My mum recently realised a long held ambition – to start keeping chickens. She’s got three little hens, Pippi Longstocking (because she’s so adventurous), Mabel and Rosie, and recently M and J got to meet them for the first time.
In honour of these new members of the extended family we’ve been reading lots and lots of chicken stories. Here are some of our favourites:
Daisy is a hen who is fed up of being picked upon by the others who share her coop. In looking for an alternative place to spend the night she ends up floating down river in an egg basket on a journey packed with adventures. Eventually Daisy is rescued and the trials and tribulations she’s suffered turn out to have given her self confidence – her new found assertiveness ensures she is no longer picked on by the other hens back home. This story, set in China, of strength out of adversity is illustrated in true Jan Brett style (the framing of each picture with a before and after cameo, just like in The Mitten, immense detail, rich colours, a strong sense of cultural authenticity). This tale of a plucky chicken who stands up to being bullied has backbone and beauty in equal measure.
A funny story about what can happen if chickens and people spend to much time together, we like this story for its offbeat humour (chickens tight rope walking along washing lines and doing aerobics), oil painting illustrations which remind me, at least, of Beryl Cook, and the little sprinkling of cultural insight (how island communities have been known to gather eggs – whilst this book is set in Iceland, I recognised the descriptions of gathering seabird eggs from histories of life on the Orkneys).
Minerva Louise is a beguiling little hen who views the whole world through rose tinted glasses and her innocent assumptions about the way the world is make it easy to adore her. She leaves her free range friends to explore the nearby house and sees delight in everything – a potted plant becomes a comfortable chair for her, the flowery duvet is a meadow full of flowers. Her insouciance combined with the humour that arises out of her shoe-horning every new thing she comes across into her chicken-world frame of reference (a dozing cat is a cow, a kid’s trike is a tractor) make this short and sweet book a winner. The illustrations are simple and bold, effortlessly capturing the fearless inquisitiveness that chickens can display.
If you and your kids like the hen book par excellence, Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins, I’m sure you’ll love Hungry Hen. A hungry fox knows the whereabouts of a delicious looking hen. Every day the hen grows a little bigger and the fox repeatedly tells himself that if he waits just one more day the hen will be even bigger and more satisfying to gobble up. Eventually he can wait no more and rushes down the hill at break neck speed into the hen coop. Without wishing to give the very funny ending away, let me just say that the outcome reminded me of the sort of twist you might find in a tale from Aesop. The pace and the rising tension make this a brilliant read aloud and the colourful, uncluttered illustrations are much loved by M and J.
Our simple craft alongside all these books was to paint some eggcups for Granny to use. We got hold of some blank wooden ones, painted them with acrylic paints, then varnished them.
For younger readers and listeners Hungry Hen and Minerva Louise are perfect – both *** (3 stars). For older readers The Problem with Chickens is a fun ** (2 star) read, whilst Daisy Comes Home has to be another book worth *** (3 stars).
Chicken music that will make you cluck:
Chicken activities that look great fun:
Before you go, don’t miss this review of a fab sounding book of chicken poetry from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.
Do you keep chickens? Would you like to? What chicken books (for kids or adults) can you recommend?