Egg-cellent Backyard Chickens

Staff PicksChevy Chase Library

Egg-cellent Backyard Chickens

Highly Recommended Books on Raising Chickens

Interest in chicken-keeping and sales of chicks have risen dramatically since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. If you too dream of raising chickens or just want to learn more about what is involved in such an endeavor, the books below can assist and inspire you. One day you may delight in freshly laid eggs, enjoy the company of feathered friends, and achieve greater self-sufficiency.

(Note: While chicken-keeping is legal in many places in the D.C. area, there are restrictions. Make sure to check the specific rules outlined in local ordinances before beginning to raise chickens.)

The Homesteader's Natural Chicken Keeping Handbook: Raising a Healthy Flock From Start to Finish by Amy K. Fewell; foreword by Joel Salatin
Beginners and more experienced chicken keepers alike will find this in-depth handbook on chicken-raising indispensable. Its many topics include chicken history, terminology, characteristics, and breeds; hatching, purchasing, and raising chicks; feed and diet; setting up coops; breeding; egg and poultry business basics; and natural health care. Chicken enthusiasts will also appreciate helpful information on preventing and treating common ailments with herbal remedies and also cooking recipes using fresh eggs and poultry. Besides being a comprehensive source of information on chicken-raising, beautiful photos and the author's personal anecdotes about raising chickens on her homestead make this guide especially engaging.

Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens...Naturally by Lisa Steele
For those interested in raising healthy chickens without antibiotics and harmful chemicals, this engaging book offers many helpful tips. Written by a fifth-generation chicken keeper with more than a decade of experience, this comprehensive guide covers coops, nesting boxes, bedding, runs, feeds and water, needs in different seasons, along with natural health care. It includes extensive information on natural remedies for common ailments that plague chicken flocks; an appendix lists detailed health benefits of common edible weeds, herbs and flowers. Numerous full-color photographs, recipes, and eight easy DIY projects for coops and runs also enhance this guide.

The Complete Guide to Raising Chickens: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply by Tara Layman Williams 
This simply written but comprehensive guide to raising chickens focuses more on small backyard operations and therefore is ideal for city dwellers. After exploring the many benefits of raising chickens, the characteristics of different breeds, and where to purchase them, this book provides detailed guidance on how to care for them. Novices will appreciate basic instructions on how to build a coop, along with helpful tips on runs, bedding, lighting, perches, nesting boxes, and feed. In addition, this guide includes information on health care throughout chickens' lifespans and on egg production, collection, and storage. Case studies, which feature interviews with chicken-raising individuals and families about their experiences, enrich the practical content of each chapter.

The Joy of Keeping Farm Animals: Raising Chickens, Goats, Pigs, Sheep, and Cows by Lauren Childs
This informative book on keeping farm animals focuses extensively on chickens in its first section. Here you'll find guidance on choosing breeds, where to buy them, designing coops, chicken care, feed, egg production, and butchering. Full-color photographs, along with accounts of the author's experience as a small farm owner, make it especially appealing to those starting out as chicken keepers. Once you master raising chickens, perhaps this book will inspire you to learn about raising other animals covered in subsequent sections, such as turkeys, geese, goats, pigs, sheep and cows.

Chicken and Egg: Raising Chickens to Get the Eggs You Want by Andy Cawthray and James Hermes, watercolor illustrations by Kate Osborne
For those eager to start keeping chickens but are unsure which breed to choose, this book written by two expert poultry breeders can assist the decision-making process. They explain the characteristics of different breeds and give guidance on how to choose for a particular color, flavor, and type of egg. After an overview of the natural history of chickens and the science of egg formation, they provide a directory of the best egg-laying breeds, followed by more detailed chapters on the top fifteen. They also discuss laying and brooding, behavior and health, and how diet and housing can improve quality and maximize the production of eggs.

Once Upon a Flock: Life With My Soulful Chickens by Lauren Scheuer
For those interested in or already raising chickens, in addition to informational guides I recommend this entertaining memoir by children's book illustrator and chicken keeper Lauren Scheuer. From the day her chicks hatch in her backyard, she tells her spirited journey of raising chickens, her storytelling exquisitely capturing the personalities and quirks of each one. Sadness and delight, love and loss, humor and drama intertwine throughout these heartfelt stories. Color photographs and her imaginative illustrations embedded throughout the text also add extra charm and depth to her stories.
— Rachel W.