Chickenology: The Ultimate Encyclopedia

Image of Chickenology: The Ultimate Encyclopedia (The Farm Animal Series)
Release Date: 
February 2, 2021
Princeton Architectural Press (Children's Books)
Reviewed by: 

Aah, chickens. What a weird and wacky world they are with their strutting, gobbling, pecking, crowing, molting, and roosting. Fun to watch, fun to wonder about, and now in Chickenology: The Ultimate Encyclopedia, fun to read about.

Right out of the gate, content creation is fantastic. There is a remarkable amount of detail on each page which is intelligently presented in a dynamic design. The trio of two writers, Barbara Sandri and Francesco Giubbilini, meshed with genius illustrator Camilla Pintonato make each and every page leap with interest and style. Together they present a creative blend of variety and cohesiveness.  

There is so much information packed into these 80 pages, it’s hard to know what to highlight.

Facts are broken down into five sections: Discovering the World of Chickens; What’s a Chicken Made of?, The Egg Up Close;, Chickens and Humans, A World of Chicken Breeds. The sections are only identified in the Contents page with the body running along in one fell swoop. Yet the flow of information is seamless. There is not a weak spread to be found.

Feather facts, for instance. The text tells us that chickens have about 5,000 feathers. They are made of keratin (the same stuff as our human hair is made of) and there are two kinds of feathers: contour feathers, which keep the chicken waterproof; and downy feathers, which keep the chicken warm. Just enough reading to be interesting but not enough to be overwhelmed.

Then the illustrations take over showing us a drawing of each kind of feather with their anatomical labels (shaft, vane, barbs, bristle, filoplume, etc). There is an illustration with the different types of feathers on the head (crests, whiskers, beards), an illustration with molting and skin color, and finally a further illustration of hackles (a plumage on the neck). Each of these illustrations is graphically unique and offers an expansion of the facts presented in the text.

This sort of attention goes on and on throughout the pages with wings, organ anatomy, skeletal structure, comb characteristics, feet, illnesses, vision and hearing, anatomy of the egg, a look at how the egg is used all over the world as the basic ingredient in favorite dishes. The history of the chicken is summarized with four quick vignettes. And there’s even a nod to chicken symbolism and the presence of the chicken in fables such as Chicken Little and The Hen with the Golden Eggs. These writers have thought of just about everything chicken-y.

Finally we see just how helpful chickens can be in the garden and how they like to live warm and snug and safe inside a shelter yet free enough to roam and peck and scratch. Chickens are our garden allies. They have become endearing enough to be considered as pets as well as the subjects of careful breeding programs. The breeds are spelled out to communicate the idea that chickens are everywhere in all corners of the world and come in more shapes and colors than one would expect. 

Although targeted to elementary school aged kids, this book will fascinate far beyond the range. Chickenology is so well done that there is something delightful for every reader to take away and mull over. Hopefully the buzz will extend to Pintonato’s next release: Pigology.