I’m not a Luddite when it comes to technology, in that I’m not opposed to change, more that I’m not really that interested in learning how things work. I’ve got a cell phone provided by my employer and have never had an incoming call (I don’t give out the number) nor sent a text. So you can imagine the challenges I’ve confronted when learning about setting up a Facebook page and a WordPress blog. Somehow I have stumbled through and feel like I’ve accomplished something substantial.
One of the areas I check daily is the insights and analytics: the number of visitors and views; what folks looked at; and who comes to my site. Facebook actually breaks down my followers by age and sex. It’s always interested me that 89% are female and that hasn’t changed in the 3½ years I’ve had my Bitchin’ Chickens Farm page. That’s borne out too by scrolling through online chicken groups – it is mostly women who start a thread, make comments, react or share a post. Lots of those women mention male partners, so it got me thinking, “Why aren’t those men here?” I see photos of men and their chickens, but almost always taken and posted by women.
I don’t have a husband, my partner, Jan, is a woman so maybe I’m not the best person to decipher the riddle of the elusive male chicken keeper. Regardless of her gender Jan doesn’t fit the stereotype of a female chicken keeper. The flock is mine. She will occasionally come look at chicks and under duress has assisted with some first aid. She listens when I yak on about chickens, but I’m not sure how much of that information is retained. She doesn’t know the names or breeds of my birds, doesn’t read my blog and if I was incapacitated would be hard pressed to know what to do to care for them.
Whenever I’m curious about something I ask my online followers for their input. I posed the question of why men weren’t in online groups and if they were why were they practically invisible. I was hoping that some men who were lurking in the shadows would come forward with some insights. No such luck, but several women did wade in with their perspectives:
One of the trends I’ve noticed regarding the representation of male chicken keepers is a dichotomy between notions of masculinity and femininity. On the one hand there is no shortage of hypermasculine images of men posing with dead predators or butchered birds, and talk of protecting their property, guns, and pronouncements of independence in the face of rules and laws.
Then there is a parody of women in the form of chicken daddies. The latter are a riff on the women who engaged in the Target challenge wearing Little House On The Prairie style dresses imitating pioneer life. The male version seems to equate male chicken keepers as emasculated cross-dressers
(Note: Chicken Daddies photos have been removed due to copyright issues)
I know folks get a kick out of it, but what do those two archetypes reveal about male culture? You might think I’m reading too much into it, but humour is a window into culture and, in this case, speaks to how our society constructs gender roles and expectations. I don’t see a celebration of nurturing or empathy, but rather a laugh at the expense of women and what is perceived as femininity. Where are the images revealing a different side of masculinity that promote nurturing and compassion?
Sara Franklin: My husband, Jacob, is a really interesting case because he went into getting chickens with what I suspect is the more typical male approach of practicality. Of course since getting to know them, he is much more in the parental mindset and incredibly attached to them. I am not sure all men open themselves up to that relationship, so he may be a strange case, at least in that he is willing to admit his fondness for them. So often men worry that they will be seen as weak if they admit to any emotional attachment.
Some of it may also come down to women often being brought up to look to authority figures in their decision making, while men are often raised to be their own authority and may feel less of a need for reassurance and guidance as a result. Like that old cliché about men hating to ask for help, looking to others for guidance might be lumped in with that whole ‘looking weak’ thing, they tend to feel they are expected to have it under control without outside assistance.
Margaret Skadi: My ex-husband adored the chickens. But I don’t know if men are born with the chicken gene.
Sandy McMillan: My husband has only actually gone to see my girls twice. He says he can see them from the deck. I think he feels he will get attached to them and just might see them as something other the soup. I am a vegetarian, so it’s easy for me to love all their sweet personalities.
Closet Chicken Tenders
Another theme I see is that men profess not to be interested in chickens but are often caught interacting with them in ways that belie their words. If dogs are man’s best friend, then why not chickens as well?
Taylor Johnson: So my husband “HATES” chickens. The past few weeks he’s gone out to give them back scratches. This morning I went out and had 11 chickens jumping all over me to get their daily dose of back scratches. What has my husband done to my chickens?!
Karen Jay: I’m thinking men just don’t want to go online and admit that they might possibly enjoy the company of a chicken— they are funny fascinating creatures (both chickens and men).
I know that there are many men who have chickens that don’t fit those stereotypes, but I wonder why they aren’t present in online groups. Maybe they have better things to do with their time then chat to strangers or if they do engage with social media it’s about other issues. Perhaps they aren’t compelled to be validated by an online community by sharing their frustrations and worries or celebrating their flock’s first egg or the hatching of their first chick.
Tara Lynn Miller: My husband has a social media page but he’s not one to post in general. I think the only group he’s part of is Tokers and Jokers and funny memes. He did join the Khaki Campbell group I’m part of as we also have ducks. I rarely post anything on Facebook and I’m sure that if I was working, not disabled and had the physical ability to go out and do a whole lot more than I am now I probably wouldn’t post much either. I think men tend to be more the caretaker and are too tired to be browsing Facebook chicken groups at the end of the day. One of our chickens, an Amber link named Snowball, is my husband’s little buddy and will sit in his work trailer and watch him do whatever he’s doing. She’s currently living in the bedroom closet because she’s broody. I’ve got him talking baby talk to the ducks and the chickens more than once.
Rhonda Belinda Childers: My husband and I keep chickens but he doesn’t do social media. Once in a while he’ll join a group that I suggest or look at links I send to him. I don’t think he would even have Facebook if it weren’t for me. Maybe he wouldn’t have chickens either if it wasn’t for me, but he’s always tending to our chickens.
Sarah Gannaway: My husband is just as chicken crazy as I am, but he doesn’t join groups. Maybe he’s afraid he’d be worse. Here he is gardening with our head hen, Henny Penny.
Julie Milner: My husband loves our chickens and interacts with them often. He doesn’t have social media and I rarely post myself. We had a sweet bantam Cochin (who lived to be nine) who would run up to my hubby to be picked up and carried to the coop at bedtime.
Juliet Morgan: I’m one of the many who decided to get chickens during the pandemic and my then-husband was along for the ride. He got very attached to them, so when we parted ways in April 2021, he got his own flock. We are still friends. He paid me to build his coop and recently paid me to babysit his chickens when he had jury duty for two days.
He is in the local chicken group on Facebook, but he’s not very active in it. He’s on Instagram because he’s an artist/photographer and shares his work there — as well as occasional photos of his chickens and not just the ones he turns into art.
My two cent: I’ve been in many different genres of groups online from parenting to various holistic health groups to Jungian psychology groups and I’ve taken many online classes – the dynamic is ALWAYS the same and roughly meets your findings of 89% female to 11% males. So it’s not just chickens!
I’m sharing a photo of Anthony with a couple of his chickens. He sends me photos of them almost daily and is always telling me what they are doing.
Perspectives On Men Vs Women
Sara Franklin: Women are so much more verbal and more interested in emotionally driven sharing than men are. So whether it is wanting to talk about coop plans, or wanting to share their excitement for their first egg, women tend to feel a need to tell somebody while men are far more comfortable keeping it to themselves as a general rule. I think men are more likely to do a quick web search, only when absolutely necessary, and run with the first answer they find that makes sense. Women are typically the over thinkers that go “Ok, that is what this resource says, but what about the others?” In essence, women are the thinkers and men are the doers. I suspect often the men are out there putting up the coop and buying the feed while the women absorb all the online information to guide the project. It may really come down to the hands-on approach men tend to have that makes sitting around talking or just thinking on it unappealing.
Tasha Hollen: All the men are probably mad at their wives for chicken math. In reality, my husband is the one who first mentioned getting chickens, and then I fell in love with them more than him. I think women are just more social about their birdies.
Linda Erdei: I have quite a few clients who have chickens; in all those cases the woman in the couple wanted the chickens and cares for them, loves them and/or runs them as a business. My boyfriend likes chickens well enough but he thinks they are just filling a purpose by laying eggs and eating scraps and should be culled as soon as their production goes down. My landlord likes his girlfriend’s chickens, but would never have them on his own. My ex had no interest in my chickens.
Seleta Nothnagel: I asked my husband if he would be willing to write something for your post, but he basically gave me a silly non-answer and that was the end of it. His answer did have a bit of truth to it though. He said the reason men weren’t in online chicken groups was because they were always too busy building something or working on some project for the chickens. He’s not wrong. I think it’s partially just how men and women are wired differently. Women, stereotypically speaking, are more social creatures. We thrive on human interaction, where most men can subsist on no human connection for quite some time before they roll out of their cave to seek food.
My husband deeply loves our chickens, but it didn’t really start out that way. My daughter wanted chickens and roped me in on the deal. I tried to convince my husband, but he felt like we needed to be more prepared before we jumped into the project but not me, so I brought home six chicks.
Our chicken progression went something like this: We have chickens, but they aren’t coming in the house. They can come in the garage but not in the house. They can be in the basement but not in the main part of the house. They can be on the main level of the house, but not in the kitchen or in the bedrooms. They can take a nap in bed with you but they are not staying all night long. They can go wherever they want and sleep wherever they want; we just pay the mortgage on their coop. Now my husband accepts and WANTS our chickens to live in our house so they are safe from predators, weather, and other maladies. He has a few golden children that can do no wrong and he claims them as “his” chickens. He never argues about needing to take them to the vet or buy high quality feed for them. He mourns just as hard as I do for those we have lost. He often comes up with as many projects for himself as I do for him to enrich and improve the lives of our flock.
Case in point: When we found out that we needed to add UVA and UVB lights in our aviary for the health of our birds, he ordered lights the same night the vet recommended it. When they arrived, he got busy right away hanging them at the proper height making sure they wouldn’t get too hot and adjusting the timer so the lights would automatically come on for a certain number of hours each day. Meanwhile, I have a shelf I have asked him to hang in our bedroom for me which has sat there for three weeks and still is not hung.
Another story on him: This past week Xena had an appointment scheduled to have ultrasound and radiographs done and she had to be sedated. We have lost three birds under sedation/anesthesia in the past and procedures that require it make my husband very nervous! He asked if, on the way to the appointment, I would drop by his office so he could give Xena some kisses and snuggles for luck. I texted him when I got to his workplace because we were running a touch behind. He came out snuggled and gave a pep talk to Xena and kissed her on the head. He turned to leave and I was like “Wait! No kiss for your crazy wife?!” We both laughed and he quickly gave me a kiss before we parted ways. I know where I rank. That being said, if he ever gave me the “it’s me or the birds speech” I’d help him pack his stuff. Here are some pictures of him with our flock that hopefully show how invested he is in them and how deeply he loves them! Not a single night goes by at work that I don’t get a text from him about the birds, sometimes with cute pictures attached.
And The Last Word Goes To An Elusive Male Chicken Keeper ….
I did hear from one man who first told me he was intimidated in groups dominated by women (though he didn’t explain why) and felt that threads started by men didn’t get the same traction as those posted by women.
Frustrated with the lack of male representation on the subject I reached out to guest contributor Sara Franklin and asked if her husband Jacob would share his experience. After a couple of weeks, and I’m sure gentle nudges from her, he responded. I asked for a paragraph or two and he outdid himself with an essay.
Jacob Franklin: I can’t speak for all men, but I have deliberately avoided social media for almost a decade. I only ever saw it as a distraction from more important things, but also never had a real need for it. I’m still hardly active, but I see it as a great resource now that I care so much about something that requires research as well as networking. If I were not actively trying to reach people through our YouTube channel to share how amazing roosters can be, I would still be avoiding not just online groups, but Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, all of it.
Do men keep chickens? Certainly, some do, but even among that group, there is a broad spectrum of types. Is he a farmer keeping livestock? Is he a vegan rescuing a would-be slaughtered living being who deserves love and compassion? Or is he somewhere in the vast middle, where he believes he is an animal lover and a good pet owner just because he cares enough to give treats and not kill the creature, but maybe doesn’t do as much research as he should? Maybe he never really makes an emotional connection with the individual within the animal?
I’d imagine most, if not all, of the blog followers fall closer to the more proactive and compassionate side of that spectrum.
But why are only 11% of your Facebook followers men? I would guess a woman’s maternal instincts might play a major role in their ability or likelihood to find themselves at that end of the spectrum. I might also guess that the male ego, or perhaps the hunter/gatherer instinct, may get in the way of caring more deeply for a creature not of his own flesh and blood. Additionally, in the couples that have chickens, I imagine one of the two would feel no need to engage in chicken groups if their partner is already. At least that’s how it is for me. My wife does enough research and participation for the both of us.
Before having chickens of my own, even being a life-long ‘animal lover’ and pet owner, I fell for the widespread misconception and believed chickens were ‘simple’ creatures. This made it all too easy to simply put them in the “out of sight, out of mind” category and never even think of the individual that suffered and died just so I could eat something ‘yummy’. When we brought home our first chicks I knew I could never eat them, but I still expected nothing more than a source for eggs. I expected a ‘farm animal’ that would never develop any real bond with me, but I was open to more.
Since getting to know my own flock, my personal view of chickens (and all animals) has radically changed. Let’s just say, I do not eat chicken anymore. But it’s only because I was open to the possibility of something more than a brainless egg-laying machine. And one could argue I was already really close to my epiphany before getting the chickens. Having kept many exotic animals as well as several common pets for over 20 years, I’ve had more opportunities than most to see that animal behavior and intelligence is not what most people think. Snakes in particular were a big eye opener. Creatures thought to be cold and emotionless that will bite if you look at ‘em wrong, actually just want to explore and check out all the interesting things, get kisses on the nose, and take naps on or next to their human companion. The universe was priming me for having chickens.
I think I was lucky in the number of chickens I ended up with. Five hens and four roosters (kept in a separate bachelor flock) is not so many that I could never get to know everyone, but enough that I could see a wide variety of personalities. Spending three hours with them each day I learned just how human-like they really are. Each and every chicken is a distinct individual with their own unique voice, habits, and preferences. They have good days and bad days. They can be considerate, oblivious, selfish, helpful, stubborn, cooperative, frustrated, annoyed, excited or displeased. Most importantly, in my opinion, is their clear desire for love and affection from anyone who has gained their trust. I never expected chickens, especially roosters, to seek out hugs, pets, or just being close literally every time I see them. They have completely blown my mind and changed my life forever. So much in fact that my introverted self must tell everyone! They are just too intelligent, self-aware, and loving to be nothing more than a food product.
Now that my eyes are no longer covered by the blindfold of big business bullshit, I can’t keep quiet. I hope the other men out there who love their chickens and know how amazing they are will speak up and help spread the word! 20 billion chickens deserve better.
Thanks to everyone who contributed their perspectives and photos. I think it’s through these kinds of conversations that we can foster community and improve the lives of the creatures we care for. Featured image credit: Lucinda Gifford