Fitzgerald Wild Chicken Festival

girl imitates chicken

The Wild Chicken Festival has a contest for every talent, including crowing.

Fitzgerald, GA, may have the country’s only only party around for feral chickens. Going on a decade, the Wild Chicken Festival now attracts about 10,000 people each March–far more than the controversial rattlesnake roundup it replaced. The town happens to have fancy-looking Burmese chickens all year long.

Although two other Georgia counties still host rattlesnake round-ups, the Jaycees in Ben Hill County switched to celebrating what’s unique in Fitzgerald and that everyone could enjoy. (Not that it’s all Peta-friendly; one big event is a chicken wing eating contest.) The Georgia Department of Natural Resources says they loved the switch because eastern diamondback rattlesnake population is in decline and rustlers would sometimes gas gopher tortoise burrows to catch rattlers, which were often in wild areas and not bothering anybody.

Fitzgerald is also making the best of an odd wildlife situation. In the 1960s Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources tried to introduce the non-native Burmese chicken as a new, flashy species to hunt. (Like the pheasant, it comes from Asia.) Predators knocked out most of the stock, so the department gave up. The birds died off across the state–except Fitzgerald.

The survivors of a nearby breeding facility eventually moved into town, where they roam yards and flower beds, delighting some and annoying others. But rather than trying to wipe them out, Fitzgerald decided to offer them protection. “We have an assisted living home close to downtown area where residents sit out and feed them,” said Stacy Ruis, the town’s administrative assistant. When someone complains–usually a gardener–officials may catch the chicken and relocate them to another area of the county, she said.

Girl who loves Jesus eats chicken wings

The Wild Chicken Festival has a hot wing eating contest.

Now the festival brings tourists from across the southeast. As you can imagine, switching to chickens made it a lot more family-friendly, with kids’ contests for crowing, running and dressing in cute chicken costumes and chicken exhibit from Poultry Palace. Then there’s a mass chicken dance.

There are plenty of festivals for white squirrels, mating moose or even vultures, but I’ve never heard of any for feral chickens. And a few towns do have them: Hollywood; Key West; the whole island of Bermuda; Kauai, Hawaii; Fair Oaks, CA; Miami; and, most recently, New Orleans. But nobody seems to have the dedication to their chickens Fitzgerald does.


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1 comment to Fitzgerald Wild Chicken Festival

  • Tabatha puiszis

    Thanks for the link to our page. We are the Poultry Palace. We love our animals. We go to a lot of festivals that really don’t advertise us much, just enjoy it when we are there. Thanks again, Tabatha,the Chickenlady