Chicken, Alaska, not to be confused with Baked Alaska, is a town of no large proportions and a delicious name.
There may be other cities in the US in which Chicken appears in their name, but none so elevated as Chicken, Alaska located just north of the 64th parallel at 1,621 feet. Sandwiched between the the towns of Eagle and Tok (pronounced Tōk). I’m making no judgement here but the brownies may be delicious. Settled in the late 1800’s by gold seeking miners near the south fork of the 40-Mile River before the Klondike Gold Rush.
With a scarcity of food back then they took up eating the ample Ptarmigan, Alaska’s state bird, which looks something like a chicken. Not to be confused with the Pukeko of New Zealand, which also starts with a “P” and looks something like a chicken but I digress.
In the beginning residents wanted to name the town Ptarmigan but couldn’t agree on the spelling. Nor did they want the name of their fair town to be an embarrassment. So when they incorporated in 1902, they choose the name Chicken. They’ve made the most of it ever since.
Depending on who you ask, there may be between 6 and 37 year round residents. There’s no electricity (except by generator), no phones, no internet (they have a website but it’s managed outside of Chicken) and no central plumbing. I’ve used their public outhouse, the Chicken Poop. In the local vernacular, it’s a “four holer” and you don’t have to cross the road to use it.
The main street boasts The Chicken Post Office, Chicken Liquor Store, Chicken Saloon, Chicken Mercantile Emporium, (where I purchased a copy of Outhouses of Alaska, a must read for any outhouse user), and Chicken Creek Cafe, which I probably should have mentioned before the outhouse. They keep the mascot chickens between the cafe and saloon. However, there was no sign explaining which came first. . .
The colorful ceiling of the saloon is lined with burned undies and baseball caps. In questioning the bar tender, he demonstrated this feat with a small home made cannon and a fellow traveler’s cap. After stomping on the flaming cap, he attached it to the ceiling. I’m sure they’ve run out of room by now.
To get the cluck to Chicken try traveling on the gravel paved Turner Highway, pot holes included for your driving pleasure. Then there’s the Chicken Airstrip, if you prefer to travel where Chickens don’t fly. I doubt they call it the Chicken Strip.
For some fun reading, check out the Chicken Alaska Not So Frequently Asked Questions. It’s a hoot or is that a cluck?
Many thanks to Dave, Rob and Arto for inviting me to join the world of funny name appreciation.