Pet Poultry

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Abstract

Today, eggs occupy refrigerator shelves in every convenience store, yet members of the York County community in Pennsylvania laboriously raise small flocks of chickens for a food source. With increasing globalization comes benefits including higher standards of living, access to basic human needs such as clean water and healthcare, and cultural awareness. However, globalization and the American food-systems infrastructure have grown to industrialized heights where commodification leads to abstraction. To combat this separation from our food source, people exchange consumerism for a connection with their food primarily via gardens and poultry rearing. Their place in the backyard builds kinship similar to that of family where their multi-species familiarity defies the anthropocentric tendencies of biosociality. Primarily through ethnography, I interviewed and observed twenty households in York County Pennsylvania who raise a small flock of chickens. While some of the participants own chickens for various functions such as experimentation, entertainment, education, or political activism, I primarily analyze the meaning derived from chicken ownership through the lens of ethical animal choices and companionship. As a fellow chicken owner, I recognize that raising chickens is not a necessity; it is a choice. None of the participants grew up around chickens; they all intentionally sought out the practice. In addition to a discussion on ethical animal farming, this study also analyzes the relationship between the chicken keepers and their pet poultry, ultimately arguing that raising chickens offers pastoral fringe living where the participants enjoy the proximity of civilization paired with the romanticized practice of homesteading.