DVD Documentary Review: ‘Chicken People’

Have you ever been curious about the life of chicken breeders and the show competitions they enter? Me neither. But the new documentary, Chicken People, will clue in to just such a group of people, introduce you to their lives, the various different types of chicken (yes, there’s more than one, apparently), and the pursuit of perfection based on a 100+ year old book, the American Standard of Perfection. From my attempt to be comical, you can probably tell I am an outsider to most things agricultural, but once I got passed the shock that there are people out there who obsess over chickens, I found this documentary to be interesting, insightful, and a touch heartwarming.

The film follows three regular competitors of one of the country’s largest competitions for show chickens, the Ohio National Poultry Show, over the course of roughly a year (from the 2014 competition to the 2015 competition). Between competitions, they are shown in their home lives as they prepare for the next competition while dealing with what life has in store for them.

Brian Caraker, who to me resembles Ethan Embry, is a performer in one of the biggest shows in Branson, MO. To his dismay, Brian is living in an apartment away from his livestock leaving his less enthusiastic parents to care for them. At the start of the movie, he reveals that he has jeopardized his career to attend the competition. I chuckled a bit at his father’s reaction, but throughout the film his parents due seem to care about their son’s well being.

Shari McCollough is a homemaker with over 200 animals that have taken over her life as well as her family’s lives. Her family is presented, discussing their home life and they appear supportive of Shari’s… well, she wouldn’t use the word “obsession”… so I’ll say “hobby”. Shari claims her family comes first, which I do not doubt, but it is funny that there is one scene showing her telling her son to stop doing something because it is upsetting the chickens.

Brian Knox is a Race Engine Builder and perfectionist. He states that he does not like to do something if he cannot do it perfectly; which has led him to be single. I felt his enthusiasm for the competitions was questionable because in the first competition presented, he wins “Best in Breed” and comments things like “wow that was neat”. However, I do know perfectionists and many almost never seem happy. Throughout the film, we get a look at his past, his family and his ex-girlfriend, how he got into chicken breeding, and meet his mentor who said one of the best things I have heard in a while: “Thousands of people in this country know more about poker than I, but there’s millions that know less.”

The documentary cuts back and forth between the three, rarely crossing paths, and presents interview footage from all of them, their loved ones, as well as other breeders. Even if the film covers something I would never have considered trying (and still have no real interest, to be honest), it is a treat to see people following their passion and doing what they love no matter the cost. Plus, maybe audiences, like myself, will learn something new about an animal species that many of us have probably only seen on a plate.

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