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Gail Damerow’s second edition of The Chicken Health Handbook has been sitting on my shelf for a few months. I was really excited when the publisher sent me a review copy, and I started reading immediately. By the time I was approaching 300 pages, however, my enthusiasm was waning. I was worried that people who read the book would suffer from the chicken keepers version of “medical school syndrome.” You’d start to think that your chickens had many of the maladies mentioned in the book.
I forgot about it until one day when my husband mentioned that one of our chickens looked funny. I thought it looked like she might have wry neck. Since we’d never had that before, I didn’t know much about it, and that’s when I remembered that I had The Chicken Health Handbook on my shelf. I learned that twisted neck could be caused by a long list of things including a vitamin E or thiamine deficiency, but I came to the conclusion that my chicken was probably injured, and there wasn’t much we could do for her. That’s when I realized this was a great reference book, rather than a book to read cover to cover.
This is an excellent book to have on your shelf for those times when something goes amiss with your chickens. Since there are very few chicken vets, most of us are simply left guessing or taking our chances with Google and hoping for the best. This book is almost 500 pages of information on everything you ever wanted to know about chicken health — and a bunch of stuff you didn’t even know that you didn’t know.
It is also a good book to have when you hear something that makes you say, “Hmm.” For example, have you ever heard that chickens are lactose intolerant because they’re not mammals? I know I’m not the only one who feeds extra goat milk or whey to my chickens. Damerow explains that although they are not mammals they do produce a small amount of lactase, which means they can digest dairy products. She even quotes research and runs through the math to give you the lowdown on exactly how much milk is okay. (It’s more than your chickens would drink.)
The publisher agreed to give a copy to one of our readers when the review was first published.