Whether prompted by the economy, a do-it-yourself philosophy, or a concern for the good earth, more Americans are contemplating, when codes and ordinances permit, raising fowl. Long-time poultry farmer Ussery shares his and “guest” experts’ expertise and tips in a remarkably easy-to-follow text featuring lots of black-and-white photographs of flocks, structures, feeding, and even methods of slaughtering. The language is straightforward, even entertaining at times. (How could you not chuckle at “Reading the Poops,” a guide to fecal health?) What’s more, Ussery provides an encyclopedia of chicken and other fowl care, encompassing everything from anatomy and species selection to feeding, breeding, and selling in the local market. The other experts add their perspectives, as in “Adventures in Slug Heaven” (about slug control). Altogether, there’s no better introductory reference on the joy of home-raising chickens. Appended material covers making trap nests, a dustbox, and a mobile A-frame shelter; duck confit; a feed-formulation spreadsheet and spreadsheets for tracking egg and broiler costs and profits; and a comparison of natural and industrial eggs.
Book News Review-
This colorful and informative volume on small-scale poultry farming provides a comprehensive reference for homesteaders and urban farmers covering the details of raising chickens for eggs and meat. Most useful for intermediate poultry keepers, the volume offers professional advice in flock planning, housing, feed, health, processing and developing small commercial opportunities, and provides detailed practical information, including step-by-step photographs of important processes and procedures. A series of appendices include detailed plans for poultry structures, recipes, and sample documents for flock management. Ussery is an experienced poultry farmer and is the author of numerous articles and other works on the subject.
Written by a self-described “old hick with chickenshit on his boots,” The Small-Scale Poultry Flock is a welcoming and decisive guide to the poultry-keeping experience. But keeping poultry, readers quickly learn, is not an accurate term, for Harvey Ussery’s natural approach is that of a partnership with his flock, in what he terms “an integrated food independence enterprise.” In following the lead of his flock’s happiness, from their housing conditions to what they eat and where they roam, the author determined that he, too, could reap happiness and real rewards—in better compost for his garden and healthier and more delicious eggs and meat.
Aimed at the backyard homesteader or small-scale farmer whose goal is production of all of the family’s eggs and dressed poultry, this book also works as a starter kit for those contemplating the life of a “flockster,” the name Ussery has coined for those, like him, enamored with the poultry life. The author shares straightforward, encouraging information written from the viewpoint of someone who desires to share the knowledge that has come out of three decades of hard-won experience. Indeed, he contends that it’s not about one answer, but about experimentation to find what works best.
The first chapter “Why Bother?” is a rallying cry for those contemplating freedom from conventional food sources. In it, the author shows the inner workings of factory farming and explains how that system not only makes for unhappy animals and low-quality food, but creates a serious situation for contamination of our food supply. From those troubling facts, the complexities of poultry farming look like little bother at all. The rest of the book is filled with thought-provoking quotes, essential information, and fascinating sidebars. Readers learn everything, from starting a flock and recognizing mating behaviors to managing brooding and butchering techniques. Additionally, Ussery sheds light on common questions, such as “is a rooster needed to make eggs?” and “is there a difference between brown and white eggs?” Sidebars like “Reading the Poops” make feeding time easier.
Helpful charts, anatomical diagrams, photographs of all aspects of poultry keeping, appendixes including shelter plans, resources for more reading, and a glossary round out this nearly encyclopedic guide. Anyone considering a natural approach to producing eggs and meat will cherish this must-have reference, enjoyable to sit down and read cover-to-cover, but also perfect for answers on the go.
“The Small-Scale Poultry Flock is the only complete guide available to using your poultry as an integrated part of a self-reliant farmstead-a topic not addressed at this depth and breadth in any other poultry book. Author Harvey Ussery combines his clear, down-to-earth writing style with creative strategies throughout. He comprehensively explores a wide range of topics including chicken behavior, anatomy, holistic health care, making your own poultry feeds and finding alternative home feeds, breeding your own poultry stock, butchering poultry, and much more. This book covers it all.”–Elaine Belanger, Editor, Backyard Poultry magazine
“This book is packed with practical advice on raising poultry by someone who has not only done it all, but has learned from his broad experience and knows how to communicate that wisdom clearly and in a lively, readable style. Harvey Ussery has written one of the most comprehensive guides out there, but what places it above the rest of the crowd is that he shows you how to work with nature rather than against it in ways that will minimize work while ensuring the health and happiness of the flock. Whether you’re a beginner or an old-time poultry farmer, you shouldn’t go any further without this excellent manual.”–Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture
“The Small-Scale Poultry Flock is about establishing a free-range poultry flock fully integrated into a healthy homestead ecosystem. Based upon the author’s decades of hands-on experience with many breeds and species, it covers all the basics about raising poultry, and fills some important gaps not usually covered well enough elsewhere, including chicken behavior, poultry breeding, raising chicks with broody hens, managing free-ranging, dealing with predators, using electric net fencing, feeding poultry with home-grown feeds, and integrating the poultry with soil mineral balance, gardens, lawns and pastures, orchards, worm bins, and soldier fly (larvae) production. If you want to raise chickens and can afford just one book, I recommend this one.”–Carol Deppe, author of The Resilient Gardener
“Ussery’s outstanding book is certain to withstand the test of time both for its encyclopedic and practical information, and for its acknowledgment that the future of our culture and our food security is in the hands of the small farmer and backyard producer. If you are starting out with your first flock, this is your book. And when you’ve been keeping poultry for 30+ years, this will still be your best book.”–Shannon Hayes, author of Radical Homemakers
“Harvey Ussery has spent a lifetime developing and showcasing a truly viable poultry model that is ultimately carbon-sequestering, hygienic, neighbor-friendly, and food-secure…this book is about a call to heritage, to the wisest of wise traditions in food security and relationships. Harvey brings the latest tools and practices within the grasp of any aspiring flockster. It is this functional spirit that will make this book a classic in the small-scale poultry rearing genre.”–Joel Salatin, Polyface, Inc.
“No other book on small-scale poultry provides so integrated an approach to issues of soil health, home economy, resource conservation, food quality, and animal welfare. Harvey Ussery’s tireless passion for experimentation and empirical observation offers a wealth of information based on decades of first-hand experience. This is the big picture of poultry; no homesteader or backyard chicken enthusiast should be without a copy.”–Kate Hunter, of livingthefrugallife.blogspot.com
“Anyone interested in practical, experienced, insightful information about how to select, breed, care for, manage, feed, protect, process, eat and/or market small-scale or personal poultry flocks for their own eating pleasure or selling to others—and have FUN—should read this book.”–Frederick Kirschenmann, author of Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays From a Farmer-Philosopher
“Harvey Ussery delivers all the practical information you need to grow your own eggs and meat birds, in a style and format that will keep you interested and amused. Plus, he raises the larger question: what kind of world do we want to live in? One that treats animals as units of production, or one that honors all life, especially that farmstead marvel, the domesticated chicken?”–Sally Fallon Morell, President, The Weston A. Price Foundation
“There is a revolution going on, and it is the popular return of keeping poultry to provide food for our home tables. Ussery’s The Small-Scale Poultry Flock helps lead the way by integrating the small flock with its natural environment, the homestead, or small farm. Nowhere else will you find such valuable information on putting poultry to work in the garden, producing much of their feed, and producing healthful food for ourselves.”–Don Schrider, author of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s Chicken Assessment for Improving Productivity and Storey’s Guide to Raising Turkeys
“Here’s the ultimate book for those who want to know everything there is to know about raising poultry. And every detail is backed up by the author’s own (and often entertaining) experiences. I could not find–in this encyclopedic array of chicken knowhow–one detail that I could quibble with.”–Gene Logsdon, author of Holy Shit and The Contrary Farmer.
About the Author
Harvey Ussery has been developing his whole-systems poultry husbandry for decades and has been writing about chickens and other fowl for Backyard Poultry since the inception of the magazine in early 2006. He has also written numerous articles for Mother Earth News and Countryside & Small Stock Journal, and has published in American Pastured Poultry Producers Association’s newsletter, Grit!, over the years. Ussery has presented at national and local events on poultry, homesteading, and energy and sustainability issues, and maintains a highly informative website, themodernhomestead.us. He lives with his wife, Ellen, in Virginia.
Joel Salatin and his family own and operate Polyface Farm, arguably the nation’s most famous farm since it was profiled in Michael Pollan’s New York Times bestseller, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and two subsequent documentaries, Food, Inc., and Fresh. An accomplished author and public speaker, Salatin has authored seven books. Recognition for his ecological and local-based farming advocacy includes an honorary doctorate, the Heinz Award, and many leadership awards.