by Crystal Sands
She likes bananas and blueberries, traveling, and long walks on the beach. She has beautiful red feathers and has visited more landmarks than most humans. She is also full of personality—and is quite famous. Her name is Sammi Chicken, and she’s a little Rhode Island Red hen who travels the country with her good friend, Dave Cox, educating humans about the awesomeness of chickens.
Sammi Chicken has her own Facebook page, Instagram account (she has more than 57,000 followers!), and is a bit of a TikTok star. She has been featured in her own Dodo video and has even made an appearance at Today.com. Sammi and Dave travel the country, visiting all of the famous landmarks they can, and sharing pictures of their travels on social media. Along the way, they are working to do good for chicken kind–and human kind as well.
I found the Sammi Chicken Facebook page a few months ago by accident and fell in love with Dave’s fantastic pictures of Sammi in all of her beautiful Rhode Island Red glory. I have the biggest soft spot for Rhode Island Red hens. My first baby chicks were Rhode Island Reds, and I fell in love with the breed, as they are both intelligent and hardy. Dave and Sammi’s adventures always make me smile. When I reached out to Dave to see if he might sit down for a chat with me for Farmer-ish readers, I was so happy that he agreed!
Dave Cox is a former high school Agriculture teacher who is now teaching in a different way—with a really cool sidekick, Sammi (though I have to say that I am guessing Dave considers himself Sammi’s sidekick). He was looking for a pet after his dog soulmate of 17 years passed away. He was heartbroken after the loss and found himself at a feed store in his home state of Florida.
He reached into a giant bin that was truly a sea of fluffy chicks and pulled out one chicken, a very fortunate Rhode Island Red, who Dave would name Sammi. Together, Sammi and Dave have many adventures and get to change people’s perceptions about chickens along the way.
When I spoke to Dave, one of the first things I noticed was just how much fun it was to speak to a chicken person who has a deep understanding of the personality of a chicken. Though chicken personalities vary, just like human personalities, there are some traits they all seem to have in common: They are social creatures who are far more intelligent than most people give them credit for being, and they can be really good companions. Just as people become friends with other types of birds they keep as pets, chickens and humans can form a powerful bond. Dave and Sammi are certainly evidence of this bond on a grand scale.
I asked Dave what were some of the most surprising things he has learned from being friends with Sammi, and he said “Just how much she is able to express herself and her needs,” though Dave emphasized that he had a learning curve when it came to figuring out her methods of expression.
This is something I deeply connected with. I researched for years before we got chickens and started our little farm. After we started our flock, I spent the first years in shock that nothing I had read fully prepared me for the complexities and intelligence of chickens. Learning curve indeed!
But, in addition to educating people about the intelligence of chickens, Dave spends his time educating people about general chicken facts. For an animal that feeds so many of us, many Americans know very little about chickens.
For example, Dave said that he was recently on a trip to New York City with Sammi, and, in Times Square, he was approached by a police officer. Dave said, “I expected the officer to tell me that Sammi couldn’t be here; instead, the officer started asking me questions about chickens.” Dave continued, “He asked me things like, ‘How do you get chickens to lay eggs?’ and ‘Do you have to have a rooster?’”
I chuckled, but Dave reminded me of how little some people know about chickens. “They’ve just never had a chance to be around them,” Dave said. But Sammi gives them a chance.
By the end of my interview with Dave, we just ended up telling chicken stories, and I had the best time. It was great to be able to tell stories about some of my experiences with chickens to someone who understood them. It was a lovely experience to chat with someone who is so connected to a chicken, and I have to admit that I felt more than a little jealous of Dave and his connection to Sammi. I have 30 chickens in a flock and not nearly enough time to observe them as I would wish. Dave gets to know Sammi on a much deeper level, and because of this, he has so much knowledge to share with the world.
When I was growing up, I was always told that chickens were “dumb animals,” along with cows and pigs. Of course, none of this is true, but the misconceptions persist. And I argue that it is the misconceptions about the social and emotional intelligence of chickens that make it far too easy for them to be abused within our food system. I am thankful for the work of Dave and Sammi.
I am also just really thankful, when I have had a tough day, that I can head to social media and see beautiful pictures of a lovely red hen living a unique and special life with her good friend.
photos courtesy of Dave Cox