The Perfect Nest, a Story in Three Parts:

Part 1:

So a few years ago I’m in the barn, and I hear something banging back in the corner behind a feed barrel. I timidly peer down into the darkness, afraid I’d see a rat. Instead, I see what looks like a chicken’s body and a duck’s head. Whoa. Gotta lay off the caffeine. I decide to ignore my hallucination and continue with chores.

The next morning I hear the same banging, only this time when I look, I see what appears to be a duck’s body with a chicken’s head. Now I am worried, so track down Melissa, who’s out on the pasture dealing with a newborn lamb. She knows exactly what I’m talking about. “A duck and chicken both laid an egg back behind the feed barrel, and neither wants to give up the nest.”

Who knew poultry could be so determined? While I couldn’t get a photo of them because it was too dark back there, I did later find two hens who each refused to leave the nest box, even though it was a little crowded in a box meant for one.

Part 2:

We don’t encourage stray cats to set up residency in our barns or pastures because kittens can carry a disease that causes abortions in sheep. Not good. But when a half-grown yellow and white cat showed up, so friendly he must have been dumped (by one of those irresponsible pet owners who should be dumped in the middle of the Artic Circle as punishment for abandoning a domestic pet), we fell in love and named him Oliver.

The next year Oliver adopted Pumpkin, and suddenly we had two barn cats (neutered, of course), and because it’s what they do, the cats wanted to chase, catch, and kill anything little thing that moved. This would include baby chicks and baby ducks. Melissa quickly taught them that baby poultry were off-limits, pretty much by yelling “NO” whenever one of the cats looked at a baby duck.

As you can see, they learned, and have never harmed a single duckling or chick.

Part 3:

Ideas for stories come from many places, but now and then, I get a story idea that comes from the farm. The poultry fighting over a nest, and the cats being kind to ducklings, were two stories simmering in my head, and they eventually took the shape of a picture book, which I called The Perfect Nest.

Candlewick Press loved the story, convinced John Manders to draw the illustrations, and the result is my new book, The Perfect Nest, which is now available for pre-order from most bookstores.

Here’s the publisher’s description of the book:

Jack the cat is building the perfect nest. It’s bound to attract the perfect chicken, who will lay the perfect egg, which will make the perfect omelet. And sure enough, a chicken shows up (“¡Caramba!) but so do a duck (“Sacre bleu!”) and a goose (“Great balls of fire!”). Feathers get ruffled—and Jack gets much more than breakfast—in a funny tale rich in details with a sweet final twist.

Thanks for supporting the work of a farming writer…or a writing farmer…whatever….

If you don’t have an independent bookstore nearby, and want to order the book online, here’s the link:


4 thoughts on “

  1. I just bought four of your books for the little ones in our extended family — can’t wait for them to arrive so I can read it too! Love the cover!

  2. this is the book that brought me to your blog, we love this book! We have a cat ourselves and chickens which we raised from eggs. Although I must say we have the uk version as the duck says ‘oh la la’ rather than ‘sacre blue’ which I think means ‘bloody hell’? Our version is on loan from the library so we have to soon buy our own version!

  3. Hi I have acat and i recently bought two gerbils and ovbiously she loves looking at them! She sometimes goes up to the side of the tank (i have a gerbilairiam) and pat it and the gerbisl arent worrid at all but i am and everytime she does that i pick her yup and take her out of the room but she still does it, and i was just wondering how u trained YOUR cats not to atack the ducks. Oh and the book sounds good so im gonna get it 🙂

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