The ultimate chick lit

During autumn and winter, being at work Monday to Friday and commuting  to the Country Living London office before sunrise and returning when it’s dark I see less of the girls than I’d like. I’m more inclined to do a little reading when I get home, whereas in summer I’d hang out in the run in the light evenings, idly watching the flock peck and scratch about for a while.

A selection of my favourite reads

I’m missing the hens during the week, so to help I’m enjoying Alice Walker’s (author of The Color Purple) gentle memoir The Chicken Chronicles (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £12.99). My colleague Lisa, Country Living’s Features Editor, gave it to me for my birthday and what a delightful gift it is. Among the breeds that she keeps are Ameraucanas, presumably some kind of Araucana cross. She describes the birds, which were lovingly raised from chicks by the small boys next door, hopping into her lap and how one ‘settled into my arms…like she’d always been there, drowsy and quiet, as if she were a cat.’

The gals out and about

A favourite, similarly gentle, read of mine is Francine Raymond’s All My Eggs in One Basket (Kitchen Garden, £18.50), which is a diary celebrating her Buff Orpingtons as well as country living and the joys of each season, with stunning photographs by Sarah Bush. She also includes simple and very tasty recipes for eggs and kitchen garden produce (and runs courses, see

A shamelessly gratuitous snap of Audrey, the White Araucana

Other books on The Smallholdings shelves include the fascinating and informative Chickopedia by Charlotte Popescu (Cavalier Paperbacks, £7.99), an A-Z of hen- related terms, facts and legends, Celia Lewis’s Illustrated Guide to Chickens (A&C Black, £16.99) and Country Living‘s Henkeeping (Collins & Brown, £6.99) by Jane Eastoe – in association with the National Trust – is a no-nonsense and inspiring read containing virtually all you need to know about the hobby. And the least likely publisher of a poultry guide is Haynes, the car book specialist. Recently, it’s branched out into animals, too, and the illustrated Chicken Manual by Laurence Beeken (Haynes, £19.99) is a great general book that I’ve consulted on hen health several times.

On the topic of wellbeing, I was emailing Sara of Hen Corner on the lack of veterinary support when it comes to chickens. Many don’t seem to know any more about poultry wellbeing than us keepers, the majority having gone into small animal pratice and not livestock. Having said that, my local vet went to great lengths to obtain some medicine for a poorly Rhode Island Red cockerel last year and also waived the consultation fee, so that was very kind. I came across an online hen vet the other day, which may come in handy at some stage: It has a good informative section on hen wellbeing, though beware of the hotline, which may be worth paying for depending on the state of your chickens, but it’s a pretty pricey 0905 job.

Feathers crossed that there’ll be no need! Happy henkeeping.

6 thoughts on “The ultimate chick lit

  1. I’ve just discovered your blog, and I really like it! Hens are fab, and you write so well about their little ways. I loved your diary in this month’s Country Living too – the suggestion of boiling up vegetable peel and serving it up in the hen run has gone down extremely well with my girls. I should have thought of that before, but hadn’t. So a chorus of approving clucks from down my way, and many thanks for a great idea.

  2. Hi Ruth,
    We’ve got another sick girl in the Hen Hospital (last one wasn’t ours..)..
    I’m not sure what wrong, she’s looked scruffy for a while but I put that down to moulting and there’s been great new plumage growth.
    But her comb & eyes haven’t been right… I think she’s nearly blind and didn’t even go in at dusk last night…

    So she’s indoors with boiled egg & Baytril, but I don’t think she’s even found the food… sadly, not much hope for her…

    Sara x

    1. Apologies, Sara, was writing that email on the move and accidentally pressed send! As I was saying, I’m so sorry to hear about your poorly hen. I can’t think what her condition might be either, I’m afraid. Is her eye foamy at all and is there a rasping noise when she breathes? If so, it might be mycoplasma (treated with a vet-prescribed medicine called Tylan 200).

      They’re so stoic and cheery usually, so when they’re unwell it’s really upsetting isn’t it?

      Have you tried that chicken vet site/number?

      Best wishes,


  3. Thanks Ruth,

    Sadly Maddy didn’t make it through the day…
    I did loads of research, online vets, Twitter chook friends, forums, etc…
    The only thing that looked similar was Toxoplasmosis, but I can’t understand how she managed to grow all the new feathers if she was so ill…

    Anyway, a big clear out yesterday of both Eglus and all the others are happy…
    It’s left me thinking about hatchig some ducklings next Spring – that should be fun!

    Sara x

    1. Hi Sara,

      Sorry, didn’t see your reply till just now. Very sad about Maddy – isn’t it horrid when you can’t work out what’s wrong with them. That’s happened to me before and it’s so frustrating. We need a really good, informative poultry website with a kind of flow chart diagnosis system or something, don’t we?

      Ducklings sounds exciting, how lovely! Look forward to hearing about that.

      Best wishes,


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