The best chicken book I’ve ever read

Nov 14 2012 0 Comments Tags: book, chickens

About a year ago now I bought a copy of the best chicken book I have ever read.  Its taken me that long to read it properly, I’ve read it three times now, in between reading other books, just to be sure that I got everything, because there’s just so much information, its easy to miss something on the first or second reads!


The best chicken book that I’ve ever read is The Small-Scale Poultry Flock, by HarveyUssery (Affiliate link).  Harvey has years of experience with a whole range of poultry, but the thing that makes this book the best I’ve read is the way that he explains how to integrate a flock into a garden or farm system.  So many chicken books start off by going through all the breeds, tell how to house and feed them in a little cage and collect the eggs etc, its all just the same simple information regurgitated.  This book tells you how to get the most out of your chickens, whether you’re keeping them for meat or eggs, how to also put them to work in the garden and how to grow food to feed them, how to raise chicks and how to encourage broody behaviour, how to manage roosters and finally how to butcher a chicken.  It covers all the practical aspects of chicken-keeping to help make it a more economical and enjoyable activity.  They are not just pets in the corner of the back yard, they are workers on the farm or in the garden, if you let them, and they can provide much of their food for themselves.


Here’s some of the things that really got me thinking:

  • If chickens are allowed to free range, they should be able to find much of their food by foraging – we now try to let the chickens out to free-range as often as possible to cut down on food costs.  Previously they only got let out each afternoon for a couple of hours, now as long as they are good and lay their eggs in their nest box (and not in a location of their own choosing), they are allowed out all day (the killer kelpie dogs have been warned, so far so good).

  • We don’t have to rely on meat meal or soy to boost protein in feed over winter, we can produce our own protein in the form of worms or fly larvae.  I have started a worm farm (also to eventually feed aquaponics fish), but I think its going to need to get bigger.

  • Chicken scratching can be used for good instead of evil destructiveness!  Chicken power can be harnessed in the garden by moving chicken “tractors” over garden beds to dig in cover crops, simultaneously feeding the chickens and the soil.  This similar to the ideas in Linda Woodrow’s permaculture book.  I haven’t tried this yet as our tractors are too large, but we can certainly see the results of them feeding the pasture as we move them along.

  • How to use “feather nets” – while there is much in this book about chicken housing that does not apply to my climate (not having a snowy winter), the information about feather nets is invaluable.  Feather nets are a special type of electric fencing that is used to keep birds in and predators out.  Its also used by Joel Salatin in his free range egg production system.  We don’t have any feather net yet, but are planning to get some when we get a larger flock.

  • Roosters can be kept together as long as one is dominant and the others are submissive.  We have had problems with dominant roosters fighting each other in the past, they are so stupid, they will fight to the death if allowed to continue.  This year I kept one White Leghorn rooster from the hatch of chicks and our older Rhode Island Red rooster has not tried to fight him, even though he has tried to fight every other rooster that we’ve owned!  I hope that they will continue to live in harmony, it will be an interesting experiment.

  • I really enjoyed the chapter on chicken health, it aligned with my current thinking on animal and human health.  Chickens are inherently healthy and shouldn’t need constant doses of chemicals or drugs.  Unfortunately sometimes even Harvey has chickens that JDD (Just Drop Dead), which also happens to our chickens occasionally, despite best efforts to keep them healthy!

  • Roosters do have nuts!  This book includes a really detailed section on chicken butchering, and on careful reading I discovered that roosters do have testicles. 

The only thing that I found missing from the book was detail about incubating eggs.  There is only two or three pages on incubators, with far more space devoted to both ordering chicks and hatching with broody hens.  This did get me thinking more about the advantages of using broodies.  However, we’ve already invested in incubators, so I also wanted to know how to get the best results from an incubator.



Although some of the details were not relevant for my climate or country, the majority of the book was very useful.  Not just the information itself, but the philosophy of using chickens as part of the farm.  Its also nice to see a book that’s not about showing chickens.  The show chicken movement has much to answer for, being responsible for the loss of laying and meat attributes in heritage breeds, so much that we virtually have to start again to develop birds suitable for small farms.  This book is for the anyone who wants to get more out of their chickens and reduce their chicken costs.


Do you have a favourite chicken book?  Or a favourite chicken? :)





By the way, my chicken eBook is now available if you want to know more about backyard chickens and using chicken tractors.  More information over at the chicken tractor ebook blog.  Or you can get it directly from my shop on Etsy (.pdf format), or Amazon Kindle or just send me an email eight.acres.liz {at} gmail.com.




What's the eBook about?
Chickens in a confined coop can end up living in an unpleasant dust-bowl, but allowing chickens to free-range can result in chickens getting into gardens and expose them to predators.

 A movable cage or “chicken tractor” is the best of both options – the chickens are safe, have access to clean grass, fresh air and bugs. Feed costs are reduced, chickens are happier, and egg production increases. 

 But how do you build a chicken tractor? What aspects should be considered in designing and using a chicken tractor effectively? In this eBook I aim to explain how to make a chicken tractor work for you in your environment to meet your goals for keeping chickens. 

I also list what I have learnt over 10 years of keeping chickens in tractors of various designs and sizes, from hatching chicks, through to butchering roosters.


Reviews of the Design and Use a Chicken Tractor




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