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Scientists with Ohio State University are studying the feasibility of incorporating “naked oats” (also called hull-less oats) into organic farming rotations to cut the cost of producing organic chicken.

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On the first Friday of every month, MOFGA hosts its “Common Ground” radio show on WERU. I was on that show in April discussing backyard chickens. The information below follows up on a couple of interesting questions that callers asked.

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This summer I got many calls from chicken owners about ectoparasites. These pests are rarely problematic in the summer when birds have access to the outside, with sunshine and many places to dust bathe. However, folks in other New England states had the same comments this year. The cause is a mystery, although the wet weather may be one explanation.

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Minnie Rose Lovgreen’s Recipe for Raising ChickensIn 1912, Minnie Rose Lovgreen set out to sail across the Atlantic on the Titanic. The ship was late departing, so the impatient Britain boarded another ship – and arrived safely in Montreal. Lovgreen ended up on Bainbridge Island, Washington, where she was a dairy farmer with her husband, and where she raised and closely observed chickens.

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Hops contain substances that control pathogenic bacteria in the intestines of chickens, say Agricultural Research Service (ARS) personnel. Certain bacteria in the intestines of chickens can contaminate meat during processing and may pose major production losses by causing disease in broiler chickens.

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MOFGA Poultry TractorChicken tractors were so well represented at the Common Ground Country Fair that anyone with even a small patch of yard could go home knowing how to raise a couple of laying hens or a small flock of meat birds.

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Cooperative Poultry Processors, COOPP, became a licensed, Maine State-Inspected poultry processing facility on October 15, 2007, and it plans to be certified-organic by MOFGA Certification Services LLC for the 2008 season. The facility is housed in a 42-foot refrigerated trailer at Snafu Acres farm, 259 Tillson Rd. in Monmouth. Snafu Acres is an organic dairy farm and raises natural poultry, llamas and swine.

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At the 2006 Farmer to Farmer Conference in Bar Harbor, Michael Darre of the University of Connecticut (and Extension Poultry Specialist for New England) and Ted Sparrow of Sparrow Farm in Gardiner, Maine, talked about poultry flock management and profitability. Sparrow and his wife, Karen, keep 200-plus layers to complement their market vegetable and cranberry farm in Gardiner.

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The University of Maine Cooperative Extension (UMCE), in partnership with the Maine Department of Agriculture, has published “Safe Disposal of Backyard Poultry Mortalities,” a bulletin with instructions for composting dead poultry safely.

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Cooperative Poultry Producers (COOPP) has received a $30,000 Agricultural Development Fund grant from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources to study the feasibility of developing a cooperatively owned, State inspected poultry processing facility. COOPP has hired the Cooperative Development Institute of Massachusetts to implement the project.

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Poultry Your Way, a free, 124-page book from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, provides an overview of poultry production systems for meat and eggs, including breed selection, marketing and processing alternatives.

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The USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has a free, 15-minute video to help small-flock poultry owners and bird fanciers prevent exotic Newcastle disease (END) and avian influenza.

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Research by Mother Earth News magazine, released in July 2005, compared eggs from four free-range flocks with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for eggs from confinement production systems. Those from free-range chickens had up to twice as much vitamin E, up to six times more beta carotene (a form of vitamin A) and four times more essential omega-3 fatty acids.

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Way back in the Sept.-Nov. 2002 issue of The MOF&G, you featured an article about my homemade Whizbang Chicken Plucker and the planbook I wrote titled, Anyone Can Build a Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker.

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Many natural barriers help prevent bacteria from entering eggs. The “bloom” or “cuticle,” a gelatinous covering that dries after the egg emerges from the hen, helps seal the pores in the shell, reducing moisture loss and bacterial penetration. The many egg membranes also help prevent the passage of bacteria.

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The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy conducted a census of turkeys in the winter of 2002-2003. The results are encouraging – and concerning. Populations of standard varieties of turkeys are increasing, but the number of hatcheries actually breeding standard turkeys is declining. While standard turkeys are being brought back from the brink of extinction, they are not yet safe from peril.

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Toki Oshima drawingFeed is the most expensive portion of the cost of raising chickens, and this expense is magnified by the fact that most folks feed a ground mash or pellet that is formulated and produced by a feed company. In an attempt to reduce this cost, you can feed laying hens and meat birds, including young birds, whole grains, either as their entire diet or to supplement purchased feed.

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Narragansett turkeyDuring 1996 and 1997, the seasonal poultry hatcheries in the United States were surveyed in cooperation with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) to determine the status of the non-commercial varieties of domestic turkey. Why worry about turkeys? There is certainly no shortage of these breasty birds in your local supermarket during the holiday period – or nearly any time of the year, for that matter. But are these holiday turkeys produced from a broad genetic background as their numbers would indicate? Probably not.

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MOFGA Chicken TractorRaising broiler chicks on pasture can be profitable, and can require few inputs. The system involves purchasing day-old broiler chicks (meat type birds) in late May or June, keeping them in a brooder for three weeks, where they receive ample heat, fresh air, feed and water; then transferring the birds to portable hoop houses, where they have access to pasture and are given some grain and fresh water daily.

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Bob HawesBob Hawes, retired University of Maine professor of animal science, talked about laying hens at MOFGA's Small Farm Field Day last August. He said that three groups of hens are available for egg production. The commercial crosses are crosses between two breeds.

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A new electrostatic air cleaning system reduced airborne Salmonella by 94 percent in a commercial hatchery in Georgia recently, according to Agricultural Research Service scientists who developed the system.

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Popular Science magazine named a new commercial product from the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) as one of its “100 Best of What’s New for 1998” products. Scientists from ARS developed the product to reduce Salmonella contamination in chickens. It was subsequently licensed by MS BioScience in Madison, Wisconsin, and is sold as PREEMPT.

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Garlic may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of air fresheners, but Clemson University scientists are finding that it works like a charm in poultry houses … and may even lower the cholesterol in eggs.

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Johan van Achterberg, a farmer in Easton, Connecticut, worried every time he and his wife went out in the evening. Would an animal get into the hen house and decimate his layers before he got home? Even when he stayed home, he would find himself waking up in the small hours and saying, “Barbara, did you lock up the chickens tonight? I don’t remember doing it.” Then he would sigh, throw on some clothes, and trudge out through the cold night air to the chicken house just to make sure.

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