Book Review: My Chickens and I by Isabella Rossellini

My Chickens and I (2018) by Isabella Rossellini is not your typical celebrity book. Rossellini gets chickens, and if you also have a deep respect for one of the world’s most resilient and sustainable animals, I think you will love My Chickens and I.

When this book first landed in my lap, I was intrigued but skeptical. I have always been a fan of Isabella Rossellini, but I have too often seen celebrities publish books just because they are celebrities. This seems to be true in the publishing world in general but even in the world of chicken publishing. After all, how many books have we seen rehash the same bits of advice about raising chickens from the same famous names in the chicken world?

I am so pleased to report that Rossellini’s book offers something different. Her thorough understanding and deep respect for chickens comes through in this beautiful book, making this a book I will treasure, read to my little boy, and give as gifts to the chicken people in my life.

I love the cover of the book, which features a photograph of Isabella Rossellini with her chickens; the picture feels authentic. Rossellini is in her hat, fluffy coat, and gloves on the ground, surrounded by her chickens who clearly know her well. Below the title are sketch drawings of chickens that Rossellini drew herself. The book is filled with these sketches, which add a charm and such a “feeling of real” to this whole book.

Rossellini fills the book with interesting facts and engaging information about chickens. She writes about her own chickens and what they are like. Rossellini also includes professional photographs of her chickens that were taken by her friend and photographer, Patrice Casanova. The text, sketches, and photographs combine to tell the story of Rossellini’s journey into chicken keeping. The beautiful photographs of Rossellini’s heritage-breed chickens are phenomenal, but the text and sketches create a warmth that really makes this book unique among other chicken books I have encountered.

For instance, in the book, Rossellini explains she has a flighty hen who would simply not be photographed, a Modern Game hen, so Rossellini explains that she can offer only a sketch of that hen, which is just so endearing. I always have at least one hen who is flighty or shy and just will not sit still long enough for a picture. I love that Rossellini has this experience too.

One of my favorite things about the book, however, is the science. I believe understanding the science of chickens leads to a much deeper appreciation of them. On every level, chickens are magnificent, and Rossellini captures this. She writes about chicken intelligence and the domestication of chickens. She explains how animals evolve with different traits, and she explores the differences between wild chickens and domesticated chickens. She also emphasizes the importance of biodiversity.

As she shares pictures of some of her beautiful heritage-breed hens, she also gives the history and background of each breed, which is just fascinating information for any true chicken nerd. My favorite she shares is the Araucana, a breed of chicken from Chile that lays blue eggs. According to Rossellini, “DNA analysis suggests that these birds were in South America before the arrival of Europeans. If correct, it would mean that Polynesian explorers arrived in the Americas before Columbus.”

This is powerful information, so I fact checked it, of course. And Rossellini is correct. There is good evidence from the Natural Academy of the Sciences indicating chickens arrived in the Americas at least a century before Columbus.

Who knew chickens could be so fascinating? Well, some of us knew.

This is a book I would highly recommend to both beginning and long-time chicken keepers, as well as for those who are considering chickens. Rossellini’s clear love and respect for these amazing animals comes through the pages of this book so beautifully. And I love that Rossellini gets chickens in the same way I do.

After keeping chickens for so many years, I have developed a deep reverence for these resilient, intelligence, resourceful, and helpful birds. This same reverence leaps off of the pages in My Chickens and I.

My Chickens and I by Isabella Rossellini (ISBN 978-1-4197-2991-1) is available in beautiful hardcover at all major online bookstores, but I highly recommend contacting your local bookstore and getting it ordered there in an effort to support local as much as we can.

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