So what is family? That mythical unit of parents and kids full of love and support and a lifetime of happy memories? Or the folks that are thrown together by dint of biology that will cost a lifetime of therapy to undue the damage inflicted there? Or something altogether different that you cobble together to suit your needs?
The dictionary defines family as “a group of persons united by the ties of marriage, blood, or adoption, constituting a single household and interacting with each other in their respective social positions, usually those of spouses, parents, children, and siblings.”
Another model, arising out of the LGBT community, is the concept of a chosen family. The bonds made are not based on biology, but common identities, interests or values. My mother, who did not come from a happy family, often repeated the mantra espoused by her mother that “family you’re born with, friends you choose”, implying of course, that we’d rather exercise choice if possible.
As a longtime dog and cat owner it’s clear to me that most folks consider their mammal companions as an extended (and oftentimes integral) member of their family. They are often referred to as ‘fur babies’, ‘man’s best friend’, ‘companion animals’ and more recently ‘therapy animals’. Folks use terms like mum, dad or grandparents that denote relationships placing their pet squarely in their family tree. Popular pet names reflect the esteem we garner upon them: Max (best), Fido (faithful) and Buddy (close friend).
So it’s no surprise that these feelings of kinship for our household pets extend to our flock or ‘feather babies’. Some folks draw the line at bringing their birds inside their homes while others have full-time house chickens. It’s interesting that we can be appalled how some people in other areas of the world view and treat dogs and cats, while we relegate chickens to the status of livestock or ‘just a chicken’. When my dog is being a brat I tell her that there are areas of the world where she might be considered dinner (to which she’s truly shocked). Yet we can love our chickens and also eat them (or someone else’s). Or maybe we don’t, deciding they, too, are worthy of being recognized as sentient beings with a life deserving respect.
Full disclosure: This isn’t a judgment about dietary preferences; I, too, struggle with the conflict of loving chickens and eating poultry (just not my own).
(Photo credits: Jessica Ellen Maness; Lauren Patrick; Dreamstime)
The only time my birds have been in the house is for first aid treatment or short stays in the infirmary. My curiosity is piqued by seeing how other folks have embraced their feathered friends as part of everyday life: photo shoots of first eggs, babies attired in chicken themed onesies, house chickens that go on vacation with their keepers, birthday parties, weddings and sadly, funerals.
I spend a lot of time with my birds, but always on their turf so I have no photos depicting their place in my home, as well as my heart. Never fear, when I need help I just call on my Bitchin’ Chicken followers and they shower me with evidence that their chickens truly are part of their families.
” Just a few of our Christmas pictures and Dil’s travels. I’m already planning on upping my game for Christmas pictures this year.” Anna Whitman (& Daffodil the House Chicken)
“Blue greeting people at the specimen drop off window where I work in the Clinical Pathology Department at the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH).” – Seleta Nothnagel
“Lil Miss Trouble having a spa day and Miss Becky Lynn Marie reading the Sunday paper.” – Jackie Eak
“We had a birthday party for the baby chicks we raised last year. The children got worm cupcakes.” – Susan Hearsey
Chicken Chillin’ – Lisa Halsey Bloomer
“Mr Buttercup come in and eats with us. He has his own spot at the table.” -Rudy Roo
Pinto’s Birthday Party- Araceli Sanchez
“Two years ago, my husband and I moved in with my 92 year old grandmother to care for her. Every night before they roost, my friends come to the front door and look in at grandmommy to say good night. Sometimes they watch the bonus round on Wheel of Fortune and sometimes they just go roost. Either way, the “chicken parade “ is the highlight of her day!” – Beth Kuntz
“My daughter’s beloved Noodle coming in the car with me to pick her up. She recently passed and we miss her terribly.” – Dionne Lajoie Lanqvist
“Butterscotch, our beloved Ameraucana, who just passed in May at 11 years old. She was carried around by all four of my children, pulled in a wagon and would swing with one of my daughters. As she aged, she went blind so we converted a large rabbit hutch into her a retirement coop and gave her our old Roo, Frankie, to be her seeing-eye chicken. When the temperatures were extreme in winter, we brought them both in the house at night. I wish I had taken more pics of her. Her nickname was Granny Scotch because she was one of our original chickens and outlived so many. She was the best.” – Stacey Caswell Bruneaux
“George doesn’t live with us anymore but he was so chill, we took him to the beach once.” – Shannon Greenwood
“Just having a relaxing evening watching TV.” – Nellie Thorngate
“Penelope loves riding in her car seat to anywhere, but especially when her Mimi is beside her. Lowe’s is one of her favorite stores. She also likes ice cream field trips with the residents of her grandmother’s memory care facility. Penelope visits there for therapy and gives them all lots of love. She is such a good girl, and waits patiently until her time to visit again.” – Candy Eric Strickler
Chickens are integral to important life events. They are featured with newborns, baby birthday parties and weddings.
“I got photos of my kids this evening. The chickens thought I’d have snacks. No snacks, but they did decide to partake in the photo shoot – uninvited. These are Christmas cards. My favorite is of course the classic Hallmark with a crying babe. Poor Walter, all his hens are a handful, then you add in my little savages and our pets.” – Annie Savage
More folks are keeping chickens and even treating them as pets, like they would their dogs and cats. That may not be how everyone views poultry, but spending time with birds allows you to understand they do have their own personalities and bond with those around them. And for lots of us, they fulfill the role of trusted and loyal companions.
Featured photo: Lindsey Daugherty. Thanks to everyone who contributed their photos and stories. If you got one you’d like to add to this post please drop me a line using the ‘contact’ button on the home page.