Monday, May 7, 2012

Keeping Chickens with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Care for a Happy, Healthy Flock by Ashley English

Okay.  I confess.  I chose this book by the cover.  Well, by the cover and by the title.  Chickens, chicks, hens, poultry, eggs, roosters . . .  these words or pictures on a book jacket will capture my interest as quickly as a gray tie on a dark background or a shadowy Scot wearing a kilt.  Call me a sucker for do-it-yourself books on farm life and sustainable living with a sizzling romance title thrown in now and then for variety. 

Keeping Chickens has lots of color pictures of different breeds of chickens, chicken coops, eggs and chicken accoutrements, making it as appealing as a glossy magazine. 
I flipped back through the book just to make sure I’m not exaggerating when I say there is a photograph, graphic or drawing on almost every set of pages excluding the glossary and index.  It has ten mini “Portrait of a chicken owner” biographies, directions on how to make a chicken tractor, recipes, a chicken anatomy guide plus a resource list complete with addresses, phone numbers and/or websites.  It would be a great gift for a friend who has just researched Title 16, Chapter 8-5-10 of the Dubuque City Code to discover that city residents can keep “a maximum of four (4) chickens and/or ducks (hens only)” for egg production. 

As an experienced chicken wrangler of nine years, I found English’s book accurate and insightful.  She didn’t spend a lot of time talking about raising meat birds and butchering, which was fine with me because I don’t eat my chickens.  She captures the fascination that I and other small time backyard farmers have with chickens.  If we were raising thousands of chickens for a living, we wouldn’t have the time to enjoy the different personalities in our little flocks.

Ashley English has degrees in holistic nutrition and sociology, and she writes in a practical, easy-to-follow voice.  She also writes for the blog Design*Sponge, is a member of Slow Food USA and quotes Michael Pollan, all points in her favor from my point-of-view.  Our Library has three other titles in the Homemade Living series that sound equally inviting as Keeping Chickens.  I want to read English’s book about canning before my tomatoes ripen.  Imagine that!  I’m already thinking of preserving my ‘mater crop that isn’t even planted yet.  Hope springs eternal--along with weeds.

 - Michelle, Adult Services


  1. I'm with you on covers! Love this one! I was not aware that Dubuque allowed you to keep up to 4 chickens. This could become an interesting gardening fad.

    Now that I have fallen in love with the cover, I am looking forward to reading this book!

  2. Maybe I can get a second job as a chicken consultant! Check out the PBS documentary "The natural history of the chicken; it's shelved on the 2nd floor---DVD 636.5 Nat. ~Michelle