National Dance Like a Chicken Day is celebrated on May 14th of each year in celebration of the “Chicken Song”. The “Chicken Dance” is an oom-pah song and its associated fad dance is now a contemporary dance throughout the Western world. The song was composed by accordion (Handharmonika) player Werner Thomas from Davos, Switzerland, in the 1950s.
The name of the original Swiss song was “Der Ententanz” (The Duck Dance). It is rumored to be a drinking song sung at Oktoberfest. Sometime in the late 1970s, the song acquired the name “Vogeltanz” (The Bird Dance) or “Vogerltanz” (Little Bird Dance or Birdie Dance), although these names never caught on seriously in Germany. On some sheet music and recordings it is called “Dance Little Bird.”
The dance was introduced in the United States in 1981 during the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Oktoberfest by the Heilbronn Band from Germany. They wanted to demonstrate the dance in costume, but there were no duck costumes available anywhere near Tulsa. At a local television station, however, a chicken costume was available which was donated for use at the festival, giving the “Chicken Dance” its name.
The “Chicken Dance” song is accompanied by a dance requiring a group of people, and it goes as follows:
- At the start of the music, shape a chicken beak with your hands. Open and close them four times, during the first four beats of the music.
- Make chicken wings with your arms. Flap your wings four times, during the next four beats of the music.
- Make a chicken’s tail feathers with your arms and hands. Wiggle downwards during the next four beats of the music.
- Clap four times during the next four beats of the music while rising to your feet.
- Repeat this process four times.
- At the bridge, hold your arms straight, in imitation of an aeroplane. All dancers spin around the room in “flight” until the bridge ends.
- (Alternately: At the bridge, link arms with the nearest person, turn right eight steps, switch arms and turn left eight steps, then repeat until the bridge ends)
- (Alternatively: Assume close position with partner and polka until bridge ends.)
- The dance repeats, progressively getting faster and faster, until the music stops.