Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Review: The Backyard Homesteading Guide to Raising Farm Animals

The lady of the house suggested that I do a review on some of the books that I've been reading for homesteading since I didn't have photos ready for a new post at the moment. Rather than flailing around for something last minute that I don't know enough about I decided that was a good idea. I decided to start with the first book that I picked up for this particular project, "The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals" edited by Gail Damerow. This book is well written, extensive, and easy to find information in. Of all of the books on homesteading it is one I would strongly recommend for those looking to raise animals in their homesteading projects.

What Does It Cover?
It covers basic care and housing for Chickens, Turkeys, Ducks, Rabbits, Honey Bees, Goats, Sheep, Pigs and Cows. Now saying that is what it covers is a vast over simplification because each chapter is a significant thing on its own. Indeed, each of these chapters covers nearly as much as many of the Storey's Guides to raising individual animals. Most importantly for a new person to homesteading it has a very down to earth introduction that grounds you in the realities of the situation as well as the benefits. Indeed you will see a lot of the advice I've given in this blog has roots in this introduction and the chapters of the book. The introduction for instance has a section on why raise food animals, accentuating the positive, dealing with butchering, the value of networking, finding stock, transporting animals, and housing them.  None of them are detailed as the chapters are, but that's just the first 5 pages of the book!

Full Of Information!
As you can no doubt guess from the information about the introduction, each chapter of the book is packed with information. Indeed for those used to well produced text books will find a lot of similarities between this book and an introductory high school science text book. You will see graphics, tables, and a lot of text. Fortunately unlike most high school science text books there is humor in the writing, and it is written in a much more conversational tone which makes for fairly easy reading. The benefit is that also similar to high school text books, there is a good index and a good set of resources for further reading about the topic, as well as a clear organizational system.

On the rabbits side which is where I can most speak to information in the book versus information elsewhere, the information is good. Unlike many homesteading books they don't have the focus entirely on factory like production. They do focus on production without comment to ethical or animal welfare for the most part, but there is attention paid to the welfare of the animal unlike some others. So far I haven't found any information in the rabbit section that contradicts what I have found elsewhere.

Things That Stand Out:
* An engaging, and easy to read table of contents.
* A detailed and easy to use index.
* Clearly divided chapters with orange pages for the chapter lead pages making them easy to find.
* The only book I have found with charts of benefits of various breeds, especially for Chickens.
* Illustrations on handling for those who aren't already experienced and may not have mentors.
* Engaging to read
* Written by a group of people so each section is by an expert rather than a generalist.

This is a book I would strongly recommend for those considering raising meat animals. It has enough information about each breed that you could use it as your primary reference source from making a decision on what animals to raise to actually caring for the animals. I especially recommend it for those who aren't fully decided on what they are doing because it provides such a clear picture of how much work you will be doing (at least on paper, real life always surprises us) that it helps make an educated decision.

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