O'Connor frequently used imagery of birds, and her enjoyment of birds was regarded as an eccentricity.
When she was six, living in a house still standing (now preserved as the Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home), O'Connor experienced her first brush with celebrity status. The Pathé News people filmed "Little Mary O'Connor" with her trained chicken and showed the film around the country. She said: "When I was six I had a chicken that walked backward and was in the Pathé News. I was in it too with the chicken. I was just there to assist the chicken but it was the high point in my life. Everything since has been an anticlimax."
In high school, when the girls were required to sew Sunday dresses for themselves, O'Connor sewed a full outfit of underwear and clothes to fit her pet duck and brought the duck to school to model it.
As an adult at Andalusia, she raised and nurtured some 100 peafowl. Fascinated by birds of all kinds, she raised ducks, ostriches, emus, toucans, and any sort of exotic bird she could obtain, while incorporating images of peacocks into her books. She described her peacocks in an essay entitled "The King of the Birds".