.

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