Chicken Scratch

On March 12, 2013 · 2 Comments

Chicken scratch is an informal term for illegible handwriting. It is also a type of chicken feed that’s typically strewn upon the ground. Chickens then scratch around the dirt in pursuit of feed, leaving marks behind. I suppose illegible handwriting might be thought to resemble the results of hungry chickens foraging for cracked grains.

I’m much more interested in intact footprints though.

Don’t even try to make sense of 12MC today. I’m fixated on geographic features named Chicken Foot at the moment, and I don’t know why although possibly it’s because it seems so absurd. Behold the complete compendium of every Chicken Foot place name listed in the U.S. Geological Survey’s Geographic Names Information System -GNIS. I guarantee that this list has never been compiled and presented to the public before, and undoubtedly for good reason. These geographic features are found throughout the nation with a particular concentration in the southern states. I have provided the exact Lat/Long coordinates recorded in GNIS in each of the map links to prove that I’m not making these up. Many are too minor to be listed by name on the usual Internet mapping tools.

Chickenfoot Park



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I think the residents of Middletown Township in Bucks County, Pennsylvania must have been embarrassed by Chickenfoot Park because they didn’t include it in their list of parks. Bucks County didn’t want much to do with it either. They operate the adjacent Oxford Valley park with its golf course and swimming pool. I can only speculate that Chickenfoot didn’t convey an image they wished to portray so they dropped it. We know better. They can’t hide from their heritage.


Chicken Foot Lake



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In contrast, folks in Wisconsin don’t seem to mind Chicken Foot Lake. Maybe early residents were running out of names. What else would account for nearby Chicken Crop Lake and Deadman Lake. Chicken Foot doesn’t sound so bad when compared to lakes named for an element of a chicken’s digestive system or a dead person. Chicken Foot Lake also bears a vague resemblance to a chicken foot so it’s not completely illogical. Maybe? Just a little? In a Rorschach Test way?


chicken feet
Flickr by marywasadj via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

I still can’t believe I found a chicken foot photo with a Creative Commons license.


Chicken Foot Ridge



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Alabama’s Chicken Foot Ridge does indeed appear talon-like and forms somewhat of a foot when combined with other nearby ridges. Squint a little and the shape will appear. This site also includes an adjacent feature called Chicken Foot Cove (map). In this context "cove" refers to a recess in the side of a mountain rather than the more familiar watery version. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen cove used in this context before so this was a memorable find.

Alabama scores an additional time with Chicken Foot Mountain (map) and wins bonus points for being part of an animal trifecta here, with adjacent Turkey Creek and Cattail pond. It’s practically Old MacDonald’s Farm out there.




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The remaining Chicken Foot features are:

  • Chickenfoot Lake, California (above) — probably the most remarkable resemblance to an actual chicken foot
  • Chickenfoot Creek, South Carolina (map); and
  • Chickenfoot Hollow, Kentucky (map)

There is also a musical group called Chickenfoot composed of members of various other popular groups that I was blissfully unaware of until I started searching for geographic features. Ditto for a derisive term for a Peace Sign symbol. Google pointed those out to me. I mentioned that so no one will feel obliged to comment about them.


I couldn’t find any Chicken Foot locations in any other parts of the world. Canada, however, came close with a different anatomical area: Chicken’s Neck Mountain and adjacent Chicken’s Neck Ecological Preserve in British Columbia (map).

The best the United Kingdom could manage was Chickenley in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, England. I might describe that as "like a chicken" as in "his chickenley behavior seemed rather peculiar." Wikipedia noted without attribution I might add, that "The Chickenley name could derive from a family name originating during early settlement, corrupted to ‘chicken’ over the years (map)." Perhaps. I like my completely fake explanation better.

On March 12, 2013 · 2 Comments

2 Responses to “Chicken Scratch”

  1. Pfly says:

    I guess the end of the Mississippi Delta is known as the “bird’s foot”, but I always thought the bird in question was a chicken. This page says as much, http://www.lpi.usra.edu/publications/slidesets/oceans/oceanviews/slide_29.html

  2. January First-of-May says:

    The ancient Russian city of Kursk is popularly thought to have its name derived from a word meaning “chicken”. (Actually, according to the latest theories, it comes from an obsolete term that Wikipedia translates as “oxbow lake”.)

    And then there’s of course Baba Yaga’s hut, which supposedly stands on giant chicken feet (note: linguists again say that likely no chickens were actually originally involved). But this is folklore, not geography, and doesn’t really count 🙂

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