Raising Chickens at Home

A comprehensive guide like this one to purchasing, growing, feeding, and housing chicken is a good thing to have if you've decided to try raising chickens at home.

| January/February 1973

Back in 1949—before factory farming and the "pump 'em full of chemicals" school of agriculture blitzed the country—a fellow named Jack Widmer wrote a little book called PRACTICAL ANIMAL HUSBANDRY. Now that manual wasn't what you'd call completely exhaustive, the writing style wasn't the best, and a few of the ideas it advanced—such as confining laying hens in cages—were later refined into the kind of automated farming that so many of us are fighting against these days.

Still, PRACTICAL ANIMAL HUSBANDRY contained a good deal of basic information that today's "homesteaders" all too often need and don't know where to find. I'm pleased, then, that the publisher of the book, Charles Scribner's Sons, has granted me permission to reprint excerpts from this out-of-print manual. I think that many of my readers will find the following information both interesting and informative. —MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Excerpts from PRACTICAL ANIMAL HUSBANDRY by Jack Widmer were reprinted by permission of Charles Scribner's Sons. Copyright 1949 by Charles Scribner's Sons.

The Good Life

Much—too much perhaps—already has been written about "the good life." Scores of books have told the long and often dreary tale of the joys of country living. Some have been clever and humorous dissertations of country experiences; of how the well went dry, how the goat sickened and died, and the dozens of problems that befall the amateur in his attempts to live off the land. Others, written with a perfectly straight face, have been devoted to scholarly studies of the joys of spreading a good table; how to thrill your friends with breast of guinea hen, home grown and home prepared. Chapters have been devoted to the philosophy of the tiller of the soil, of his nearness to his Creator as he toils with blistered hands among the peas and carrots often produced at fantastic costs.

Both extremes are of course ridiculous. The "Egg and I" sort of thing has thwarted the ambitions of many a couple who, with reasonable intelligence, learned advice, and a bit of luck might have attained the joys of country living. The more serious and often impractical works have sent countless couples into the hinterlands with high hopes, strong backs and unlimited energy, only to discover that although the back-to-the-soil movement has its moments they are few and far between for those of little practical knowledge and experience.

Yet despite the obvious pitfalls that confront the amateur, thousands have made a financial success of agriculture, and are living a life so far superior to their urban cousins as to make a laughing matter of comparison. Many have specialized in one form or another of agriculture, and have established reputations as turkey raisers, cattle breeders, etc., etc. However in their enthusiasm for their specialty some have overlooked one of the most important phases of country living . . . the maintenance of a barnyard flock that produces a high standard of personal living for the tiller of the soil.

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