A few weeks ago, I won a copy of Jessi Bloom’s Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard over at the fantastic blog The Walden Effect, and I promised all of you a review. Well, I finally made it through the entire book and I’m ready give my piece. 😉
First Impressions: It’s a gorgeous book. The photography (by Kate Baldwin) is absolutely stunning, the diagrams and plans are clear, and even the typesetting and layout of the book is easy to follow.
Chapters 1 & 2 are definitely oriented to the first-time chicken keeper, so I skimmed these. If you’ve never kept chickens before though, I think these would be useful to you. They basically go over the basic whys and hows of chickens.
Chapters 3 – 6 are the meat of this book. She really takes your whole yard into consideration, offering up sample plans, problem solving ideas, and a whole lot of eye candy for inspiration. I was the most impressed with the detailed lists of plants she provided, with their benefits to your garden and your chickens. This gave me a quite a few landscaping ideas for my own yard. My only real complaint is her claim that if you don’t feed your chickens treats from the garden, then they won’t eat those plants from the garden. My chickens found my tomatoes with absolutely no help from me, thank-you-very-much. She does talk about protecting some plants with barrier methods though, so she *does* address the garden eating problem more directly.
Chapter 7 gets into the nitty-gritty of predators, pests, and diseases for poultry. It’s a decent overview, but you’d probably be better off getting this information from a more comprehensive chicken raising book.
The Takeaway: I think this is a fantastic book for the urban/suburban chicken keeper. All but one of the example homes were on lots of .5 acres or less, so I felt it was very appropriate to my own .41 acres. If you already have your dream homestead with several acres and forested or lush pasture areas for your flock to roam, then this book is probably not relevant for you. But if you’re trying to make chickens work in your suburban backyard, then I suggest you pick this book up. Also, if you just like lots of pretty pictures of chickens and gardens, then it would probably make a great coffee table book.