Lifestyle & Culture

Not So Fowl: The World of Show Chickens

August 12, 2018


ONE OF my favorite Seinfeld moments was when Elaine said to Jerry, after he complained about someone doing something annoying, “I will never understand people,” and Jerry replied in a disgusted tone, “They’re the worst.” The line may have been spoken by Jerry, but it was written by the show’s brilliant creator Larry David, and surely reflects his take on humanity.

It’s one I share. I’ve got nothing specific in mind, just a general uneasiness regarding humankind. So I found it easy to understand why some people choose to spend the better part of their days, and lives, with chickens. To see these folks up close and personal, I suggest renting the superbly entertaining documentary entitled Chicken People. We got it from iTunes for 99 cents, and it was the best bang for a buck you’ll ever get.

Smartly directed by Nicole Lucas Haimes, with amazing photography and even more amazing film editing, this 2016 film will knock your socks off, plain and simple. It’s a funny, heartwarming, eye-opening and somewhat scary look into a unique world I never knew existed, and chances are neither did you: the world of show chickens. it’s the Westminster Dog Show for fowl, only more esoteric and bizarre, since we don’t eat dogs and we do eat chickens. But certainly not these chickens, the Marilyn Monroes of poultry, each one more beautiful than the last.

The film delves into the lives of a handful of the quirky competitors for the 2015 Ohio chicken-off —it’s not called that but you get the idea—as they prepare for the big day. We see them at home, meet their families and eventually come to understand that raising chickens is the reason each one of them gets out of bed in the morning. Actually I was a bit jealous that these folks have found something so all-consuming and satisfying. (I’m still looking.)

We see them breeding the chicks and watching them grow, then getting their prized ones ready for the competitions. They bathe them—one woman said she would be “spending the next 48 hours washing chickens” —then fluff them with hair dryers, clip their toenails (talons?), spray their feathers with conditioners, redden their wattles to make them shine, and dote on them like, excuse the expression, mother hens.

They may lose this time, but there’s always another show on the circuit. And besides, none of them care. They’re chicken people, through and through.

—Andrea Rouda

Andrea Rouda blogs at The Daily Droid.

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