Jessi Bloom spoke on the topic of "Creating a beautiful, chicken-friendly yard." I didn't have time to actually stay and listen, but she graciously signed my book before her presentation and I talked to her about kids and chickens for a couple minutes.
I was impressed by her substantial tattoos and eco-hipster glasses. Oh, she's also a certified horticulturalist and certified arborist.
I immediately appreciated the layout of the book, including the quality of the photos, how they were placed on the pages and the variance in type sizing. It was easy to read.
Jessi explains what she includes in the book and why, then dives right in, giving directions and introducing terminology so that the reader can later research specific topics on the internet. Like, "what's the closest feed store to my house?"
As an aspiring chicken-owner, I found the answers to most of my questions: What to feed them/ not feed them? When do I put a light in the coop? How high do they fly? How much daily work is involved? What chickens are right for my property/ family/ egg needs? She also discusses how to deal with neighbors that don't like chickens and the responsibility that poultry owners have to keep the coop clean so as not to attract vermin and give chicken-farming a bad reputation.
I didn't seem to find the answers to these questions: What happens if I get a male? Can they stay in the enclosed yard and put themselves to bed, or do I have to lock them up nightly? What if I have to kill one? (There's a "how to" on YouTube.)
Before I read "Free-Range Chicken Gardens" I was planning to have one place to keep my coop and covered run. Now, I think I'll take my time fencing certain areas of my yard before I get birds (Spring 2013?) and I'll have "zones" letting the birds roam freely in a fenced area, while I keep an eye out for predators.
My property is currently open to wild animals. We've seen deer, coyotes, possums, raccoons and the kicker- bobcats! Oh, and also bears... seriously... combing through the trash and pooping in the yard. Anyway, back to the book...
I'm pretty picky when it comes to paying for books because so much information is available online, however, this is a good "go-to" guide with great information on chicken-safe plants, chicken care, coops and all things chicken-gardening related. I'll definitely refer to it when I'm planting in my yard. It also makes a beautiful coffee table book.
Before I start building my chicken fences and designing my coop, I'll study the ultimate chicken book, "Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens" by Gail Damerow. Review forthcoming.