Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Behind the Scenes of Captured By Love by Jody Hedlund - Why I Visited a Chicken Farm (blog tour & giveaway)

Getting Down & Dirty . . . at the Chicken Farm

During all of my researching for Captured by Love, there was one other strange research trip that I took.

My heroine, Angelique MacKenzie, raises chickens. In fact, in the opening scene, she's hiding fresh eggs in her pocket as she tries to smuggle them to one of her starving friends. In another scene, Angelique is mucking the hen house, a lovely job that was necessary every spring (particularly after all the droppings had accumulated all winter).

As I was attempting to write about the chickens, I realized I knew absolutely nothing about this awkward breed of animals, and that to write authentically about the wildly flapping squawking creatures, I would need to do some research.

Of course, I headed to Google, typed in "raising chickens" or something like that, and got one million websites and blogs giving me every detail I'd ever want to know (and then some) about raising chickens.

But I quickly realized that I needed to know how to raise chickens in Michigan, more specifically in the northern part of Michigan. After futile searching, I decided to do what I should have done to begin with, ASK AN EXPERT.

Fortunately, I have some long-time family friends who own a chicken farm. So I emailed my dear friend and pestered her with questions. In response, she invited me to come out, visit the chickens, and get a hands-on experience at the farm. She encouraged me to come in the spring, before they mucked the chicken coop just so that I could get a really accurate feel for what it would have been like for my character. She even offered to let me help them muck. Wasn't that SO sweet of her? :-)

Needless to say, for this city girl, whose idea of raising chickens is going to the store and "raising" the eggs off the shelf into the grocery cart, I learned a lot on my research trip to the chicken farm. In fact, after listening to my friends share their wealth of knowledge about chickens, I was quite amazed about how little I actually knew.

Even more importantly, I learned some things that are specific to raising chickens in Michigan's frigid winter temperatures. 
  •  Did you know that chickens can get frost bite if they get too cold?
  •  Did you know that lanterns are needed during the winter for chickens to lay eggs? With so few hours of daylight, the artificial lighting is necessary for egg production.
  • Did you know that even with artificial lighting, that hens still lay fewer eggs in the winter? 
  • Did you know that eggs will last longer and stay fresher if you brush them off rather than wash them?
I learned all those details and many more during my time at the farm. Believe it or not, I even appreciated getting to walk into a chicken coop in the spring, feel the nip in the air, taste the grit of dust, smell the odor of you-know-what, and hear the scratches and screeches of the various types of hens.

Even if all those facts didn't make it into the book, knowing the information helped lend an aura of authenticity to the story. And I had fun in the process. Isn't that what it's really all about?

So did I end up helping muck the chicken coop? Well, let's put it this way, some things are better left to the imagination! (But hey, I did wear boots and jeans as I was instructed to do. And as you can see, I did pick up the shovel. Does that count?)

What about YOU? How much do you know about chickens? And what's the dirtiest job you've ever had to do?

GIVEAWAY: Jody Hedlund, author, has graciously provided a copy of Captured By Love for one of Chat With Vera's readers to win. Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. Begins July 6 & ENDS July 28 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT. Open for USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
About the author:  Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the best-selling books, The Preacher's Bride, Unending Devotion, and A Noble Groom. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children. 

22 comments:

  1. I really have no idea how I would have coped if I'd been in that situation. I'd like to think I'd rise to the occasion and be strong and brave and trust in and depend on God the way I do in everyday life today.

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  2. The Civil War time period always seems interesting to me. Maybe because I read and fell in love with Gone With the Wind when I was in high school :)

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  3. The only way I would have coped is by my faith in God. I would probably have kept to myself and tried to be as unobtrusive as possible.

    Love those pictures of farm life. It actually looks kind of fun!

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  4. We have about 40 chickens. I've cleaned out there nesting boxes many times. Not sure if that's the dirtiest job I've done...but it's got to be close. We have goats and sheep, but they aren't as disgusting as chickens. I guess gutting chickens ranks right up there,too!

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  5. As for living on the island...it would have been tough. However, we work hard story gardening and farming to be self sufficient as possible. I'd probably do better than most. We don't use paper towels, paper napkins, or tissues. We use all washable items. That alone surprises people! :) When asked for advice about saving money, most say they can't live without paper towels! Lol

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  6. I think the Civil War is most interesting because it sometimes was brother against against. Very interesting time period.

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  7. My favorite time period in U.S. history would probably be the 1950's. War was past. Morals, family, and faith were at a higher level.

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  8. I'm very interested in ALL history and all periods of American history are interesting to me. I'd probably say if I had to live in a different time, around the turn of the 20th century would be when I'd choose. So much was happening then and we were still a country that lived by Judeo-Christian principles.

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  9. Loved the interview! We used to rent a house on a farm and one of our most vivid memories is when they put the chicken manure on the hay field. That has GOT to be the worst smell on earth! LOL

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  10. I think it would have been difficult but I would try and rely on God and not be too resentful of the captors.

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  11. Civil war, Native American history, Colonial Times, they all fascinate me. Basically life BEFORE 1900.

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  12. Living on the island, I like to think I would have tried to help out the American cause if possible, or at least not completely given my spirit up to the British, but defying authority, no matter how unjust that authority may be, is really hard for me. Sneaking around and hiding food and valuables - that I could probably do.

    As to the dirtiest job I've ever done, cleaning out the chicken house ranks up there, but I think butchering them is worse. I would rather clean out the manure.

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  13. I love reading about any era focused on exploration of the American frontier - whether that frontier is Kentucky, Missouri, the Rockies, or Oregon. All that pristine land unmarred by white hands . . . [sigh]

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  14. I don't know how I would have coped back then, but my parents taught me to be a hard worker and god fearing woman so hopefully I would have done okay.

    The early 1800's is my favorite time frame to read about in US history because the country was young and formative - make for exciting stories!

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  15. The Pioneer era because it took so much out of the people just to survive. They were risk takers and survivors, most of them had no choice. I admire their fortitude.

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  16. I wrote an article this winter about a backyard chicken farmer, so I too, learned a lot about chickens...especially how good a fresh egg tastes compared to the supermarket carton. The dirtiest job I ever did was to muck out a basement after a septic system disaster...compared to that the chickens might not be so bad.

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  17. I have no idea how I would have coped. So much would depend on the harshness of rule, food supply, the political activisim of my family, etc. It would definitely be a time of learning to trust God more deeply!

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  18. I LOVE almost any historical period. Particularly the Civil War and early American times.

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  19. find a way out
    American West for the setting

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  20. I would have to be praying a lot to cope with that.
    I like a wide variety of historical eras, but generally I prefer after 1700.

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  21. My favorite time in history would probably be the Pioneer era.

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  22. I don't know how I would have coped. It would have been hard, but I would just have to rely on God.

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