Chickens for Christmas??

I’ve been thinking about Christmas.

And privilege.

And need.

And I have a question for you. Would you be disappointed if someone who regularly gave you a gift this year chose to give you chickens or rabbits?

Tell me honestly. Would you be pleased– or inside would you feel a teensy bit disappointed to discover that this gift wasn’t actually a gift TO you, but to someone else on your behalf? I need to know this honestly.


  1. I personally would love it and am planning on doing something similar this year. But, I think the key is all about how you present it to them. For instance, giving a well written description of the need and how important this gift is to the receiver. By providing a good bit of background info, then the person may better be able to look beyond their own selfish tendencies (I think we all have at least a little of these) and see the bigger picture.

  2. I think that it is a great idea. I reguarly give gifts from Heifer. Once explained the background, people understand. I dont need for anything in life, so why not help those who do. I agree with Ginger, presentation is important. When I was first dating my husband, I bought a llama on his behalf. I printed out the pages explaining what it was and how it was used and put it in a frame and gave him a small llama statue with it. He loved it.

  3. I agree with Ginger — this is a great gift when I know my kids don’t need me to send them any more junk, or gift certificates, etc. The grandkids (especially the older ones) would also get a kick out of providing chicks or bunnies to other kids. I probably would still get the grandkids something personal, but not my adult children.


  4. I think it’s cool. I once donated a stethescope as a “gift” to a friend who is a Physicians Assistant. I went through the Samaritan’s Purse catalog. It’s really cool because you can donate something that fits the personality of the “recipient”.

  5. I think it is about time we take the me me me out of Christmas, so I am all for it.

  6. I love the idea. I will be giving this to my Godchildren this year, but will include a little bag of candies as well, just so they can think about their “real” gift each time they have a piece. Blessings!

  7. I would love this. One year for fathers day the boys and I gave Mike a goat. Well, we donated a goat in his name anyway. He loved it! Also after my brother died last year some friends donated a cow in his name. This meant more to my mom than anything else that was said or done. So I think it’s a wonderful idea! As adults most of us have pleanty of material things anyway. It’s the thought of doing someone else some good that warms the heart and makes the occasion memorable.

  8. Being totally honest here, I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it – in the past. Going through this Ethiopian adoption experience has changed me as a person, and I have become more aware of needs around the world. Given that, I would now love that gift.

    I think you have to consider on an individual basis. Gifts are more important to some people than others. We are leading a study in our Young Marrieds group on The Five Love Languages, and this week we just happen to be covering “Receiving Gifts” (one of the five languages). To some people, a gift is the best way you can show love to them. So, if you happen to know someone whose primary love language is receiving gifts, I would be careful in considering what you give them. And perhaps they would appreciate helping out a needy family with chicks, but I would bet they would also like a little something for them, too.

  9. One of the best Christmas gifts I ever got was a large anonymous donation to a women’s weaving cooperative in Chiapas. I loved that Steve made the donation anonymous (takes the beholden-ness out of it), and also that it was helping an organization that a good friend of mine puts her heart and soul into.

    I’m at the stage where I have much, much more than plenty for myself, so I love those kinds of gifts. Love them. I say, go for it.

  10. Yes, Shana, I think you have a point about the Love Languages thing. I wonder if it might be nice to also add one of those big Hershey bars..chocolate being my love language and all!!

  11. I’ve been handing these out for years and never heard a complaint!

  12. Oh, yes, please, spare me all the junk cluttering up my house! Unless it’s something I truly need and can’t or won’t buy for myself, I’d far prefer a gift to someone who is truly in need.

  13. Completely second Emily. I honestly don’t like all the Christmas gift buying. I sure don’t need the 20 gifts I get each Christmas. Smetimes there are things that I could use (usually books) that are appreciated gifts but other wise I would be much happier knowing that someone with real need is having a merry Christmas.

  14. Honestly I’d be happy! When people ask us what we want for Christmas, all I can think of is, gosh, we don’t need anything! I’d love to do this for relatives for wonder the same thing, if people would be irritated.

  15. As long as you don’t physically give me a chicken, I’m fine.

  16. Mimi– LOL!!!!!!!!!!

    i did once give someone a kitten, and am still thinking I shoudn’t have done that….


  17. Hi,

    Honestly, I would be pleased, but I think a small part of me would be disappointed it if was someone very close to me and a small personal gift (like a paperback book) did not accompany it. if it was a friend I would be thrilled, if it was family and there was not a small personal book I would be disappointed. Does that make sense?

    If it were a gift from someone I taught or ministered to I would be thrilled.

    Hope this helps, I may sound shallow compared to all the noble answers ahead of me, but am trying to be brutally honest so that my answer would help.

    Oh, and I agree with Mimi, as long as you did not give me a physical chicken…..

  18. Our church congregation has an Alternatives Gifts Fair already on the schedule. It is a great excuse to gather as friends and sign names and make promises and write checks.
    A wonderful blessing to see about 100 people doing it all at once, and not overlapping too much, and having a nice time together rather than exchanging things, other than a carry-in dinner.
    One year, a relative protested a little, so the fella brought her to the next party.
    She ended up “buying” a couple gifts for others on her own list.

    I’m trying to offload stuff cluttering the house, so this works just fine for us.

  19. Must learn to close (>) HTML anchors hope this works this time:

    I’d love it since you’d likely just give me something I don’t really need (and I’d just buy what I do need). But I’d prefer that you donate the money to a charity that uses more of it to fund their programs and less to fundraising and administrative cost. I believe 25% is considered high and Heifer Project International is at over 28%

  20. I would be pleased to get out of the gift-giving craziness all together. It’s ridiculous to spend so much energy and money giving stuff to people who neither need or want another thing.

  21. I’d love it since you’d likely just give me something I don’t really need (and I’d just buy what I do need). But I’d prefer that you donate the money to a charity that uses more of it to fund their programs and less to fundraising and administrative cost. I believe 25% is considered high and Heifer Project International is at over 28%

  22. I’d love it since you’d likely just give me something I don’t really need (and I’d just buy what I do need). But I’d prefer that you donate the money to a charity that uses more of it to fund their programs and less to fundraising and administrative cost. I believe 25% is and Heifer Project International is at over 28%

  23. I’m with Kristy (#17). I would prefer for my folks or people who don’t know what to get me to generously donate in such a way. My brother and his family and our family chose to do this through the ministries of our choice the past two years. We found it easier than always having to take back the ill-fitting and unwanted gifts from the other.

    In the case of a gift from my husband, I really don’t want chickens or rabbits — now I would like the application fee for our future adoption of our little girl from China, but that’s all in the Lord’s timing — not ours!

    Great question, Mary.

  24. I would be okay with receiving such a gift myself but I’ve always felt that giving someone a “gift” by saying, “Oh, yea, I’ve made a donation to a charity of MY choosing on your behalf because I thought that was better than giving YOU a traditional gift” is rather tacky.

    Please don’t be hurt or offended by this, and I know it’s a growinwg trend by kind and well-meaning people. But it’s kind of like Yoplait and the breast cancer thing. If they want to donate to breast cancer research, WONDERFUL! But to tell the consumer that Yoplait won’t donate unless I buy their product irritates me. Just donate the money, don’t use women dying from breast cancer as promotional leverage. I’d respect them more if they just gave it outright rather than milking it (no pun) for extra sales.

    Same thing with donations. It’s a wonderful charity and a worthwhile cause, so tell everyone about it, donate to it yourself, but don’t let your actions tell people that you’re closest to that they’re not as important to you as people on the other side of the world.

  25. Very great idea! I will look into it for my kids to do as a project….we never know what to get for my family! lol


  26. Honestly, I think it really depends on the person… some people are more okay with this than others.

    Here’s how I generally do it–
    It can be difficult for young children to understand the idea behind donating to a charity on their behalf. So unless it’s your own child and you have a good idea how they will respond, I don’t do it.

    Another rule I generally follow– I don’t do it for Christmas gifts. Although this time of the year is typically the season for giving to charities, I try to do it at different times in the year. Christmas is the one time of the year that my family really does gift-giving.

    Birthdays, anniversaries and memorial days are my favorite occasions to give on behalf of a loved one. My mother loved the fact that we bought trees in Kenya in honor of her for her birthday this year.

    Thanks for the discussion! It really helped me define my own ideas behind charity giving.

  27. this is a good food for thought question. My daughter is getting married in a differnet state, at the beginning of Dec. Even though her wedding is not going to be over the top crazy we want it to be nice and with a nice wedding and travel expenses this add up. So we’ve told the kids Christmas would be simple this year, and I told my siblings that I would be calling them and their families and wishing them a Merry Christmas but I wouldn’t be particiapting in the annual name draw gift giving extravaganza. Some were disappointed, others said great it’s a lot for us too.

    I don’t know what this will do to future name drawing.

    I want to still make Christmas magical and wondeful. I want it to be focused on Christ. I want to be generous. Are these thing incompatable?

    I would be fine with a chicken or a goat for me. I would be fine giving it, some recipients might not.
    I might be disappointed for my kids if they got that from a grandparent because we always have what we need but we don’t always have what the kids want and the Grandparents always give them something that they have really wanted. This is a joyful thing for the kids, for the grandkids and for us.

    Does this answer your question? Maybe not. It doesn’t even answer mine.
    I think you have to go with your heart. In the end that’s what you’ll have to answer to.

  28. I think it’s a great idea, especially for adults.

  29. I think charitable donations (of any kind) can be a thoughtful gift to somebody that you know is passionate about the cause (perhaps even more so if it’s not a cause you would ordinarily prioritize).

    But I do agree with Michelle on the “tacky” thing – there’s some kind of boundary issue there, maybe. I think it works best if your choice of charity is determined primarily by the values of the recipient.

  30. Go here and look at the gifts that can change children’s lives. This is something that my friends have done for years, especially as now the kids are bigger and understand how blessed we all are. For adults……. we are all decluttering our lives in one way or another, so this is perfect. Small home-made gifts from family to family are what we add for a personal touch as well, like biscuits or jams or chutneys. So yes!!!! Chickens rule!

  31. I agree with several others who’ve commented before me. For myself, I’d be thrilled for someone to donate animals, seeds, a water pump, etc. in my name to help others who have a REAL need. But, children might not understand, and even some adults would feel hurt and slighted. Still others would appreciate it but an inexpensive token gift for them would make it a better choice for them. There are some who just won’t ever understand the concept, and would be wounded to the quick by giving a gift in their name, but them not receiving a gift.

    Bottom line, you would need to know the hearts of everyone you want to offer a flock of chickens for Christmas. Personally, I love the idea. Hope this helps.

  32. I’ve been considering this as well. Honestly, I’m not going to do it for close family members. I was planning on doing it for my daughter’s teacher and school administrators. Its a religious affiliated school and I am certain that they do not need more cookies or another coffee mug.

    As for family I was planning scaling back this year since we are in the midst of our ethiopian adoption but have decided in the scaling back to by christmas gifts that support the red campaign with proceeds going to the global fund. I’m going to buy the shirts for my teen and early twenties nieces and nephews.

    There are lots of opportunites to support small industries/fair trade, etc., and give a personalized gift. Another example are the ethiopian christmas ornaments on AAI’s site.


  33. I think this is a great idea. My parents did something similar for us last year and I felt it was really nice. We are not in need of anything so having something given to someone who does need I can really appreciate.

  34. Just to clarify. I was considering doing this for adults, not children….

    Thanks, everyone, for your honest feedback…


  35. Hey!
    Well, if I really needed something and I thought they were going to get it for me, then I would probably be disappointed. But, I have rec’d gifts like this from friends in the past and really loved it. One nice thing that one particular family does is that they still give a small gift, along with a card with a letter written up that explains that a heifer or whatever has been given in your name to a family in Outer Namibia or whatever. They do a really great job, and make you feel special that they gave this thing, and that someone in another part of the world is thankful to YOU for what they now have. Even my kids have gotten this before and liked it. (but they wouldn’t want it to be the only gift)

    Some ideas for an accompanying gift would be a Christmas ornament that symbolizes what you did (then they get to remember it every year), a food gift, or a book.

    I requested that people make donations to Zoe Children’s Home ( for my birthday last time around and was really thrilled when someone did. Knowing that a child on a waiting list was saved from human trafficking….that makes me feel even better than a heifer or chicken gift. Maybe you could consider Zoe, considering your love for children all over the world. I have a real life friend that works with Zoe, and there are literally children at risk of human trafficking on a waiting list, so every donation makes a huge HUGE difference. HUGE. Can you imagine knowing that YOU PERSONALLY saved a child from a life of forced prostitution? Wow.

  36. this is a great question! For the past three or four years I have been giving my family chickens, llamas, water buffalo, etc for christmas instead of gifts… why? Well.. we are a family of priviledge.. and really.. we have most everything we could need, and more… so I started doing this instead… no one else in my family has joined in, but they all seem to enjoy the fact that others are being helped at christmas in their name!

  37. I think this is fantastic….for adults!!!!! what a great idea…..I think it sends the true message of Christmas and truly don’t adults go out a buy what they want/need when they want/need it anyway?…..I would be so happy if someone did this for me….it would show me they really knew who I was!

  38. Well, for me my initial thinking is – butally honest – I WOULD be a little disappointed. I spend ALOT of time chosing the perfect gifts for my freinds and family, I really don’t go for the ramdom gift card type stuff – I don’t want to give something that will clutter up thier home – I want to give a gift that they would love to have – but wouldn’t buy themselves, something that just rings true with thier personality or lifestyle.

    IF a donation like that would ring true for them – I would do it.

    For myself, it would not be my first choice – I would rather get to chose where the donation goes. And truthfully, a token gift would be apperciated (AKA – a small gift card to a favorite store, a handmade gift – if that was the giver’s hobby, a food gift – homemade bread, cookies ect)

    Very good question – I guess I will have to think about why I answer the way I do…

  39. I don’t think I have much to add that has not been said. However, I know people this would work great for and others that it would not. It would work great for my family, but not my husband’s, who love giving gifts at Christmas. I think it also depends on the recipients personality and level of affluence. I am now, thankfully, at a point where I can buy most of the things that I need or want (within reason.) So, at Christmas, I am not hoping for anything. Some people, however, do love to get those extra and special things at Christmas that maybe they would not justify buying for themselves. I would love a chicken. I am going to do some similar gifts this year, but through Christian Childrens’ Fund. They have a ton of these kind of gifts, including health, education, food and microenterprise loans. We sponsor a child through CCF, and I think it is a great organization.

  40. I’ve been wondering about this, too. I would be very happy about it myself. My husband would be very disappointed- I’ve asked him this. Maybe a love languages thing, as mentioned. The thing I wonder about is how it will be received if I choose to give a gift to an organization that serves a need I’M passionate about. Might the internal reaction be, “Nice… but, great, so you gave money to an organization you probably wanted to give to anyway, and now YOU feel good about yourself…” The best gifts are those that are thoughtful and intended to specifically please the recipient. Perhaps the thoughtful choice of a charity that might mean something to the recipient, regardless of your own passions, is the best?

  41. Mmmmm. Chicken. I should get off this computer and go make dinner….

  42. I agree with everyone who is highlighting the need for the charity to reflect the recipient. Myself, I would be quite upset to find that someone had donated chickens or any other animal in my name. I am a staunch vegetarian, something some members of my family have difficulty with; they might consider it okay to do this, as I couldn’t be so selfish as to complain about needy people receiving something helpful… So, as long as the charity matches the recipient’s beliefs, sure. Token gift alongside is pretty much required though…

  43. i wouldn’t mind at all. I have too much junk anyhow- and woudl prefer no gifts. 🙂

  44. It is a humbling thing to admit but I might be disappointed. Heather expressed my feelings on it perfectly. If someone donated money on my behalf I think it is nice but it isn’t really a gift for ME. Maybe a note explaining that the person would like my help choosing a recipient for the gift would make it seem more personal.

    A lot of it depends on what an individual’s love language is. Many people don’t care too much about receiving gifts but others really feel loved when they are given a tangible gift. It isn’t something that is easy to talk about in our culture. We KNOW that we have more than we need. But for some people that is the way that they truly feel that they are loved.

  45. I love the idea…. thanks a lot, now i know just wat to give my little nephew for Christmas though it won’t be the only gift also…
    Peep into this amazing Christmas Blog to check out some really cool stuffs and unique ideas

  46. Not a bad idea………………..

  47. I personally would LOVE it – I already have more STUFF than I need, anyhow. But I know other members of my family who would not be pleased at all.

    However … I think I may get my in-laws some “chickens” for xmas. They would appreciate it.

  48. We normally by only gifts for the kids and I make some stuff for my friends… I think everyblody would have a blast to have a goat, rabbit or chicken christmas!

  49. We tried this in my extended family (actually our idea was that we’d all chip in and buy farm animals and not spend money on gifts), and all was going well until the husbands went out shopping for presents for the children, and decided to buy each other things. Which resulted in everyone else getting each other presents, and not telling Nancy, whose suggestion it was. I still feel rather guilty that she got left out. This year we’re buying a beehive between us (for someone who actually needs a beehive, not for our own personal use!), but I think I might have to get something nice for Nancy to make up for her exclusion last year!

  50. We do this and honestly, it’s so much better than what they would have given us instead! Amy