No, Bellingham doesn’t have a chicken theme park – yet. But there is a Chickenlandia, and it is a place for chicken lovers to come together!
To the undiscerning eye, it may appear that chickens are the stars of Chickenlandia. And you’d be mostly correct. Yet there’s a subtler beauty to it, grounded in the idea that chickens can be a vehicle that drives human connection. With disarmingly charming personalities and silly, fluffy behinds, it’s hard not to love the chicken. They’re also generally neutral ground in a world that’s so often divided.
For more, we turn to the President of Chickenlandia, Dalia Monterroso. “When I think of Chickenlandia, I see it as a place where everyone belongs,” she says. “I want chicken keeping to be approachable and inclusive for all people, and I want it to be a practice that can ultimately bring us together.”
When Dalia discovered her passion for chickens, she was in the crossroads of some major life upheavals. She’d just arrived in Bellingham from the busyness of Los Angeles. Around the same time, she also became a mother, and was going through that bumpy transition into parenthood. Between the two, Dalia felt isolated. She was looking for a way to break into the community, while at the same time seeking to find herself again.
It was then that she got the urge to nest, and thought to bring a couple chicks home. “I had intended to get four, but let’s just say I ended up bringing home a few more than that,” she says with a chuckle. “It’s so easy when they’re just chicks; they’re little pieces of popcorn, just little cotton ball fluffs!”
I don’t see the problem.
From then on, she was chicken-smitten. She described her newfound bond with her flock as being like a boulder rolling downhill. There was no stopping it. Something inside told her that this was a direction she should stick with. “I feel so much peace among my flock,” she says. “When I step out with them and care for them, I feel calmed and lifted.”
Dalia began making friends in the community who also had chickens, and was excited by the diversity of people who loved and kept them. It got her thinking about how people all over the world kept chickens. It seemed to be one of those common denominators, a thread tying vastly different cultures together. She wondered: Could the shared infatuation with chickens be a bridge that ultimately brings people together?
Thus, Chickenlandia was founded. Her proverbial boulder has rolled itself into a blog, youtube channel, product ambassadorships, community outreach and education classes, a TEDx talk, and rescue work.
Chickenlandia really took off after Dalia’s TEDx talk. She wanted to share her ideas about cross-cultural chicken diplomacy with a wider audience. Dalia ended up writing her speech on her phone at three in the morning, and as late night work-trances are apt to produce, it was exactly what she was hoping for.
Her passion has morphed into the role of educator and chicken emissary. Whatcom Community College invited President Dalia to come and offer classes on chicken husbandry. Scratch And Peck Feeds reached out and asked if she would be an ambassador for their products. She now gives sponsored chicken classes at feed and pet stores. She works with the Whatcom Humane Society to find homes for the wayward chickens that pass through their doors.
Most of Dalias flock are rescues. During a recent visit, they all seemed incredibly well-behaved, as far as chickens go. They succumbed to her picking them up one by one, and accepted scratches above the ear with a glassy-eyed surrender. She assured me they do get a little wild sometimes, though – and occasionally even sneak out.
Looking at the flock, I saw a cohesive knit of fowl that all looked completely different. Granted, there were a couple of
odd actual ducks. Some had sleek shiny feathers, and one absolutely looked like a loose feather duster. Some had long reaching legs, others short, scuttling ones. There was little homogeny besides their chicken-ness, but they formed a cohesive community all the same. Perhaps Dalia’s on to something; maybe we can learn a thing or two about each other from keeping them.
Chickens themselves have a pecking order, but Dalia views Chickenlandia as a bit more democratic. After all, she’s the President, not the Queen. She hopes the space she curates for chicken-related discourse contributes to kinder and more understanding discourse between people.
“I believe the best way to reach through to someone is by helping them,” she says. “If I can start small and help someone with their chickens, maybe it can be the beginning of a chain of connections that brings out more of our humanity.”