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Books on poultry, self-sufficiency, growing things etc.

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This is a topic with Christmas, birthdays, treat yourself in mind. I'm going to list all the books I love on said topics which either help me do things or help me dream. I'll also do a short review. I hope lots of you will do the same and add your reviews to the books I've listed.

For those of you who don't know me, I grew up in Warwickshire surrounded by farms and smallholdings. I started keeping hens in the late 60's when I was about 9 or so. When I got married a few of the hens came with me - lucky husband! - but in 1986 we had to move to central Newcastle (terraced house with 5x6m backyard) and that was the end of hen keeping until those lovely guys at omlet invented the eglu. I was one of the first to get one (June 9) and life has been very good since then. :D

I think virtually all these books are available through Amazon (check their 2nd hand as well). Where possible I choose to get books directly from the author, eg John Yeoman, through sites like Omlet, ordering from a local independent bookshop or from Amazon 2nd hand. I'll give details of where I got it if I can remember.


Hens in the Garden, Eggs in the Kitchen.

Charlotte Popescu

Available through Omlet

This book, pub 2003, was new to me but I think it is a great book for novice hen keepers. Good sensible summary of how to look after garden hens and some nice recipes for using up the eggs. Good index and glossary.


The Big Book of Garden Hens

Francine Raymond

Available through Omlet

This is a beautiful book, written with passion by someone who knows and loves hens. It is arranged as a diary through the year and has a very personal feel to it. Lots of useful and essential information but no index so you'll have to search for what you want. Good directory at the back. It is the sort of book you start reading from the beginning and just don't put down. Superb information about the different breeds of chickens and bantams, including those that don't scratch much! Francine gardens as well so lots of tips about dealing with veggies and scratching hens in the same garden. Delightful photos and illustrations.


Keeping a few hens in your garden

Francine Raymond

Available from Francine at www.kitchen-garden-hens.co.uk

ISBN 0-9532857-1-5

This is much more of a pamphlet in the sense of beautiful Victorian ones. Lovely to handle. Some of the same information as the above book but extra stuff as well. No index but again a delight to read. Extremely sensible, practical advice. Chapter on gardening with hens and illustration of a 'build your own' 5* covered dust bath. Can't remember what I paid but not a lot and well worth it.


Chickens in your backyard. A beginner's guide

Rick and Gail Luttmann

ISBN 0-87857-125-6

Pub 1976 by Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, Pa.18049 USA

This was the first book on garden hens I came across and I got it imported in the days before amazon and the internet. You may still be able to pick it up second hand. Before this book I learnt everything from the smallholders where I lived. It is a good book, looking at hens in the garden situation with an excellent contents page and index. Lots of ideas for hen keepers with little money but willing to construct things from 'waste'.

The Lazy Kitchen Gardener

John Yeoman

Get this directly from John. Phone/fax 01525 221492 or email John@villageguild.co.uk

ISBN 0-9542006-0-8

This book will certainly make you laugh and you'll never look at waste packaging in the same way. He has a 1/2 acre smallholding in Leighton Buzzard and a wicked way with words. Need an excuse to drink more wine? John's book tells you how to make thermal veggie growing containers out of them so you can plant and harvest a few weeks earlier. You'll learn how to cover your wall and fences with milk cartons and produce loads of lovely salad. Get the picture? How to get maximum yields from minimum cost and time and with laughs and fun on the way. Can't remember what I paid but not a lot.


John Seymour The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency.

John, who sadly died earlier this year has written the 'bible' for those who want to do it and those who just dream of doing it.

Available through Omlet although the picture is of the original book, so you might want to check that. Original still superb reference but the new one is revised, updated and has bits added.

ISBN 07513 6442 8

I'm going to leave the reviews to people who actually do some smallholding but for fellow dreamers it is still a fantastic book to read and bits of it can be done in small backyards.

Extremely comprehensive contacts and reference section.


The fat of the land

John Seymour

ISBN 0 9545646 0 X

This is the story of how John started smallholding, learning as he went and his family's adventures on the way. It is a real 'can't put down book' that will leave you challenged and inspired.

£8 paperback so a must to fill your christmas stocking.


The Self-Sufficient Gardener

John Seymour

ISBN 0571 11212 9

My copy is from 1978 so don't know if it is still in print.

Similar size book to the Complete Self-Sufficiency but all but one chapter on growing edible things. Chapter on preserving as well. More detail on growing different types of veg and fruit than in the Complete book.

Usual excellent contacts, further reading etc you get with John's books but may be out of date unless there is a more recent edition.

John has also written The Forgotten Arts and Crafts which I borrowed from the library and is a fascinating and detailed look at traditional country skills and how to do them yourself.

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Hi Jane,


I got mine on 9th June too!!!! Fancy that! It was supposed to be 2nd June but there were problems :cry: .


To add to the list:-


I would recommend


Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's River Cottage Cookbook

(Harper Collins ISNB 0 00 220204 2) It includes hints on growing, harvesting vegetable and fruit as well as recipes for them plus some information on starting a smallholding.


Fork to Fork by Monty and Sarah Don

(Conran Octopus ISBN 1 85029 992 7) Similar to above with growing hints and recipes for fruit and veg.


Clean House, Clean Planet (Clean your house for pennies a day, the safe, non-toxic way) by Karen Logan

(Pocket Books ISBN 0 671 53595 1) A simple to follow guide to making your own household cleaning products from biodegradable ingredients. Tried and tested by me for the last two years and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!


I also have The Forgotten Arts and Crafts book by John Seymour and I believe it is out of print at the moment but I think I saw that Amazon had combined it with another book by John Seymour into one big book. It's a fascinating read.


I also have the Chickens in your backyard book by Rick and Gail Luttmann that Jane recommended and I echo her comments - a great book.


Also, for those who like a good forage :wink: !


Wild Food by Roger Phillips

(Pan Books ISBN 0 330 28069 4)

A superbly photographed book on using wild foods with recipes and detailed information on drying, using and cooking with wild plants, mushrooms and seaweed. A lovely book to just look at!


Food For Free by Richard Mabey


Mine's a very old paperback copy (1972!!) but I know that there are newer, glossily photographed copies about in the bookshops and garden centres. Sorry I can't give publisher or ISBN :oops: .

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Another one I forgot :oops: .....


Urban Dreams, Rural Realities by Daniel Butler and Bel Crewe

(Pocket Books ISBN 0 671 01580 X)


It's not an encyclopaedia or reference book but a highly amusing account of Daniel and Bel's first year in their Welsh smallholding. Written in month by month sections, Daniel's accounts are enthusiastic and frequently rose-tinted while Bel's are far more realistic, gritty and down to earth! Very funny and often informative. Daniel wrote a column for years in Country Living magazine called Diary of a Smallholder.

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One of our favourites is Home Farm - a practical guide to the good life by Paul Heiney

It covers all aspects of the 'good life' in what is best described as 'three sizes' - Field, Plot and Garden


It is a DK book and was £16.99

ISBN 07513 0461 1


Yesterday, Carl picked up a new book at Mahers bookstore for £5.99 (RRP £12.99) Beautiful h/back The Complete Encyclopaedia of Chickens. Colour photos throughout and clear information. It is by Esther Verhoff and Aad Rijs

ISBN 90 366 1592 5

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I don't want to start a new topic so hope no-one minds a magazine entry here :)


Practical Poultry is a new magazine which only started in April this year. It is an excellent, full-colour magazine crammed full of interesting topics and information. A subscription would make a lovely present. (Their admin. is quick and efficient - I have to go and read my new copy!)


The website is www.practicalpoultry.co.uk - well worth looking at.



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This isn't a book but a website for those of you who are interested in trying non-toxic, eco-friendly household cleaning recipes and tips. It's the one which got me started and one which I refer to whenever I have a problem which I'm not sure how to deal with. It's a wonderful site for craft projects too.




Have fun :D

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Posted: Sun Mar 13, 2005 1:42 pm


I've just bought a fantastic new chicken book from Amazon: The Complete Encyclopaedia of Chickens 330 pages with colour illustrations on every page. Everything you ever wanted to know about all breeds and types of chicken as well as keeping and breeding them and all for under £7.00. I saw it recommended in a magazine called Kitchen Garden.

Go for it!


Graham has just posted this but I've moved it to this topic - it needed bumpimg back up for all those who haven't seen it before. Hope you don't mind Graham.


This is a really good book and so is the Kitchen Garden Magazine


Thanks for this Graham :D

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I've been receiving Kitchen Garden and Organic Gardening for a year or so now and they're great magazines (when I remember to read them :oops: ). Kitchen Garden has a particularly good poultry section written by the lady who runs the Wernlas Collection.


I bought a book which I got as a recommendation on River Cottage a few months ago called "The Enclyclopedia of Country Living" by Carla Emery (ISBN 1-57061-377-X and it is a veritable store of information for those wanting a more self-sufficient life. I can't remember how much it was but the author lives an American Pioneer lifestyle and does everything possible herself. There's information on cooking, growing fruit and vegetables, animal and poultry keeping etc.


"Be prepared! Be self-sufficient!

Do you know how to....


choose and buy land?

pinch pennies?

create and live with renewable energy sources?

deliver a baby alone :shock: ?

preserve and can your own food?

make a quilting frame?

prune a tree?

bathe under primitive conditions?

raise chickens?

make your own vinegar?

treat bites and stings from ticks :shock: , scorpions :shock::shock: , snakes :shock::shock::shock: and spiders :shock::shock::shock::shock: ?


Learn how and much more!"

Edited by Guest
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Hi All,

First post here for us! Keeping a low profile for a bit as our hens aren't due to arrive for another two weeks. (Tsk! Public transport don't you know!)

Anyway, just thought we'd share one of our favourites:- "A Good Life" - Leo Hickman.


Keep up the good work!


Chris and Alli

Tessa and Ben


eglu - 1 (pink)

hens - 0

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Hello there and welcome!!! :D:D:D


Do make a post in the nesting box too so more people will get to know you and say hello! :wink:


Dont worry about keeping a low profile - i dont have my chickens yet either - just two weeks to go before i get my ex battery girls.


Very exciting isnt it? This chicken marlarkey!!! :dance:

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Oooo! Actually our 4 will be ex battery, arriving in a couple of weeks. We have our (pink eglu) (I didn't choose the colour, though it *is* very fetching indeed!) which is sitting proudly in it's new home, ready and waiting. :)

Will take snaps and post on beginners list! Sorry, gone a little OT in my second post! Woops!



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Allotment gardening - An organic guide for beginners, Susan Berger

ISBN 1-903998-54-9

I paid about £5 for my copy from the book people. The rrp is about twice as much. Alongside Self sufficiency for dreamers etc it is my guide for allotment life - I have now planted carrots, perpetual spinach, Swiss Chard, Potatoes and Jerusalem Artichokes - looking forward to signs of life shortly!!

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