True stories of a small flock of remarkable individuals -- and other critters.

Questions and Answers

Why did you decide to adopt chickens?

I needed to bring some life to my backyard. 

My daughter Sarah had suddenly, without warning, become a teenager – the electronic, indoor-type. So my once-lively backyard turned boring overnight.

What made you want to write ONCE UPON A FLOCK?

My chickens just sucked me right into their wacky dramatic world. 

From my chickens, I learned that gardening is not all about plants. Gardening is about worms and grubs. My ladies turned me into a cracker-jack grub-hunter. 

They also taught me to put down the trowel and to sit around. I spend wonderful moments sitting on my stool in the coop, sketching and chatting with my ladies.
And in the hours I’ve spent hanging out, I have documented the ins and outs of their flock-life, with words, with camera, and with drawings.
Their friendships and rivalries are suitable for soap operas. Lucy and Hatsy shared an enviably beautiful friendship.  Lil’White, once sweet and docile, became a hideously resentful sociopath. Pigeon - of tiny brain and enormous heart - has a unique and delightful view of the world and of her friends.

But to answer the question, ‘What made me want to write this story?’ it was Lucy, my special-needs hen. It was Lucy’s spectacular tale of compassion and survival that I absolutely had to write.

How easy is it to build a coop?

To build a good, high-quality coop?  I wouldn’t know.

I have a few power tools, and a minimal amount of skill, and absolutely no attention span.  So I design simple structures that are quick to build, and that will keep my chickens safe, and that will look good from the kitchen window. 

You’ll notice I don’t show close-up details of my coops.

The hens love every new coop and play structure I create for them, and with enough screws and brackets and a nice coat of paint, it all looks good. From a distance.

Is Lil'White really evil?


We have no idea what happened. She began life as the most endearing creature we had ever laid eyes on. Then one day she snapped. The sweet sparkle in her little orange eye went out, and her heart went cold. 

Since that day, she has displayed a wicked passive-aggressive streak toward her flock mates. And she sneaks up and tries to murder me whenever the opportunity arises.

How did you get your chickens to love you?

Well, my flock doesn’t really love me.

My ladies do, however, consider me to be their rooster; their protector, and the bearer of delicious treats. 
They are also pretty impressed with my mastery of rake and shovel. They watch in awe as I skillfully reveal mouthwatering piles of grubs and other wonderfully slimy things in the garden.  

So it's probably respect and adoration rather than love.

How did Marky change from chicken-predator to chicken-protector?

Marky changed when I finally understood where he was coming from. 

He needed to hold a rank among the backyard animals. When I finally realized that we were not all separate entities out there in the yard, I created a place for him. I’ve always been his “pack leader”.  Now Marky is my second in command, and he is watchdog over the lesser pack members (the chickens).  And he’s good with that.  
Chipmunks and mice, however, are not part of the pack, and are still fair game.