Book Review – The Chicken Handbook and The Beekeeping Handbook

The Chicken Handbook by Vivian Head

Regular readers to my blog will know that I’m a keen chicken keeper. I have 4 years experience of keeping ex battery hens (some of which have been very needy through no fault of their own) so I was super excited to be sent The Chicken Handbook to review, along with another book, The Beekeeping Handbook. The latter I have no experience of at all but it does interest me and is relevant to my sustainable life style.

Naturally, The Chicken Handbook was the book that I reached for first. The book has a very inviting front cover and easy to follow contents. I particularly like how the author starts the book with the history of the chicken and then carries on to cover chickens needs such as housing and feeding equipment before naming and explaining all the different chicken breeds. This gives the reader a solid foundation of knowledge on which to build on and well-informed choices, thus avoiding the mistake of purchasing chickens before being ready to cater for the most basic of their needs. I was further impressed with the section explaining in detail the daily, weekly and monthly routine required to keep chickens happy and healthy. I feel this information is well placed within the book contents and crucial to know, particularly for those thinking about keeping a flock of garden hens. There are some tips and facts within the book to avoid problems with chicken keeping in urban areas, such as seeking permission from your landlord or checking house deeds before going ahead and keeping chickens.

If you’re not squeamish (unlike me) and wish to raise your own meat birds, you’ll be pleased to know that the book covers how to humanely cull birds for the table, including plucking and evisceration. I’ll admit, this was the one and only section of the book that I was pleased not to see photographs. For those who like to dabble in the kitchen, there’s a handy section with recipes using your own meat and eggs.

Overall I am very impressed with the amount of topics and information covered in this book. There are well detailed and clearly explained sections on choosing chickens, bringing chickens home and settling them in, A-Z of pests and diseases, behavioral problems, chicken and egg anatomy, chicken breeds, predators, showing, feeding, housing, and raising chicks to name a few. My only criticism is there are no photographs, particularly of the different chicken breeds. As lovely as the illustrations are throughout the book, personally I prefer to look at photographs to get a better idea of colour and size etc. This is merely a nit pick and shouldn’t detract from the overall quality or experience of the book content.

Chickens are not the only feathered friends to be featured in the book. I’m currently swotting up on how to keep quail, guinea fowl, turkeys, geese and ducks! This is a handy book to refer to for experienced chicken keepers and very informative and easy to follow for the new chicken keeper.

The Beekeepers Handbook by Vivian Head

I’ve been reading this book as a complete novice to beekeeping, yet, I’m surprised at how much this book has taught me about this fascinating hobby already. Whilst I admit to knowing a thing or two about bees in general, I am one of those who is a teeny-weeny bit afraid of being stung. Having witnessed a swarm some years ago in my garden it left me slightly nervous. Because of this, I’ve never considered keeping bees before but I do my utmost to attract them to my garden by providing shelter and food. I understand how important bees are to our planet, which is why I like to help them in my little way.

Reading through this book will teach you everything you need to know to get started with this hobby, it provides a wealth of information on how to set-up a hive, where to place it, how many hives to have, equipment needed including suitable clothing and where, when and how to obtain bees. Other useful topics include, understanding the honey bee, bee anatomy, swarming (ahhhh!), dealing with stings, beekeeping checklist season to season, pests and diseases and harvesting honey. If you’ve been looking for information on how to rear and breed your own queen bees then look no further, the book is packed with information including stages on how to go about it.

Although I’m not about to start keeping bees anytime soon, if you’re a novice with an interest in beekeeping I would recommend this book. It’s provided me with many more interesting facts about these amazing little creatures and I found it easy to follow and understand.

Thanks must go to Traci Niese at Fox Chapel Publishing for sending The Chicken Handbook and The Beekeeping Handbook to me for review. The author of both books, Vivian Head, is an ardent cook, gardener and author who lives in a country cottage in East Sussex, UK. When she is not busy writing she tends her allotment and kitchen herb garden, which is also home to her chickens and four beehives.

Both books will be published 1st April 2012.