Chickens aren't traditional pets. But with chicken coops springing up in more and more urban and suburban backyards, some owners take just as much pride in their poultry as they do in their dogs or cats — so much so that they're primping and preening them for beauty contests.
On a sweltering Sunday afternoon in Fort Collins, Colo., 16 of the region's finest hens and roosters competed for a chance to win Best in Show at the 2016 Prettiest Chicken Contest. The event took place at the Wolverine Farm Letterpress & Publick House — a publishing house, bar and print shop that hosts quirky community events.
Some of the urban chickens performed tricks — one pale-feathered rooster named Bruce pretended to sleep on command — while others, like Buff Brahma hen Miss Felicia Fancy Feet, donned costumes. (She wore a dapper emerald green hat.)
"You hear people talk about chickens just like they'd talk about any of their other pets," says Wolverine Farm's owner Todd Simmons. "They're excited about their different breeds and their different personalities."
One Polish Crested hen named Chicken, for instance, listed her favorite activity as "chasing Chihuahuas." Her competitor, Jeff, a red-combed rooster with emerald plumage, informed judges that he prefers predawn crowing, naturally.
White Leghorn, Dove, would use her fame and notoriety from the competition, quite appropriately, to work for world peace.
"I think people have really been expanding their knowledge of the breeds they know — the Rhode Island Reds, the Leghorns, the Barred Rocks — and getting into some of the more exotic breeds," Simmons adds.
Patsy, who pecked her way to the top to win the award for Prettiest Plumage, is a Laced Polish hen. She's a unique breed, with what her owner Kristina Cash describes as "Phyllis Diller hair." Though that impossibly fashionable plumage, Cash says, prevents Patsy from seeing clearly, so she often runs into things.
An Easter Egger named Agnes landed Best in Show. For consolation prizes, other chickens collected Loveliest Legs and Coolest Cluck. Miss Felicia Fancy Feet, of course, won Best Dressed.
This year's contest was the inaugural event, but Simmons says the hope is to make it a recurring contest.
Luke Runyon reports for Harvest Public Media and is based at member station KUNC in Greeley, Colo.