When Laura Bridwell-Meyeres awakens, a chicken squawks hello in the living room, and 12 backyard hens await their daily dose of watermelon and mealworms.

Coco, a frizzle mille fleur chicken with breast-beating energy, fine-feathered feet and a Nashville-hot personality, has made the household her queenly coop.

“Whenever she wants to join us in the living room, she’ll just hop down from her cage and walk in,” Bridwell-Meyeres says. “She’s kind of wild and crows for attention, but she’s super sensitive and protective.”

That’s a lot of confidence for a hen of Coco’s size. Once the smallest bird in the backyard coop, she was bullied by the other chickens. Her owners had no choice but to turn Coco into a house pet before the foul fowls pecked her to death. Coco may not have been able to hold her own in the “Lord of the Flies” coop, but she demands respect from the humans and dogs with whom she shares a roof.

“Even though dogs are supposed to bite or growl at birds, our two dogs don’t attack her because they know she’s part of our tribe,” Bridwell-Meyeres says.

Raising a feisty house chicken and caring for peckish peeps out back requires more than a bantam amount of time and labor. Why do it? Coco and company offer the family more than just a dozen daily eggs.

“Life lessons. That’s what it’s all about,” Bridwell-Meyeres says as her two young daughters walk in with Coco in arm and set her on the table. “We’ve learned so much from our chickens.”

Growing up with a chicken teaches lessons about life and death, she says. Bridwell-Meyeres reminisces about the two chickens she had as a girl and says she wants her daughters to have the same memorable, sometimes difficult, experience.

“They get to see that it’s a good act to take care of these living creatures,” she says. “It’s worth it.”

A daughter interrupts her, saying, “I don’t think it’s worth it. I don’t like death.”

Over the years, the family has cared for chickens that are sick or disabled and need to be fed by hand. A chicken typically costs around $4, but the lessons that Coco and her feathered friends teach are priceless.

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