Organic Gardening and Backyard Chickens: Book Picks from Magers & Quinn

My Pet Chicken Handbook and Gaia's Garden
Book picks on urban agriculture—and pet chickens.

For our gardening and pets issue, Christine Utz of Magers & Quinn’s sales and outreach team offers book recommendations for those who want to learn more about permaculture and organic gardening, and for aspiring raisers of backyard chickens.

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2009.

In Gaia’s Garden, Toby Hemenway offers an accessible guide to establishing a self-sustaining landscape in your own backyard. This is the perfect book for anyone interested in permaculture and organic gardening. Other books on these subjects tend to focus on projects too advanced for the average gardener, or too specific and exhaustive in their scope. The home-scale principles Hemenway covers can be applied to anything from a small city lot up to several acres. The book is organized using a hierarchy of the various components of a healthy garden, making it easy to read front to back, or flip to a particular section. Hemenway’s writing is like a calm, steady hand leading you through the maze of an otherwise confusing topic. Probably the most successful part about this book is its simplicity; Hemenway tells the beginner exactly what they need to get started without feeling overwhelmed.

My Pet Chicken Handbook: Sensible Advice and Savvy Answers for Raising Backyard Chickens by Lissa Lucas and Traci Torres. Rodale Publishers, 2013.

The My Pet Chicken Handbook, perfect for novice and veteran owners alike, is easy to read and covers all the basics of caring for a backyard flock. The authors have years of personal experience keeping chickens. They walk the reader through the process of selecting a breed, buying from a reputable source, providing appropriate housing, and choosing a flock-management style. The book also offers advice for some of the trickier situations one might encounter, like how to handle a predator attack or complications like disease and pests.

One of the most useful components of the book is the breed comparison chart. It rates the various chicken breeds based on characteristics such as lay rate, cold and heat hardiness, egg color and size, and docility. This book helped me decide to get baby chicks rather than pullets, so I could have more time to bond with the birds. There are even recipes at the back for making use of all those fresh eggs!