The market for books on chicken keeping is very crowded and it’s difficult for authors to find a new take on the subject, but David Squire has done exactly that. Chicken Nuggets: a Miscellany of Poultry Pickings (Green Books 2012) opts for the trivia approach, trying to read (and look) like a chicken fancier’s version of Schott’s Original Miscellany. It’s beautifully designed and produced too, boasting a wealth of black and white illustrations that are a history of poultry literature in themselves.
The trouble with this approach is that Ben Schott is a tough act to follow; without his wit and eye for the absurd, a book on chicken trivia is always going to tend towards dullness – unless you’re the sort of person who gets really, really excited about chickens. That said, the author has really done his homework and the book is crammed full of useful bits and pieces. Whatever you need to know, the chances are that it’s in there somewhere – although the indexing is so minimal you may not be able to find it. This is partly because the range of the book exceeds its size, so it’s really a book to be dipped into like a swimming pool, rather than drunk all at once.
For trivia buffs there is plenty to get your teeth into. For instance, did you know that over a year five chickens will produce more than 200kg of manure? That the Araucana breed is also known as the South American Rumpless? That chickens have two kinds of feathers – vaned and down? That they were accepted as payment in a Texan brothel during the Great Depression? No? Well, now you do, and I’d hazard you’d find it difficult to come across that sort of thing in most poultry-keeping books.
Chicken Nuggets isn’t a book for beginners, because it doesn’t try to be a keepers’ manual: but if you know a poultry obsessive (and there are many, many of them) it might just be the perfect Christmas gift.