Joshua picked up Keeping Chickens: The Essential Guide, because he’s interested in having chickens right away on our homestead. While chickens will not be my main focus, I wanted to have an overview of the topic and so I read this book, too.
First, the book is beautiful. Each page is adorned with full color pictures, showing a wide range of chicken breeds and behaviors. I always appreciate a book that presents its topic in an attractive package, and this one fits that bill.
One of the best features of this book comes early on, with the pictures and descriptions of many different breeds. 44 breeds are covered, giving a overview of each breed that gives the beginning chicken-keeper a great start in choosing compatible breeds. Joshua especially liked that each breed was categorized by layer vs table or both, plus a description of whether that particular bird was light or heavy.
I enjoyed the information that was fun and useful for a complete chicken newbie, such as the fun fact that chicken ear color determines egg shell color. Plus, the full tale is provided on egg producing biology and anatomy.
Some of the basic chapters seem very comprehensive and pack in a lot of information. For example, the Housing & Cleaning chapter covers many topics such as space requirements, different types of housing, types of bedding, runs and fencing and also cleaning concerns such as developing a cleaning routine and maintenance of the house and run.
There’s a whole chapter on food and water for chickens, covering different breed needs, types of food, and info on food containers and storage.
The chapter on health issues seems very comprehensive, including info on colds, crop-bound birds, egg-eating, feather pecking, fleas, mites, lice, prolapse, and worms, as well as serious illnesses such like aspergillosis, avian influenza, and coccidiosis, amongst others.
The last 18 pages are devoted to egg and feather related crafts and egg recipes. Joshua found this section uninteresting and non-useful, taking up too much room in the book. I, on the other hand, really enjoyed looking at the different craft options, especially.
Joshua also felt that the book gave equal time to raising food birds versus pets versus show birds, limiting its usefulness for him, as he only intends to raise chickens for food. I didn’t read that as a serious issue with the book, since so many of the topics overlap. Whether the chickens are pets, food, or raised to win ribbons, their food, housing, and medical needs are the same.
Overall, Keeping Chickens: The Essential Guide was an enjoyable book giving a nice overview of the topic of keeping chickens.