Origins: The famed "freeway chickens" of Los Angeles were a reality, although how they came to be part of the roadside ambiance of the Hollywood Freeway is still disputed. According to widely-believed lore, a poultry truck overturned near the Vineland Avenue exit in 1969, sending hundreds of suddenly-freed chickens scurrying for safety. Some of the birds went to the Great Chicken Bucket in the Sky when their run for freedom abruptly ended under the wheels of passing automobiles, but enough survived the perilous dash to form a permanent colony of chickens living on the edge of one of the busiest freeways in America.
Or so says the legend. In true folkloric fashion, various folks have claimed to have been the ones responsible for those chickens coming to roost there, and each has offered a different explanation.
In 1990, Jeff Stein of Granada Hills claimed the following:
Janet Stein related how in 1968, when the girls were 12, they learned that a nearby school that raised animals was closing and that its resident chickens would be killed.
The twins scooped them up and succeeded in hiding them at home until a rooster awoke everyone at
"So there were these two little girls," said Jeff Stein, "hiking through a field to an open area near the freeway."
How many chickens did they dump?
"How many can you fit into two pillowcases?" he asked.
In 2000, Joe Silbert of Laguna Hills stepped forward to claim he drove the legendary poultry truck:
So how the chickens came to roost where they do is in dispute. That they're there, however is not — the Freeway Chickens are still part
Besides the original Freeway Chickens, a second colony known as the New Freeway Chickens makes their home alongside another portion of the Southland's freeway system. They reside at the Burbank
As for the original group and its fabled "poultry-truck accident" origin, though at first blush such an event might sound far-fetched, any number of odd items have found their way onto Los Angeles freeways over the years. A 1997
- About $7,000 worth of quarters on Hollywood Freeway; motorists jumping from cars reportedly get away with about 10% of the loot.
- Thousands of pounds of M&M candies on Orange Freeway in Fullerton; surprisingly, no motorists attempt to scoop up any.
- One body on Hollywood Freeway from back of coroner's van.
- Hundreds of gallons of laughing gas on Foothill Freeway; happiest rush hour ever.
- One 26-ton boat on Culver Boulevard; city crews move into action and remove it — 36 hours later.
- Some 14,000 pounds of salsa on
Interstate 5in San Clemente;only chips in vicinity are CHP officers. (June 16,1987)
- Forty-thousand bees on Foothill Freeway; it's so chilly they don't attack anyone.
- More than 1,000 jugs of wine on Golden State Freeway; crews keep motorists away.
- One actress' resume ("Hair: honey blond; Eyes: hazel blue") on Foothill Freeway.
Those who lack the opportunity to see the poultry in motion firsthand might want to dig up a copy of a favorite video game cartridge: Activision's Freeway, a 1982 amusement in which players were challenged to guide their chickens safely across a busy ten lanes of freeway traffic.
Barbara "playing chicken" Mikkelson
Last updated: 11 August 2011
Harvey, Steve. "Only in L.A." Los Angeles Times. 18 August 1990 (p. B2). Harvey, Steve. "Only in L.A." Los Angeles Times. 28 August 1990 (p. B2). Harvey, Steve. "Only in L.A." Los Angeles Times. 27 March 1992 (p. B2). Harvey, Steve. "Only in L.A." Los Angeles Times. 7 January 1997 (p. B4). Harvey, Steve. "Only in L.A." Los Angeles Times. 1 December 2000 (p. B11). Jones, Jack and Elizabeth Venant. "Tales from the Freeway." Los Angeles Times Magazine. 20 August 1989 (p. 18).