Pure Poultry: The Incubation and Hatching of an Idea

by: Sara on 10/21/2013
Posted in: New Books

Today's guest post is from Victoria Redhed Miller, the author of the just released book, Pure Poultry, Living Well with Heritage Chickens, Turkeys and Ducks. Victoria is a writer, photographer and off-grid homesteader who raises heritage poultry in the foothills of Washington State's Olympic Mountains. Victoria shares with us how the trials and tribulations of living with and raising heritage poultry led to the writing of the book.  

A few years ago, I was asked if it was possible to actually make any money raising poultry. My somewhat facetious response was that we'd find out after my book about raising poultry was published.

This was shortly before I seriously began thinking of writing a book. With the exception of a couple of letters to the editor of the Seattle Times and a locally-published article on candy-making, I had never tried to get anything published. Every once in a while I went through a phase where I was writing down funny anecdotes or more introspective essays. Still, I didn't think of myself as a writer, and I certainly never considered the possibility of writing a book.

So how did I get from there to here? Once we moved to our off-grid farm following David's retirement in 2006, we started making plans to raise some animals. We decided to start with chickens. I like to research things ahead of time when I can, and I didn't know a thing about poultry, so I started reading. Books, magazines, blogs. Lots of them. And although I did glean quite a bit of useful information from all of these sources, there were a number of questions I had that I couldn't find the answers for.

In addition, as I read, I became convinced that we ought to concentrate on heritage, or purebred, chickens, rather than hybrid types. I was surprised at how little information there was (at the time) that was specifically about the more sustainable heritage breeds.

This got me curious. I did realize that, because everyone's situation is different (in terms of climate, available space, etc.), it would be virtually impossible to write one definitive book or blog or magazine article on raising chickens. Perhaps all these resources had to be fairly general in that sense. Still, I had questions. For all I knew, there really wasn't any difference between raising heritage or hybrid chickens, but how would I know? We live in the mountains, and it does get cold and snowy in the winter. Would I need to insulate or even heat the chicken coops? I didn't know, and I couldn't find the answers.

I really don't remember making a decision one day to write a book. I had been making a lot of notes in the course of my research and planning process, and at some point I started to organize the notes into some kind of order. I went to the largest public library in our area and did more research. I think I didn't realize I was actually writing a book until I looked at my notes one day and saw that I had put together a table of contents.

At the time, the book looked very different from the finished product, Pure Poultry. It was more like a how-to book then, although specifically about heritage breeds. With time, more experience raising poultry, and the help of some forward-thinking people at New Society Publishers (as well as a wonderful copy editor), Pure Poultry is a how-to/why-to memoir based on our first few years of raising heritage poultry. By relating many of the mistakes we made early on, I hope to encourage readers to have confidence to begin raising poultry. By sharing some of the funny things that have happened with our birds, I hope to convince readers that there is a lot of fun to be had with chickens and turkeys and ducks.

Little did I know, when I gave that sarcastic response about publishing a book on poultry, that I would soon be doing just that. I didn't even know I was a writer until after we moved to our off-grid farm and completely changed our way of life. My priorities are quite different now.

I did not set out to write Pure Poultry because I thought I would make a lot of money. On the other hand, we have learned a lot over the years. There are many people out there who, like myself just a few years ago, are looking for information. If I can write in such a way that informs, encourages, inspires and entertains, and enough people are willing to pay to share that experience, I'm going to keep doing it. I'm so fortunate to have connected with a publisher who "gets" my perspective, likes my writing style, and was willing to give an unknown writer a chance. So I will continue to learn, and share what I've learned. Writing is my new farm enterprise.

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