Some ornithological experts say that chicken wings are meant for frying, not for flying. But to fans who flocked to the third annual International Chicken Flying Association meet in Rio Grande, Ohio, that is a fowl canard. The whole point of the ICFA fly-off is to prove that chickens indeed can fly—and even to bet on how far. The event is sponsored by Bob Evans, a wealthy Columbus, Ohio pork distributor and restaurant owner, on his 1,000-acre farm. As a boy who got bored raising chickens, Evans and his little cronies would liven up their days by carrying hens to the edge of a cliff and making them fly down for their feed.
This year’s contest entries were not flung off a cliff. Instead, the starting gate was a series of large, rural mailboxes, open at both ends atop a 15-foot-scaffold. Some chickens launched themselves with the slightest cluck of encouragement from their owners. Others had to be catapulted out rudely with a bathroom plunger. Several entrants tried a couple of feeble flaps and plummeted to the ground with a squawk. But the contest winner, a hefty white leghorn named Citation, flew 54 feet before touching down, beating such competitors as Lulu, Gregory Peck and I Can Do It. (It couldn’t.) First prize was worth $25 to Citation’s owner Mary Beth Sander, a 15-year-old student from Cincinnati. Another spirited chicken, Mildred, actually flew 76 feet, but in the wrong direction, which disqualified her. And a third entry, Chatterbox, won the crowd’s sympathy vote, if no prize. While waiting to take off she laid an egg.