Recommended Chicken Reading

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Davaroo, Sep 1, 2007.

  1. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

    Feb 4, 2007
    Leesville, SC
    I‘ve gotten a lot of emails over on the EZ-BYC site asking what books I recommend. In some ways this baffles me, since I am by no means an expert. There are no PhD's after my name and for the most part, I just follow the Five Rules of Chickens. But, above all, I am a proponent of simple poultry keeping practices and I believe that this is what is missing today... we have just forgotten much of the old, practical lore.

    Much of what comes down the pike about chickens today is plainly a lot of trendiness. Oh, there is much poultry science and understanding, to be sure. But there is a pseudo-science being foisted off as essential - mostly because it sounds "organicky." Everything from protobiotic amoebic therapies to garlic-enriched yogurt infusions are said to be not only beneficial, but crucial to keeping poultry. I feel for the newcomer who just wants to keep it simple in the face of this hoo-haw. Chickens are one place where the KISS principle still applies.

    So, I've made a study of how grandpa and his peers did things back in their day. They knew nothing of our “New Age” ideas, everything was "organicky" to them and, bottom line, they merely knew how to make chickens prosper with simple tools and simple materials.

    You might want to read that as “cheap,” too, since they had to get the most for their money. In general, when properly managed to even a minor degree, chickens were a way to MAKE money for the old-timers, with moderate input in both cost and labor. For some it was actually their livelihood.

    Nonetheless, if your intent is to keep chickens simple, self-regulating and profitable (even as a hobby, this should be your aim) then you may want to consider getting some of these references. Some of them will require searching for on or, since they are long out of print - but, they are worth it and they are in expensive, since few people want to read such things anymore.

    Remember, this is old wisdom from the Golden Age of Small Farm Poultry - the stuff that has been forgotten.

    1. “Profitable Poultry Management,”
    M.G. Kains, Orange Judd pub, ca. 1910
    Arguably the best SINGLE resource you can have if Golden Age of Poultry wisdom (1900-1960) is your goal. This is the same guy that wrote the now-classic “5 Acres and Independence.” The book under discussion is also available on the Internet at Journey To Forever, Small Farms, located here:

    2. ”Practical Poultry Management, Sixth edition,”
    James Rice, Harold Botsford. John Wiley & Sons pub, ca 1956
    Culmination of the Golden Age of Poultry wisdom. After the 1950’s, small farm poultry methods declined in favor of factory farms, but poultry science had peaked as far as it would for the small farmer. Complete with exquisitely gory b&w vivisection photos, this is a nice scientific reference. grower.

    3. . “Profitable Poultry Management, 25th Anniversary Edition,”
    Clarence E. Lee for the Beacon Milling Co., ca 1946
    This one is a proprietary volume and was never in print commonly; it was only available to users of Beacon Feed. Yet it is so full of good information, by one of the Deans of Poultry Wisdom at the time, that it demands to be included here. I got mine off ebay.

    4. “The Dollar Hen,”
    Milo Hastings, reprinted by Norton Creek Press, ca 1915
    Subtitled, “The Classic Guide to American Free-Ranging Egg Farming, “ this book has seen little favor over the years, until Bob Plamondon reissued it. It is a classic in the line of M.G. Kains anda very practical guide.

    5. "The ABC of Poultry Raising,"
    A Complete Guide for Beginner or Expert
    J.H. Florea, Greenberg pub, ca 1944
    Written during WWII when Victory gardens and rationing were a way of life, this book really lays it out there for the small poultry keeper.

    Since not all things modern are bad, here are some of the best modern books you can have.

    "Raising Poultry the Modern Way"
    Leonard Mercia, Garden Way Pub. Co.
    One of my first and still one of the best. An excellent book, with a lot of practical information for the beginner. The feed quantity calculators and various chapters on other-than-chicken poultry are worth the cost.
    NOTE: I lost this book recently and have just re-ordered it - I paid $.01 to get another used copy! That is once cent, plus shipping. Check

    “Chicken Tractor, The Permaculture Guide to Happy Hens and Healthy Soil”
    Straw Bale Edition
    Andy Lee, Pat Foreman, Good Earth Publications, ca 2005
    Permaculture means “things working together” and that’s what you get here - a how-to on making chickens fit in to the overall garden scheme. Funny read.

    "Success With Baby Chicks,"
    Bob Plamomdom, Norton Creek Press, ca 2003
    Another from our good friend, Bob Plamondon, this one a distillation of his experience in pastured poultry. Very good, no-nonsense reference…like most of Bob’s stuff. This guy should get a Poultry Excellence Award - if there was one!

    Notable Mentions

    Will Graves has a nice volume out, "Raising Poultry Successfully," that is not as well illustrated or with the level of detail of Mercia's book, but it is a good basic guide and worth having.
    "Chickens in Your Backyard: A Beginner's Guide," by Rick Luttmann is another good basic guide, worth seeking out.

    Good Reading!
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 1, 2007
  2. I need to come raid your library [​IMG]

  3. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

    Feb 4, 2007
    Leesville, SC
    Get down off your hilltop, there, Lisa and come on over!

    My shelf is open to you.
  4. Quote:Thanx for the post.

    What are the Five Rules of Chickens?
  5. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    Those books are pretty cool. I read most of them in the 6th grade before I got my chickens so they are pretty easy reads. I would also recommend the chicken health handbook as it will leave you with a repository of ideas of what to look for.
  6. Thank you Elderoo - this is very helpful to a newbie like me who wants to learn from the wisdom of the past!

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: