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The Chicken Health Handbook: a review.

"Primary care for a thriving flock". Author: Gail Damerow.

Front cover of Gail Damerow's Chicken Health Handbook. Pin for later.

Gail Damerow's books are generally excellent, science-based sources of very detailed factual information about backyard chicken keeping.

The Chicken Health Handbook is no exception. It's become my "bible" or go-to book whenever I have to deal with a chicken health issue - and it will become yours too.

Written originally in 1994, this version was updated in December 2015 to include up-to-the-minute details and advice. 

Searching on the internet has become a favoured way for individuals to find information about almost anything - but it's quite often inaccurate and misleading.

In the case of chicken health, this can mean you follow instructions and advice which will actually do more harm than good and, in some cases, will actually kill your chickens.

This book will ensure that you always have detailed, reliable information about illnesses, how to treat them and how to prevent them in the first place.

I own all the books I review and can honestly recommend them. I'm not paid anything for my reviews, nor have I received a free copy.

I simply view them as excellent resources which will genuinely help you as much as they've helped me.

I do earn a small commission if you click on the links and buy. There’s no additional cost to you. For more information, see my affiliate disclosure policy.


Will you benefit from the Chicken Health Handbook?

Literally anyone who keeps chickens (or plans to) and wants to have a trustworthy, fact-based, easily understood book dealing with any and every chicken ailment ever to darken a chicken coop will benefit from owning this book.

So if you have chickens, and you want a reliable source to refer to when they become ill, this is it.

Click here to buy from Amazon.

What does it cover?

To say "everything" wouldn't be much of an exaggeration. It's the most comprehensive  book about chicken health - as one reviewer puts it: "It's more like an encyclopaedia".

Here are its sections.

  • Prevention - how to keep chickens healthy
  • How nutrition plays its part
  • Anatomy and metabolism
  • Parasites, including mites, ticks, fleas and lice. Includes using insecticides
  • Worms, including roundworm, tapeworm, gapeworm and cecal worm
  • Diseases caused by protozoa (including Coccidiosis), bacteria, fungi and viruses
  • Management issues and chicken behaviours
  • Chickens and their impact on human health
  • How to recognise and diagnose illness.
Click here to buy from Amazon.

What's special about it?

The Chicken Health Handbook has been a best-seller for years, and there are good reasons for that.

  • The information is highly detailed, fact- and science- based, and up to date.
  • It doesn't talk only about the different illnesses, but covers how to prevent them happening in the first place and, crucially, how to treat them.
  • The photographs, particularly the illustrations, are excellent guides as to what chickens actually look like when they have different illnesses. It's all very well to say look for a chicken being "huddled", but what does that mean? This book shows exactly what it means.
The Marek's disease page of the Chicken Health Handbook, with illustration of a chicken with Marek's.The illustrations help identify illness.
  • Although she talks largely about natural ways of keeping chickens healthy, Damerow doesn't hesitate to say when natural won't be enough and chemical treatments will become necessary through consultation with a veterinarian. You'll know exactly where you stand with her advice.
Click here to buy from Amazon.

Any downsides?

  • It's so detailed that, particularly for a new chicken keeper, it can feel overwhelming.
  • This is not a book to be read cover to cover. It's one to dip in and out of so that, when you come to need it, you have some idea of where to look in the vast sea of detail it contains.
  • Although it is based on facts there are very occasional times when Gail Damerow strays outside those facts and gives her own opinion about an illness. She's a highly regarded and experienced chicken keeper, so her views are certainly worth knowing. 
  • But it's for each of us to take those views, blend them with the facts, add in our own personal situation, and make an individual decision.
Click here to buy from Amazon.

What do other reviews say?

  • The Chicken Health Handbook has a total of 490 reviews, with an overall score of 4.8 out of 5 stars. 87% give it a full five stars.
  • Unsurprisingly, given that Gail Damerow is based in the USA, the book's references are generally to American-based information. Some readers are irritated by that. But if your chicken has an illness, that illness is the same, wherever you are in the world. In my view this is an unfair judgement.
  • There's a criticism that, in order to diagnose an illness, you need to have some sense of what that illness might be. Once you do, the illustrations help you finally decide on the diagnosis and treatment but until then it's like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
The Chicken Health Handbook open at the page concerning egg peritonitis.The images help diagnose the issue.
  • It's a fair enough comment. The very detailed glossary and index at the end of the book helps to some extent. However, it's difficult to see how else the book could be structured - it's not a replacement for a veterinarian. If you're not sure what illness your bird might have, get professional help.
  • Some people find the information too detailed and find the book "boring". Well, it's not a novel! Dip into and out of it. If you're interested in chickens you'll find it fascinating.

Want to see others? Read more reviews on Amazon.


How many Golden Eggs does it deserve?

If you've looked at any of my other reviews you'll know that I award "Golden Eggs" for products, from one for a "hmmm wouldn't really recommend this" to five - "Yes - don't miss out on this wonderful product".

So, how many does The Chicken Health Handbook get?

A Fabulous Five Golden Eggs!

5 Golden Eggs.

I genuinely view this as one book you should absolutely have in your library. 

It's not a substitute for advice from a veterinarian, but it will guide you as to when you can deal with an illness yourself, and when you need to seek professional advice.

You'll find it an invaluable source of information whenever your chicken health check indicates something is wrong.

Click here to buy from Amazon.

Publisher's Information.

Title: The Chicken Health Handbook (2nd edition)

Author: Gail Damerow.

Published by Storey Publishing, 1994, updated 2015.

Number of pages : 487

ISBN number : 978-1-61212-013-3.


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