Review: Chicken Hot Topics, controversial husbandry practices by Jessica E. Lane
Why get another book about raising backyard chickens?
Does the world need another backyard chicken book? Does the world need more backyard chickens and chicken owners who are well researched in both science and experience? How does a new chicken owner get the necessary experience? Who can you trust to give you sound advice on how to raise healthy, happy hens? Chicken Hot Topics addresses the issues that new chicken owners encounter as they search the internet for information on their new pets and hobby.
When I first started raising chickens, after hatching a dozen eggs for a homeschool project, the internet was a baby. We had a dot matrix printer and the internet connected through the telephone line. We paid for internet by the MB and all of us were still looking up MB to figure out exactly what MB meant. There weren’t too many small scale chicken raisers who weren’t fanciers. You had two kinds of information in those days: Facts about raising caged hens, with antibiotics, and controlled environments or facts about raising fancy breeds and breeding for show. There was a dearth of information about raising just a few hens for just a few eggs in your backyard.
At that time, The Modern Guide to Raising Poultry had just been revised, and like all the other Modern Guides it was full of the idea that raising a home flock was just a miniature version of raising a hundred thousand birds in a commercial poultry operation. You had to stock antibiotics, sulfa drugs, meticulously mixed poultry feeds, and have just the right confinement system to keep your birds healthy and laying. It was a totally unnatural system. After reading it, I was afraid that my tiny chicks would get all the diseases in the back of the book, including New Castle’s, a reportable disease that would bring the wrath of the authorities swooping down upon my tiny flock of 3 hens and 7 roosters.
Chicken Hot Topics is well researched and based on evidence
Now, almost 20 years later, everything you need to know about raising a healthy backyard flock is as close as the Google search box. There are voices telling you the best layer pellets, the best bedding, and housing practices, and even which herbs to grow to keep your girls laying. And therein is the problem. There are so many contrary voices that the novice backyard chicken Mom doesn’t know which information to follow. Chicken Hot Topics is the calm, steady voice to hang onto when you are hearing contrary opinions.
This book is well researched, and easy to use. While I’d recommend reading it cover to cover when you first get it, the linked index means it’s a useful reference book. You’ll be able to find the answers that you are looking for, quickly and easily, so save the book for reference.
Let’s look inside Chicken Hot Topics
Chicken Hot Topics begins by giving you the basics of housing, bedding, and diet and lays out the controversies that you’ll find in an internet search. What should you use for bedding? Should you use wood shavings, straw, sand, or even rice hulls? The book gives you the pros and cons of each method and sites scientific studies done on the efficiency of each kind of bedding. This is the genius of this book. From looking at the scientific research, the new chicken Mom can be confident that she is making the top choice, sorting through the various opinions of what’s best for her own backyard flock, in the particular climate and conditions that she lives in.
After Chicken Hot Topics covers the basics, the reader is guided, by experience and evidence based research, in dealing with potential problems in the flock – all in a way that respects “the chickeness of the chicken” as Joel Salatin says. Egg eating, internal and external parasites, inhibiting flight, humane euthanasia, and herbal supplements for the flock, are just a few of the subjects dealt with in the book.
The book isn’t a dry scholarly text book, though. It’s ripe with emotion, as Jessica tackles some topics that we’d rather not look at – humane killing, and dispatching the aged hen. Jessica shares her personal view of these controversial subjects, but doesn’t tell you what to think. Since Jessica is a vegetarian, the fact that she doesn’t shame you if you aren’t, supports the overall tone of this book. Jessica offers her researched and ethical perspective but leaves the outcome in your capable hands, like a good mentor should.
Hot Topics should be one of the books in your Backyard Chickens library
The book isn’t the only backyard chicken reference you’ll want. Written for the novice or intermediate backyard flock owner, Chicken Hot Topics, is a resource to give you the wisdom of experience and scientific research, to help you sift through your options. You may still want a book with chicken coop building plans (like this one), another book that helps you pick the best chicken breed for your climate and circumstances (like this one), and another book that provides an extensive and deliberate herbal reference to get you over the hard stuff (This is the one I use). But you’ll definitely want to include Chicken Hot Topics in your library, to help you sort out through the contrary voices and discover what you want for your own flock.
Whether you are considering hatching some chicks as a homeschool project or you’ve been raising a few hens for a few years, you’ll find some great suggestions to improve the condition of your flock and raise your confidence level as a Chicken Mom in Chicken Hot Topics.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book and I am honoured to be mentioned by the author in the dedication of this book. Nevertheless, Jessica did not ask me to write a favourable review, nor was I compensated beyond the review copy for this review. This review is my honest opinion of this book and its usefulness and contribution to the growing library of books on raising backyard chickens.