Speaking of chickens (and you know we were), I love this lush little book by Lauren Scheuer http://scratchandpeck.blogspot.ca/
If you know someone who keeps chickens or has mentioned wanting to, if you know someone who likes
to draw chickens or other birds and animals, if you know someone who likes
dogs...this book would make a lovely gift. If that someone is you, you deserve this book as a gift to yourself.
The high-quality paper needed for
Lauren's photos and illustrations pushed the price up a bit but those are what make this book unique. It's worth buying and reading and giving as a gift.
It's a delightful book.
Brewster thinks so, too. Although he's disappointed there are no roosters in the story; he doesn't understand why people are offended by the sound of a rooster crowing (neither do I, Brewy).
I was walking by the independent bookstore, Blue Heron Books, in downtown Uxbridge, ON, and saw this book in the window. It crowed at me, I swear it did. I immediately went in and bought it. Started leafing through it in the car on the drive back to Nova Scotia then just had to read it on the road.
Reading this book reminded me of why I enjoy keeping chickens.
(Read my Field Notes column about it here.)
In fact, it made me miss my chickens. I'm so busy with work that I'm not hanging out with my "chookies" like I used to. Maybe that's the problem; chickens and the gentle berk-berk-berk they utter as they peck and scratch is rather relaxing but I'm not spending enough time with them to reap that benefit.
Too much work, not enough chicken in my life.
You can have too many, though. In the spring of 2009, my husband went crazy and ordered a whole whack of chicks. I heard him say on the phone, "Oh, sure, that sounds good. I'll take a couple of those." We met the breeder at the half-way point and transferred 34 chicks to the backseat of my car. And we didn't lose a single one!
So the following summer, we had a flock of 24. Sold lots of eggs but the outside hen pen took a beating. This small flock suits me fine but with three brooding, we're down on eggs and I can tell that the hens are getting old; while their yolks are still deep orange, their eggshells are getting thinner.
You can get attached to chickens, you know. The chickens in Lauren Scheuer's book are part of her family, the way a dog and a cat are. Chickens have distinct personalities and Lauren's descriptions and drawings of her hens are lovely. They give me chicken-envy.
Our flock is down to nine now. It's hard to find chickens; we don't seem to be able to call up anybody and find someone with a couple of young hens to sell. When I arrived home from that road trip, from reading Lauren's book, I told my husband that when the rabbit is gone (we started with three), that side of the mini-barn will become a breeding room; I want to raise from chicks some of my favourite breeds: Americaunas (they lay green-shelled eggs) and Barred Rocks (Lauren has one of those).
Brewster is a Barred Rock. He is now six years old. Is that old for a chicken? We don't
know. He's the only one left from our original flock so he's our
experiment in the longevity of a chicken.
We've been lucky with our rooster; he looks after the hens as he's supposed to but towards humans, he's not aggressive. When I get photos taken for the potential cover of my potential book, I'm going to have him sitting on the hay bale next to me. (He, along with Mimi, our lace Wyandotte, once were the models for a painting class; every time Brewster crowed, the ladies tee-heed and took his picture).He was born to model.
Then there is our toeless hen, NoNo, who manages to sleep on the roost despite the fact she is missing the ends of most of her toes. Gabby and Beulah are still left from that gaggle of chicks; they are Plymouth Rocks and rather chatty. They like to hang out in the garage with my husband when they are free-ranging in spring and fall.
You can't be in a bad mood when the chickens are around.
This is Mimi, she of the baleful eye. Doesn't she look Victorian?
After seeing this photo, my mother said she wasn't going to eat our eggs anymore. "Now that I know what's in them," she said. And yet this is what makes our eggs so good. Happy hens produce good eggs.
Which brings me back to Lauren Scheuer's happy, good-for-you book. If you've ever thought about keeping a couple of chickens in your backyard, this book is the place to start. You'll learn all about it but you'll feel it in your heart how right it is.
On my rating scale, it's a double yolker! I recommend adding it to your egg basket.