Saturday, November 26, 2011

Books for Christmas

2011 has been a great year for chicken books! For the chicken lover on your list, or to help those who want to get you something you will enjoy, here are some of the excellent books that were published this year:

Of course, that's assuming that you already have my books, How to Raise Chickens and How to Raise Poultry. If you buy them through my site, I'm happy to inscribe them for you. Email me to let me know how you want the greeting to read. Free shipping through Christmas!

Pat Foreman's City Chicks comes first to hand, since she's currently on book tour throughout the West. The subtitle explains her goal: Keeping Micro-Flocks of Laying Hens as Garden Helpers, Compost Makers, Bio-recyclers and Local Food Suppliers. Pat has put her life's experience with chickens into this solid volume. It's a handbook for keeping a few hens in the backyard for suburban and urban enthusiasts. It' s comprehensive in advice and information but includes much more, such as Seven Outrageous Chicken Tricks. Novices will get a new perspective on chickens as their partners in gardening as well as the information to succeed. Pat's warmth and good humor come through.

Kelly Klober's informative reminiscence, Talking Chicken, is like spending time with Kelly on the porch. It's filled with solid husbandry information as well as background on traditional breeds. Every backyard flock of hens is one less customer for the egg industry, but hybrid egg breeds are an extension of that industry. Traditional breeds are gaining attention and support and Kelly's expertise is invaluable. A book focusing on husbandry of heritage breeds might have been considered too narrow a few years ago. Acres USA has done chickens a service by publishing Kelly's book.

Harvey Ussery's long-awaited Small-Scale Poultry Flock appeared this year. Harvey's been a dedicated contributor to Backyard Poultry magazine over the years. He takes on the practical challenges of poultry keeping and reports his experience in improving on husbandry and business. He's thoughtful and devoted to the idea that a small homestead can produce a good living and a great life. He's living that life and shares his knowledge and experiences in this collection. His book is unique in many respects, including the series of color photos showing how to butcher your birds. Not gory! Harvey's also an advocate for traditional breeds.

Andy Schneider has made a name for himself as the Chicken Whisperer. Pat Foreman is his co-host on a daily radio broadcast, on which I an a guest once a month. Andy partnered with Brigid McCrea to present a book of chicken basics, The Chicken Whisperer's Guide to Keeping Chickens. Lots of colorful pictures make it a welcome introduction to chicken keeping. Series 1 of his Chicken Collector Cards is available, too. Great stocking stuffer for kids, conversation piece for holiday parties.

Apart from the practical advice books, Susan Merrill Squier has applied herself to the interface between chickens and humans and written Poultry Science, Chicken Culture: A Partial Alphabet. Squier is a professor of women's studies and English at Penn State. Her attention was turned to the chickens she kept in her backyard the past seven years and she has written about how humans deal with the blessings chickens bring into our lives, how we include them in plays and films, how we have brought scientific knowledge to bear on reshaping them to serve our industrial food system and what that means for our lives. It's a fascinating book but not a casual read. The thoughtful and dedicated chicken lover will appreciate this unusual work.

No book list would be complete without Jerome D. Belanger's Complete Idiot's Guide to Raising Chickens. His background of writing and publishing Countryside magazine for more than 30 years gives him insight into the rural lifestyle and enriches his book on chicken basics. Backyard Poultry magazine also collected articles from the magazine into an anthology, For the Love of Poultry. Harvey Ussery appears many times in these pages, as do I and many other poultry writers. Even those who have saved every issue will enjoy this compilation in one convenient volume.

The American Poultry Association brought out its new edition of the Standard of Perfection this year. This is an invaluable reference that every breeder relies on, so your chicken person may already have a copy. A copy of the color edition would be an appreciated addition. Diane Jacky's portraits are beautiful. Reproduction is on shiny paper, to capture the colors. A few copies of the special Limited Edition may still be available. They occasionally show up on eBay. Keep it in mind.

For the bantam exhibition fancier, consider Pat Lacey published her history of the American Bantam Association, All Cooped Up, in 2010. This is a valuable reference and historical document. Her careful research and knowledge of the events that influenced the ABA answers questions a bout who did what when and how the ABA became the significant organization it is today. As a historian myself, I'm grateful to Pat for putting this information into our hands.

If none of those suit, or you want more, check this blog for other reviews. There are poultry books for everyone on your list.

One last recommendation: buy them through your local bookstore or feed store. Keep your dollars circulating in your local economy.

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