One of the pleasures of running this web site is that I occasionally get sent a book to review. This one was something special and a real joy. Choosing and keeping chickens is lavishly illustrated with colour photographs, which is usually a sign that there is little real information in the text. Not so in this case, it’s excellent.
The first thing anybody who wants to keep chickens has to decide is ‘which breed?’ Some hens are better layers than others, some more suitable for home backyard chicken keeping and others for keeping just for the sheer pleasure of their plumage. For each of the over 50 breeds covered there is a full photograph and the information you need to make an informed choice.
One thing I was really happy to see was he covered rescuing ex-battery hens. Many people who take on rescues are shocked at the condition. Almost bald in some cases, pale combs and unsure of how to cope with freedom. He reassures that the feathers will grow back, combs pink up and they will enjoy their life with you as well as give you plenty of eggs.
Unfortunately initial losses are higher with ex-battery hens than with free range pullets bought at point of lay and he mentions this so new owners with children are prepared. There’s attention to detail in this book.
He covers everything a home chicken keeper would need to know in the rest of the book. Even how to hold and handle a chicken, so both owner and bird are comfortable and calm. As with many animals, conditioning them to be held enables you to check them and treat illness or injury without your pet being convinced their life is in danger.
There’s an excellent section on pests and problems – as well as the importance of hygiene. No knowledge is assumed on the part of the reader. There are many experts who have a problem writing for the novice, but Chris Graham manages the trick. It’s not only informative but very readable.
This is one of those books that you’ll re-read over the years and keep handy on the shelf as a reference work. Worth every penny.