The Chicken Book? Well, it's a book about chickens, by a historian (Smith, author of several popular biographies) and a biologist (Daniel) who collaborated on an interdisciplinary seminar of mildly evangelizing intent at the University of California (Santa Cruz). The result is a comfortable volume of mingled history, folklore, embryology, and theorizing. There is the chicken as cult figure and the chicken as dinner; the chicken as warrior and the chicken as egg. After a leisurely ramble through such byways as haruspicy and cockfighting, Smith and Daniel get to the heart of their concern: the agricultural ""progress"" which has transformed chickens from fellow creatures of everyday familiarity into mass-produced artifacts calculated in terms like ""feed-conversion ratio"" and confined in ever-increasing densities under artificially controlled conditions. Needless to say, Page and Smith want to see chickens taken off the assembly line, but their approach is much more substantial. They see the tragedy of the chicken as only one aspect of a general rush away from integrated experience and realities pleasant or unpleasant. Thus they deplore the modern specialization which looks down its nose at the Renaissance approach to chickenology, firmly proclaim that cockfighting should be tolerated as a relatively harmless surrogate enactment of atavistic impulses, and recommend keeping your own chickens (if space permits) and killing them yourself rather than passively contributing to the overall obscene mechanization. A cheerful but serious exploration of the thesis that too many contemporary omelets don't involve breaking eggs. . . and, by the way, there's a handful of recipes for good measure.