Two Authors Whose Chickens Inspired them to Write Books!
Chickens provide so many ideas!
Have your chickens ever given you a burst of inspiration for a story? These two authors were so charmed by their chickens’ funny ways, they decided to write about them.
Morgan Efaw is a mum of two from Smithville, Ohio. She decided to keep chickens when she saw adorable little chicks in their local Rural King. “It’s so hard to go in there and not walk out with some baby chicks!” says Morgan.
She ended up with a flock of eight beautiful hens and last year, when her three year old daughter Nyla started asking questions about the chickens, she was inspired to write a book. In January 2022, her book was published!
Getting to know the chickens
Morgan explains how it all began: “We got baby chicks when Nyla was 2.5 years old, and when Nyla turned three, they started laying eggs. She asked me about the eggs and the questions started in such an innocent and funny way!”
Morgan’s answers to Nyla’s questions made the youngster curious about where her other food comes from. “We have a small garden and fruit bushes, so it’s been a whole introduction to farm-to-table concepts,” says Morgan.
“When we first got baby chicks, we kept them in a homemade brooder inside the kids’ playroom. We thought they were too little to be able to jump out of the bin, but one morning we woke up and none of them were in there! They were all hiding around the kids’ toys; in the dollhouse, under the mini trampoline, and any place they could get to. It took a while for us all to catch six little chicks, but it’s a fun memory!”
Nyla and her little brother are the chief egg collectors. “It’s a lot of fun for them to see how many eggs we’ll get in a day. They sweep the barn floors, too.”
They’ve been keeping chickens for two years now, and have australorps and buff orpingtons. At one time they also had three bantams, but they were taken by predators. “Since we free-range, the bantams don’t seem to last very long, unfortunately,” says Morgan.
“My favorite is Dolly, one of our australorops. She’s one of the original two, so we’ve developed a strong bond. My daughter loves all of them; she can’t pick a favorite!”
Launching a book
Morgan’s book is called ‘Wait, What? Chicken Butt?!’
Amy is asking the important questions. Where do eggs come from? Do they come from the chicken’s butt? Aunt Nessa hilariously answers these questions and more in this silly, informative picture book.
Adopting chicks is one thing, but writing a book is quite another! I asked Morgan how she came up with Aunt Nessa’s character.
“I saw Amy as being a little older than my daughter and asking more questions to move the farm-to-table concept along. I thought the knowledgeable character should be somebody that she visits, like an aunt. Aunt Nessa is a typical quirky, all-knowing aunt who understands and humors a child’s curiosity.
“My favorite question is when Amy asks, ‘If eggs come out of a chicken’s butt, are eggs the chickens poop?’ I think it’s hilarious! It’s such an innocent thought process for a child. It makes total sense to think that, and then the horrified look of ‘is that what we’re eating?!’
“The explanation turns into a small anatomy lesson and ticks off a few boxes: learning basic anatomy, satisfying a child’s curiosity, and entertaining them through humor.”
Nyla thoroughly enjoys reading. “We cannot go one day without reading a few books, so after reading thousands of picture books, I became interested in writing them,” Morgan explains.
“I started writing as a hobby, then Nyla asked all these questions and I thought, ‘Some adults don’t even know these things’! So I put the Q&As in one of my picture books to help people learn about chickens. Especially nowadays when people are so disconnected from where their food comes from.”
Getting the book illustrated wasn’t cheap, but Morgan found an illustrator that gave her a fair price. “It’s great to see my idea come to life!” she says.
Get the book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09PVTQMPQ
John Spiers – chicken stories for children
John Spiers from Portsmouth, Virginia, is chicken mad and has written a couple of fiction books inspired by his flock of chickens. He also blogs about his chickens with some crazy takes on ‘chicken economics’ and ‘chicken religion’.
He says, “Portsmouth is a small city surrounded by much larger cities, but we have preserved our laws concerning raising chickens in our backyards. We just need to have 16 feet between the chickens’ home and neighboring property and no roosters. We also can’t sell our eggs.”
He’s been keeping chickens for five years. “I raised my first baby chicks in the spring of 2017. I raised 14 at first. Eight were for friends and six were for me. Two turned out to be roosters, so they and two hens went to farms in the countryside.
“That left me with Gracie and Bessie. Then I raised two more, Blanche and Pearl. At the end of January 2018, I adopted two ‘refugee’ chickens. The city where they lived introduced a rule that someone had to have at least five acres to raise chickens”. He adopted Emily and Amelia because their family could no longer keep them.
John’s chickens have had a big impact on his life. He had an unexpected career change in April 2017; “The entire department was outsourced, and they were unable to find another position for me in the organization”.
While temporarily receiving unemployment, John decided to follow a dream and get his first chickens! “Keeping chickens was something I’d wanted to do for years and it seemed like a perfect time to start caring for baby chicks and building them a home.
“The routine of caring for them was good medicine for me. My chickens kept me positive. They were a reason to get up in the morning. Nothing shows more hope than a baby chick. Caring for them and building their home kept me busy and prevented me from dwelling too much on an uncertain future.”
Gracie and Bessie are Buff Orpingtons. Blanche and Pearl are White Plymouth Rocks. Emily is a Gold Laced Wyandotte. Amelia is a Barred Plymouth Rock.
“Gracie is my favorite because she started out life with so much against her, but she never gave up. She never let anything change her from having a sweet and gentle heart.
“Pearl is everyone else’s favorite. I present her to readers as the chicken who never feels like she fits in completely, but she always keeps trying. She never gives up and she has a wonderful sense of fun and a hilarious sense of humor. Pearl has a heart of gold. Whenever she sees me, she jumps up and flaps her wings. Pearl loves life and loves being a chicken.
“Amelia has stolen my heart too. I would do just about anything to make her happy! She is the only one who will spend free-range play time with me. We talk together; she tells me her secrets and I tell her mine.”
Writing about chickens!
John started blogging about his chickens in August 2018. “I started doodling on sticky notes at work because I missed my chickens. At first, my blog posts were more about the drawings than the words. I incorrectly believed that people would not want to read stories about chickens unless there were entertaining illustrations.
“In each blog post, I tried to focus on things that my chickens had taught me. They all ended with a statement like: ‘My life with Gracie taught me that sometimes the things you want in life don’t happen, but if you really look, often there is something much better for you.’
Once Through a Garden Gate: A Fiction Series for Children aged 3-6.
Book 1: PeeP – The chickens share their secret lives and ambitions with new friends.
Book 2: BwÖwK! – The chickens create a marvelous invention to get rid of a sewer rat who has been tormenting them.
My Life With Gracie: A Fiction Series for The Young At Heart (To be published in 2022).
John says, “It’s easy to be inspired by my hens. When you know your main characters so well, the stories just happen.”
John’s books: http://www.jrspiers.com/
John’s blogs: https://medium.com/@JRSpiers
Originally published in the June/July 2022 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.