There comes a time in every visual journalist’s career when they must attempt to affix a recording device to a chicken. That day, for me, was September 28, 2012.
As a part of The Gazette’s coverage of Tour de Coop — an event where residents can travel to urban chicken coops to sample a variety of designs and construction methods — I was charged with creating a video accompaniment.
The event, being light-hearted in nature, allowed for quite a bit of flexibility when setting the scope for the video. And during newsroom conversations, the idea was passed around to attempt and capture a true “birds-eye” view of the coop’s innards.
Up for the challenge, we began discussing methods for attaching our smallest camera — a GoPro — to one of the birds.
Dog collars, stretchy headbands, and even duct tape were suggested, but lacking a newsroom bird to test on, we were all grasping at straws.
And so I learned a valuable lesson: come prepared.
I arrived at the source’s house with: a GoPro, a collapsible stick to attach to the GoPro, a classic TV news camera, a dog harness, a stretchy headband, duct tape, and metal wire.
Our overall goal was to obtain a creative video, regardless of whether or not attaching the camera proved successful. And so bringing the backup options were important, and proved essential.
Almost instantaneously I settled on the dog collar as the correct mode of attachment.
It was roughly the same girth as the chicken, and once the source had corralled one of her birds and I was able to start inching the red collar around it, things were looking pretty good.
The bird was rather calm, a few ruffled feathers, but overall unperturbed by our work. Since a chicken lacks substantial front appendages we cinched it as much as we could around its middle without injuring the bird.
The harness had two metal hooks conveniently dangling in the front of the bird. With the metal wire we attached the camera to the hooks and it dangled harmlessly from the bird’s chest.
The moment of truth had arrived.
The bird leapt from her owner’s arms, fluttered to the ground, and CLACK.
The camera dragged and bumped across the ground, the chicken waddled uncomfortably, clearly overwhelmed by it’s new adornment.
The camera was too big. The harness was too loose. The chicken was too confused.
It was a colossal failure.
And if I had shown up with just a GoPro and a dog harness, the shoot would have been as well.
But I adapted.
With the GoPro attached to the extendable stick, I was able to record video from a chicken’s eyelevel. With the TV camera, I was able to film a standup with the source, as well as high quality shots of the chickens in their pen and fluttering about the yard.
And by placing the GoPro camera inside stationary objects — like half of a pumpkin — and having the chickens go to town on it, the end result was some pretty impressive and somewhat frightening video of chickens pecking at pumpkin seeds.
I failed at the initial attempt, but I consider the shoot a resounding success.
I went in with a lofty, wacky goal, but I did not place all of my eggs in that basket. By being able to adapt, we got some great video, and everyone who was present will not forget our adventures in chicken wrangling any time soon.
When dealing with poultry, come prepared.
Check out Cindy Hadish’s story here.
Watch the finished video here.