I am familiar with Chicken Camp where dog trainers hone their skills by teaching chickens a variety of behaviors including a version of agility training where chickens go through tabletop weave poles. Chickens certainly can be trained but that's not the goal of backyard chicken owners, they don't need to sharpen their operant conditioning skills. They want fresh eggs and perhaps some living lawn ornaments.
Scheuer paints a fascinating word picture of living with chickens and discovering that they have individual personalities. More than that, she's so creative that she builds her own housing for the chickens and devises special housing when the need arises. She has also charmingly illustrated the book and draws us into her world in such a delightful way that I kept turning pages and wondering if this had been written for adults or children because it certainly is an easily read education into life with chickens. I decided to go straight to the source with my questions.
"I wrote the book with an adult audience in mind, but more and more readers are telling me that their kids - 11, 12, 13 year olds - are stealing the book right out of their hands and loving it, too. And as
you can see in the photo, my hen Lucy is enthralled. So I'd say it's for humans and chickens of all ages," Scheuer relates.
But was this a how-to book for people who want to have chickens. It does seems, in some ways, like a blueprint. "Oh, no, no, no," Scheuer assures. Once Upon a Flock is not a how-to. You might learn some things about chickens, but this is actually the story of a woman taken by surprise. And it's about a special-needs hen named Lucy. And it's about coping with change. And about inviting new adventures into one's life. Drawing and building are not requisites for adventures like these. If you are thinking about getting chickens, there are many ways to house them. You can build a coop, you can purchase one, or you can get a friend to build one with you."
But did she get chickens with the idea of them becoming pets? "No, I had no idea they would become pets. I believed that one day I might be able to chop their little heads off and plop them into the stewpot. But the minute my daughter Sarah met my four chicks, that idea evaporated. Sarah named each one of them instantly. When you name a critter, you elevate its status from animal to pet. Suddenly my farming ideas were dashed. I was secretly relieved, though, because really.....what's not to love?
Would she recommend chickens for others? "Many friends and blog followers have been inspired by my gals to start a flock of their own. I recommend BackyardChickens.com as a good place to start learning about chickens. There are also many good backyard chicken and urban chicken how-to books."
What was your intention in writing this book? "I wrote this memoir because it is the perfect tale. In my backyard I have the heroine, the protagonist, the evil sociopath, the predator, the nemesis, the love, the loss, the suspense... The story unfolded over the course of about two years, right before my eyes, and I just had to write it (and illustrate it with over 400 color images). Once Upon a Flock is completely true.. And I'm still in awe. I still have Lucy, the special needs hen. She is getting on in years - she's just turned five. Every day with Lucy is a wonderful day. And I still have Lil'White, the beautiful evil Orpington who would kill me if she could. And I adore her still."
I found this book utterly enchanting. It was a wonderful read and I couldn't put it down! One lucky winner is going to have an opportunity to win a copy of Once Upon A Flock by Lauren Scheuer, courtesy of her publisher, if you live in the U.S. or Canada. Just leave a note in the comments section and one winner will be chosen and announced on Wednesday. This will give you plenty of time to enter.
I highly recommend this book for children of all ages. And I think it would make a super gift!
The wonderful pictures and illustrations here are courtesy of Lauren Scheuer.
NOTE: I received no compensation for this review, only a review copy of the book so I could read it.