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.

Publishing News

In case no one told you, Christmas is coming! (No, really! It is!) And I can’t think of a better gift than a book from Norton Creek Press! Unless it’s more than one book from Norton Creek Press.

  • There’s still time to get my paperback books in time for Christmas, except a couple (Turkey Management and Poultry Production) that list longish shipping delays on Amazon and probably elsewhere.  My ever-increasing list of Kindle editions, being electronic, can be downloaded immediately. Kindle books can be read on almost anything with a screen these days: computers, tablets, smartphones: you name it. You can even read them on a Kindle!
  • Giving Kindle Books. Did you know that you can give a Kindle e-book as a gift? Even as a seriously last-minute gift? Just follow these instructions.

New Kindle Books

I’ve introduced seven(!) new books for the Kindle since last time. In fact, two of these are Kindle-only (no paperback edition). The new books are:

Win a Free Copy of Success With Baby Chicks!

Back when we were just starting out, beginner’s luck ensured that our first batch of baby chicks did very well, but after that things became erratic. At the time, there were no books that spent more than a few pages on caring for baby chicks.

So I did what I always do: I immersed myself in the literature, especially the poultry books and experiment station bulletins from 50-100 years ago, before high-density confinement methods started monopolizing the attention of poultry scientists. This revealed a wealth of hard-to-find information about raising baby chicks. We tested an enormous number of techniques. We discarded the ones that didn’t work and repeated the ones that did.

After a few years, our results became consistently good. What were we doing to ensure our success? I wrote all this up in my book, Success With Baby Chicks, the only book devoted solely to the brooding period.

One thing’s for sure: we weren’t solving the brooding problem by throwing money at it. All our methods are simple, inexpensive, and not even very time-consuming.

Anyway, I’m giving away two copies. To enter, use the following link to enter the giveaway. When you enter, you have a random chance of winning a copy of the book free, gratis, and for nothing. You don’t even pay for shipping. The link expires in a week, so do it now! (You need to have an Amazon account to enter, and it’s one entry per customer.)

Good luck!

And if you don’t win, it’s still worth your while to buy your own copy of Success With Baby Chicks, available in Kindle and paperback editions.

Norton Creek Press Best-Seller List

These are my top-selling books from last month:

  1. Gardening Without Work by Ruth Stout.
  2. Plotto by William Wallace Cook.
  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 only 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 1960. 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.

December Notes

December weather tends to go from bad to worse, with freezing and power outages to keep things interesting. (See one of my  blog posts about winter experiences with free-range birds in open housing.) On the other hand, most people don’t have any baby chicks in the brooder house in December, and adult chickens are relatively tough, so December is something of a low-stakes gamble.

Later in the winter, though, people start brooding their early chicks, so the stakes get higher. If you want to have pullets laying well by the start of a traditional Farmer’s Market season (Memorial Day), you need chicks in January. If you hatch your own eggs, that means incubating eggs in December. Wait, wasn’t winter supposed to be the slow season?

Not to mention that the hatchery catalogs will start arriving right after Christmas, with special low prices on early chicks. As soon as you’ve cleared away the remains of the New Year’s party, you’ll be on fire to start the new season!

December To-Do List

Inspired by a similar list in Jull’s Successful Poultry Management, McGraw-Hill, 1943.

  • Do final winterizing before things get really nasty.
  • Stake down portable houses so they don’t blow away!
  • Get the equipment and coops you don’t use in the winter put away. Remove the tarps from tarp-covered range shelters to ensure they don’t collapse under snow loads.
  • Ensure plenty of liquid water for your chickens in cold weather: keep it from freezing. Warm water is better than cold if you can manage it easily.
  • Give your chickens as much feed as they want. Winter is no time to save money on feed! Keeping warm requires lots of calories.
  • Use artificial lights to maintain the rate of lay and to give the chickens enough light to eat by on those short, dark winter days.
  • Remove wet or caked litter. If you use the deep litter system, toss it into a corner, where it will heat enough to dry out and decake itself in a few days.
  • Clean out brooder houses and make ready for early chicks.
  • Put out rat bait in empty houses (use bait stations and bait blocks: they’re less messy and more foolproof than other methods). Nobody likes using poison, but having rats invade the brooder house is far worse. (Been there, done that.)
  • Get your brooders and incubators ready for the coming season. Lay in spare parts (heat lamps for brooders, thermostats for incubators, etc.)
  • If you have a breeding flock, figure out your matings now. (See Genetics of the Fowl.)
  • Sign up for farming conferences in your area.
  • Sit in front of the fire and read poultry books.

Recent Blog Posts

Here are the new and updated posts on my various blogs since last time:

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 monthly by Robert Plamondon to anyone who asks for it. Robert runs Norton Creek Press.

Norton Creek Press
36475 Norton Creek Road
Blodgett, Oregon 97326

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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