I was recently asked what my ‘go to’ books are, if I need advice or ideas with raising chickens.
Whilst we cover almost everything imaginable about chickens at The Happy Chicken Coop, there is still something nice about having a paper book!
Without hesitation, I could think of five books which have helped me with practical ideas and advice and a reference for all things chicken!
There is no particular order to my list and I have even included a couple of ‘honorable’ mentions for those of you who want to know even more about your feathered friends.
Most of the books listed here have at least a 4 star rating in the marketplace, so I’m not the only one who thinks these books are the best available.
The criteria used were:
- Applicable to all situations.
- Basic information given in clear concise format.
- Evidence or experience based knowledge.
- Good reference material to refer back to.
Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow
Rarely do you find a book that covers everything you need to know as a beginner or even experienced chicken keeper – this book is the exception.
Without a doubt, this is one of my primary ‘go to’ books. Ms. Damerow is very thorough in covering the subject of chickens. It is well planned and executed from front to back and thoughtfully written.
She has been keeping chickens for 40+ years and regularly contributes articles to several websites and magazines.
The book is divided into fourteen chapters, ranging from choosing your breed, shelter, feed and water, routine management, exhibiting your birds, right down to slaughter for the table. Each subject is completely explored and explained.
When I first bought this book I read it from cover to cover – not bad for a reference book! The writing style is easy to read and follow. There are lots of line drawings and charts which are helpful as a quick reference.
Just about all of my questions are answered in this book from what killed my chicken to trimming beaks and spurs.
Some of the charts included are a predator detective key which will help you narrow down the murder suspects and a ‘what went wrong’ hatching chart to help you determine why the egg didn’t hatch or why the embryo demised.
Although written from the small scale farming point of view rather than the ‘backyard chicken’ point of view, it is immensely helpful in all situations.
Backyard Chickens: A Practical Handbook to Raising Chickens by Claire Woods
This is a great primer book on chickens.
It is packed full of information and little pearls of wisdom.
Chapters are short and concentrate on the very beginning aspects of chicken keeping, such as Chickens 101, which chickens are best for you, coops, feed and caring for sick birds.
Nicely illustrated with photos’ throughout, there is a resources guide at the back and a couple of chicken stories.
It is a worthy read as it is full with tips and tricks of successful poultry keeping.
The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow
This is the third book on my list and we head back to Ms. Damerow.
The Chicken Health Handbook looks at diseases and ailments that can be found in chickens. A foreword by a veterinarian highly recommends this to the layperson as being easy to understand and helpful, I could not agree more.
It is scientifically inclined as it deals with diseases, causes and cures.
Chapters include health and nutrition, parasites, chicken anatomy, diagnostic guides for a wide variety of problems, how chickens can affect human health (salmonella, campylobacter etc.) and for the intensely curious among us – post mortem findings and how to do a post mortem.
There are helpful charts which explain things like vertical and horizontal transmission and life cycles of parasites such as tapeworms. The charts in the diagnostic section are invaluable in determining specific problems with your bird.
There is a chapter on treating sick birds, methods of treating them and how to administer medicines.
At the back of the book is an alphabetically arranged ‘Diseases and Disorders’ section which includes everything from the common to the rare.
Avoid the Vet by Practical Poultry
This little book is packed full of invaluable advice and tips – as you would expect from the folks at Practical Poultry.
It is not for beginners but more for anyone looking for advice on pest prevention, feeding and nutrition and housing and bedding.
There is great advice on buying birds, specifically how to pick a good bird from the mediocre – well worth reading twice before you buy your hens.
A section on natural solutions and treatments, especially garlic is a very interesting read too.
As the title suggests, following the tips and tricks in this book will help you to avoid those costly veterinary visits, as one of the contributors says – medicines should not take the place of good husbandry.
I couldn’t find this book available online so you may have to visit your local bookstore for this one!
Hatching & Brooding Your Own Chicks by Gail Damerow
Yes, I know another book by Gail Damerow! She happens to write some of the best chicken books, so what can I say?
This one covers all poultry (chickens, ducks, turkey, guinea fowl and geese), so it’s helpful to a wide variety of poultry keepers.
The first part covers the chicks. Chapter 1 gives good advice on choosing the appropriate chick for your needs. Subsequent chapters teach you how to properly set up a brooder, whether it is a bought readymade or a homemade one.
Feed, water and bedding are discussed, the development of chicks including separating the sexes and lastly hatchling health – dealing with things like sudden death, defects and diseases.
The second part deals with eggs.
It starts with the broody hen and how to manage this ultimate incubator/brooder!
The following chapters teach you how to select an incubator, hatching those eggs and operating an incubator. There is a fascinating chapter on ‘what went wrong’ with your hatch and how to rectify next time.
Ms. Damerow also has an appendix called ‘screwpot notions’ where she dispels some common misconceptions.
Other Honorable Mentions
21st Century Poultry Breeding by Grant Brereton
Grant is the editor of Fancy Fowl magazine and an expert in feather color genetics.
This book is for those interested in genes and the plumage patterns and how they come about. Although this is a simplistic look at the subject it can get a bit difficult to follow as a beginner, but genetics are difficult to comprehend.
The first chapter discusses breed standards, improving a strain, double mating and sourcing stock.
It’s followed by a brief look at the most popular breeds in the UK and the third chapter really gets into the substance of how to change colors, the genes behind the patterns and some specific genes too, such as the barring gene.
It boasts lots of photographs illustrating plumage patterns and different breeds and some of the genetics behind it.
If you are a lover of genetics or simply want to improve your strain of birds, this is a handy reference book.
The Structure of the Fowl by Bradley/Grahame
If like me, you are fascinated by the body and what goes on in it, you may enjoy this book. This has been around for a while (1950 3rd edition), but it covers all the anatomical structures of the chicken.
Chapters cover the skeleton, musculature, respiratory organs, skin and other parts of the bird. It’s a bit of a dry read as most textbooks are, but if you take it chapter by chapter it opens up a fascinating world!
Illustrated with line drawings and photos this is an educational guide for those with a scientific, enquiring mind.
Interestingly this book was first written in 1915 by Mr. Bradley who became the 1st President of the National Veterinary Medicine Association.
There are lots of chicken books out there, so sorry if your favorite didn’t make this list!
Some are general and some deal with herbal or natural treatments, some have a definite niche such as How to Speak Chicken by Melissa Caughey – I’m looking forward to reading after Christmas!
We have tried to give you ones that are factual and helpful to beginners and intermediates alike on the essential parts of keeping chickens.
Once you have mastered the basics you will be able to pick and choose which suit your style of keeping best.
Do you have any books that you recommend for us? Let us know in the comments section below…