|Sonya's Chickens by Phoebe Wahl. Tundra Books, 2015.|
This beautiful book has been on my radar since it came out last year, but I had no way of knowing how much more special it would be to read now.
If you follow us on Instagram, you probably already know this, but we are now the proud caretakers of three backyard chickens!
It began with Little Sis. All of the second grade hatched chicks at school, as part of a big science project. Little Sis's class was especially hands-on and sweet to their babies.
Each child had an egg assigned to them. When Little Sis's hatched, she named it Peep (after Peep and the Big Wide World.)
I don't remember how it came up, but we learned that if anyone wanted some chicks and did their homework and had a proper set-up, they would be available to take. (The rest were transported back to a farm.) Mr. B, who grew up farming, was keen to give the girls a taste of the rural life, here in the city. He read up on the rules, grabbed a magazine about backyard poultry-keeping, and he and Big Sis headed to a big box home improvement store, where he scored this adorable little coop.
When the chicks were about 9 days old, it was time to pick our three. When they're tiny, there's only one surefire way to sex a chick, and it must be left to professionals. We had to guess. We decided Little Sis's Peep was pretty big and puffed out its chest a lot, and we worried it might be a male. Instead, we settled on three other babies. They were on the larger side and their feathers were coming in nicely, and we crossed our fingers that all three were pellets (female).
They slept in a large Rubbermaid bin in the bathroom, then as they grew, we moved them to an old playpen in the garage. When they were still pretty little, we began to give them a little time in the coop during the day.
Sonya's Chickens is a gorgeous book about a little girl and her babies. The book begins when her daddy brings home three chicks, telling Sonya they will be hers to look after. At first, the chicks sleep in a cardboard box in the house, but they soon grow into "gawky pullets." Sonya cares for them as her parents work the rest of the farm.
|The chickens' water bowl looks so much like ours!|
One day, one of the hens lays a lovely brown egg.
Then one cold night, something sad happens. A loud ruckus is heard coming from the coop. When Sonya investigates, she can only find two hens. The one that laid the egg is gone.
Her father scoops her in his arms and confirms it must have been a fox. Settling into a cozy chair, he tells his sad daughter about a fox, who is a daddy just like him, working hard to make sure his kits get enough to eat. He explains the fox didn't know the chicken belonged to Sonya. All he saw was a big meal for his family.
The next day, the family holds a little memorial for the late chicken and remember her together. Although Sonya is still sad, she can't help but think of the baby foxes in the woods, and how full and happy they must be.
Sonya helps her father board up the hole in the coop. Soon, the egg hatches and a new chick is born.
I love Phoebe Wahl's illustrations so much. I was familiar with her before this book came out, but I'm not sure how. I think it might have been Soulemama and Taproot. I'm so excited to see a post on her Facebook page, announcing her next book! It will come out in 2018, and it will be called Backyard Fairies!!! You know how much this must appeal to me. She once made a zine of the same name. You can see it on her blog.
Our chicks have grown fast. Here they are the first day we let them "free range" in the backyard.
Our black one is definitely a rooster, unfortunately. He isn't crowing yet, and the hens are too young to lay, but we will need to make arrangements. He isn't allowed in the city. Mr. B has named him Leeroy Jenkins (because he's weird like that), and he's rather attached to him. Leeroy has some midnight blue feathers on his back, and he's going to be beautiful someday.
The lighter-colored hens is named Miss Prissy. The darker one is Henrietta. (HENrietta - get it?)
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