Things you need to know about Chicken, Alaska right off the bat:
-The official population is 7, according to census figures.
-There’s no bathroom in downtown Chicken, but there is an outhouse.
-The town got its name because its early residents didn’t know how to spell “Ptarmigan.”
The cool thing about the great north is all the kooky small towns. Talkeetna, Alaska is a great one. But Chicken is even quirkier. Because while Talkeetna has a legit business community and nearly 1000 residents. Chicken is way smaller, and that makes it a lot more fun.
I had the pleasure of passing through Chicken last summer. If you want to experience Chicken for yourself, expect quite a journey to get here.
Getting to Chicken, Alaska
There’s not much around Chicken. Fairbanks is about six hours away.
The main route into town is via the Taylor Highway, which is closed from October to March when the snow piles up. Chicken is close to the border of Yukon, Canada, so many adventurers driving from Dawson City into Alaska on the Top of the World Highway end up passing through here.
Though it’s fairly remote, Chicken isn’t as deserted as it sounds. In the summer, the population can exceed 100 when miners and other visitors come to town. There’s also an RV park for tourists.
What to see in Chicken, Alaska
Chicken officially covers 115 square miles, but when it comes to businesses, there are only a few, and they’re situated together in a little lot just off the main road.
These businesses represent “downtown Chicken.”
At first I thought it was cool that the locals were relaxing and having a drink outside the saloon. But then I realized, Oh yeah… these people don’t live here! The population is 7! The odds are pretty much 100% that these are tourists passing through, just like me.
I wasn’t joking about that outhouse. I will say it’s the nicest outhouse I can recall. Will you choose door number 1, 2, or 3?
We didn’t stay in Chicken long, but we made sure to pop into the gift shop, which had plenty of silly souvenirs available.
How did Chicken, Alaska get its name?
The ptarmigan story is true. In the late 1800s, gold miners in the area kept themselves alive by eating lots of ptarmigan, now the Alaska state bird. So when Chicken became an incorporated town in 1902, they wanted to call it Ptarmigan, but the locals couldn’t agree on how to spell “ptarmigan” and thought it might confuse people.
So they went with Chicken instead.
You just have to visit a town whose existence is based on such a ridiculous founding story, don’t you? Chicken, Alaska awaits you.