It’s probably indicative of my geek status, but when faced with a question, my first instinct is to look for a book. Sure, I’m young enough that we had the internet when I was in college, but I still think of the world wide web as a place to look up the name of that actor that was in that movie, you know, the bald one? If I’m going to learn something, really dig into it, I want a book.
All of which is to say Amazon has done quite well by me since we moved to the farm. You can tell which animals we acquired first by the quantity of reference materials; 5 chicken books, 2 duck books, 2 sheep books, 1 guinea book, and then I break my pattern with 3 pig books. I already have a book on bees and dairy goats, just in case. Add to that 5 homesteading books (all purchased while farm hunting) and the 10 gardening books I’d bought back at the old house (yes, that’s more books than we could grow rows of vegetables), and we have our own resource library.
I thought I’d share some of my favorites.
Chickens: With our initial order of 25 birds, we were in no man’s land. While the basics of raising chickens applies to 5 birds or 500, information about flock management, pasture rotation and housing is very dependent on the size of your operation. Backyard chicken books didn’t cut it, but neither did those focusing on becoming a full fledged chicken producer. Day Range Poultry fit the bill. For someone with 15 to 200 (maybe even more) birds, we found this to be the most informative book for pasturing birds (chickens and turkeys).
Sheep: I can’t say enough about Living with Sheep. The book is so approachable you can read it cover to cover and not feel like you picked up an ag class textbook. Its laid back approach is refreshing when every other sheep book should have the subtitle “all the reasons you are going to accidentally kill your flock.” This is the best book we own, and I wish more farm guides were written in this one farmer to another style.
Pigs: The closest to Living with Sheep I’ve found for pigs is Pigs for the Freezer. The focus is super-small production and talks about heritage breeds like Tamworths more than other books I’ve found.
Homesteading: I’m a bit biased, as The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It has a lot to do with why we started looking for a five acre farm in the first place. None the less, when other books say something that makes you think “how on earth did people farm before [insert expensive, high tech piece of equipment]” rest assured this text will be your go-to gut check before you grab for your check book.
Worth noting, we’ve purchased the Storey guides for most of the animals we own, and we just don’t find them very impressive. Sure, they are a useful reference to have on hand if you quickly want to look up gestational periods or diseases, but there’s nothing in them that you couldn’t find in a Google search. Also, a third of the books are often dedicated to showing an animal, which does absolutely nothing for the homesteader.
What books do you swear by?