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September 29, 2011

Will Incandescent Heat Lamps For Brooding Be Banned, Too?

I am sure you have read that many incandescent lamps have been banned.   But I am also sure many of you use heat lamps for brooding your young birds.  Were incandescent heat lamps banned, too?

In December 2007 the federal government enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act  which requires all general-purpose light bulbs that produce 310–2600 lumens of light (a typical 100 watt incandescent light bulb puts out 1150 lumens) to be 30% more energy efficient starting in 2012. The efficiency standards will start with 100-watt bulbs in January 2012 and end with 40-watt bulbs in January 2014.  As current incandescent light bulbs cannot meet these efficiency standards, they will no longer be sold.

However, light bulbs outside of this range are exempt from the restrictions. Also exempt are several classes of specialty lamps, including appliance lamps, rough service bulbs, 3-way, colored lamps, stage lighting, plant lights.... AND HEAT LAMPS.  There are much more efficient bulbs that can replace the standard incandescent bulb - but there is nothing currently available to replace incandescent heat lamps.

So, don't worry, you will still be able to purchase standard heat lamps for brooding your ducklings and goslings (and chicks, keets and poults) - at least until a more energy efficient alternative is available.  

September 22, 2011

Will Postal Changes Affect Mail Order Hatcheries?

We are extremely dependent on the US Postal Service (USPS) to ship our ducklings and goslings throughout the US.   For large orders going to customers near an airport, it is cost effective to ship air freight.  But for everyone else, the only alternative is the USPS.

The USPS has been losing billions of dollars the past several years due to a variety of factors.  Therefore, they are looking at multiple cost saving measures.  When new rules are being proposed by the USPS, however, hatcheries start to worry.

Following are three major changes coming to the USPS and my estimation of how they might affect mail order hatcheries such as ours.

1) No Saturday Delivery    This has been discussed for quite awhile.  In fact, I went to a Postal Commission Hearing in May of 2010 to present the hatchery concerns - which I reported in my blog.   They are not proposing the closure of Post Offices on Saturday - just that there will be no rural deliveries.  If you did have birds show up on a Saturday, you could still go to the Post Office to pick up your birds.  This is the normal procedure for most customers anyway - they prefer picking their babies up instead of waiting for their mail carrier.  And, as most hatcheries mail on Monday or Tuesday, it would be extremely rare for a shipment to arrive on a Saturday.

2) Closing USPS Distribution Centers   Due to the lower volume of mail, the USPS will be closing many of their mail sorting and distribution centers.  We don't know how this will affect the speed of your delivery.  We mail on Monday and they arrive at your nearest major airport Tuesday afternoon.  From there they go through a distribution center and on to your local post office.   We trust that our ducklings and goslings will still get to you on time.  In fact some of the distribution centers near us have closed.  The effect is that on those busy Mondays when we cannot complete our mailing by 4:00pm, we must take our birds 80 miles instead of 15 miles to the nearest distribution center.  But this is not a big problem.

3) Changing Standards  The USPS has delivery standards (how soon you will get the mailed piece) that they try to meet with all their mail.  There has been recent publicity on the ability of the USPS to save $1.5 billion by delivering the mail one day later than now due to savings in overtime and air shipping expenses.  This was a major concern to hatcheries as our birds must arrive within about 40 hours of mailing.  It would not work if they arrived in 64 hours - one day later.  However, the proposal to add a day in delivery standards was not for Priority Mail, which is what we use for day old birds, but for First Class Mail and Periodicals.  Each of these will take an additional day if the USPS does change their service standards.  The only two classes of mail available to live birds are Priority and Express.  Neither of these are scheduled to change.

So, for now, we appear to be safe.  The changes proposed by the USPS to save money do not appear as if they will affect the safe and quick delivery of your ducklings and goslings  (and chicks, keets and poults).  For more information on the mailing of day-old poultry, go to the Shipping Options page on our website.

September 08, 2011

Sources of Poultry Flooring

In my last blog I wrote how much easier your life will be if you use plastic or wire flooring around the drinkers for your ducks and geese.  I am sure many of you said "That's great, but where do I find this poultry flooring?"  Well, in this blog I have listed a selection of manufacturers.

Unfortunately some of these may have minimums above your needs.  But you never know until you ask!  If you are a manufacturer that is not listed, notify me and I will add your information.

Plastic Flooring
These normally come in pieces that are about 2'x4' or 3'x3'.  Some interlock and some do not.  Some are impregnated with an antimicrobial agent, most are not.  Some are manufactured internationally but have North American distributors.  Some are white and some are colored. Ask if their flooring is appropriate for the age and type of your poultry. 

Gillis Agricultural Systems    Willmar, MN    800-992-8986

Double L Systems        Dyersville, IA     800-553-4102

CanArm    Brockville, ON, Canada    613-342-5424
                  Ogdensburg, NY, USA        800-267-4427   
                     This is the flooring we use in one of our brooder buildings.  It is
                     excellent for ducklings but does not work with goslings as they    
                     catch their hock in the holes.

Southwest Agri Products    Dallas, TX  800-288-9748

Farmer Boy Ag    Myerstown, PA  800-845-3374

Valco    New Holland, PA   717-354-4586    A listing of several Chinese manufacturers

Vencomatic    Calgary, Alberta, Canada  403-241-7692

FarmTek      Dyersville, IA    800-245-9881

Agri of Virginia   Broadway, VA   800-328-6378 

PVC Coated Welded Wire

You can use welded wire that is not covered in plastic, but it will not last as long and may be more abrasive on their feet without the cushioning of the plastic.  There are two ways to galvanize welded wire: before welding (GBW) and after welding (GAW). Before welding looks better but after welding lasts longer.  Ask which you are getting.  The lower the gauge number, the thicker the wire (14 gauge is thicker than 16 gauge).

Wire Cloth Man   Mine Hill, NJ  800-947-3626
                       Houston, TX  800-947-3256
                       St. Petersburg, FL   888-947-3256                        Tulsa, OK    877-947-3626

CE Shephard   Houston, TX    800-324-6733

Riverdale Mills    Northbridge, MA   800-762-6374

Louis E Page, Inc.    Littleton, MA   800-225-0508

Valentine, Inc.     Lemont, IL   800-438-7883 

Gerard Daniel    Hanover, PA   800-232-3332
                            Fontana, CA   800-635-8296

Academy Welded Wire Fence    Orange, NJ   800-427-0854  

Good luck with your flooring changes.  Using wire or plastic flooring in your duck and goose pens around their drinkers will keep the pen much drier and cleaner.  Send us pictures of how you keep your pens dry!

September 02, 2011

How Do I Keep It Dry Around My Duck & Goose Drinkers???

For ducks, water is more than a nutrient.  It is a source of entertainment, a way to keep clean, a method to make eating easier, a way to keep cool in hot weather, an area to mate and a place to find great things to eat.  No wonder they spend so much time near water and make such a mess with it!!!

After speaking to hundreds of duck and goose hobbyists and farmers, problems with water is one of their major concerns.  "How do I provide it to them in the best way possible and how do I prevent a mess?"  It boils down to your drinker/waterer and the flooring around the water source.  I will discuss the different types of waterers in another blog.  For now, let us look at the best flooring around their water source.

No matter the type of waterer you use (bucket, bell waterer, nipples, or automatic float waterer) a slatted or wire floor under the waterer works wonders.  The objective is to not allow your ducks and geese to play in their spilled water.  This prevents mud from spreading throughout the pen, reduces your bedding bill and keeps the birds and their drinking water cleaner.

You can use many different types of flooring.  You want the openings large enough that the water and manure drop through but you want enough surface area that the birds are comfortable walking on it.  In fact, ducks and geese often prefer wire or slat flooring in warm weather as it allows cooler air to circulate below them.  The picture above is our breeder ducks on the wire flooring under their nipple waterers.  Below is a single flooring piece, 5'x10'.

We have great success with PVC coated welded wire flooring.  It is most commonly 1"x1" but we have also used 3/4"x2 1/2" and 1"x2" openings.  The PVC coating greatly extends the life of the wire but is more expensive and often difficult to find.   You want to get as thick of a wire as possible.  Remember that the lower the gauge number, the thicker the wire.  The main advantage of welded wire flooring is that there is very little surface area - any spilled water immediately flows through the flooring and out of reach of the duck or goose.  The only disadvantage of the welded wire is that it eventually rusts and you must repair or replace it before it injures the feet of your birds.  The picture below is the 1/2"x1/2" PVC coated welded wire we use in our smaller brooder room.

There are also many types of plastic flooring made for poultry.  Any of these should work well and they typically have a longer life than wire flooring.  Below is a 2'x4' plastic poultry flooring piece in use and individually.

For our brooder barn, we purchased a very nice flooring.... for ducklings.  Unfortunately the hocks of the geese became caught in the holes from about 3 to 10 days of age.  To prevent this we had to put 1/2" hardware cloth over it.  This is not good as the manure does not drop through easily and quickly builds up on the floor.  But if we only had ducks in there, and no welded wire - it would work great!

Prior to the introduction of plastic flooring, strips of oak were used in the United States.  In Asia, strips of bamboo are used. Below is a picture of a hardwood platform and another  gray plastic flooring we tried that was originally designed for swine.

No matter the type of flooring you choose, you will need to build a frame to hold it.   Normally this is made from 2"x4" lumber.  For extra longevity, use treated lumber.  For our wire platforms, we put a 2x4 support every 12".  Even then, the wire stretches and sags between the 2x4s after a couple of years.

If your waterer is over dirt, dig a pit and place the flooring over your pit.  You want that water to soak into the ground, not flow out from below the flooring into your bedding.   Normally a pit that is 1'-2' deep is sufficient.  If you decide to dig a deeper pit, you should probably build a wooden frame liner to prevent the sides from collapsing.  You only need to line the top 12" of the pit walls.  The picture below shows the pits we built for our new goose pens.  These pits were lined with plastic so the manure would not leach into the soil.

If your pit is lined with plastic or concrete, you will need to be able to pump it out periodically.  We have a manure wagon for our interior and exterior pits.  For smaller operations you can use a simple trash  pump to suck it out and spread it on your used bedding, a pasture or garden area.  If your pit is not lined and you don't have a large number of ducks or geese, it will probably soak into the soil and not require frequent cleaning.

You want to make sure the flooring is wide enough that it catches all the splashed water and manure your ducks and geese generate.  Ours are all five feet wide.

By using wire, plastic or wood flooring under your waterers, you will alleviate one of the biggest problems confronted by duck and goose hobbyists and farmers.  Your life will be much easier - less bedding to spread, fewer dirty eggs, and your ducks and geese will be happier as they will be cleaner and always have fresh water to drink.

Please refer to our blog on sources of poultry flooring, so you can find the flooring you need.

What do you use around your waterers to prevent mud and mess?