This is what I call a “Who knew?” documentary? Who knew there were so many kinds of chickens? Who knew there was a National Poultry Show? Who knew there was a Standard of Perfection, a book that details the perfect chicken? Who knew you could be an engineer and systematically breed chickens to try to produce a champion? And yes, who knew there was an Ohio National Poultry Show, the chicken equivalent of the Westminster Dog Show?
The chicken people do.
“Chicken People” is a documentary following the lives of three people over the course of about a year, and their quest to raise a perfect chicken, at least as rated by the Standard of Perfection, and win the National Poultry Show. Yes, that means that they have the best of 9,700 birds entered in the competition. And yes, that’s right, 9,700 birds are entered, one will win.
Our heroes for this film are Brian Caraker who dreams of being a singer, Shari McCollough who has a hobby farm with her family and loves to take nature pictures, and Brian Knox who is an engineer that builds engines and breeds his chickens through the scientific analysis. I will admit that, at the beginning of the movie, the bad person in me was thinking I was just going to be making fun of these people over the course of 80+ minutes, but dammit, these are the most likable folks, yet quirky, and by the end of “Chicken People” I wanted all of them to win.
The documentary opens with a brief explanation of the National Poultry Show, the “Standard of Perfection,” and an introduction to our characters. We then follow them throughout the next year as they have new chickens to raise for the upcoming competition. We see their various concepts for breeding the best bird (Yes, there is chicken sex so hide the kids!), we get to see a little bit into their “normal” lives, and we meet the people who love them, as well as put up with them.
As the year progresses and we near the big show, wouldn’t you know it that the Ohio Nationals get cancelled because of the avian flu. What to do? It’s on to Knoxville for the Dixie Classic Poultry Show, and I will admit, these are some awesome looking chickens.
Trouble is afoot as Brian Caraker gets to the show and talks of how the tails of his chicken are all messed up because of the transport box, and all I can think is “Come on Brian, you need a better box!”, Brian Knox is proud because his bird is doing well, and it’s the son of #5494 that was the best in breed in Ohio the previous year, and Shari is excited, but doesn’t seem to believe she has a chance to win.
“Chicken People” instantly reminded me of the movie “Best in Show” with the people being quirky like those were in the mockumentary, only in “Chicken People” they are real people and not actors, and I found the entire story unbelievable fascinating. The only let-down I had was the final day of competition. Sure, the hairdryers were out to groom the chickens, the clippers were out to trim the beaks, and the finalists are nervous, but unlike the Westminster Dog Show there isn’t this grand show area, it’s just judges going from cage to cage basically saying “Yup, this one is nice.” No grand crowds, no cheering, it’s mostly just the people in the finals waiting to see if they win.
And the winner is…. You’ll just have to watch the documentary.
A fascinating look at the world of poultry competition, people you will actually root for, and you will find out that they make diapers for chickens. It’s 4 1/2 stars out of 5 for “Chicken People.” You might start out the movie by laughing at the contestants, but by the end of the movie you will be laughing with them, and loving them. And their chickens.
That’s it for this one! L8R!!