Things you need to know about Chicken, Alaska right off the bat:
-The official population is 12, according to the most recent census figures. That’s up from 7 in the previous census. The actual year-round population is estimated at two to three dozen.
-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.”
-Much like Polebridge, Montana, there isn’t any electricity in Chicken, although people do have generators for power.
-They have mail delivery here twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays.
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. You can get here on an Alaska road trip, but only if you take a long detour from the Anchorage-Fairbanks loop.
The main route into town is via the Taylor Highway, which is closed from October to March when the snow piles up.
Be ready to traverse a dirt road heading into town. You need a sturdy vehicle in this part of the world!
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.
If you’re fortunate enough to own a private plane, congrats! There’s an 800-meter airstrip in Chicken that you can use to reach the town without that long, daunting drive.
(And if you’d care to send a donation to a quirky travel blogger, so I can fly to Chicken on the tiny runway and update the article, please reach out!)
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.
You can find all sorts of fun gifts here, including tshirts, hats, koozies, shot glasses, and magnets. I grabbed a magnet for my collection.
They also have bumper stickers with silly phrases like, “The last one to Chicken is a rotten egg!” and “There is not a single mosquito in Chicken, Alaska… they’re all married and have raised very large families.”
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.
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.
And if you’re so inclined, you can buy the entire town! There’s a website advertising the entire town for sale for $750,000. That’s a huge bargain by Seattle prices! I can’t quite tell if the site is legit, but it seems to be.
Would you enjoy visiting a remote and quirky town like Chicken, Alaska?
For further reading, check out my other Alaska content, including the tale of my ridiculously brief visit to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, seeing the Trans Alaska Pipeline, answering questions about budgeting for an Alaska trip, my experience camping in the backcountry of Denali National Park, 88 photos of Alaska, and 35 fun facts about Alaska.
33 thoughts on “Visiting the Quirky Town of Chicken, Alaska”
There is a book I read many years ago. The title was “Tisha”. It was about the first school teacher in Chicken. Tisha is what the native children called her. They couldn’t say teacher so she was called Tisha.
We passed through Chicken in 2012 on our way to the Yukon. Tisha’s schoolhouse was still there and we took a guided tour, seeing the classroom and the room where she lived next to it. It was all a bit run down, of course, but after reading the book it was a very moving experience. The old restaurant was still there as well, it had later served as a dining hall for miners. Tisha and Fred, her husband, are buried in Chicken, but you can’t go and see their graves. We were told that the whole story happened as it is described in the book, only that Tisha was really 28 and not 18 at the time. It was planned to tear all those old buildings down because the area was due to be turned over for gold. I am glad we saw it while it was still standing.
Several years ago while on a vacation touring Alaska,we stopped in Chicken.At the General Store,we met a lady working there from our home town in N.H.What are those odds ?
Hi there! Do you by any chance know who owns Chicken or who the mayor is?
In the summer of 1975, I was flying for the BLM during fire season and hauling paracargo to the smokejumpers as they jumped on a fire. Myself and the co-pilot stayed at a rangers cabin and had a radio phone with us at all times and the requirement was that we had to be in the air within 30 minutes if we got a call. So we were free to roam around a little and explore the area. The only permanent resident at that time was a caretaker of the FE company property there. He was quite old and liked beer so we would take him a can of beer and he would let us on the property to pan a little gold. However we soon figured out that gold panning and minimum wage were about one and the same and the panning was a lot more work. I don’t remember anyone else living in Chicken permanently at that time. The ranger only came occasionally so we weren’t bothered for a few weeks. I was amazed to see that there were businesses and people there year round now.
A cable show called Yukon Gold is playing on TV as I type this comment. It involves crews using heavy equipment to “sluice” for gold in areas very near Dawson City YT.
This inspired me to tell my story of taking a solo motorcycle trip involving a stop in Chicken AK…
Starting July 10, 2001, I got something off my bucket list by riding my Honda GoldWing 7,600 miles roundtrip from Valley City, ND to Alaska in 3 weeks exactly. At the Calgary Stampede I watched the Chuckwagon Races that looked almost like chariot racing to me. I met a gal from Poland at the motel who said she had just been over The Top of The World Highway and that the snow-capped peaks reminded her of the Swiss Alps. So I made it to Dawson City YT by midnight where a annual music festival was underway. Took the ferry over the Yukon River the next day and at Chicken I bought a sweatshirt “I traveled the Top of The World Highway” to prove it. I almost crashed on a sharp 3-4000 foot drop from the highway. I passed the first large snowbanks going around a sharp turn, the snow was suddenly gone, and I had missed my chance for a great selfie! Traveling alone, I turned around and went by it again. Now, I’m ready to face it again for the pics, right? I came in just a little “too hot” on the edge of the highway, hit some loose dirt that caused my disk brake to lock the front tire as the weight of the bike kept pushing me into the right shoulder and dumping my Honda on the right shoulder. My left-side roll-bars got scratches and the only injury was to my embarassment. Thirty or forty feet farther I could have been on the dead chicken drop off . Got fuel and sweatshirt in Chicken AK. Missed Downtown Chicken and all 7 residents. (Covid-19 social distancing at it’s finest.) One of my biggest and worst memories of my big trip was riding from Chicken to Tok on a wide gravel road that was the worst “washboard” surface I had ever seen. Imagine bouncing for 30-50 miles which didn’t matter if you drove 20 or 50mph. You know it’s bad when parts start falling off a Honda due to rough roads. I lost a beautiful chrome rail off the front fender and a latch off the rear trunk in that stretch of road. At Tok AK, I headed towards Fairbanks and stopped at a rest-stop/display for the Alaska Pipeline. Cool – was 36″ in diameter I think. Happened to meet a group of Harley riders gassing up and heading for Fairbanks. They had a sidecar with beers on ice, not the best way to ride. They had to make it to the Harley Dealer in Fairbanks before it closed. So I rode with and missed my chance to visit the North Pole as we flew by. I separated at the Dealer and rode on alone to Anchorage. It was cloudy and rainy for days at Anchorage and near Denali (thanks to President Obama it changed from Mt. McKinley). Wasn’t good weather for touring, so I headed for Haines AK to catch the Alaska Marine Highway ferry. On the way there, I road thru road construction in traffic between motorhomes into mud 5-inches deep at times. !I prayed we didn’t have to stop and put my feet down! More to the story ,
but I’m almost out of available space here. By July 31, I made it home to ND and still rode to the Rally in Sturgis SD that August! The World Trade Centers went down in September (9-11). Then two years later, August 1, 2003, not wearing a helmet on my way to Sturgis SD, I hit a deer going 65 mph! A state troop was asked to drive the Ambulance to Valley City ND. A Hospital Chopper from Aberdeen SD rushed me to Fargo ND where I woke up one month after the crash. I was in a medically induced coma for 14-days and not expected to live for 3-weeks. I nolonger ride, but a trike might end up in my driveway if I hit the lottery. God Bless America!
It sounds like you’ve had some great adventures. Glad you stayed safe, thanks for sharing!
Loved living through your memories. That sounds like the ride of a lifetime. Thank you for sharing.
I was there in 1990. What a great place. Susan, Greg, Wolfgang, and we even visited Ari.
My daughter n i put 1put 10978 miles on our truck driving from michigan took every back road we came across, chicken was quite an experience had a agre at time at the saloon lots of laughs, 8 to 10 miles from there we had our windshield shot, we were stopped along million dollar highway letting our 2 dogs out to take a pee when this happened,, this old guy with a beard almost 2 the ground came up and yelled we were jumpi ng his claim, , there isnt any signs any were stating that the side of this road was spmeones claim and you better not stop, he was nasty and so was his smell,, his mark is still in our back seat n our truck, the windshied did not shader just left a hole ,,,
English as a second language, right?
CHICKENS ARE COOL. THEY ARE THE COOLEST ANIMALS ON EARTH!
I was in Chicken for many years, may be summer 1995, with my man and our son. We stayed one day and one night there. I remember the owners of the bar and gift shop were young people with two young boys 2 or 2 years old. They had a baby sitter, a young french girl from Lyon who lived in a small beautiful wooden house. It was nice to be there. I’ never forget. If somebody knows something about them, I ‘ be happy to read it. Thanks. [email protected]
I actually spent a the summer 2005 in Chicken employed as bartender. Quite the experience. Sue Wiren the owner and her 2 sons, Wolfgang and Max were were wonderful. However, that was the year that part of Alaska burned, if I recall correctly it was approx. 5 million acres burned. I’ve traveled and worked all over Alaska, and can honestly say that summer in Chicken was probably the most enjoyable and memorable of all. Very unique. I strongly suggest to take the time and explore that area of Alaska. Drive up to Dawson city.
Lol, I worked for crazy Susan for 2 years, in 2001,,2002
Susan is still crazy the boys are grown ,,, one is a Dr ,,, the others a stand up guy
I’m way too disabled to travel like I used to, but I’d love it if someone could send me a small souvenir from your unique and beautiful town. I will gladly send you the cost and postage in advance. In case you want to know I saw your town on an old episode of Building Alaska.
I just moved to Alaska last year and would be glad to send you something from that town if I can get up there. Of course, it looks like it will have to be next year if the roads are closed right now. What is your email address so that I can contact you outside of this post?
Small towns can certainly have the most interesting origins, and the story of Chicken’s naming truly represents that! Thanks for sharing!
Looking forward to going there this July!
Have fun! Will you be camping there?
Hey that’s me in the blue T, I am way cool, but yeah, just passing through to that other bird town called Eagle, we all can spell…errr… 20% of us can.
I heard of Eagle by watching Life Below Zero.
Would you believe I’ve actually heard of Chicken, Alaska before? My aunt stayed in the RV park there. She sent me a postcard, but I’d like to see it for myself.
Nifty. It’s a hard name to forget. I should’ve bought some postcards as souvenirs.
Hahaha! I can’t believe the town is called Chicken! Love the story of how it got its name. Pure, simple brilliance.
And Chicken is a way cooler name than Ptarmigan, so it worked out for the best.
That is just great on so many levels! I love finding unknown treasures such as chicken Alaska. Thanks for the giggle!
Thanks, Patti. Unknown treasures are the best!
That is really cool such a cute town. Love the saloon and the outhouse is very original 🙂
I do appreciate the effort they put into making this the nicest outhouse around!
So I’m still laughing 🙂 Very cool story dude.
Texas has a few small towns as well and I’m always amused as I drive through them.
Thanks for this one.
Why were you way up there?
Thanks for reading, Kerwin! I passed through Chicken when I went to the Yukon a while back. Because of the lack of highways up there, in some cases it’s quicker to cut through Alaska to get from one Yukon town to another.
I have been to chicken Alaska, and he’s right it is a cool place and when I was there it was 5 residents so maybe some babies, I can’t think anyone would actually move there. But is it fun to see