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Finn Proctor and DarlaWhen Finn Proctor, 7, of Troy, entered his chicken, Darla, for a chance to win a local “Cutest Critter” contest, he never imagined he would get kickback.

But that’s what happened once the chicken settled in beside other more traditional pets in the running. So Finn sent a video response to naysayers about being nicer.

It quickly went viral, gathering over 5,000 views in only two days.

Finn and Darla’s two-year relationship began when Finn brought Darla and two other baby chicks who desperately needed homes to live with him and his family. Darla and her “siblings” weren’t in the best of health but Finn made it his mission to try to make them well.

“I help take care of all our chickens,” he said. He also posts social media updates on his feathered friends.

Finn chose Darla as the best bird for the Cutest Critter contest “because she’s a Silkie,” he said. A Silkie is a breed of chicken named for its atypically fluffy plumage, which is said to feel like silk or satin.

“I call her my white pompom,” Finn said. He explained that Darla belonged in the contest because she makes a really good pet. “She’s real fast and when I try to catch her she squats down,” which, he said, means that Darla is waiting to be picked up. She’s relatively conversational with Finn and enjoys looking all around when he holds her, he said.

When Finn heard of the contest, Darla was the first image that came to his mind. He thought she’d make a good contestant. “We have this cute picture of her with a tutu on, and I thought, ‘Well, she’s kind of cute. Can we put her in the contest?’” he said.

Finn, who hugs and kisses his chickens every night at their bedtime, said he thinks it’s important for people to appreciate not just each other but their animals too.

“I don’t speak chicken but I still go to say goodnight. They lay eggs for me,” he said. This gratitude for his pets made it only seem reasonable to him that he should enter one of them in a contest.

And while many people in the community agreed with Finn by casting their votes for Darla, there were a handful of people who were cruel with their criticism.

One person made fun of Finn for entering a chicken in the contest, telling him he would never win. Another said, “I’ll find out where she is and come over and have her for a barbecue!”

There were other, more jarring comments his mom wouldn’t let him see.

Finn couldn’t understand the disdain for Darla. He thought it was rational enough to enter his Silkie in the competition. The way these grownups were treating both him and Darla made him so angry, it kept him up at night.

Wide awake and seething, the 7-year-old wrote about his experience late in the night, then went to his mom to share it.

“I was really angry but my grandma tells me, ‘Kill them with kindness,’” Finn said. So despite feeling hurt and infuriated, he created a speech that focused on kindness. “[I wanted] to tell everybody to be nice,” he said. “It isn’t about winning, or the need to win. Being mean is not going to get you anywhere.”

Finn’s message was so powerful that the next morning he and his mom recorded it to share with everyone – especially the naysayers. Together they created “Be Nice!” – a message from Finn to the world that has generated over 5,500 views to date. The video may be found at https://www.facebook.com/FinnandFeathers/videos/391695317849781/.

It may be that, as a result of Finn’s video, more people will come to appreciate Darla and other animals who may not be the first to come to mind under the label “cutest.”
The cutest animal Finn knows just so happens to be a puffy ball of feathery fluff whose sassy attitude delights him.

And though Finn and Darla didn’t win first prize in the contest, they still had a great time. “Guess what?” Finn exclaimed. “We got runner up!”