It's safe to assume that here at AAHA we're a bunch of animal lovers. The most common question asked of new employees is "Do you have any pets?" And, the inevitable "Awwww!" is sure to follow the newbie's answer, which is typically "yes." While most cubicle-confined coworkers share photos of children and chubby-cheeked babies, at AAHA we're busy admiring photos of dogs, cats, and...chickens? Yeah, you read that right. Chickens.
AAHA is headquartered near Denver, Colo. In the city of Denver, residents are legally allowed to have up to eight chickens or ducks on their properties. All must be female--no roosters are permitted.
Recently, one AAHA employee decided to give the "backyard chickens" idea a try, and she's been hooked ever since. Not only are the chickens beginning to produce delicious, farm- (er, backyard-) fresh eggs, but her entire family has bonded with the chickens, just like they would have with a kitten or a puppy. Each hen has her own name, along with her own distinct personality and appearance.
What began as a quest for fresh eggs from happy chickens, turned into in-depth research on conditions for egg-laying hens on egg farms, and eventually the refusal to eat any eggs (except those from her own hens), as well as chicken itself.
"I would never eat a cat. Why would I eat chicken?" says the AAHA staffer. After watching her children develop relationships with the chickens, just as they would any other companion animal, and observing the different personalities of each chicken, she simply couldn't consume them any longer.
Listening to my coworker's tales of baby chicks developing into adult, egg-laying hens, and seeing the photos of her children playing happily with them in the backyard made me wonder: What does it mean to be a companion animal? It seems to me that these chickens are just as much companions as any dog or cat would ever be.
What are your thoughts? Do you have a companion-animal-like relationship with a non-traditional "pet?"