Your Chickens in December [2014 Newsletter]

Ice Storm, Winter Chicken Care, and More: Robert Plamondon’s Poultry Newsletter December, 2014.

Ice Storm, Winter Chicken Care, and More

Robert Plamondon’s Poultry Newsletter
December, 2014

Sleep Well or Else!

I never got a November newsletter out. I’d been feeling increasingly tired, even exhausted, and I dragged myself to the doctor (Dr. Curtis Black at Philomath Family Medicine: he’s good), and got referred to Dr. Mark Reploeg at the Sleep Medicine unit of the Corvallis Clinic (he’s good, too), and … sleep apnea. Well, that would explain it! So I’m being treated and my energy is gradually returning to normal. I blog about this experience here.

Ice Storm

The dry fall ended and we got some rain, and then we got an ice storm, with temperatures hovering right around freezing and ice accumulating thickly on the trees, some of which hadn’t lost their leaves yet. Our power was out for over three days.

During the first evening, I stood on the front porch with a cup of coffee in my hands and listened to the sound of branches trees falling nearby. Crack! Thud! Repeat! It made me glad I live near a forest and not in one.

In the morning we found our mailbox smashed by a fallen limb, and the power wires down between our house and barn.


The chickens are all fine, with no damage to any of our rather flimsy chicken houses. The electrician fixed the downed wire with no problem, we got a new mailbox, and all is well.

Which is better than I can say for the neighboring forests. Plenty of limbs and big trees fell, including ready-to-harvest Douglas Firs. And a lot of medium-sized conifers lost their tops: the top ten or 20 feet of the trees bowed under the accumulated ice and then broke off. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Other notes:

  • Our Honda generator started on the first pull. This always amazes me! It had been sitting unused for a year, and we didn’t prep it for storage, we just closed the fuel valve while it was running, and let it run until the carburetor was empty and it stopped.
  • Several of the UPS systems we use for our computers (and even our TV) had disappointing battery performance, and I’m in the process of replacing some batteries.  I recommend APC Smart-UPS systems because they’re more generator-friendly than most, and are available with big batteries. I never buy them new anymore, since the units seem to last forever if you replace the batteries when they die. You can get used ones with dead batteries cheap on Craigslist, then replace the batteries, or you can buy refurbished units with new batteries over the Internet.
  • We ran low on seasoned firewood. Sigh.

Another Web Site (or Two)

As some of you know, I got interested in hypnosis after using self-hypnosis to eliminate my insomnia. My dad also taught me a couple of simple self-hypnotic self-help techniques when I was a child, especially to get through dental visits (dentistry used to be a lot less pleasant than it is now). So I took a full training course in hypnotherapy (and then two more), and opened a part-time practice in Corvallis: Robert Plamondon Hypnosis. Which has been a pretty cool experience.

But my newest site is for alternative/unlicensed practitioners in Oregon who want to do things legally and ethically, and also not run afoul of the sometimes-bizarre obstacles that the State of Oregon puts in our path.

The State of Oregon has chosen not to license a wide range of alternative and not-so-alternative practices (because it’s Oregon, that’s why). So there are broad exemptions, but also some rules, and the rules are more or less hidden, leaving people open to some nasty surprises. I had to do an amazing amount of digging to unearth even the basics.  This surprised me, because the other branches of the state government are super helpful and do all kinds of outreach.

Anyway, the new site is, and it sets forth the basics as I currently understand them, aimed mostly at the hypnotherapist/counselor/life-coach/NLP practitioner  end of things, which is the part I have some kind of grasp on.

Winter Care

I’ve written about winter chicken care many times before, so let me offer you just a few highlights and then a list of links:

  • Egg production falls dramatically when daytime highs fall below freezing.
  • Chickens are much more cold-tolerant if they are dry and out of the wind. They’ll get frostbitten combs and other problems not much below freezing in damp houses, but I’m told they hold up pretty well until about -20 F if they’re dry.
  • Chickens that roost in evergreens over the winter will have a wonderful time but won’t lay any eggs.
  • Egg production will fall after an interruption in water that lasts a day or longer, so keep it flowing! Other shocks (running out of feed, horrible weather) will also cause slumps in egg production.
  • Egg production will likely start climbing around New Year’s Day.

Here are links to past articles on winter care:

Norton Creek Press Best-Seller List

Christmas is coming! And the baby chick catalogs always arrive right on the heels of the holiday season, getting everyone fired up about the coming poultry year, so now is a great time to give books to everyone you know who likes chickens (or gardening: Gardening Without Work is a fun book).

These are my top-selling books from last month:

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


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 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.

Recent Blog Posts

Here are my posts since last time:

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 hatching eggs in December. Slow season? 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. By January, 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.
  • Ensure plenty of liquid water for your chickens in cold weather. 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 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.
  • Sign up for farming conferences in your area.
  • Sit in front of the fire and read poultry books.

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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