NORTH NEWTON — Growing up in western Kansas, Diane Sorensen’s first experience with chickens was at her grandparents’ house. While it was fun to gather the eggs, she said, “What I remember is how scary the rooster was.”
Today, she not only raises chickens, she’s made one the title character of a children’s book — “The Tales of Mr. Ken Rooster and The Six Sassy Hens.”
“The whole experience from the get-go with the chickens has been just so much learning about birds,” said Sorensen. “So many things I never thought about . . . I was just blown away.”
Chicken raising has boomed in recent years as people have embraced the local and organic food movements. The coronavirus pandemic boosted it even more as people sought activities they could enjoy at home.
Sorensen, an employment lawyer in Wichita, traces her interest to her husband, Conrad Snider, who had a bantam chicken in his art studio when they met and wanted more at home for the eggs.
In 2017, the two moved to four wooded acres in North Newton where they restored an 1883 farmhouse. Three years ago, they got a dozen chickens.
Then came what Sorensen called “the COVID shut-in summer” when she spent a lot of time with her chickens.
“It was just like stories were coming to me about them.”
She took a pen and legal pad and began writing them down, thinking, “I would love to share what these special birds are like with kids.”
She learned that chickens are flock animals.
“So watching them relate to each other is the thing that’s been so fascinating . . . I get to really observe them and their little individual personalities.”
They also relate to her and her husband.
“Our rooster has a name for Conrad, and we recognize it when he says it.”
It’s a series of bawks.
They currently have eight chickens – Nancy, Fancy, Henny, Penny, Barbie, Ken, Nugget and Sunny – and lost others due to predators and illness.
She said people are wrong when they say chickens are stupid.
“Well, no, they’re extremely intelligent. So I wanted to kind of convey that they’re beings with their own lives and communities.”
Her 40-page, $17.95 book is geared to children ages 4 to 8.
“I see them as great little read-aloud stories for that younger group,” said Sorensen, who used to make up stories for her daughter, Hayley, when she was little. For the older set, they can read the stories on their own.
Website presales are beginning, and the official release date is Oct. 4. The book will be available at bookstores and other shops along with Amazon, and Sorensen has copies for sale as well (write firstname.lastname@example.org).
The stories are based on Sorensen’s chickens, but she embellishes some.
“My stories are about chickens, but they’re about friendship,” she said. “Being there for each other and being friends throughout . . . They’re silly stories and hopefully they’re very sweet stories as well.”
Now that she’s a published author, does Sorensen want to pursue that for a career or stick with law?
“I like both,” she said.
Then she reconsidered.
“Maybe what I like best is just hanging out in the back yard with the chickens.”