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The Chicken Whisperer's Guide to Keeping Chickens: Everything You Need to Know . . . and Didn't Know You Needed to Know About Backyard and Urban Chickens

4.5 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1592537280
ISBN-10: 1592537286
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Andy Schneider, better known as the Chicken Whisperer, is the go-to guy for anything chickens. Over the years, he has helped a countless number of people start their very own backyard flocks. He is not only a national radio personality, as host of the "Backyard Poultry with the Chicken Whisperer" radio show, but also a contributor for Mother Earth News Magazine, Grit Magazine, and Farmers Almanac. He is the national spokesperson for the USDA-APHIS Bio-Security for Birds Program. He is the owner of Atlanta Pet Chickens, Classroom Chickens, and is the Founder/Organizer of the Atlanta Backyard Poultry Meetup Group. He has been featured on CNN, HLN, FOX, ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, as well as in The Wall Street Journal, TIME Magazine, The Economist, USA Today, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, New Life Journal, and other local and national publications. More recently, Andy has been traveling around the country on the Chicken Whisperer Tour, educating people about the many benefits of keeping a small backyard flock of chickens. Andy and his wife Jen keep 35 chickens on their property just north of Atlanta, Georgia. chickenwhisperer.com

Dr. Brigid McCrea, Ph.D, began her lifelong love of chickens quite by accident, and she attributes it all to her involvement in 4-H. With the help of the family mechanic, who was also a show chicken breeder and a 4-H poultry leader, she began to raise and show chickens. The poultry community is full of kind people willing to share their knowledge with fellow poultry enthusiasts, and it was this camaraderie that spurred her on to study poultry and birds in college. She received her B.S. and M.S. in Avian Sciences from the University of California, Davis, and then received her Ph.D. in Poultry Science from Auburn University. Brigid is pleased to share her poultry knowledge with everyone who is interested in learning how best to start or serve their flock.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

How a Chicken Makes an Egg

You reach into the nest box and wrap your fingers around a warm, just-laid egg. You pick it up, feel its warmth against your cheek, and then pop it into in your pocket. Back in the house, you heat up the fry pan and crack open your egg, staring at all of its curious parts and poking at the yolk with a spatula. This egg came from your happy hens; unhappy hens do not lay eggs so you must be doing something right. The yolk breaks open from the spatula’s weight and spreads into the egg white. As it cooks, you wait patiently. When it is ready, you put it on a plate and serve yourself a fresh, egg-a-licious breakfast. The taste, well, those words are best left to your own imagination. But what about the journey that wonderful egg took to get to your breakfast?

The egg starts with the yolk. It begins small and is surrounded by a follicle necessary to transport the nutrients and pigments needed. Once ready—filled with sufficient nutrients and genetic material—the yolk descends into the oviduct, traveling first through a funnel-like section called the infundibulum. This is where it gets fertilized by sperm, if any has been stored. Next it ends up in the largest oviduct section called the magnum, where the yolk connects to the white, also called the albumen.

The next stop on the yolk’s journey is the short, narrow isthmus, where the inner and outer shell membranes are added, the latter of which provides the foundation upon which the shell is built. The yolk and albumen spend seventy-five minutes in the isthmus. Once surrounded by the inner and outer shell membranes, the group continues on to the shell gland, where the shell gets added, hardens, and changes pigment color and where the albumen’s four layers unfold. The egg spends more than twenty-four hours in the shell gland. Finally, the last layer, a thin protein mucus called the cuticle or bloom, seals the egg’s pores to prevent invasion by bacteria. Now the egg is ready to be laid.

The egg is formed inside the hen with the small end facing downward. It flips around just before it is laid so that it leaves the hen large end first. The egg passes through the vagina and out through the cloaca or vent. If needed, a hen can hold onto an egg until a favorable place or situation to lay it. This is key for a wild hen avoiding a predator. In this rare circumstance, it is possible that a hen will lay two eggs within a twenty-four hour period. Whew! It takes all that to lay an egg. To all the hens in your coop: Take a bow. They have earned it!

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Quarry Books (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592537286
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592537280
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I preordered this book and was very excited when it came in. Unfortunately for me, although the book is well organized and filled with lots of great full color glossy pics, I was really looking for something really deep - a (insert your animal of choice here) whisperer should have loads of tips, hints, and deep insights. What I really needed was a copy of the chicken shouter - has that been written yet? This is more Billie Mays than Robert Redford.

Good for basic start up info and the family liked all the pics - I was just hoping for more depth - example - the author mentions wing clipping for flight prevention once - and that's it - no instructions, pictures, or anything else. Not trying to be harsh, but this reads as more of a 'chicken for pets' book a 12 year old would pick up at the Petco counter - whose chickens will end up being taken care of by an older, more knowledgeable relative...

That being said, I do agree with the first review concerning chickens and tightly settled neighborhoods. Lots of good info there.

I do recommend anything by Storey Publishing on the subject - unless you are looking for a pet...
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Format: Paperback
With the resurgence of people interested in growing their own food and knowing the actual raising process, whether it be lettuce or chickens, guides such as this one are welcome and quite useful. The term "chicken whisperer" in the title is a bit of a misnomer as many might expect some sort of dialogue on how to speak to your flock much as Nicholas Evan's horse whisperer talk to horses. No, you won't be whispering to your chickens, but you definitely will know how to take care of them. In part, I see this as a decision making guide for many. Do I really want to raise chickens?

One of the first considerations you must consider, even before considering purchasing this book, is whether or not your municipality will even allow you to raise chickens. Additionally there are your neighbors. Mind you, I'm live in a rural area and am zoned residential and agricultural as are many of my neighbors. The mixed zoning is creating some animosity. Let's just say that the animal life around here is not welcomed by all in the village. "Can you smell that?!!" If you really want to raise chickens and have green light (think about that rooster) then by all means I'd consider this book.

There is a nice section on the selection of breeds that will mesh well with your personality, the type and color of eggs you might prefer, or even the beauty of them. You'll be able to read about several breeds, their appearance, personality, popularity, and will be able to see a full-color photograph of one. Do you know which kind of hen lays brown-shelled eggs? It's quite simple, but you'll have to read the book to find out.
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Format: Paperback
It sounded like the exact book I needed. Until I started reading it...

I know nothing about chickens. So when my husband brought home a bunch of chicks and then abandoned us for a month-long job out of state, I freaked out! The cover of this book promised to teach me everything I need to know about keeping these birds alive and well. But reading it didn't seem to fulfill that promise. At multiple places, I would come across some variation of the phrase "we have already discussed...", and each time I saw it, I wanted to scream "NO! No you did NOT! You SKIMMED over it! There's a difference!" About the only thing this book did fairly well was tell me all the different ways for my birds to die horribly. I've moved on to other references. I hope they give me more usable info...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I own most of the books that come up on the first search page under Poultry or Chickens - and I have found something helpful in ever one of them. I had downloaded a few of the author's podcasts (radio shows?) and found him helpful, and I follow him on Twitter but I wouldn't call myself a fan. I was worried this book would be too folksy or just a platform for dialog about the politics of backyard poultry but it's not.

Pros-

* Extremely well organized
* A great presentation on types of chickens
* Plenty of actionable/doable hints or ideas
* Pragmatic advice
* Solid facts (I'm turned off by sloppy fact checking! none of that here!)
* Great photos!
* Clean, well edited and formated text
* Great illustrations
* Even my husband read it!

Cons-

* (like most of these books) plenty of verbiage about duel purpose birds but little information on the actual slaughter or butchering of chickens.

I know I know - many of you would be HORRIFIED to address this dirty dark side of chicken ownership but I'm not a vegetarian! I'm an Omnivore and while I absolutely LOVE my hens, when they are done laying they will end up in a pot on the stove.

I wish I'd read this book before I started into chickens but better late than never!

About me - I have a small flock of eight laying hens that I keep on our suburban farm outside of Kent, OH. This year I'm hatching out over 100 eggs for meat birds (I don't know why - I just got carried away!) as well as putting in a full vegetable garden. I love sprouting and other small space food production. I would like to be procuring all of my meat by the end of this year. Currently I hunt for red meat (venison) and I've butchered three of our roosters. I HATE the killing part but if I'm going to continue to eat meat it seems more honest than buying it at a store. You can follow me on Twitter @HonestOmnivore
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