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Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All Natural Approach to Raising Chickens

By Hank Will, Editor-in-Chief

Tags: chickens, poultry, farms, homesteading,

GRIT Editor Hank Will at the wheel of his 1964 IH pickup.In his first book, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An all natural approach to raising chickens and other fowl for home and market growers (Chelsea Green 2011), modern-day homesteader, Harvey Ussery has created an encyclopedic and engaging work that may well be the most important poultry book published in past 75 years or more. Ussery has a keen awareness of fowl behaviors and an uncanny ability to nurture those behaviors to significant benefit for both bird and homesteader. To say that The Small-Scale Poultry Flock inspires only begins to peck at the true value of the wisdom contained within its pages. 

Harvey Ussery's Small-Scale Poultry Flock Cover 

I've followed Harvey Ussery's creative homesteading work for years through his articles in Mother Earth News and other back-to-the-land and poultry periodicals I regularly devour. And I've tried and modified many of his methods in my own endeavors with poultry. Quite simply, his ideas are good ideas that help create an intricate network of ecological cycles that leave the homestead soil more healthy and the homesteader more healthy and satisfied - all while honoring the animals that help make it work. Harvey is most definitely an animal husband and his methods make for a good life for the birds involved.

When I met Harvey for the first time at the most recent Mother Earth Fair in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, let's just say that I was thrilled. I eagerly put my money down on a signed copy of The Small-Scale Poultry Flock and felt lucky to get one as they were pretty much unavailable by the second day of the fair.  

Harvey Ussery's inscription to Hank Will 

Within the pages of The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An all natural approach to raising chickens and other fowl for home and market growers, you will find everything you need to know about choosing breeds, housing, health, feed, processing, and even putting together business plans. However, unlike so many dry, technical manuals, or so-called how-to books authored by the obviously less-experienced, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock is written in Harvey's experienced voice with an encouraging style that will surely inspire poultry enthusiasts of every experience level. This book is as valuable for folks just getting started with poultry as it is for experienced flock managers looking for an edge or a new approach. For example, some of Harvey's ideas on using chickens to make compost or to process green manure can be used by commercial operators to profitable advantage.  

The book's section on Working Partners is my absolute favorite because it explains how to give the animals a wonderful life, while reducing some of the pesky yard and garden chores such as tilling, composting yard, garden and kitchen waste, bug control and much more. Additionally, sections on geese, turkeys, guineas and other types of fowl are as informative as they are engaging and even entertaining. Have you ever thought about using worms to compost your vegetable scraps? But what if you don't like to do that much fishing? A composting worm farm might be just what you need to provide high quality protein for your birds, while processing waste into valuable nutrients. Ussery shows you how to do this and so very much more in The Small-Scale Poultry Flock.   

The Small-Scale Poultry Flock is a must read for anyone interested in or currently raising poultry. The book should be required reading for anyone in a poultry science program, if for no other reason than to understand that chickens are not merely cogs in some factory machine, nor some organism that's so well understood that it doesn't need an outlet for its most basic of instincts - such as scratching the earth in search of morsels of food. The book is my top pick of the decade for poultry farmers of all kinds, backyard bird enthusiasts, homesteaders, and virtually anyone with some level of curiosity for the domestic animals that have so helped shape humanity. I don't care whether you are vegan, vegetarian, omnivorous, raw, paleo, organic, no-till, minimum-till, conventional, biodynamic - Harvey Ussery's The Small-Scale Poultry Flock will give you an insight into the fascinating lives of domesticated fowl that is enlightening, heartening and that cuts to the heart of ecological cycles on the homestead. 

Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .