How to Speak Chicken | A Humble Book Review
I was happily surprised in the last few weeks to find our friend Melissa Caughey's new book, How to Speak Chicken, in our post office box though I knew the copy I had ordered wouldn't be released until much later in the month. I then realized that I had received a copy to review from Storey Publishing. It was back in May that I had reviewed one of their new books 100 Plants to Feed the Bees, and I absolutely adored doing so. Man, I could definitely review books professionally! I am not sure if I am very good at doing so, but I do love the idea of getting to read lots of books and then discuss why I enjoy them. That just sounds fun, doesn't it? Because I was planning on purchasing a copy of Melissa's new book anyway, I knew that I was going to love it! I met Melissa over a year ago at the Country Living Fair in Atlanta, Georgia. She gave on talk on how fun and (mostly) easy keeping backyard chickens can be, and I at once knew that it was something I needed to try! We had been considering the idea of chickens for some time, even taking a class beforehand, but had just not yet been convinced that it was something in our family's interest. It was during Melissa's talk, where she mentioned personal stories, funny moments, and the unique antics of chickens that made me say, "Yep! This is for me!"
I am so glad that we took the leap. Never have we been more smitten! We're even moving onto a larger plot of land so that we may continue our love of chicken keeping, among other farm/homestead related ideals. I remember meeting Melissa again at another fair and relaying how much I loved the chickens, that I was excited to try taking on ducks or bees or even goats! She said that chickens were like the livestock gateway drug, and I have to agree. They're amazing animals to keep as pets, besides the fact that they provide you with breakfast almost everyday. They're intelligent and full of personality, something only a chicken keeper could learn to love! In her new book, Melissa shares with you experiences from her own coop along with expert research on how chickens "do what they do and say what they say." It's a fascinating read for both pro coop keeper and new chicken owner alike.
As someone who voraciously absorbs information about things that I love, chickens definitely being high on my list, I was really excited to know that this book was filled with information about why chickens act the way they do! Did you know that chickens have a pecking order and that you can fall into it? I had heard this before, becoming an honorary member of the flock, but had not yet been able to tell if I fell into this category. Upon first reading, and learning more about how the process works (which is basically just spending a decent amount of time with your chickens each day), I felt inspired to try making it happen myself. Now when I go out in the mornings to check the feed and water, to clean, and to collect eggs, I make sure to copy my chickens' behavior to see if their mood changes. Even within a couple of weeks, I have noticed some changes in their attitude towards me, as if I am not as scary and unfamiliar as before.
Our family has always been fascinated by the fact that I am really the only person who can round the chickens up after we free range them. There was a moment where I was away for the evening and my mom was left to round up the girls; what usually takes me a few minutes took her almost a half hour because they wouldn't listen to her! In Melissa's book she talks about how you can be considered as a rooster or a hen, and while I am not entirely sure, part of me wonders if I have been determined as the honorary rooster in my flock's social ladder.
Speaking of roosters, this book came at a great time for us. I don't have any big announcements to make just yet, but because we are in the process of moving to more land, I have been considering welcoming more hens into our flock and wondering if a rooster might be a good addition. We'll be on acreage, without close neighbors to bother, which means I can free range the girls all day long. Yay! Having a rooster could potentially help protect them from predators. It was interesting to learn facts about roosters from Melissa's point of view, that they aren't always mean (especially towards young children), that they can be fun to watch and will even fight to the death for their hens. That was surprising!
Among my thoughts on pecking order, I was happy to learn that there were other ways to determine a head hen within a flock other than her assertiveness. To be honest, I have been struggling since day one to figure out who our head hen is! In a pecking order, there are three authoritative roles: the rooster, the head hen, and the sentinel. Melissa explains that the head hen is often the healthiest, strongest, and smartest hen. She decides where they free range and is the first to access food. The sentinel, on the other hand, is the official lookout and guard of the flock. That was nice to know! I believe my hen, whom I thought was the head, is actually our sentinel. Can you spot her in the photo above? It's Dorothy, the Australorp in front, sticking her neck out. She has been doing that since the day we brought her home - I kid you not! I remember watching her stretch her long neck in the brooder as a chick. So interesting! As for our head hen? I still don't know, but I determined to discover who it is with Melissa's tips!
The book is filled with plenty of other tips like how a chicken's brain works, that it's trying to become proven that we can cure brain conditions such as depression and Alzheimer's among other things. You'll also learn about prehistoric chickens, how we believe the now domesticated chicken came about, and how flocks in the wild operate. The only wild chickens I have ever experienced were on Key West. That was a really fun thing to see! I remember walking through a residential street and seeing a mother hen with six little chicks trailing behind her. I was surprised to learn that flocks in the wild really only do well with 20 members or less. Who knew!
A quick read and easily manageable, this book is a perfect addition to your homesteading library! I am sure I will turn to it more times than once upon discovering new chicken behavior. I truly enjoyed it and hope to pass it along to anyone who might be as much of a chicken lover as I or to someone hoping to one day have a flock of their own. Our girls mean so much to us, and I love reading your sweet comments and messages about how we've inspired you to try chicken keeping yourself. I even received a sweet message the other day with artwork a reader had done of Tad and the girls. Honestly, I am always absolutely shocked to read that! It's humbling and truly the coolest thing ever. These birds are not something to be afraid of and make such interesting, funny, and happy pets. A happy chicken owner keeps a happy chicken that lays happy eggs!