The Chicken Encyclopedia Review

I'm posting mine a bit early because I won't have access to a computer for the next week. 

By Gail Damerow
Author of Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens (a must have)

If you have chickens or are thinking of getting them you have to have this book. It is filled to the brim with helpful information. When I first picked up the book I simply flipped it open to a page and 30 minutes later I was in a completely different section, having just learned about 20 things I hadn’t known before picking it up. Honestly I thought I knew a fair amount about chickens since I have had about 20 of them for the past 6 years. This book made me realize I still have a lot to learn.

I am into raising happy chickens. You may ask “what is a happy chicken?” while there isn’t a specific entry for “Happy Chickens” in The Chicken Encyclopedia, I think these five entries are the must haves; light, food, fencing, pasture, water.

Controlled lighting for hens / page 72
Hens need roughly 15 hours of light in order to be productive laying hens. I also think daylight is part of what makes for a happy chicken. “In the natural course of events, pullets hatch in the spring as daylight hours are increasing, and mature during summer and autumn as daylight hours decrease…as hens they continue to lay until either the number of light hours per day or the degree of light intensity signals the end of the reproductive cycle”. My outdoor run for my coop has corrugated clear plastic roof so the hens have access to the natural cycle of light, then in the winter months I supplement with a compact fluorescent for the indoor coop. An important note “Leaving lights on all the time is not only wasteful but...doesn't not give them the daily 6-8 hours of restful darkness they need to maintain good immunity”.

Feeding hens / page 121
“Chickens eat to meet their energy needs, so they eat less in the summer than in winter, when they need extra energy to stay warm”. It is really important to feed your birds high quality, well-balanced feed. Paying attention to the protein ratio in each season. I feed my standard hens layer pellet and my bantams layer crumble, but I also mix in some other ingredients so they don’t get bored. I add cracked corn in the winter to help them keep their body temperature up and I always add black sunflower seeds. They love the seeds, because they can scratch around while finding them and it takes a bit of effort to find each seed. We also add fresh greens and meal worms every few days. Feeding your hens properly is a sure fire way to have happy chickens.

Fence and Fencing / page 123
“A sturdy fence keeps chickens in and predators out”. I can’t tell you how many people have told me about how a hawk or a neighbor’s dog or a local coyote have taken their hens. It is our responsibility to keep our hens safe. This starts with a sturdy fence. As Ms Damerow mentions, chicken wire, despite its name, is not a good solution.

Pastured and Pasture Raised / page 197 [also see free range]
“Allowed access to fresh vegetative grazing much of the time”. If it is safe giving your hens access to a pasture with fresh bugs and grasses their eggs will “contain less fat and more omega-3s”! I also believe it makes the hens happy because they can do all of the natural things hens do: scratch about, chase bugs, dust bathe naturally, chase around etc. One critical detail however is that the hens are safe, make sure that you ask yourself these questions: are neighbors dogs well mannered, are the hawks not near the farm, is it possible to keep them in a little mobile coop. Just letting your birds out to “free range” can be a death sentence, unless you have taken proper care to guarantee their safety.

Water / page 287
“Lack of water for even a few hours can cause hens to stop laying for days or weeks. Access 24/7 to clean, fresh water, of course, is key to happy chickens. Interestingly “Chickens also may suffer water deprivation if the water quality is poor or they just don’t like the taste..”. It is critical to keep water bowls and waterers very clean. I wash mine with soap often! In the winter I use heated dog bowls to make sure the water doesn’t freeze and occasionally I will add Bragg’s apple cider vinegar (pg 282) to “encourage beneficial micro flora to flourish” in their gut.

Here are the other reviews of the book;

3/2    For the Love of Chickens http://fortheloveofchickensblog.blogspot.com/
3/3    Vintage Garden Gal http://www.vintagegardengal.com/
3/4    The Garden Roof Coop http://www.thegardenroofcoop.com/
3/5    Common Weeder http://www.commonweeder.com/
3/6    Chickens in the Road http://chickensintheroad.com/
3/7    Garden Rant http://www.gardenrant.com/my_weblog/
3/8    Fresh Eggs Daily http://fresh-eggs-daily.blogspot.com/
3/9    My Pet Chicken Blog http://blog.mypetchicken.com/
3/10  Coop Thoughts http://www.thegardencoop.com/blog/
3/11  BoHo Farm and Home http://www.bohofarmandhome.com/
3/12  Happy Chickens Lay Healthy Eggs http://www.happychickens.com
3/13  A Charlotte Garden http://acharlottegarden.blogspot.com/
3/14  Farm Fresh Fun http://farmfreshfun.blogspot.com
3/15  The HenCam http://www.hencam.com/henblog/
3/16   Life on a Southern Farm http://georgiafarmwoman.blogspot.com/
3/17  ADozenGirlz, the Chicken Chick™ http://eggcartonlabels.blogspot.com/
3/18   North Coast Gardening http://www.northcoastgardening.com/

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Storey on twitter: @storeypub


I have one copy of the book to send to someone. If you'd like it please go to Happy Chickens on FB and leave me a comment on what you think is essential to keeping HappyChickens. I will put all the entries into a bowl and pick one out and send you a copy! Nice, right?


Patrice said...

I think a good shelter for chickens is essential since there are so many predators. I never knew how many there were in our area until we got chickens! I also think that quality food is good for them. We have a special mixture made and have an organic mineral mix with kelp and other good things to give them the best.

Maria Zannini said...

I have never seen my chicken happier than when we let them out to forage. You'd think they were in chicken heaven.

www.mychickendiary.com said...

Orren, thanks for posting this. I got one for me and one for my dad.

Kathleen at Rose Prairie said...

You mentioned a lot of good caring tips, but I think what makes my chickens happy is plenty of good food, whether it's in there feeder and out in the yard. That seems to make their days.

zebrafinch said...

Good review. You make a great point, actually, when you say there is no specific entry for "happy chickens."

That begs the question, "why not?"

When I adopted birds in need of a home, they were all from pasts that left them unhealthy, nearly dead, or unhappy.

When people asked me about the birds, they always began with questions such as, "Do they talk?" or "What can they do?"

These questions left me so heartbroken for the birds, as well as for the human race.

Nobody ever asked me the one question that first came to my mind, every time: "What makes them happy?"