Chicken Ranch (Nevada)

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Chicken Ranch, June 2007

The Chicken Ranch is a legal, licensed brothel located about 60 miles (97 km) west of Las Vegas near the town of Pahrump, in Nye County, at 10511 Homestead Road. The 17-bed brothel[1] sits on 40 acres (16 ha) of land. A separate building, connected to the main house by a breezeway, contains three extensively-decorated themed "bungalows" catering to those customers wishing a more luxurious experience.

Approximately 60 courtesans call the Chicken Ranch "home" with around 12 to 15 ladies living and working there at any time. The women often stay for at least 2 weeks at a time.

The ladies are independent contractors and set their own prices and menu of services. Due to Nye County ordinances, solicitation cannot be done outside of the house of the brothel.[2]

The ranch used to house a collection of memorabilia from the original Chicken Ranch which was located outside of La Grange, Texas.

The ranch is also site of the Leghorn Bar. The bar has a separate entrance for customers not wishing to enter the brothel parlor.


Roadside billboard for the Chicken Ranch

Walter Plankinton opened the Nevada Chicken Ranch in 1976,[1] as close to Las Vegas as legally possible. He encountered strong opposition from local law enforcement and other brothel owners.[3] It remains the closest brothel to Las Vegas.[4]

The initial location of the Chicken Ranch was inside the town limits of Pahrump, where prostitution was illegal. Plankinton was arrested and found guilty of violating the town's laws.[5] He moved the brothel to a new location within Nye County, but outside of town limits. After lengthy appeals he served 60 days in jail in 1981.

Nye County did not require brothels to be licensed in 1976, and three other brothels operated legally in the county at the time. Nevertheless, officials circulated a petition opposing the Chicken Ranch and then tried to close it down as a "public nuisance per se". The resulting court case reached the Nevada Supreme Court, which ruled in Plankinton's favor in 1978.[6]

In 1978, the Chicken Ranch was burned to the ground, allegedly by arsonists. The twelve prostitutes and two employees barely survived. Plankinton reopened with a new set of trailers 5 days later.

In 1982, Plankinton sold the Chicken Ranch for $1,000,000 to Kenneth Green, a San Francisco businessman, and Russel Reade, an ex-teacher. Reade, who had contributed $25,000 towards the purchase, became the manager. Around 15 women were working at the ranch at that time.[7]

Chicken Ranch Airport was closed in 2004.[8]

On February 8, 2006, the ranch accepted a purchase offer for $5.2 million.


While The Chicken Ranch has been located in Nevada since 1976, the original brothel began in La Grange, Texas, in 1844 as an unnamed business. The brothel and the women who worked it served local farmers, ranchers, and cowboys. During the Civil War, soldiers of every rank visited the brothel for a brief respite from the fighting. Once the war ended, cowboys frequented the brothel to get off the dusty trail.

In 1905, Miss Faye Stewart (alias Jessie Williams and known as Miss Jessie) purchased the brothel, serving as Madam and made peace with local law enforcement officers and the community as a whole, and turning it into a profitable business.

In the grip of the Great Depression, she lowered her prices in reaction to the failing economy, but customer numbers continued to decrease. Having a hard time paying her employees, Miss Jessie implemented the "poultry standard," allowing the ladies to accept produce and livestock in lieu of cash. She charged one chicken for every sexual act, causing an influx of chickens to the ranch. With the property filled with Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds, she supplemented her income by selling chickens and eggs, and the name Chicken Ranch was born.

Miss Jessie spent 56 years at the ranch, the last 3 of which, sitting on the porch in her wheelchair. When she passed, she was mourned by three generations of men who patronized the ranch.

After her death, Edna Milton (Miss Jessie's chief lieutenant) purchased the brothel and ran it with an "authoritative confidence" ensuring that there was no drinking, drugs, or rowdiness on the premises. She ran the Chicken Ranch until 1973 when Marvin Zindler, a consumer affairs investigative reporter with television station KTRK-TV in Houston, believed that the brothel was controlled by organized crime and staying in business through political corruption. Though he was never able to prove this claim, he utilized his television show to create enough public pressure to force Governor Dolph Briscoe to take action. On August 1, 1973, Fayette County Sheriff T.J. Flourney closed the brothel on the orders of the governor.[9]

Residents of La Grange were incredibly displeased at the ranch's closing. As Lester Zapalac, publisher of the La Grange Journal put it: "They've never done any harm here."[10] Sheriff Flourney, a longtime supporter of the brothel agreed adding: "It's been here all my life and all my daddy's life and never cause anybody any trouble."

Books, movies, TV shows, music[edit]

Don Stadterman was a chauffeur for the Chicken Ranch Brothel in Nevada for seven years. His book, Ride With Me To The Chicken Ranch Brothel is about the men he drove to the brothel and the ladies who worked there. Jeanie Kasindorf's book Nye County Brothel Wars (Linden Press/Simon & Schuster 1985) describes the opposition Plankinton encountered in Nye County.

In 1983, the house was the subject of the documentary Chicken Ranch by filmmaker Nick Broomfield.

The six part Sundance Channel series Pleasure for Sale (2008) documented life in the Chicken Ranch, describing the sometimes tense relations among the prostitutes working there.[11][12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Levitan, Corey (2008-07-07). "Stark Raving Madam". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved 2008-07-07.
  2. ^ "Sterling Codifiers, Inc". Retrieved 2018-06-04.
  3. ^ Jeanie Kasindorf. Nye County Brothel Wars, Linden Press/Simon & Schuster, 1985
  4. ^ "What Brothel is Closest to Las Vegas?". Nevada Brothels. 2018-10-07. Retrieved 2018-10-07.
  5. ^ "Back Then". Pahrump Valley Times. February 1, 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-07-09.
  6. ^ Nye County v. Plankinton, 94 Nev. 739, 587 P.2d 421 (1978)
  7. ^ McCracken, Bob (2 January 2015). "Life inside the early days of the Chicken Ranch". Pahrump Valley Times. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  8. ^ [1] Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: Southern Nevada
  9. ^ "The Legend of the Chicken Ranch". Retrieved 2018-06-04.
  10. ^ "Abilene Reporter-News from Abilene, Texas on August 2, 1973 · Page 91". Retrieved 2018-06-04.
  11. ^ Bellafante, Ginia (2008-02-11). "Feisty Birds of a Feather, No Chickens in Sight". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
  12. ^ Lloyd, Robert (2008-02-04). "Documentary visits the Chicken Ranch". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
  13. ^ "AN UNVARNISHED LOOK AT LIFE IN A BROTHEL". Daily News (Los Angeles, Ca). 2008-02-04. Retrieved 18 December 2013.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°04′24.7″N 115°57′23.45″W / 36.073528°N 115.9565139°W / 36.073528; -115.9565139