I don't know about you, but I live in a neighborhood that has lots of backyard chicken coops. On my morning walks, I can hear the birds cackling away (and, fun fact: Their sounds are not identifiable on my Cornell University Merlin birdcall ID app) and I love peering at their glossy, feathered bodies through the wire mesh windows of their coops.
In "Under the Henfluence," Oregon writer (and chicken keeper) Tove Danovich examines this return to the old ways. Her entertaining book is part personal memoir, part big-picture reportage, and she doesn't shy from the difficult details — such as, what chick suppliers do when they have too many chicks; the noises and smells of industrial farms; and what happens when you try to teach the family dog that chickens are just members of the pack.
Her descriptions of her own chicks — "tiny eggs with legs" — are tender and charming, even as she battles pecking orders and poop and various chicken maladies (she had to learn to give one of her chickens a neck massage).
Danovich's book is broader than backyard chickens, and it has a strong Minnesota connection, including a section on therapy chickens at the University of Minnesota. It's a fun and enlightening read. Danovich will be at Magers & Quinn this week, in conversation with Jackie Polzin, author of a chicken-themed novel, "Brood."
Laurie Hertzel is senior editor for books at the Star Tribune.
Under the Henfluence
By: Tove Danovich.
Event: In conversation with Jackie Polzin, 7 p.m. May 15, Magers & Quinn, Mpls.