Norton Creek Products

Owner(s):   Karen Black,  Robert Plamondon
Address:   36475 Norton Creek Rd 
Phone:   541-453-5841 
Email:  robert@plamondon.com  
Web site: http://www.plamondon.com/Norton_Creek_Farm.html 

  1. What chicken breed(s) do you raise?  Our layers include Leghorns, California Whites, and California Greys for white eggs, and Red Sex-links, New Hampshires, Barred Rocks, and Black Sex-links. There are a handful of Aracaunas, but they aren't a significant contributor to our egg basket. 
     
  2. Why did you choose those breed(s), and are you satisfied with their performance?  The Leghorns were point-of-lay pullets from a commercial farm who didn't have enough room. Although I prefer California White or Greys for their calmer personality, the Leghorns are excellent layers. Red Sex-links from Privett Hatchery are what we prefer for brown eggs due to their good laying and calm temper. Black Sex-links tend to bite when we collect eggs and are more aggressive amongst themselves; some strains of RI Reds are cannibalistic in the brooder; the New Hamps we have are from Oregon State's flock and aren't particularly commercial-quality layers.
     
  3. Which breed’s eggs did you send in to be tested?  We sent in half brown and half white eggs. Our flocks are not separated by breed. 
     
  4. How many laying hens do you have? 
    Approximately 600 layers. 
     
  5. In what year of laying are the hens?  We have some hens that are three years or older, but most are in their first year.  
     
  6. Approximately how many eggs do they lay per hen, per month? Please include seasonal variations. 
    Our peak is in April — June at around 25 dozen a day. Our low occurs between November and February and runs about 8 dozen a day.  
     
  7. What, if any, measures do you take to extend the egg production season?  We have not seen much benefit to lighting once the rainy season starts. Our feeders and waterers are outdoors, so weather that discourages the hens from going out and eating will depress egg production. We contemplate putting a cover over the area where the feeders are to encourage the hens eating.
     
  8. What kind(s) of supplemental feed do you use? Please be as specific as possible, including the brand name or farm where you get your feed.  We are currently having a high-protein feed milled for us by Union Point Feed in Brownsville, OR. This is available to the hens in range feeders.  We also offer whole grains (corn, wheat or oats) in range feeders, and we scatter grain as scratch feed at egg collection time. Oyster shell is available in pans on pasture.
     
  9. If you have kept confined hens, can you estimate how much less feed hens raised on pasture consume?  I don't think our pasture (mostly fescue and bent grass, with some clover and weeds) contributes much in calories, but it does contribute vitamins.
     
  10.  Tell us about the living and ranging conditions of your hens. For example, what kind of pens do you have? Did you build them yourself? Do you use moveable pens? If so, how often do you move the birds to fresh pasture?  What is the approximate size of the area on which your chickens are free to range and forage on a given day? Are there any specific plants in the pasture that you know your birds eat?  We use a colony system with several 8x8 roost houses and a couple 8x8 nest houses in an electric-fenced pasture of several acres. Hens can range across the whole area, but most of their impact is near the houses. The houses can be moved within the fenced area, which distributes the wear on the pasture. I've noticed that the hens prefer young broadleaf plants, seed heads, and young grass. They don't graze the fescue as much.
     
  11.  How would you characterize the area in which you live—urban, suburban or rural? Are there any local regulations you had to meet to be able to raise chickens?  Rural. There are no restrictions on livestock where we live. 
     
  12.  Have you had problems with predators, and how have you solved them?   
    Predators both large and small are an ongoing problem. Raccoons and coyotes are pretty well deterred by three strands of electric wire at ankle, calf and knee height (though raccoons will test any low spots, so we have to balance keeping the fence low against it shorting out on grass). Bobcats leap higher, and those cats who have made a habit of jumping the fence and taking chickens were snared by the state trapper. We also have to guard against roost mites, which feed on blood and then lay eggs in the houses, in cracks and so on. Non-drying oil helps, but at least once a year we also need to use a miticide in the house and nests.
     
  13.  Do you sell your eggs? If so, where and for how much?  We sell our eggs primarily at the Corvallis Farmer's Markets, at locally-owned stores in Corvallis and McMinnville, and at the Blodgett Country Store. The retail price of our eggs runs from $3.25 for ungraded ("cosmetically challenged" eggs we sell at the Farmer's Market) to $4.25 for Jumbos. These prices vary with season.
     
  14. Can you estimate how much you earn per year, per bird?  We estimate that we get about 15 dozen eggs per hen a year, so we gross about $52 a year; net about $30. 
     
  15. What do you think are the main reasons customers choose your eggs? (flavor, nutrition, more humane conditions, etc.)   
     1. Flavor, 2. Nutrition, 3. Happy hens, 4. Support local farmers
     
  16.  Do you have any notable comments from customers that you can share with us? Are there any customers whose contact information you can give us so we can talk directly with them about why they choose your eggs?  This is what my customers wrote down for me when I asked on Saturday: 

    "Really good eggs. Like the way the chickens are raised."

    "The are fresher and my wife says they taste better."

    "Confidence in nutritional content."

    "I don't trust what might be in conventional eggs."

     "I grew up on a ranch in Australia & I didn't know there was anything else (but free range). They were just eggs!"

    "Best in USA!"

    "Norton Creek eggs taste better than store bought eggs and I know the chickens have a better life than production chickens."

    "Norton Creek eggs have great flavor, raised in a healthy fashion. One knows they are well cared for. Even the [eggs in the] boxes are arranged in pleasing patterns of brown and white!"

    "The flavor and texture of these eggs are the best!"
     
  17.  Many of you have expressed dismay at our using the term “free-range eggs,” because of the way that language has been tarnished by certain producers whose birds really have no access to fresh pasture. Are you aware of any of these “industrial free-range” farms in your area? If so, please provide us with as much information about the producer as possible.  The closest so-called "free range" eggs I know of are in California. Some of the commercial egg farms in the Northwest have been making noise about having "cage free" chickens. We make a point of having pictures of our chickens on pasture for customers to look at. 
     
  18.  Feel free to share any additional comments with us.
     
 




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