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Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard Paperback – January 23, 2012
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Award-winning landscape designer Bloom states that the heart of this book has you look at your garden as a habitat for your flock. Chickens and gardens work together synergistically since chickens reduce weeds and pests, aerate the soil, produce fertilizing manure, and provide food. Bloom and Baldwin’s guide to these pets with benefits includes comprehensive information applicable to both small urban and large rural lots pertaining to landscape design, fencing and hardscape materials, chicken-friendly plants, garden and coop designs, and predators. Details on fence fastenings and coop kits, along with numerous illustrations, full-color photos, charts and tables, garden layouts, and useful tips (Cut Miscanthus plants in late winter and use the dried grass as bedding), offer a wealth of practical advice. Beyond that, this how-to presents an ecofriendly, holistic view of human-animal relationships while addressing self-sufficiency and food issues, core motivations for the burgeoning organic, homegrown movement. --Whitney Scott
“If your garden fantasies involve chickens, Jessi Bloom. . . is here to make those dreams come true. . . . an expert guide for the untutored.” —The New York Times
“A manifesto on the many ways to pamper your hens—with plants for foraging and shelter, rain-fed water bowls and eco-friendly lawns.” —Sunset
“A comprehensive guide from mating to medicine that will particularly help beginners. . . . Bloom makes a persuasive case.” —Publishers Weekly
“Numerous illustrations, full-color photos, charts and tables, garden layouts, and useful tips. . . . a wealth of practical advice.” —Booklist
“Exquisitely produced and artfully photographed.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Bloom’s obvious enthusiasm for good design and for her birds will inspire both novice and experienced chicken owners to create a garden space for hens and humans to enjoy.” —American Gardener
“Complete with gorgeous photos, diagrams, plans, and a very well written and easy to understand approach, you will want to get your hands upon this book if you have ever dreamed of incorporating chickens into your lifestyle.” —Small Town Living
“A great basic guide for first-time chicken owners and chicken owner wannabes.” —Horticulture
“The only book I have seen that tells you exactly how you can have your chickens AND your garden too.” —Living Homegrown
“Solves the dilemma of having free-range chickens and a vegetable garden.” —The Oregonian
“Provides a good overview on coop building styles and considerations, very basic chicken care info, do-grow/don’t-grow plant lists for the chicken garden and lots and lots of gorgeous inspirational pictures.” —NW Edible
“I’ve had chickens for four years and I wish that I could have had Jessi Bloom’s new book in the beginning.” —Diggin Food
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Instead of focusing on the book's supposed subject--"How to Create a Beautiful Chicken-Friendly Yard"-- the author apparently decided she would rather superficially talk about many, MANY other topics. They include:
1. Coop design (lots of pretty pictures, only one "how to do this" plan with measurements)
2. Predator descriptions and deterrent methods (Mostly accurate info, but why is this discussed in a garden design book?)
3. How to pick chicken breeds (In every basic chicken keeping book in the world--why waste valuable space in this supposedly specialized book with a rehash of that same information??)
4. How to clip a chicken's wings, etc. (What does this have to do with garden design? The author may have her reasons, but doesn't explain them.)
5. A brief rundown of other poultry types, including turkeys, geese, and ducks. (Huh?? Why are ducks discussed in a book that is supposed to be about chickens??)
6. She wraps up the book by listing common chicken diseases and parasites. (?!?)
I have had my chickens for almost 2 years and own many basic chicken keeping books; I didn't need another one. What I DID need was tips on how to incorporate my chickens into a garden--what plants to avoid, what plants they'd love, what plants would benefit from the extra nitrogen from chicken poop. Unfortunately, there is very little information of this sort included in the book, and what little there is is VERY difficult to find, even if using the index.
In addition to all the unnecessary and unwanted basic chicken keeping advice, the author decided to include basic gardening and composting advice--again, losing focus of what this book is supposed to be about. This book reminds me of a high school freshman's first English essay: cluttered, unfocused, and ultimately unhelpful.
If you're actually interested in what the book claims to be about--successfully incorporating poultry into a holistic garden design--a better choice would be "The Small Scale Poultry Flock", by Harvey Ussery.
However, if you're just interested in a cute coffee table book, I suppose this may fit your needs.
It's also a bit tough to tell which of the plants the author says work well with chickens are ones she's actually tried. In several places, it sounds like she's just repeating conventional wisdom, and from my own chicken experiments, I've discovered that conventional wisdom is often wrong. I would have found it much more helpful if the author had made a point of distinguishing between facts she was reporting from personal experience and those she'd just read.
The useful side of the book is the way it considers the garden as an entire ecosystem. She does a good job of telling you which permaculture layers work well with chickens (the tall ones) and which don't (shallow-rooted shrubs, annuals, and herbaceous perennials in the spring). And, as I said before, the photos are beautiful if you want a coffee table book.