The history of chickens is integrally linked to our own history. Derived from four species of wild junglefowl from southeast Asia, chickens have been domesticated for several thousand years and are widespread throughout the world. It’s not surprising, then, that their images have become iconic and ubiquitous with depictions in ancient religious texts, Aesop’s Fables, children’s books and popular culture like cartoons and Disney movies.
These birds have come to symbolize everything from fecundity, virility, protection, warning of danger and maternal care and devotion. It doesn’t hurt that their round figures, clucking and pecking are endearing and amusing. Most of us have early memories of chickens, even if they weren’t real life experiences. It’s for some of these reasons that chickens have become so popular for folks who see them as pets akin to dogs and cats. And it’s also those reasons that inspire people to incorporate them in various forms of arts and crafts.
Despite a long-held desire to be artsy, I think at the ripe old age of 60 it just isn’t going to happen for me. My efforts have usually resulted in producing stick figures that resembled what I did in elementary school. I’ve resigned myself to accepting that the visual arts are not where my talent lies. I’ve always enjoyed writing and have no illusions of my capacity, but feel I am a decent storyteller. And more importantly, I have the desire and knack for bringing people together and mining for the best in them.
I’ve worked on a series of 45 profiles of chicken keepers called ‘Having Chickens Is A Great Way to Meet Your Neighbours’. This is the launch of another series ‘When Art Meets Chickens’ aimed at showcasing folks who are inspired to incorporate chickens into their art, craft or writing. I’m always delighted to see folks represent chickens in whatever form: baking, painting, fabric and barn quilts, sculpture or stained glass. The folks featured might be professionals or hobbyists. This is not a contest about who does the ‘best’ work, but a celebration of chickens.
Debbie Thomas Felton
Having a homestead was a dream that came true five years ago. Initially, I got chickens to get some good fertilizer for my garden, but they quickly won my heart. I enjoy sitting and observing them and their antics. Each one of my 24 chickens is a loved pet: all different breeds and different names with the goal of having a beautiful display of egg colors.
In recent years I’ve had the opportunity to explore my interest in art. I paint with acrylics and also make dried flower arrangements, cards, bookmarks and coasters. Zentangle set me off on a path of craving to create something beautiful for myself and others. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I am enjoying the journey. A few months ago I came upon a dot artist video and this has become my recent obsession.
Chickens are so adorable so I imagine they will periodically show up in my art.
Julie Townsend (https://www.etsy.com/shop/JulieTownsendStudio)
Art has always held a special place in my life. Many of my youngest memories are associated with creating art. As I moved into adulthood, time to be creative wasn’t available to me and I went over 30 years with that dream buried deep. It is only in the past 12 years that I have been able to dust off my that side and return to art with a passion. Painting farm animals of all kinds makes me happy and I think that joy comes out in my art. One of my goals is to create something that makes others smile.
I don’t really have a favorite farm animal that I like to draw but rather there are special things about each species that makes them special. With cows, it’s their noses; with goats, their silly facial expressions; and with chickens, their eyes. They always seem to be intensely staring at me.
Linda Nilsson (instagram @ lindaskonstverkstad)
I’m a self taught artist living in northern Sweden. My wish is to create art that makes people feel good and provides a small consolation for those with a longing for the country, small-scale living and a longing to feel connection with animals again.
I spend a lot of time and focus creating motifs that show individuality and spirituality, and work with contrasts and the play of light in order to create interesting paintings that enhance the modern home.
Jobee Phillips (www.jobeephillips.com instagram @jobee_phillips)
I am a Northern Arizona based, San Diego native whose work has been known to be bold, colorful, and irreverent. I was inspired to pursue art by my late grandmother, who was a factory worker who moonlighted as a painter. Graduating with a B.A. in Interior Design from San Diego State University, I entered the lighting industry, fell in love and had my daughter, Delilah who kept me on a toes. During the Covid pandemic, I gave birth to my son Steele, quit my traditional job to be a full-time mom, moved to Prescott Valley, and fell in love with painting again in the high desert.
Birds have always fascinated me and when I would free-draw, the shapes would always find a way to become feathers and beaks. A series of “Spirit Birds” transitioned into my new collection of “Doodle Chickens” that I am still working on to complete a full dozen. Spending time at my close friends’ homestead, I was kept company by their diverse flock of Brahmas, Silkies, Lavender Orpingtons and tiny bantams. I aspire to have a homestead and art studio of my own with a rainbow flock as colorful as my paintings.
Many thanks to Debbie Thomas Felton, Julie Townsend, Linda Nilsson and Jobee Phillips for sharing their work, used with permission.
Photo credits: August Kochanowski (mural), Cake Central (cake), Jolly Jabber (quilt), Solange Piffer and Andrea Olighon (mosaics).
If you are an artist, crafter or writer who features chickens into your work and would like to participate in this series drop me a line by clicking on the ‘contact’ button on the homepage.