Chicken On Wire

by Jimmy on November 28, 2012

Synopsis:
To fulfill his destiny and experience the highs of glory, a man prepares to walk across a slackline with his beloved chicken.

Making the Movie:
Man On Wire is one of my favorite movies of all time.  Not only was the movie a remarkable work of art and clever docuthriller, but Philippe Petit’s grand imagination and single-minded focus on achievement influenced me greatly.  Philippe, like other steadfast documentary protagonists such as Jiro Ono of Jiro Dreams of Sushi or Steve Wiebe of King of Kong – A Fistful of Quarters, taught me that no matter how straightforward (making the best sushi) or trivial (high score on an arcade game), making reality of any dream is one of the greatest highs in life.  Dreaming is a comfortable bosom in which to lay, however, after a pause you should come to realize that she’s a nasty old mistress who will keep you prone and intoxicated your whole life.  Be prolific in accomplishing those simple, trivial, wild, inexplicable dreams and real life will essentially become one long, sweet dream.

My whimsical dream: learn how to slackline across my yard.  My practical dream: learn how to raise pastured poultry.  My lifelong dream: make great movies.  Combine the three dreams and you get Chicken On Wire.  It took me almost one year, although I did not practice regularly, to learn how to walk across my yard (approximately 50 feet) on the slackline.  Learning how to slackline takes much longer than learning how to ride a bike, but it is similar in that once you learn it’s almost as if you never forget how to do it.  There were times when I would go months without slacklining and then take it out one day and I would not miss a step.

Learning how to raise chickens took some science and a little bit of folk art.  The science came in the form of Joel Salatin’s Pastured Poultry Profits and the art came in the form of country wisdom on backyardchickens.com forums.  I even got a design for my A-frame mobile chicken coop from the website.  Chickens are generally easy to raise.  It’s really in the first 2 months of their life and after a year of laying when they are susceptible to death.  To elaborate, they’re more likely to die from the cold, diseases, or predators when really young or be culled by the farmer after a full year of laying when their egg production slows.  To reiterate, raising chickens is easy, but keeping them happy and healthy takes extra effort like moving their mobile coop to fresh pasture every morning or putting drops of apple cider vinegar in their water to main their digestive health.  For those of you who are wondering if I’ll cull my hens after their second year of life, I’ll calm your fears by saying that since these are my first chickens I’ll let them live out the rest of their lives without having to pass through a killing cone.

I pursued these two dreams of walking a slackline and raising backyard chickens independent of each other.  The idea to combine the two into a movie only came when I realized that traditional slackline tricks like doing bounces, front flips, back flips, yoga moves, and juggling would take too much time or risk too much injury.  Moreover, for video purposes it was much more unique and easy to walk across a slackline with a chicken under my arm than to do any of those other tricks.  I checked on YouTube and there are suprisingly zero chicken slacklining videos, but dozens of videos with people jumping the hell out of some slackline.  Also, walking across a slackline with a chicken under my arm kept in the grand tradition of silly tightrope stunts.  For instance, the Great Charles Blondin was reported to have walked across the gorge of Niagara Falls on a tightrope while pushing a wheelbarrow that contained a small stove.  He then proceeded to light a fire and cook an omelette while suspended on the rope, and then lowered the omelette down to passengers on the Maid of the Mist, who ate it before Blondin continued his crossing of the gorge.

Indeed walking across the slackline with my Rhode Island Red under my arm was quite easy after having mastered the slackline with the use of both arms.  I was able to walk across the line with my chicken on the first two takes without falling off.  Full disclosure: my hen was not harmed in the making of the movie and seemed to enjoy being a movie star.  You would have thought she was another traditional farm animal because she was truly “hamming” it up for the camera.

Movie Poster - Chicken On Wire

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