Once Upon a Flock
“Before I got chickens, I tried to wrap my head around the farmer mentality,” says illustrator and author Lauren Scheuer, recalling her decision to raise backyard chickens. “I thought I’d raise some chickens and when they got old, I’d cut their heads off,” Scheuer chuckles. Her daughter quickly changed her mind.
“Of course, when the chicks arrived, within hours she had named them. There would be no chopping off of heads, which was a relief because I don’t think I’d ever have been able to do it. Those chicks were so adorable and right away I took a million pictures of them.” Scheuer was hooked. “I thought maybe I’d write a book about them someday.”
Scheuer’s book, Once Upon a Flock: Life with My Soulful Chickens from Atria Books, shares the heartwarming tale of Scheuer’s adventures raising chickens at her Massachusetts home with her husband, teenaged daughter and an incredulous terrier named Marky.
Scheuer’s illustrations have appeared in children’s books, cookbooks, greeting cards and magazines, but she had never tackled writing her own until her backyard flock convinced her to try her hand at writing and illustrating a book all her own.
“The moment I fell into the flock was when Lucy fell ill,” writes Scheuer of Lucy, a Barred Plymouth Rock chicken, who contracted Marek’s disease, a neurological disorder from which most chickens don’t recover. “In all practicality, I probably should have had the hen put down, but I had this teenage daughter asking what we were going to do for this bird.”
“I couldn’t just get rid of her and, little by little, as we cared for her and she’d chat with me from her little roost while I made dinner, I realized this was something more than a big pile of feathers who just pooped out eggs.” Lucy recovered and, along with chicken cohorts Little White and Hatsy, Scheuer’s family had grown.
“Lucy made me realize I had to tell this story. I was so enveloped in the life of my chickens. There was so much suspense and drama. I had already done so many drawings of them and I knew I had to write this all down while it was happening. The only problem was I couldn’t write.” So Scheuer started a blog.
Scratch and Peck, the blog in which Scheuer chronicles the ongoing exploits of her slightly dysfunctional flock, is now in its 4th year and has developed a following. And Scheuer has found her voice.
Five years after those chicks first entered her life, the story of Lucy, Hatsy, and Little White that Scheuer wanted so much to share has finally reached the page. Accompanied by many of those “millions of pictures” and illustrations, Scheuer has created a charming memoir of the funny little flock that changed her life.
“A friend told me when she read the book and looked at the illustrations, ‘You write with the same voice that you illustrate with’,” shares Scheuer . “That made me so happy. That was my goal. It’s been an incredible journey to be able to tell this story and do it justice... because I’ll never know another Lucy.”