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The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All-Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers Paperback – October 7, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


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.

ForeWord Review-

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

"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, 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.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (October 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603582908
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603582902
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.9 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (188 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,452 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Cheesalady on October 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
I got a chance to hear Harvey speak at the Mother Earth News Fair in Pennsylvania. I also got to take a look a the last copy of his book, because the Fair sold out! While I couldn't buy this last copy, I did get to spend considerable time looking through it, with my super critical eye- having raised chickens for the past 45 plus years. Even with my experience in raising and butchering, I could still learn some things from this book.

I love Harvey's passion for utilizing the natural instincts and qualities of poultry to increase the quality of the entire small farm- through insect and pest management, cultivation of soil, and use of poultry manure. Also his kindness, humility, and vast knowledge are evident throughout the book- what a role model his is!

This book is the perfect example of a much covered topic (chickens) that has been done in such a fashion as to bring new and better information to what had seemed like a thoroughly covered field.

The only thing I wish he had covered in the butchering section (but perhaps I missed it in my hurry to look through the entire volume)was how to skin instead of pluck. For those who don't eat the skin, but can compost the feathers and skin as one, this method is speedy and clean- a nice option to know about.

I hear he is working on another book, can't wait to see it as well!
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56 of 57 people found the following review helpful By J. Wood on October 12, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are looking for a book on poultry READ THIS BOOK FIRST. It has made me completely rethink how we are going to manage our small flocks. This book is the real deal. You know it's got to be good when Joel Salatin writes your intro. These are the men I respect when it comes to natural, sustainable agriculture and livestock husbandry. I'm thrilled they are teaching the new wave of farmers that are adopting their practices. This is the exact information we need to start the long road of ending, or at least reducing, the factory farm conglomerates that are detrimental to our health (as well as the animals), and our food supply chain. Long live small, independent, natural farming the way it was intended to be!

I have read many books on backyard flocks but nothing compares to Harvey's book. I love Harvey's stories in Backyard poultry, Mother Earth News and Countryside magazines and was always hoping he would write a book. I have been anxiously awaiting for this to be published. I preordered immediately when it became available and waited paitently. It has by far passed all my expectations. The book chock full of pictures is simply amazing in it's depth and scope of knowledge for the small homesteader/farmsteader. From general poultry health, natural feed, promoting small farm sustainability and production, to using your chicks as a farming partner as composters and tillers, Harvey covers it all in depth and humour. Old wisdom with today's advancements thrown in makes the THE book to have in your livestock library.

I cannot state enough how good this book really is. Flock management used to be commonplace when we grew most of our food, but has been a dying art. Thanks to guys like Harvey and Joel a new wave of flock owners will have that knowledge passed on to them.
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82 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Sea Monster on December 8, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Short Story:
In a nutshell, I was looking for a book that covered feeding my poultry flock with homegrown feed year-round, pasturing my flock without worry of predation (my property adjoins nearly 3 million acres of contiguous national forest land and this is a BIG concern for me), caring for my flock without the use of antibiotics and pesticides yet also without the hardcore Darwinian approach espoused by The Accidental Farmers, and integrating my poultry with my other homestead practices of gardening and rearing livestock. Frankly, I feel that this book delivered in every one of these categories...and then some. I had considered Joel Salatin's book Pastured Poultry Profits but chose to go with this book instead because it has a lot of the information I would've gotten from that book without the opinions/general preachiness/gripes that the man is notable for. It's not that I don't appreciate hearing and learning from others and stretching my mind with their points of view, it was simply that I was looking for a book about the poultry, the whole poultry, and nothing but the poultry, so help me God.

The Protracted Story:
Let me preface this review by saying that this is not the first poultry-keeping book I've bought, or check-out of the library or borrowed from a friend or pinched from the bookstore while the attendant's back was turned -- okay, just kidding on that last one, but you get the idea. Most notably among that list being
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Homesteader on December 19, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Harvey Ussery's The Small-Scale Poultry Flock is the number one homesteading related book to read this year. I know, I know --- Joel Salatin put out his first non-self-published book, The Dirty Life promises to reach beyond the usual homesteading readership, and Sepp Holzer has finally published a book about his methods in English, all in 2011. But for the backyard homesteader itching to turn her farm into a permaculture masterpiece, Harvey Ussery's book has those bestsellers beat hands-down.

Ussery keeps 24 layers and raises another 48 to 72 broilers every year on an acre of pasture. He also experiments with a couple of dozen waterfowl every year. Although this sounds like a lot of birds, it's well within the average homesteader's grasp and makes his experiences much more relevant than any information you can find about Joel Salatin's commercial poultry operation.

I've been poring over Ussery's articles for years in Backyard Poultry Magazine and Mother Earth News. In fact, his articles are often the only ones worth reading since they always introduce new ideas rather than rehashing the same old information you read in previous issues. The Small-Scale Poultry Flock takes those articles and expands them into a reference guide that will suit anyone from the raw beginner to the advanced chicken-keeper. In addition to basic information on chicken care, you can learn about backyard breeding, raising chicks with a broody hen, innovative feeding techniques, and much more.

I highly recommend you get the book and read it from cover to cover. I guarantee it'll change the way you integrate your flock into the homestead.
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