Poultry owners involved in 4H or in their county fair or state grassroots group know full well what it means to show a chicken: months of intense training (for showmanship) and/or preparation for a shot at winning the coveted Best of Show title.
But what about the other show business? The one that doesn’t involve exhibition cages but does involve lights, camera and action?
Anyone who saw 2021’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage couldn’t have helped but notice Eddie and Venom’s pet chickens, Sonny and Cher, and wondered, “How can I get my chickens into show business?” Here are six points to consider.
How Sweet It Is
Directors looking to cast live chickens in their commercials, shows and films will want to work with gentle-natured chickens the majority of the time. Yes, a script may occasionally call for a flighty, hyperactive hen.
But for most projects, the more biddable the bird the better.
After all, your chickens will be surrounded by an unfamiliar crew of techs, engineers, handlers and actors in a strange setting with bright lights shining down on them. The chickens they cast have to be able to take this all in stride and still stay sweet.
They’ve Got the Look
Temperament isn’t the only trait directors seek when casting. Again, unless it’s for a specific project, they’re going to want chickens that look like typical barnyard chickens.
Silkies may be adorably fluffy. Cochins might be cuddly mama hens. But you’ll have better luck with a more traditional-looking type, such as Buff Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds, Golden Comets, and ISA Browns.
Whichever breeds you select, make sure they are raised in an ultra-clean environment. The casting call might be for a barnyard bird, but that doesn’t mean your chickens should bring the sights and smells of the barnyard with them.
Schooled for Success
A fair amount of training will be necessary for your chickens to behave … well, like chickens on the set. Your best bet is to raise your future show business stars from baby chickdom by frequently and regularly handling your chickens in a variety of settings.
You may also want to teach your birds such tricks as:
- eating from your hand, then from a stranger’s hand
- jumping for a treat
- coming when called
Ability to perform on cue may increase your chickens’ chances at being cast.
In order to gain a casting or ad director’s notice, you’ll need to present your birds in an eye-catching way. The simplest way to do this is via a “comp card,” a single- or double-sided sheet featuring full, profile and close-up photographs of your chickens (and a group shot if possible).
Ask around to find a professional photographer experienced in animal portraiture. They’ll have the patience and ability to capture the best images of your birds.
Be sure to include the name and breed of each chicken on your comp card as well as your name and contact information. If you choose to create a web site or social-media account featuring your feathered friends—an excellent way to gain visibility—include the links and account names on your comp card.
Go for a Pro!
Professional representation may be the best option for getting your chickens into show business. Contact a talent or modeling agency in your area and ask for a referral to an agency that represents animal actors/models.
Call this agency to ask how they contract new talent. The agency may ask for your birds’ comp card or for a “call,” or appointment, to meet them. If an agency agrees to represent your chickens, congratulations!
They’ll do the leg work for you, finding gigs for your birds. But they will claim a percentage of your chickens’ earnings as their fee.
If you’d rather handle show business opportunities for your chickens yourself, be prepared to blanket the media with your comp cards. Send these out to the art directors of your local newspapers and magazines, to the editorial directors of your local televised news stations and to local advertising agencies.
Expand past local if you’re willing to travel. If you have film-production companies nearby, send your comp cards to them as well. You can even contact poultry feed and supply companies. You never know if they might looking for a fresh feathered face for their products.