I grew up a big-city gal, so when I moved to Humboldt County to go to college, I was amazed to find a field of cows just outside the backyard of my apartment complex. Passing by each day, I’d watch them grazing with an odd sense of unreality. Cows! Right there in town! With their fuzzy heads and big wet noses, they charmed me, and all these years later that feeling of awe has never left.
So when I moved into my very own home, one of my dearest ambitions was to keep a backyard flock of chickens. I mean, cows were obviously not on, but chickens seemed doable! I could even hear evidence of ducks and chickens in the neighborhood, so I felt in good company as I brought home my first two laying hens.
However, after getting them home, I had no clue what to do. Food and water, yes, but do people let them out all day? Would they get along with my cat? Why do they sell oyster shells, and if the chickens like scratch so much, why can’t I just feed them that and make them happy?
Then, never having tasted fresh eggs, I was alarmed at the slightest inconsistency in them – differing shapes, yolk colors, occasional spots in them. I had no idea what was normal, and all of my city friends were chuckling about my new adventure and were no help at all!
This is where I wish I’d had a partner to get me started in my chicken adventures. Gail Damerow‘s new book The Chicken Encyclopedia is just that kind of guide. While I’d generally think of an encyclopedia as a reference book, the life-like color illustrations in this book kept me rapt, turning pages and learning all of the mysteries of chicken-keeping that I wish I’d known years ago.
Did you know you can keep a chicken as an indoor pet? And that you can hypnotize your ladies with a simple series of steps (Damerow shares a whopping seven methods)? There are tips on egg storage (important when you have an abundance of them) and a chart on the things that influence yolk color (blueberry pancakes, of course, are the chief culprit of a greenish scrambled egg).
Then, there are the things you might have wished you’d known before you selected your breeds and brought them home. There’s a chart on page 91 which shares the approximate output of droppings for different weight classes of chicken. Had I realized that bantams only create 30 pounds of fresh droppings per year, while my golden sexlinks produce 120 pounds, I would have given much more careful consideration to a nice flock of banties!
Whether you’re experienced with keeping hens or just now starting to consider keeping your own backyard flock, The Chicken Encyclopedia’s a great way of learning the odd tips and tricks that you could otherwise learn only from many conversations with more experienced keepers of hens.
Want to read it yourself? Storey has offered up a copy of the book to one lucky reader! Leave a comment for your chance to win. I’ll pick a winner at random on Tuesday the 27th. US only. Congrats to our winner, Janetta!
To read more reviews, visit the rest of the people participating in the blog launch party for this book:
3/5 Common Weeder
3/7 Garden Rant
3/8 Fresh Eggs Daily
3/10 Coop Thoughts
3/11 BoHo Farm and Home
3/13 A Charlotte Garden
3/14 Farm Fresh Fun
3/15 The HenCam