My experience at a chicken toss

I never knew that chickens could fly until I saw one hurtling toward me. A sea of Wisconsinites were packed together like sardines, knees bent and arms open. One by one, I watched each chicken soar into the arms of their new owners. 

My experience at a chicken toss felt like a strange dream. One moment I was asking a friend what our plan was for the day, the next thing I know I’m in a small town in Wisconsin surrounded by people wearing chicken hats, chicken costumes, muddy overalls and grins from ear-to-ear. And as a girl who’s comfortable in a city, this country scene was foreign territory. 

Once we approached the scene in the middle, my eyes bulged out of my head. There were dozens of chickens sitting on top of a barn and triple the amount of people waiting for their release. It was also barely 15 degrees outside; we were penguins huddling for warmth. Then, the chickens started flying. Well, sort of a combination of falling while flapping their wings, but some of them really took off. 

Before I get into the actual tossing of the chickens, I feel obligated to add a disclaimer. None of these chickens were harmed during takeoff, but nonetheless this practice is not necessarily ethical. However, as a writer in my bones it only felt right to capture this moment on paper. I respect every chicken that was tossed and hope they are happily enjoying life on their farms, and I am sorry for the ones being turned into a sandwich. 

Back to the chicken situation, it was like a group of single ladies swarming to catch a bride’s bouquet, multiplied by a thousand. People were stacked on the shoulders of others, yelling and scrambling where the chickens went. I strapped on my big girl shoes and hoped a chicken would head my way, we would form an instant bond and live happily ever after as mother and pet, but I quickly realized I was terrified to be clawed in the face by chicken feet. Instead, I supported the determination of my peers, especially my friend’s very tall dad. 

We didn’t catch a chicken, but my friend decided to buy one from someone else for a low price of five dollars. She rejected my idea of naming him, “Ryan Seacrest,” and named him, “Leo.” Leo became a member of our pack. 

Once all the chickens landed in the arms of their saviors, we poured into the local bar. There was a live band playing classic oldies songs and we all had a giant chicken party. The lead singer may have been dressed as a chicken, but he sang like a star. Everyone bonded over the excitement of their new chicken pets and we danced our little hearts out. 

We took care of Leo, but ultimately decided we couldn’t give him the life he deserved. We sold him with a profit of $15 to a lady with a luxurious farm for Leo to thrive in. It was an emotional goodbye, and we will always remember him. 

I also held my first chicken, John. John was a sweet, spotted chicken and it felt more comfortable than I thought. He warmed up to me right away. I am basically a chicken whisperer now. 

Reflecting on this experience, it still doesn’t feel real. I didn’t know an event like this existed, and it felt like a scene from a movie. On the other hand, I now have enough chicken memories to last a lifetime, and I will think of Leo and John the next time I am debating ordering a McChicken.

Write to Mercedes Kauphusman at mercedes.kauphusman@mnsu.edu

Header Photo: After a long day of chicken-related festivities, John the chicken (pictured) found comfort in my arms at the after party. (Courtesy Mercedes Kauphusman)

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