The "Chicken Dance," also known as the Birdie Song, 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.
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The name of the original Swiss song was "Der Entntanz" (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." It appears that no one in Germany uses the term "Kükentanz" or "Huhn/Hühnertanz" (Küken means chick, Huhn/Hühner means chicken (sg./pl.)). Since 1963 Werner Thomas had played it in restaurants and hotels. During one of Thomas' performances, Belgian producer Louis van Rijmenant heard the song. Van Rijmenant had some lyrics created and in 1970 released it to the public through his publishing company Intervox Music (later on co-publishing with his other company Eurovox Music) without much success. However, on subsequent releases of the song, Van Rijmenant was listed as co-author under the pen name of Terry Rendall. Eurovox Music now manages the publishing rights worldwide, except for the US (September Music), UK (Valentine Music) and the Netherlands (Benelux Music), sub-publishers.
In 1980, Dutch local band "De Electronica's" released an instrumental version called "De Vogeltjesdans" ("The dance of the little birds") as the B-side of a single. The A-side wasn't a hit, but local radio stations in the south and east of the Netherlands decided to flip the disc and started playing "De Vogeltjesdans". The record entered the Dutch charts and stayed there for over seven months, and started the international success of the song. On some recorded releases of the music Werner Thomas is listed as the sole composer, while on others other authors are listed, e.g., as "Thomas/Rendall/Hoes", the last name referring to Dutch singer/producer Johnny Hoes, who re-arranged the song for the Electronicas recording (which was released on Hoes' own record label, Telstar Records). He also wrote new Dutch lyrics for the song, although the Electronicas version is an instrumental one (Hoes himself recorded the vocal version, but that did not become a hit).
Since then the song has become known under numerous other "birdie" names, including "Vogerltanz" (Bird Dance), "Danse des Canards", "Baile de los Pajaritos", "Chicken Dance" and "Dance Little Bird". Over 140 versions of it are recorded worldwide, including Walt Disney Records, together making over 40,000,000 records.
The dance was introduced in the United States in 1981 during the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Oktoberfest. They wanted to demonstrate their love through dance in costumes, 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.
In 1982, polka-loving cover band "The Emeralds", from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, recorded a polka-inspired version of the song, released by K-Tel records. The album "Bird Dance" went double-platinum in Canada, and gold in Australia. The song also contributed to the success of multiple gold albums for the Emeralds in 1983 and 1984. The song went on to further fame when it was used in two movies: John Paizs's cult classic Crime Wave, and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.
In the Hispanic realm around this time, "Pajaritos a bailar," a localized version of the song, was popularized by acordeonista Maria Jesús in several television appearances. The dance and song was originally brought from Germany to the US by Eddie Duling and Larry Karhoff of Glandorf Ohio in 1974. They gave a copy of the song to the local radio station and history was made.
Despite other claims as to the name "Chicken Dance", the name had come about because an Austrian tour guide translated "Bird Dance / Dance Little Bird" and other similar names, from German to English by calling it "The Chicken Dance" when Norm Edlebeck's Band appeared in Austria in the fall of 1981. Edlebeck recorded it on the "End of The Trail" record label and used his nickname "Whoopee" as the artist. It was introduced to the United States In April 1982 on the Nationwide Television Show "P M Magazine" produced by "Group W Productions" of San Francisco as "The Chicken Dance" and featured Wisconsin Orchestra Leader Norm Edlebeck playing it on a $25K Electronic Organ and presented in a "Blue Grass" rendition. "Group W Productions" repeated the segment again nationwide on August 9, 1983 and included Edlebeck's picture in their weekly ad slick sent to every station in their network for publication in TV Guide. Group W titled the segment the "World's Stupidest Dance".
The LP "Bird Dance" sold millions of copies in the first year. It has become a standard request at weddings and family gatherings. Contrary to some misconceptions, it is not an Austrian folk dance, although it was presented as one in the Austrian film Das Fest des Huhnes. In the United States, the publishing rights for the song were acquired by a New York publisher Stanley Mills. In Denmark, a version of this song is used by the brewery Tuborg in their commercials for their "Easter Brew" ("Påskebryg" in Danish).
Chart success 
In 1981 Henry Hadaway produced a version of the "Chicken Dance", which was released in the United Kingdom as an instrumental novelty tune "The Birdie Song" by The Tweets. It reached number two in the singles chart in October 1981, making it the most popular version. In 2000, this version was voted "the most annoying song of all time" in a poll commissioned for the website dotmusic. The song is often sung with lyrics with a little bit of this and a little bit of that and shake your bum to the tune. Alternative lyrics are "I don't want to be a chicken, I don't want to be a duck, So I wag my butt, Quack, quack, quack, quack!"
- 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.
This song in other languages
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- Brazilian Portuguese: Baile dos Passarinhos
- Bulgarian: Патешкият танц (Pateshkiyat Tants)
- Croatia: Pačji ples
- Czech: Ptačí tanec (kuřátka)
- Dutch: De Vogeltjesdans
- Estonian: Tibutants
- Finnish: Tiputanssi
- Filipino: Sayaw ng manok
- French: La danse des canards
- German: Ententanz, Vogerltanz
- cover version: Ja, wenn wir alle Englein wären ("Yes, if we were all little angels", 1981, Fred Sonnenschein und seine Freunde aka Frank Zander)
- cover version: Gib mir bitte einen Kuß ("Give me a kiss please", 1981, Helga Feddersen)
- Greek: Τα παπάκια (the ducklings)
- Hebrew: ריקוד הציפורים (Rikud HaTziporim) – The Bird Dance
- Hungarian: Kacsatánc (Release after the Spanish version)
- Icelandic: Fugladansinn
- Italian: Il ballo del qua qua (Romina Power, 1981)
- Japanese: 可笑しい鳥 (Okashii Tori – "The Crazy Bird")
- Korean: 모두가 천사라면 (Moduga cheonsaramyeon – If Everybody Were Angels)
- Latvian: Putniņdeja (Little bird dance)
- Lithuanian: Ančiukų šokis (Duckling Dance)
- Norwegian: Fugledansen
- Portuguese: Passarinhos a bailar
- Polish: Kaczuszki, Kaczuchy (Duckies)
- Romanian: O rățușcǎ stă pe lac
- Russian: Танец маленьких утят (Tanets Malenkih Utyat) – "Little Ducklings Dance"
- Slovak: Kačací tanec / Vrabčák (Duck Dance / Cock-sparow 'er)
- Slovene: Račke (Ducks)
- Spanish: Pajaritos a bailar / El baile de los pajaritos / Pajaritos a volar
- Y el mundo a bailar. (And the whole world dancing.)
- Swedish: Fågeldansen ("The Bird Dance", although sometimes called "Kycklingdansen" – "The Chicken Dance". The English title "Chicken Dance" is also sometimes used.)
- Turkish: Wak Wak Dansı (Barışcan)
- In 1981 in the UK, known as "The Birdie Dance", performed to a song called "The Birdie Song", performed by "The Tweets".
- The tune for the birdie song may have been influenced by the first theme in the third movement of William Alwyn's Concerto Grosso No.1 in B flat major of 1943.
At the Oktoberfest Zinzinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio, on 20 September 2004, rock musician Vince Neil served as the Grand Marshall of the World's Largest Chicken Dance. The U.S. cable television channel VH1, in its compilation of the 40 Least Metal Moments panned this performance as the single least metal moment in Heavy Metal history.
The Chicken Dance is featured in Judson Laipply's Evolution of Dance.
On 13 November 2009, CIHT-FM played the Chicken Dance continuously until 389 Tickets for the CHEO Dream of a Lifetime were purchased at $US100 each, to support the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. This played for over 3 hours.
In a fund raiser for Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, an attempt at the world's largest chicken dance record was held at Byron Center, Michigan, USA on 23 April 2010, at Jake's restaurant, the site of a giant plastic chicken sculpture.
On 13 September 2010, two Swedes set out on a Chicken Dance Tour across Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
On 7 September 2013, the Chicken Dance was played at Michigan Stadium as the Michigan Wolverines football team celebrated a 41-30 victory over historic rival Notre Dame to symbolize the decision of Notre Dame to "chicken out" of the rivalry.
- Mills, Russell. "Services schedule for Tulsa's 'Mr. Oktoberfest,' Josef Hardt". KJRH-TV. Archived from the original on April 10, 2010.
- "The Emeralds Awards".
- "Edmonton Journal – The Bird Just Keeps On Dancing".
- "1980s music charts: 1981 July-Dec". Pure 80s Pop.
- "Birdie Song tops hall of shame". BBC news. July 24, 2000.
- "The New HOT 89.9: We're playing the Chicken". Twitter. November 13, 2009. Retrieved 2012-01-10.
- Dawson, Phil; Campbell, Mat (23 April 2010). "Community "Chicken Dance" closes Grand Rapids-area road". WZZM 13 Online. Grand Rapids, Michigan: WZZM 13.
- "The Chicken Dance Tour". Mangomanjaro. August 14, 2010.
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