The month of December is rife with family traditions. For many it’s decorating the Christmas tree or planning a holiday meal for loved ones.

For Jesse and Mary Ann Schwarcz of Orrington, it’s all about the chickens, which the Schwarczes have raised for 13 years. Four years ago, Jesse and her mom decided to do something a little out of the coop for holiday cards …

… namely holiday-themed chicken cards.

The idea developed after a neighbor made wreaths hung them on the side of the Schwarcz house. The Schwarcz women placed some family chickens in the wreaths and turned the photos into holiday cards.

What resulted is a unique holiday tradition and product line for Jesse’s business, Schwarcz Photography. And it’s a tradition the pair looks forward to each year.

According to Jesse, the reason the chickens are so easy to work with is that they were handled as chicks. During the first year of “Holiday Hens,” the Schwarczes used Fret, a silver duckwing old English game rooster, as the model. Now, the star of the photo series is Squeaky, a bantam cochin frizzle hen.

To create these unique cards, the first step is to acquire the wreaths and swags. In past years, wreaths came from neighbors. This year, Jesse and Mary Ann made their own wreaths from a variety of greens with help from the family dogs, Pie and Phoebe.

Dubbed their creations the “Holiday Hens” card line, the Schwarczes worked in tandem to hang the wreaths and settle the chickens onto them. Laughter filled the air in the November session as Jesse asked the chickens to “smile,” made interesting noises to draw the chicken’s attention, or prodded gently to get the chicken to raise its head.

For Jesse, the tradition of photographing the family chickens is a highlight of the season. “It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and people love the photos,” she said. “It’s our own family tradition that is unique. We both look forward to it year after year.”

Cards from the Holiday Hens line can be purchased at Mainescape in Blue Hill, Betsy’s in Brooklin, the Sleigh Bell Shoppe in Blue Hill, or online at