Sustainability Book Chat
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Whether you’re a chicken keeper or someone who simply gets annoyed when reading children’s books that are filled with misinformation about animals, Diane Sorenson’s, The Tales of Mr. Ken Rooster and the Six Sassy Hens, is a fun little gem that’s sure to delight young children, as well as the adults reading the book to them.
The book includes short stories about the seven chickens in the author’s backyard, and many of the stories, such as the ones about the fox and the raccoon, are based on true events.
In today’s episode, we are talking to Diane about her chicken-keeping journey and her inspiration for the book.
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Deborah Niemann 0:04
Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever size your living space, you can do more than you think to lead a greener lifestyle. In the “Sustainability Book Chat,” we are talking to authors and experts about all the different ways that achieving sustainability is within your reach.
Deborah Niemann 0:28
Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s episode. This is totally different than anything I have ever done before, and I’m really excited about it, because we are joined today by Diane Sorensen, who is an employment law attorney. And, she just published her first book, which is a children’s book called The Tales of Mr. Ken Rooster and the Six Sassy Hens. Welcome to the show today, Diane!
Diane Sorensen 0:56
Thank you so much. I really appreciate being invited to be on your show.
Deborah Niemann 1:00
Yeah, I am really excited about this, because as I was saying before we started, my children grew up in the suburbs initially. It wasn’t until my youngest was nine that we moved to the country. And, we had tons of books that I read to my children, and so many children’s books include animals and gardening and things like that. I thought the books were great. And then, we moved to the country and started growing our own food. And now, I am reading those same books to my grandson, and I am just horrified. They’re so inaccurate; there’s just so much bad information in there. And so, it’s really cool, because you actually got inspired to write this book because you got chickens. So, tell us a little bit about your inspiration for the book.
Diane Sorensen 1:43
Well, it’s kind of a combination. And absolutely, it was through getting chickens that I was inspired to write it. But, I have one daughter, and she’s an adult now, and I don’t have any grandkids yet. But, when she was growing up, I read her all the time, too. And, one of our favorites—hers and mine—were the Beatrix Potter books. And, I would marvel… I’ve always been an animal person. I would marvel at how right Beatrix Potter got animals. She just incorporated their personality, and she put a lot of humor into what she wrote, and we just—my daughter and I both just—loved those books. And, I suppose, in some ways, you know, that that was always in the back of my head, how much I admired that, and the bringing animals to life like that.
Diane Sorensen 2:33
And so, in 2019, my husband and I got chickens for the first time—little baby chicks. And, when I was a child, on my dad’s side, my grandparents had some chickens, but only when I was very little, and I don’t remember much about it—except there was a scary rooster. You know, a lot of people have that memory. But, I didn’t know anything about chickens when we got them in 2019. And, it’s been a huge learning curve. And, the COVID shutdown happened, of course, as we all know, in March of 2020, and it allowed me to spend so much time with my flock of chickens. On nice days that spring, I would take my computer outside, work outside, and I would just hear those chickens and their conversations that they were having as they moved around our backyard and interacted with me and with each other.
Diane Sorensen 3:27
And, you know, that combined with so many people saying… When I was so excited about chickens, and I put a lot of things on Facebook about how cool they were, so many times people would say, “Oh, I had chickens growing up. Chickens are so stupid.” You know, “Chickens have these tiny, little brains.” And, and I thought, “You know, people need to know how incredible these creatures are. How very complex.” And, what better way than to tell children, to give them stories that really are… As you saw, I’m sure, Deborah, when you read my book, at the start, I say, “These are the true stories.” And, they really are. Of course, I’ve embellished the conversations, you know, imagining what they might say to each other. But, all of the events, you know, in the book, really happened. And, I just loved the idea of bringing them to life for other people.
Deborah Niemann 4:23
Yeah, I love that. I know, when I was reading about the story about the fox and the raccoon and everything, you know, it was like, “Yeah, that’s the way it is on a farm when you’ve got chickens.” So.
Diane Sorensen 4:35
Yes. They’re everybody’s favorite food, unfortunately.
Deborah Niemann 4:39
Yeah, that’s a good way to put it!
Deborah Niemann 4:43
So, one thing I was wondering about—because there’s a great picture of you with your rooster in the back of the book. And, it looks like he’s a Barred Rock?
Diane Sorensen 4:52
Uh huh. Yes.
Deborah Niemann 4:52
Is his name Ken?
Diane Sorensen 4:54
Yes, his name is Ken.
Deborah Niemann 4:55
Okay. Because, you were talking about your father told the stories about Chester the chicken.
Diane Sorensen 5:00
Yes. Right. So, my father was always a storyteller. I was the same. I picked that up from him. And so, even though this is the first book I have published, I have been telling stories my whole life. And, I’ve written a lot of stories. I just am always thinking of stories. Kind of how my brain works.
Deborah Niemann 5:20
Yeah. Okay. So, the names of the hens and everything are all the same as yours?
Diane Sorensen 5:26
Yes. And, the illustrator—who I never met. I found her through my publisher. She allowed me to send photos of our chickens. And so, her illustrations look like the actual chickens, as you see in that photo of me holding Mr. Ken.
Diane Sorensen 5:40
And, we didn’t intend to have a rooster. You know, we got these little baby chicks that were all supposed to be female. And, you know, I’m watching them growing, and one of them seem to be getting a little bit bigger comb. And, I remember saying to my husband, “Do you think this one looks a little different? Is it a different kind?” And, he said, “I think that may be a rooster.” And, sure enough. And, I was actually with Ken the first day he tried to crow. And, it was so cute. It was, like, just this… It needed to come out of him. And then, once he started, he has never stopped. It’s a misnomer, that it’s first thing in the morning.
Deborah Niemann 6:23
Yeah. Yep, exactly. I don’t know how people ever got the idea that it was first thing in the morning. And, it has nothing to do with the sunrise, either.
Diane Sorensen 6:29
It has nothing to do with it.
Diane Sorensen 6:31
Another very funny thing to me is, people just don’t really understand chickens. And, I have had so many people ask me if we have a rooster, “Because you have to have one for your hens to lay eggs.” And, I find that funny. But, it is a common misconception. And, of course, you don’t. They’ll lay eggs without a rooster just fine. It’s just the eggs won’t be fertilized.
Deborah Niemann 6:56
Yeah, exactly. Someone… I don’t I remember who told me this. I don’t know who to give the credit to. But, somebody once said to me, “We don’t need a man around to ovulate every month.”
Diane Sorensen 7:06
Deborah Niemann 7:06
And, that’s what hens are doing. They’re just ovulating every day.
Diane Sorensen 7:10
Deborah Niemann 7:11
It’s just a matter of fertilizing the egg or not.
Diane Sorensen 7:14
Yeah. Yes. In my hens first year, they did—once they started laying eggs. I remember, it was Labor Day weekend, we had our first eggs. So, they were hatched at the beginning of April in 2019, and then Labor Day weekend that year, they started laying, basically all at the same time. And, they layed constantly for a year. And, I’d heard other people say that they typically don’t lay during the winter, and so I thought my hens were just different, but they weren’t. And so, now that they’re older, they don’t lay during the winter. They just started laying again recently. It’s nice to have their eggs again.
Deborah Niemann 7:52
Yeah, exactly. I know, I have a article on my website about eggless living, because back when we started with enough hens for us, we would not have any eggs for a couple of months during the winter. Now that we sell eggs—and so we have so many—we get a few. So, we personally have plenty of eggs during the winter, but we don’t have enough to sell, because yeah, hardly anybody is laying
Diane Sorensen 8:19
Right. How many chickens do you have?
Deborah Niemann 8:22
We usually have about 70, now.
Diane Sorensen 8:25
Wow. That’s a lot.
Deborah Niemann 8:26
Yeah, it is.
Diane Sorensen 8:27
It’s a different experience, I’m sure, when you have that many, from my little intimate relationship with mine.
Deborah Niemann 8:33
Yeah, definitely. There was a children’s camp at our farm for three years—before COVID. And, I got some bantam Cochins specifically for the camp. And so, that was kind of, like, my little experience, you know, with, like, just a small flock of chickens. And, it did work great, because they’re so small and such a sweet breed. The children could just go pick them up and walk around with them like they were pets.
Diane Sorensen 9:01
Deborah Niemann 9:02
So, I think we had about seven or eight of them.
Diane Sorensen 9:05
I got to know, through this process of writing this book… I think I told you before we started that I work in Wichita, Kansas. And, there’s a writer for our local paper, the Wichita Eagle, who I found out through kind of friends was also a chicken person. And so, she ended up doing an article on my book in the paper. And, it was fun getting to know her.
Diane Sorensen 9:32
And recently—she currently doesn’t have any chickens. But, she lives in town, in Wichita, and she had, I think, four or five hens at one time, and had predator problems like a lot of people do. We have, too; we have not been immune from predators. But, she recently wrote an article on what the realities are of owning backyard chickens. You know, that a lot of people you’re hearing right now saying, “Oh, we want free eggs, so we’re gonna get some chickens, you know, so that we’ll have free eggs.” And, she goes into a lot of detail in this article about how much you end up spending—especially if you become crazy about the chickens, like she did and I did. And, it’s true. I mean, those eggs… If I figured out how much I paid into the chickens with the organic food they eat, you know, and the security of their coop and their run areas, so that no fox or anyone else can break into it… You know, how much effort my husband has put into that, and time? Yeah, those eggs are expensive.
Deborah Niemann 10:41
So, you got your chickens in 2019. So, that was four years ago. How are they laying now?
Diane Sorensen 10:48
You know, it’s slower. Like I said, they just started again this spring. Three of them, for sure are laying again, and a little bit slower. But, beautiful eggs. Yeah, they’re good at it. We’re getting enough right now to feed… My husband has an egg every morning, and we’re getting enough to feed ourselves for any egg needs we have.
Deborah Niemann 11:10
Diane Sorensen 11:10
It’s really nice that they’ve started again. And, just another thing I was gonna say about chickens is, right now, I’m at my office, being a lawyer, and I’ll go home—get home about 5:00 or so. And, I’ll spend the evening outside with the chickens. I let them out of their run as soon as I get home, so they can have the entire backyard. We had a fox breach our backyard not too long ago, and we had thought that no fox could get into our backyard, but learned otherwise; they can definitely climb fences. Just really harrowing. And, there’s a fox—we live on 4 acres inside of a town. And, there is a fox probably living in our barn; we have a big ol barn. So, I have to be cautious. I just stay with the chickens all evening until the sun goes down and they go in. And, it’s just beautiful time. I find them so relaxing. Their energy is so sweet and good. They’re constantly doing funny things that crack me up.
Diane Sorensen 12:13
Their latest thing is… This probably isn’t all that good for them, but they get very little bit. I’ve been kind of enjoying, as a snack, pistachios that you, you know, crack open. They’ve discovered that they love pistachios. So, I open up pistachio; I eat half. I, you know, take turns giving them half a pistachio. Make sure everybody gets one. And, they just think that’s the biggest deal. They’re all about that. They come and stand on my feet, they’re so excited.
Deborah Niemann 12:43
Oh, that sounds so cute!
Diane Sorensen 12:45
Yeah, they’re cute. And, in the book, I tried to include a lot of descriptive things about chicken behavior, like the flapping of their wings when they’re happy or acknowledging me. They do that a lot. If I walk past one of the chickens and say hello—you know, “Hello Barbie,” or whoever it is—I’ll get the flap, flap, flap of the wings. And, they do that to each other. You know, they’ll cross paths, and they flap at each other. And so, you know, it’s kind of a wave, or… I don’t know. But, it’s definitely an acknowledgment that they’re saying hello.
Deborah Niemann 13:21
Yeah. That’s cool. Well, I really enjoyed your book! I got it about a week and a half ago, and I was gonna read it to my grandson last week so I could get a 5 year old’s review of it.
Diane Sorensen 13:31
Deborah Niemann 13:32
Unfortunately, he got a horrible viral thing last week. Like, it wasn’t COVID, but he was sick last week, and so I didn’t want to get what he had. So, I stayed away.
Diane Sorensen 13:44
That was wise. Well, you can still read it to him and let me know. I love getting the children reviews.
Deborah Niemann 13:51
Yes. So, I’m really excited about reading this to him, because he loves coming out to the farm and seeing the animals and stuff, and so it’s gonna be really, really fun to get his take on it. But, I think he’s gonna really like this.
Diane Sorensen 14:05
I hope so, and I do hope you’ll let me know. And, the other thing I think kids can relate to with chickens is, kids and their friends, that’s such an important part of life for them. And, the older, you know, kids get, the more important their social group is. And, you know, just all of that learning that they have to do. How to get along. How to deal with somebody being in a bad mood. And, you know, all those things. And, chickens are so social. They’re such a flock, and watching them, how they work out getting along, the little arguments they have… That argument I have in the book, the chapter about Henny and Penny arguing over who’s prettier, I guess I probably pulled that up from the deep recesses of my mind somewhere of my sister and I, you know, arguing about something as silly as that. And, you know, whatever it is the chickens are actually arguing over, it’s probably pretty silly. And so, I thought that was maybe a good idea for what they could be arguing about.
Deborah Niemann 15:08
Yeah, I love that. As soon as I read it, I thought, “This is a perfect argument. This is exactly the kind of argument that children have with each other.”
Diane Sorensen 15:16
Right, just silly. And, there’s no… Nobody’s right.
Deborah Niemann 15:18
Yep, exactly. So, and then, you added in all the chicken behaviors and stuff. And, I know when my kids were home, we used to always make up stories about, you know, what the chickens were saying to each other and stuff like that.
Diane Sorensen 15:32
And they do converse! And, they literally have names for each other. Our, rooster has a name for my husband. He’ll announce when he sees my husband’s red pickup truck coming home, and he announces his name, so everybody knows that he’s there. It’d be really, really interesting to know what they’re communicating. But, it’s friendly stuff. It’s stuff about where there are good things to peck, and who knows? They’re very complex.
Diane Sorensen 15:59
It’s also made me look at and listen to other birds more to when I’m outside—which I am a lot. You know, I think there’s so many similarities. And, you hear them calling to each other from up in the trees, and I think they all have pretty complex social lives.
Deborah Niemann 16:16
Yeah, exactly. Well, this has been so much fun, and I really think that people who have chickens, or who at least want their children to have, like, more accurate children’s animal stories, will really love this. So, where can people buy your book?
Diane Sorensen 16:30
They can Google the name of it, The Takes of Mr. Ken Rooster and the Six Sassy Hens, or my name. And, it should come up online. Look directly on Amazon. It’s on Barnes & Noble. Mascot Books, my publisher, you can buy it through them. But, it comes up online. It’s readily available.
Deborah Niemann 16:50
Awesome! And, if people want to get in touch with you personally, how can they find you?
Diane Sorensen 16:54
I am on Facebook, just me as an individual. It’s Diane Sorensen. And so, message me. Reach out. Certainly, people can do that. I would be happy to hear from anyone who wants to talk about my book.
Deborah Niemann 17:08
Okay. And, we will definitely have links to the book and to your Facebook page in the show notes, in case anybody’s on the website or all the other podcast players.
Diane Sorensen 17:16
Thank you so much for inviting me to be on your program! And, now I’m gonna have to go read your books. I think it’s awesome that you moved from the urban into the country, and that you love it, and you’ve embraced it.
Deborah Niemann 17:29
Thanks so much for joining us today!
Diane Sorensen 17:30
Yes, thank you.
Deborah Niemann 17:33
And that’s it for today’s episode. You can find show notes at ThriftyHomesteader.com/BookChat, as well as a transcript. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any future episodes. You can also find Thrifty Homesteader on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. See you next week on “Sustainability Book Chat.”