By Kayla Hechsel, Editor
What would you do if your grandma gave you a chicken for your birthday? Well, that’s exactly what the main character in Laura Gehl’s hilarious picture book, I Got a Chicken for My Birthday, has to figure out. She quickly learns that her chicken isn’t satisfied with eating chicken feed and laying eggs—this chicken has a plan, and a big personality! In a starred review, Kirkus called the book an “utterly seamless blend of story and art is an ingenious treat for all ages.”
As it turns out, having chickens as pets isn’t so strange—two of our staff members here at Lerner own chickens! In honor of National Poultry
Day, author Laura Gehl asked Nich on our production team and editor Shaina’s 11-year-old daughter Lene what it’s like to have chickens.
How did you get your chickens? Did your grandma give them to you for your birthday?
Lene: I got my chickens for my birthday! Our friends had to get rid of their chickens, so we adopted them when my dad wasn’t home. Imagine his surprise when he came home from his motorcycle trip to find chickens in the backyard. My grandma came with when we got two more at a farm store, but she is afraid of the chickens and mostly just thinks I’m weird for wanting them.
Nich: My grandma did not give me any chickens, but she did grow up on a farm and was a master chicken raiser so she gave me lots of good advice on how to care for them. We got our chickens from a local co-op in St Paul.
Do different colored chicken eggs taste different?
Lene: No. They all just taste like eggs (they’re all the same on the inside), but they are much better than the grocery store eggs.
Nich: I haven’t noticed any difference in taste between egg colors. I have a Rhode Island Red named Mabel, a Gold Star named Gertie, and an Americana named Martha. Gertie and Mabel lay brown eggs and Martha lays blue eggs.
Are fresh eggs really delicious enough to make them worth the hassle of raising chickens? Do you also like having chickens for other reasons?
Lene: The eggs are totally worth it. They make the best omelets, and their yolks are very dark yellow, almost orange. My chickens are great companions and company. Right now I am reaching them to do tricks (mealworms are great motivators) and helping them get used to a harness so I can take them on walks. I love my chickens and that they provide eggs, but they are so much more than that.
Nich: Absolutely! It’s a fair amount of work to make sure that their coop is clean and they have enough food and water but I think the eggs are totally worth it. It also helps to have a good dog to help wrangle chickens back into the coop. We have a Shetland Sheepdog named Tuula that helps us out. I can tell the difference in taste between my chicken’s eggs and most store bought eggs. Our eggs have a vibrant yellow/orange yolk and seem to have a lot more flavor than most eggs I buy. We like to feed our chickens high quality feed, fresh vegetables from our garden, and we let them run around every day eating bugs, spiders, and worms in our yard. I actually never really liked eating eggs until I started raising chickens, but now I eat eggs all the time.
They are way more entertaining than I thought they would be. It’s fun to watch them run around scratching and pecking at stuff. They also get really excited and make funny squawking noises when they find a worm on the ground.
Do your chickens have different personalities?
Lene: The chickens definitely have different personalities. Nugget is bossy when it comes to the other chickens, and she even tries to boss me around. Tikka is so shy and quiet. Stew lets everyone know her opinion. She’s the loudest of all my chickens. Sesame is energetic and skittish.
Nich: Oh yeah. Mabel is at the top of the “pecking order” and she’s kind of mean to the other birds, which isn’t very nice. Gertie is very friendly and is easy to pick up and handle. Martha is always getting into trouble and likes to jump over the fence and explore the neighbor’s yard.
If a neighbor complains about the chickens, does a gift of fresh eggs solve the problem?
Lene: Our neighbors don’t complain because our chickens are amazing, but they do appreciate a gift of eggs.
Nich: Our neighbors love the chickens, probably because we give them so many eggs. They always fight over who gets to take care of the chickens when we are out of town.
Has your chicken ever built you an amusement park? A treehouse? A rocket ship?
Lene: Sadly not, but they do live in a swing set. We converted our old swing set into a coop for them, so it’s kind of like they have a chicken amusement park that we built for them. Their coop is under the platform for the slide.
Nich: Not yet…
Where to find I Got a Chicken for My Birthday
Happy National Poultry Day!