What a weekend! While the rest of the Northern Hemisphere responds to the siren song of summer by visiting beaches, lakes, and air-conditioned malls, a select group of maniacs convenes at an undisclosed location in the Pennsylvania countryside for a good old-fashioned Chicken Inferno! If you’re new to this site, you may not know what the Chicken Inferno is but I’m quite certain that once you learn about it, you won’t forget it. Imagine the Burning Man festival in a rural, wooded setting rather than in the desert. Now scrape off about 95% of the raving, acid-eating attendees. What you’ve got is a long weekend full of friends, food, and flames.
One of the highlights of spending many days outside at the absolute height of this region’s brilliant biodiversity is the profusion of birdlife, or at least it used to be. At one time, the hill was awash with songbirds of every stripe. Last year, I noticed a significant drop in bird action, a trend that has only worsened with time. Sure, Chipping Sparrows, American Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Black-capped Chickadees appear undaunted, as anyone who awoke beneath a warbling robin can attest. But while Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Kingbirds, American Goldfinches, Barn Swallows, and all the rest can be found on adjacent farms, they’re mighty scarce where we set up. We had the odd Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, or Common Raven flyover and one unexpected Brown Thrasher but other than that, the bird cupboard was bare. Fortunately, bugs and blooms picked up the slack. Butterflies were truly stupendous this year with plenty of Cabbage White, White Admiral, Pearl Crescent, and Acadian Hairstreak along with a profusion of a particularly dusky strain of Common Wood Nymph. Flies and moths were mighty as well, though I cannot begin to put names to faces. Ripe fruits like Raspberry and Juneberry (also known as Serviceberry) were identified easily and often in the field by all the kids!
So how about that big bird, that giant among galliforms? Some people ask whether it’s tough to construct an enormous chicken out of wood, hay, and fireworks in such a short timeframe. If you look at our detailed blueprint, it’s actually rather simple…
Anyway, our bird for CIX (the tenth Chicken Inferno) was a beautiful behemoth. Its majesticframe of concentric octagonal spheres, built on a single, rotating axis, held a densely packed payload of combustible material. Firecrackers and fireworks were distributed throughout and the whole package was sheathed in white posterboard and tipped fore and aft with chicken parts, or at least reasonable facsimiles thereof. Of course, spinning wheels and spark showers were affixed at strategic points such as eyes, comb, and tail.
Handsome devil, isn’t he? How did the bird burn, you ask? Hot! Considering how tightly packed the fuel was, we expected it to be ablaze all night like previous chickens but this icon went out like a rock star, burning out with both intensity and alacrity. Come to think of it, that’s how most of us ended the weekend!
EXTRA: Don’t miss the Chicken Inferno time-lapse movie on YouTube – nine hours of chicken construction and destruction in a minute and 46 seconds!