My circle of friends tends to have the weirdest group-message debates. Someone picks a topic, half of us elect to be the opposition, and we try to sway the others through opinion. It works on an honor code of sorts where nobody is allowed to use the internet to get facts, it's all opinion like debate used to be.

Yesterday the topic was "Would it be legal to give someone the 12 Days of Christmas gifts in Oklahoma?"

It's a valid question because there's a fair amount of wild animals on that list and most states have strict laws on what a person can and cannot do with wildlife.

After the debate ended late last night, curiosity go the best of me. Here are the best answers the internet can provide.

Here are the listed gifts in the traditional Christmas song:

A partridge in a pear tree.
Two turtle doves.
Three French hens.
Four calling birds.
Five golden rings.
Six geese-a-laying.
Seven swans-a-swimming.
Eight maids-a-milking.
Nine ladies dancing.
Ten lords-a-leaping.
Eleven pipers piping.
Twelve drummers drumming.

Right off the bat, we can ditch the human element of gifts. After four years of legal marijuana, I'm sure you could throw a stone and hit eleven pipers piping and a dozen others banging skins, probably bongos.

When it comes to the fowl things on the list, the law is somewhat muddy. Could you own and gift someone a partridge? Kind of... It's a two-part question that has two very different answers.

Can you own the birds in the first place?

Most of the birds listed in the song are European. We have American variants, but we also have stringent wildlife laws across the land to protect our wildlife from extinction and exploitation.

You can, as an individual, apply for and purchase permits to keep wildlife at home. The problem is most of these are migratory species.

Getting wet

Years ago a coworker returned home to find his daughter "rescued" a hurt dove from the wild expanse that was his backyard. It flew into the glass of their back door and stunned itself.

Being the cool dad that he is, they quickly cobbled together a shoe box the little lice-infested sky rat could recuperate in and posted pictures to social media. The image quickly caught the eye of the local Texas game warden in their area and they all learned a weird lesson in caring for nature.

Since doves are migratory wild birds, you cannot keep them as pets without proper licensing. The conversation between those two escalated to the point my buddy actually cried out "So I can buy a license to kill this bird, but I can't care for a hurt one?"


It was a hilarious couple of days, he couldn't believe the audacity of what he was told. Long story short, the warden confiscated the dove and sent it off to a wildlife rehabilitator... wink-wink.

Geese are in that same boat. They're migratory wild animals. You could own some with the proper licenses, but you couldn't just corral your own assault ducks from the lake to call your own.

Swans have had a storied past in American history, hunted to the brink of disappearance, now returned to a level most citizens have seen them in the wild. Partridge too, though they exist far north of Oklahoma.

Just about the only legit and lawfully cleared animal on the list to own and gift is the French hen... They're chickens.

I can't own these birds, but I can give them as gifts?

Ready for the twist in the story? You can totally gift the people on your list any of the birds listed above, but it is grimmer than you'd expect.

Like most wild animals, there is a hunting season somewhere in the United States for everything on this list.

If you're willing to travel to the states where partridge are common, you can lawfully give someone your harvested bird. The same goes for geese, swans, and doves.

The law in Oklahoma plainly states that hunters may not sell harvested wildlife, but freely giving your meat is perfectly fine. As long as you had the proper license and permits to harvest, you're golden in your well-mannered gift-giving mood.

General Views of New York
Getty Images

What about calling birds?

This one is a little iffy. When the song was written, these were called "colly birds." The lyrics may have changed to "calling birds," but it all means the same thing. Songbirds. If you dig deep enough, the original translation is "little black birds that sing."

In the United States, all birds are protected by law. While these laws allow the hunting of select species during specified periods of time, cute little songbirds are protected year-round, but there are exceptions.

Starlings Murmurate Before Roosting In Brighton
Getty Images

Have you ever witnessed a massive flowing hoard of blackbirds flying in unison across the sky? Odds are you've spotted European Starlings. That's just what they do. They're also considered and listed as an invasive species in America, meaning you can hunt these menaces when the law allows.

The same goes for Rock Doves - AKA - pigeons and House Sparrows, but they're not related to the original intentions of the written song lyrics. Besides, tons of people keep pigeons like chickens. Tasty, tasty, trash-eating sky rats.

Urban pigeons closeup

As you can tell if you're still reading this, it was a fun debate.

I'm sure you've probably wrapped up your gift-buying for the season, but if you're still looking, there's always the option of giving a meal you harvested yourself.

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