Chicken Toss Draws Big Crowd, Animal Rights Groups Protest
More than 100 live chickens are tossed into crowd at annual event
RIDGELAND, Wis. – Every year, Ridgeland, Wisconsin holds a chicken toss as part of its Pioneer Days celebration.
At the event, more than a hundred live chickens are thrown off a roof into a crowd of people.
Some say it’s a harmless small town tradition.
“Everyone stops you and says nice chicken and stuff like that. It’s just a fun time out here,” says 15-year-old Chase Hollister, who caught three chickens at the event.
Others are trying to stop the toss, saying it promotes cruelty to animals.
“These chickens are thrown into a crowd, they’re terrified, they’re scared, they get hurt,” says Nisha Kumar of Milwaukee Animal Save. “And we don’t have to do this to animals in order to have a good time.”
At the 2020 event, around 150 chickens were tossed to the crowd. The rule is if you catch a chicken, you get to keep it.
“You’ve got to time your jump perfectly and grab a hold of it without trying to hurt it or anything,” explains Hollister.
But, according to Kumar, some chickens have gotten hurt.
“A lot of them had major medical issues because of this event,” she says. “They were really injured, some of them had to get amputations, a lot of them lost toes and combs and waddles to frostbite.”
More than 40 activists from across the Midwest came to Ridgeland to protest the event. Multiple online petitions are calling to end the toss permanently.
“There’s a lot of fun things that you could do, like you could throw water balloons off the roof, you could throw anything, something that’s not alive that has pain receptors and will get injured and need veterinary care,” explains Kumar.
But are the protests really necessary?
A local Ridgeland-area man who raises chickens tells us he’s not concerned for the animals’ safety.
“Being a country boy, I know what chickens can do,” says Michael Staffe. “I’ve pulled them 80 feet out of a tree because they’ve flown that high.”
Many people take the chickens home to live with them.
“The chickens we raise die of old age,” adds Staffe. “They’re egg layers, we eat their eggs, we feed them properly, we organically feed them, we don’t abuse them.”
For those who can’t take care of the birds they catch, animal rights activists offer to take the chickens, give them medical attention, and find them homes.
“I know that the people here are not intending to hurt the birds,” adds Kumar. “I don’t think that they’re bad people at all, none of us do.”
A Dunn County, Wisconsin judge recently dismissed an emergency injunction to end the chicken toss.
The event is scheduled to keep happening at Pioneer Days every February.