Your Chickens in January, 2017 [Newsletter]

chickens in range houses and snowNews from the Farm

  • Happy New Year! We’ve been having unusual cold this winter. Not record-breaking, but with more cold and snow than usual: many days with snow on the ground and temperatures down to 17 °F or so. That counts as cold by Western Oregon standards.
  • Before the cold set in, we took our last two pigs to the Woodburn Auction Yard. While selling pastured pigs at auction is no way to make money, it cuts our losses. (We raised a record eight pigs and sold six to our customers.)
  • Around here, the nastiest weather and the biggest chance of power outages happens between December 15 and the end of January, so we tend to take it easy this time of year. We’ll be brooding more and more baby chicks in a little while.
  • The chickens are holding up well. They don’t mind this kind of weather if they can stay dry, stay out of the wind, and have plenty of feed and water. Of these, the water is proving the most troublesome, since our pasture watering system is mostly just endless lengths of easily frozen garden hose.

Farmers’ Markets? In Winter?

Our local Corvallis Indoor Winter Market has been highly successful. It’s been operating for more than a dozen years and gets bigger every year.

How do you do an indoor winter market? Not by importing produce from sunnier climes! In January, local producers have root vegetables, nuts, eggs, poultry, cheese, meat, baked goods, honey, and other products. And soon the local greenhouses will provide flowers, early vegetables, and vegetable starts. Winter markets are apparently still unusual, but they can probably be duplicated anywhere. Ours gets positively mobbed!

The Corvallis Indoo r Winter Market runs every Saturday from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM from January 14 through April 8.

Publishing News

Win a Free Copy of Genetics of the Fowl!

Genetics of the Fowl is everyone’s favorite chicken genetics book, much more readable than most genetics texts, and written for people who aren’t geneticists, but poultrykeepers. But it’s a big book, which makes it sorta pricey. So let’s give a couple of copies away this week!

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 ent ry per customer.)

Good luck! And may the odds be ever in your favor.

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. A Thousand Miles Up The Nile by Amelia B. Edwards.
  4. Genetics of the Fowl by F. B. Hutt.
  5. Gold in the Grass by Margaret Leatherbarrow.

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.

January, Already?

January’s not so bad. No, seriously! (If you keep rolling your eyes like that, they might fall out.) The hatcheries send out their catalogs in January, which is always fun, with early-bird discounts to tempt you to place your orders early. (Hint: the discount is often for ordering early, even if you select a much later delivery date.)

And we’ll tend to look good for the next few months because egg production starts increasing as soon as the days start getting longer, in spite of the nasty weather.

If you sell eggs at the farmer’s market, chicks hatched in January will start laying sometime around Memorial Day, the traditional start of the season. If the thought of brooding January chicks appalls you, you should read the winter brooding tips in my book, Success With Baby Chicks. January brooding is perfectly practical, and I spend quite a bit of time in the book showing you how.

January To-Do List

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

  • Take stock of your chickens, housing, and equipment. What do you have? What do you need for the coming season?
  • Clean up your brooder houses before you even order baby chicks.
  • Clean, repair, and install brooders. If you use heat lamps, inspect the sockets and the bulbs, since both tend to burn out over time
  • Purchase brooding equipment if necessary: brooders, feeders, waterers, etc.
  • Decide what records to keep during the coming year.
  • Look at last year’s records before you invest in this year’s project.
  • Continue using artificial lights on hens if you already are, but don’t bother starting them now if you aren’t. (Traditional usage is to use 14 hours of light, between September 1 and April 1.)
  • Deal with damp or dirty litter. If you heap up soggy or yucky litter, it will drain and start to compost, and it will be ready to spread out again in a few days.
  • Keep waterers from freezing. Chickens prefer warm drinking water in cold weather, and it takes longer to freeze.
  • Always give chickens as much feed as they want during the winter, when they need extra calories to stay warm.

More Winter Chicken Care Tips

Here are links to p ast articles on winter care:

Adventures in Social Media

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

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.

2 thoughts on “Your Chickens in January, 2017 [Newsletter]”

  1. Hi Robert,
    My name is Dave, my wife and I are starting a small poultry farm and have read your books and your blog. Thank you for sharing!

    I am putting together some projections and wonder if you would mind looking at the numbers and see if they seem realistic?

    We’re looking at $2.50 per chick

    Calculating 15 pounds of feed per chick until they come into lay

    A quarter pound of feed plus fresh pasture
    A day there after, for 18 months

    We figured fuel costs

    We’re looking at .36-.40 cents for eggs cartons. Any thoughts on reusing cartons? Health issues or insurance issues?

    This is all separate from infrastructure set up, but am I missing anything?

    We’re figuring 375 eggs per hen over 18 month laying period. Considering some lighting in winter.

    I saw you mentioned privett Hatchery about the slow growing meat birds. Have you delt with them? I have had a hard time getting and solid info from them, and mostly get grief. There are also alot of bad reviews. We might need to deal with them to sell at our farmers market.

    I’m sure you’re busy, thanks for your time


    1. Dave,

      Thanks for writing!

      Let’s see … you’re close to what I’d guess. My rule of thumb is 100 pounds of feed per hen per year. That’s 0.274 pounds of feed per day. You estimated 0.25.

      A chick starts out eating practically nothing and eats as much as a full-grown hen at point of lay, so let’s call that an average of half a hen. It takes about six months for a pullet to be in full lay, and that’s half a year, so half a hen times half a year is a quarter of a hen-year, which means I’d call it 25 pounds of feed. (You estimated 15. Most of the difference is where you place the cutoff between “chick” and “hen.”)

      You’re estimating $2.50 per chick. Privett Hatchery’s rate for pullets of the breeds we buy is $2.55 if you buy them by the hundred, as we do. You estimated $2.50.

      Your egg carton rate seems about right based on the last rates I remember. A lot depends on shipping costs. Used cartons are great when selling face-to-face. If customers are shopping in a grocery store, they won’t buy things in shopworn packaging. Thus, the eggs we send to stores are in new cartons, and the ones we sell at farmer’s markets are (often) in used cartons. Customers love to offload their cartons on us, so we have a never-ending supply. (Don’t inspect the cartons in their presence; say “thank you” and discard the dirty/stained/worn out ones later.) Oregon specifically allows used cartons. Some states don’t.

      We buy from Privett all the time. On the whole, when dealing with hatcheries, ask to talk to the hatchery manager with real questions: the people answering the phones often don’t know much.

      I can’t recommend anyone’s slow-growing broilers. We’ve tried it several ways, and we’ve always lost our shirt. What little market there is for tough, undersized chickens is better served by spent hens!

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