Review: The Small-Scale Poultry Flock

Every now and then we go through Lehman’s bookshelf and take a closer look at a special book. This month’s pick is almost 400 pages long, and before your eyes widen (like mine did), let me explain. The book, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock, by Harvey Ussery is a hefty resource full of useful knowledge and photos for those of us who want to or who are currently raising chickens and other domestic fowl. It’s really the go-to book when you have a question regarding your flock. Yet, what makes this book so unique is that Ussery uses an all-natural approach to raising chickens and other fowl. This includes everything from what you feed your chickens to how your flock can be useful in the garden.

Who is this book is for?
While it might be obvious that this book is for anyone who has an interest in raising chickens, I was a bit surprised to find that this book is for gardeners as well as anyone who is concerned with the quality of their food.

While a good part of the book covers how to care for your flock, it also spends time explaining how chickens can help with composting and tilling in your gardening, and most importantly, how raising your own flock helps you monitor and manage the quality of your food supply, a huge issue in the food industry. (On a side note, if you’re trying to convince someone—a spouse, relative or friend—why raising your own chickens is worth the time and money, refer them to the first chapter, “Why Bother?” It’s quite a convincing read, especially with the somewhat disturbing facts of contamination in the poultry industry and spillovers.)

Our portable chicken coop gives your chickens the protection and natural environment they need. Find it in our store in Kidron, Ohio or at

What will you find inside?
This book is divided into seven sections making it easy to find topics relating to your interests or questions.

There’s a nice “Getting Started” section that is perfect for first time chicken owners. Ussery goes over the basics, such as selecting your own flock and understanding your bird (its digestive system and mating behaviors).

He also addresses issues that you might have not even considered. How are you going to manage the manure chickens produce? If you’re pasturing your flock, how are you going to provide shelter in different locations? How do you keep young birds from drowning in their water dishes?

Throughout the book, you’ll find plenty of tips on how to properly care for your flock, such as what to do about housing (including during the winter), providing water and how to protect them from predators.

Ussery even includes a diagram of his own poultry house and explains the layout, so you get a sense of what you may need for your own henhouse. (If you’re planning on butchering your own poultry, there is a helpful section accompanied with photos to show you the proper procedure.)

Both beginners and seasoned veterans of raising chickens will appreciate “Feeding the Small-Scale Flock” section. Ussery emphasizes the importance of what you feed your flock. As he simply states, you’re eating what you’re chickens are eating. He draws attention to store-bought food and what your birds need for a balanced and a healthy, nutritional diet, how you can make your own feed and even how you can use some of your home’s resources to feed your flock.

Finally, if you like to build and make things yourself, there are some do-it-yourself projects included in the appendices, such as how to build your own trap nest, dustbox and mobile A-frame shelter. There are helpful photos and clear instructions for each project.

So why read it?
There is a lot of thought and planning that needs to go into raising chickens and other fowl to avoid potential problems later. (If you’re a veteran at raising your own flock, you probably can attest to this.) This book will go a long way to help you get a strong start.

The Small-Scale Poultry Flock is packed with great information to help you raise a healthy flock. More importantly, it gives you ways and ideas to help you do it in a healthy and natural way, which in my opinion, makes this book worth the read.