Chicken Football, by Ken Skudder

I have been thinking a lot about chickens lately. Which I guess is pretty normal for me, because I love those little guys! There is probably an endless number of entertaining things you can do with chickens, but if you have a good-sized flock of them, maybe a dozen or more, one fun thing you can do is play Chicken Football with them.

I first discovered Chicken Football this past winter while Mary and I were working on North Plain & Blue Hill Farm in Great Barrington, though I’m sure it has been invented by many people and chickens before us. We were trying to repair some chicken coops, but all of the chickens kept pecking at our screw-driver and tin of screws, sending them flying and carrying them off. Most of all, it was hard to keep the chickens away from the rope. We had to try to put them in high places where the chickens couldn’t reach them, hide them, or weigh them down with heavy objects to keep the chickens from carrying them off. It was really difficult to work with the chickens so insistent on trying to eat all our supplies, especially the ropes, especially while we were trying to tie knots, but chickens kept pulling on the loose ends of the rope and undoing or tightening them!

Eventually, we managed to finish the first coop, and as we moved on to the next we had a foot long scrap of rope left over, which the chickens were going crazy trying to drag off. Finally, it occurred to us to give them what they wanted, and we let them have it. Immediately, the first chicken who could grab it took it and tried to make a run for it, pursued by 20 or 30 of her counterparts. That chicken was quickly overtaken by one of her pursuers, who took the rope and went speeding off with it in her beak, chased by all the other chickens. This went on and on, each new carrier of the rope being “tackled” by the other chickens. Chicken Football was born! None of the chickens ever had enough time holding the rope (or brains!) to find out that it wasn’t actually food, and since everyone else was chasing it they all seemed to assume it was probably the single tastiest thing known to chicken-kind. They chased it for more than an hour, long enough for us to finish working on the coops mostly undisturbed. When we came back the next day to see if they were still playing with the rope, the chickens were back to doing their normal stuff. We looked around for the rope but, mysteriously, it was nowhere to be found.