Chicken Dance

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The "Chicken Dance", also known as the Bird Song, the Birdie Song, the Bird Dance or the Chicken Song, is an oom-pah song; its associated fad dance is now a contemporary dance throughout the Western world. The song was composed by accordion player Werner Thomas from Davos, Switzerland, in the 1950s.


The piece is often notated in cut time and the key of C major. It begins with repeated dominant chords before moving into the main theme. The secondary theme features a contrasting rhythm. The two themes alternate. The final repetition of the main theme is often played as one continuous accelerando.[1]


Flap the wings

The name of the original Swiss song was "Der Ententanz" (The Duck Dance). It is rumored[by whom?] to be a drinking song sung at Oktoberfest.[citation needed] Some time 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.[citation needed] On some sheet music and recordings it is called "Dance Little Bird". Since 1963, Werner Thomas had played it in restaurants and hotels. During one of Thomas' performances, Belgian producer Louis van Rymenant heard the song. Van Rymenant 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 Rymenant 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 was not 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).

A crowd doing the chicken dance at the Ballard Seafood Festival
Ozseeker the Clown doing the "Chicken Dance" at a Municipal Band concert in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Since then the song has become known under numerous other "birdie" names, including "Vogerltanz" (Bird Dance), "Danse des Canards", "El Baile de los Pajaritos", "Il Ballo del Qua Qua", "Chicken Dance" and "Dance Little Bird". Over 140 versions of it are recorded worldwide, including various versions that were released by Walt Disney Records, together making over 40,000,000 records.

The dance was reintroduced in the United States in 1981 during the Tulsa, Oklahoma Oktoberfest. The members 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.[2]

In 1982, polka-themed 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.[3] 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.[4] and it was also used in the Only Fools and Horses episode The Unlucky Winner Is.... A remix was also released by the Belgian band Brussels Sound Revolution in 1990.[5]

Chart success [edit]

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.[6][7] In 2000, this version was voted "the most annoying song of all time" in a poll commissioned for the website dotmusic.[7] 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 shake my butt, Quack, quack, quack, quack!"

The polka-inspired cover version of the song by "The Emeralds" of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada went double-platinum in Canada, and gold in Australia.[3] The song also contributed to the success of multiple gold albums for the Emeralds in 1983 and 1984.

Chicken Dance

In 1990, Dutch band Grandmaster Chicken and DJ Duck released the song as "Check Out the Chicken", which peaked at number 16 in Australia.[8]

Notable performances[edit]

The Oktoberfest Zinzinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio, holds a "World's Largest Chicken Dance" annually. There were 48,000 participants in 1994. On 20 September 2004, rock musician Vince Neil served as Grand Marshal. In a compilation of the 40 Least Metal Moments, the U.S. cable television channel VH1 panned this performance as the single least metal moment in heavy metal history.

In 2006, the Chicken Dance opened "Weird Al" Yankovic's polka medley "Polkarama!" from his album Straight Outta Lynwood.

On 28 August 2007, Burning Man co-founder Scott "The Hammer" Mucci performed the Chicken Dance prior to The Man being set aflame ahead of schedule. The fire was later attributed to serial prankster Paul Addis, who was arrested and charged for arson.[9]

On 13 November 2009, CIHT-FM played the Chicken Dance continuously until 389 Tickets for the CHEO Dream of a Lifetime were purchased at CA$100 each, to support the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.[10] 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, US on 23 April 2010, at Jake's restaurant, the site of a giant plastic chicken sculpture.[11]

During the 2015–16 season, NHL club Philadelphia Flyers had the chicken dance played over the PA system[12] at the Wells Fargo Center every time the Flyers scored 4 goals in that game. The Flyers had a partnership with Chick-Fil-A where customers could get free breakfast sandwiches from Chick-Fil-A the day after every game where the Flyers score 4 goals or more.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thomas, Werner. "The Chicken Dance". Musicnotes. Retrieved 2019-04-22.
  2. ^ Mills, Russell. "Services schedule for Tulsa's 'Mr. Oktoberfest,' Josef Hardt". KJRH-TV. Archived from the original on February 3, 2010.
  3. ^ a b "The Emeralds PR Department". Retrieved 2017-07-27.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-04-30. Retrieved 2012-04-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  5. ^ "Terry Rendall Discography". Retrieved 2017-07-27.
  6. ^ "1980s music charts: 1981 July-Dec". Pure 80s Pop.
  7. ^ a b "Birdie Song tops hall of shame". BBC news. July 24, 2000.
  8. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010 (pdf ed.). Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  9. ^ Ohtake, Miyoko (2007-08-30). "A Fiery Q&A With the Prankster Accused of Burning the Man". Retrieved 29 August 2011.
  10. ^ "The New HOT 89.9: We're playing the Chicken". Twitter. November 13, 2009. Retrieved 2012-01-10.
  11. ^ Dawson, Phil; Campbell, Mat (23 April 2010). "Community "Chicken Dance" closes Grand Rapids-area road". WZZM 13 Online. Grand Rapids, Michigan: WZZM 13.
  12. ^ "Philadelphia Flyers 2015-2016 Goal Horn". YouTube. Retrieved 2017-07-27.