January 9, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Silas and Kimberly West have four children who are actively involved in soccer, ballet and tap, golf, Awana, choir, and a smattering of other hobbies. Those hobbies include taking care of a small zoo: two dogs, a cat, a gecko, a snake, and a coop full of chickens.

Priya, 7, shares about Momo, their small gray dog: “Momo likes to snuggle on the couch, and she likes to sit in the window behind the couch, and she likes to eat cat food.” Momo is named for dumplings that are found in Nepal, where the West family lived for 11 years.

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Next up? “Duma!” Elijah, 9, exclaims. Duma is his leopard gecko. The name means “leopard” in Swahili—Silas spent many of his growing-up years in Kenya. Duma lives in a cage in the boys’ bedroom. “He likes to act dead,” says Elijah. “He likes to stare. He likes to climb in your hair or your neck. And he doesn’t like new people.” That means new people get hissed at.

Then there’s Tiger Lily, the cat. “She’s gray with black stripes,” says Adia, 11. “And when you’re sad, she comes and comforts you—she sits on your lap.”

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Bruno is the corn snake under the care of 12-year-old Jedidiah.

At this point, Kimberly has to laugh. “We have so many pets. Oh my goodness,” she says.

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One reason Jedidiah likes Bruno is because “he can always beat you in a staring contest.” The snake can’t blink because he doesn’t have eyelids.

Sherpa is a Redbone Coonhound. “He’s named after the guides who take people up in the Himalayas,” says Adia.

“There’s so many goofy things about him,” Silas says.

“He likes to dance!” Adia exclaims. “If you say, ‘Dance,’ he will jump up and hold onto your shoulders.”

Sherpa is protective of Priya. “Other dogs aren’t allowed around Priya,” Kimberly says.

“Not even his best friend,” says Elijah of Otto, the Great Dane-mastiff mix who lives next door.

“Only Momo,” says Priya. “She’s the only dog who’s allowed around me.”

“He’s really gentle with the kids, even Avila,” Silas says about the toddler who used to live next door. “She’d curl up on his dog bed with him, and they’d just relax together.”

“Even Tiger Lily,” says Adia.

“Yeah, he loves the cat,” says Kimberly. “And he loves the chickens.”

The chickens are perhaps the most surprising of the pets—the whole family just loves them. Kimberly says, “We decided two years ago that we were going to get chickens. It took me 10 years to convince him.”

“I grew up with chickens on the farm, and they’re stinky and messy and a lot of work. And I didn’t want them,” Silas explains. “But Kim always wanted them, so we got them. And I ended up liking them a lot.”

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The chickens reside in handmade coops and roam free in the garden. Madge is the matriarch of the chicken coop. Elijah says, “She kind of likes to snuggle. She likes to dig and eat bugs.” Madge often squats down when approached and likes to be picked up.

“The chickens are more like pets. They’re like pets that give us something,” 
Kimberly says.

“I never saw chickens that way,” Silas says. “They’ve always just been an animal you have on your farm for a purpose. All of our chickens like to be held and get mad when 
you don’t.”

“We have a proclivity to needy animals, and our chickens fit into the needy-animal realm,” Kimberly says. “Even the Reds are letting you pet them now. An animal comes into our yard, and it becomes needy.”

And, in return, the kids are quite attached to the chickens. They were heartbroken when a Bantam hen died this summer.

“We had a funeral for Penny,” Kimberly says. “She was killed by a possum.”

Adia says, “She’s buried next to the 
possum.”

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