Artist's Statement

Janet Holmes

Archival digital prints - 12"x15"

How do you decide which animals are family, and which are food? Why are we surprised to see a rooster gazing out the kitchen window or a hen investigating the laundry? After all, chickens are present in most homes, as flesh and eggs, just not as individuals with personalities of their own.

Since 2017, I’ve been making portraits of chickens and their rescuers in their homes. The catalyst for this series was my encounter with a hen being treated for severe and chronic reproductive illness at the Wild Bird Fund in New York City, where I volunteered as a caregiver. I discovered that her ailments were common for modern hens, who have been bred and then manipulated to lay hundreds of eggs all year-long. As I searched for someone willing to care for her special needs, I discovered a network of vegans (primarily women) who turn their homes into sanctuaries for rescued chickens. I thought about how many women still struggle to obtain adequate, affordable reproductive health care, and how in turn we are socialized to exploit hens' reproductive systems. It seems that even across species, society expects to dictate how females use their bodies.

And what about the roosters? Unwanted and unloved, most are killed shortly after birth.

Billions of chickens die every year to satisfy our appetites. A very few are fortunate to be rescued by people who only want to heal and care for them. Just like cats and dogs, these chickens become part of the family, loved for themselves rather than for what their bodies provide. These portraits are intended as a tribute both to the birds who have suffered so much and the people who have invested so much love, time and money caring for them. I share the images with the hope that people will be inspired to take steps toward a world where animals live their lives free from exploitation.