I love to look through decorating books and magazines, gardening books and magazines, chicken books (yeah, I've even read a few chicken magazines too--for reals) and I tend to feel them "worth it" when I take away a few ideas. I expected the same from this having felt it a novel idea to have a beautiful chicken-friendly yard (seeing as how I'm nothing short of a chicken activist I'm so chicken friendly) I was wowed. I came away with SO much more than a few ideas.
This is not about simply making a yard friendly for hens. This is about having a gorgeous yard, with plants hens don't eat (and many they can!) that give your yard beauty and them shelter, having a yard that is stunning with beautiful coops, having a yard that is charming rather than barren...
This is not one family's ideas of how to combine free-range chickens, natural fertilizer, organic pest control, soil aeration, fresh eggs if ya want those too, and thriving gardens...this is actually pages and pages of photos and ideas of many homes, yards, and gardens that are easy to recreate and are truly a uptopia for both owner and the winged who share it. (And by "free range" I do not mean no coop. That would be cruel and the hens would likely not live a week. Night predators such as raccoons etc are no match for a sleeping hen and hens know this so at dusk each night they put themselves to bed in your coop and wait for you to lock the door. And they hate rain. Whether part-time free-range and safely tucked away at night, or free-range inside a pretty run full-time, this still means daytime only of course)
It's not easy to have a yard you want to wander through in beauty and hens who love to nibble sharing it. My side yard proves it. They love to hide under and not eat the Texas sage but I have barren areas of things they found far more palatable. And this isn't about someone who wants their chickens to wander and not care for them...it shows beautiful chicken runs, it has truly valid advice on health and predators, and the very real danger of cedar few still know about that has been proven, and how to keep your hens protected in your yard whether truly free range all day and in a coop at night, or in a large run-- just thoroughly researched facts right along with hundreds of photos.
And I must say, I was convinced I'd built the most gorgeous and spacious run on the planet earth until I realized some in this book had me totally beat! I literally searched the internet for months trying to find ideas for coops and runs that looked pretty in the yard and found NO runs that I liked so I designed my own and I never thought anyone could integrate chicken living in an urban area better, but they did--in both urban and suburban and country. These yards are simple to do but breathtaking, coops, runs, plants and all!
While I thought I'd have a few good "takeaways" and ideas, I literally spent evenings combing through this and marking pages. I want a gorgeous yard but I want well protected hens, gorgeous coops that don't scream "farm", and the combo of the two that make anyone want to wander through a yard doubly charming by having all of the above (charming hens meet yard and garden and human utopia)
This book was on my "suggested" page from Amazon based upon other books I'd bought and, with only one other review at the time I bought it, I simply did not expect a book so thorough and full of great READING in addition to photos that make me want to visit the garden center, plan out a design, mark off paths, and enjoy the fact that it tells me how to easily do it all--even with diagrams and proper plant species for your area.
And yes, you can even have a veggie garden and hens that roam it!
And, should you know nothing about chickens, it even tells you great ones to pick-- And where to find everything else in the book too as far as seeds, nurseries, coops, (many of these coops are personally designed but easy to copy) other shelters etc
I especially loved one idea that was like an A-style frame on the ground with feeders on both sides (trough style, painted white) that the chickens could climb up but was perfect shelter from the sun and predators underneath yet attractive. I have two adirondack chairs that have horizontal slats that are painted bright colors the chickens adore and look cute in the yard...they climb up the foot rest base and sit all together on the chairs and arms and hide underneath...this was right along those lines. (I bought a kit for the chairs at Hobby Lobby in a box dirt cheap)
Fortunately the silkies were listed as a good suggested home garden hen because I consider them the best little beings God ever put a beak on.
Have kids and pets? It even suggests how to integrate them all...um, not meaning sharing the coop or anything... It should be noted, however, that the #1 predator to chickens is family dogs. Not because they are mean or hungry, but like a dog getting into the trash, sometimes well trained dogs decide to give in to instinct and play or chase. But one clamp on a chicken and it's over for the hen.
There are walkways, gates, ramps, covered areas, flowers, composting bins, how to integrate chicken fertilizer into the garden to make it a circle of giving..., and garden ideas galore.
And the coops! My gosh, my dream coops they are so stunning! I thought MY coop was gorgeous and now I am going to totally redo it.
I totally stumbled upon this while I have no doubt my review makes it sound as though I wrote it myself and I am a pen name...but when I find anything, product or book so well done, I am a raving fan. The information in here will take me a long time to read through but it's all written so lighthearted and there are full color photos throughout...
More importantly, it is all things I saw NOWHERE on the internet and I cannot tell you the hours or weeks or, in all honesty, months I have spent looking.
This is chicken living for today--where they can integrate beautifully with beauty and never be housed cruelly in a tiny box just for egg production again and even make your yard more charming. Who knew there were so many plants that could assist in a charming chicken yard---where plants and hens are safe and gorgeous and you simply want to meander through and drink your coffee there daily. This was my goal for my yard but the vision here was far deeper.
My wheels are turning and my ideas are so greatly enhanced!
it's one of those books you flip through but then can't put down.
Note: Although the book discusses water features which hens like, if you have silkies, keep them away from ANY open water...because they do not have barbs in their feathers, water weighs them down if they enter it and they will drown. :-( If you want something they can cool off in, you can fill a kiddie pool just shallow enough so their feet get wet but they cannot drown. Their drinking bowls should be the ones with just rims sold specifically for this purpose, with no open water. I have personally seen chicken owners dispondant over a drowning.