A chicken gun is a large-diameter, compressed-air cannon used to fire dead chickens at aircraft components in order to simulate high-speed bird strikes during the aircraft's flight. Jet engines and aircraft windshields are particularly vulnerable to damage from such strikes, and are the most common target in such tests. Whole, dead, standard-size chickens, as would be used for cooking, are thought to accurately simulate a large, live bird striking a plane in flight.
The aircraft component to be tested (engine, windshield, etc.) is fixed in place on a test stand, and the cannon fires the chicken at it.
The gun is driven by compressed air. In the 1970s, Goodyear Aerospace in Litchfield Park, Arizona, used a gun with a ceramic diaphragm to seal the compressed air at the back of the gun's barrel. To fire the gun, a needle struck and ruptured the diaphragm, allowing the compressed air to drive the chicken (in its container—a cylindrical cardboard ice cream carton) down the barrel. At the muzzle, a metal ring stopped the carton, but allowed the chicken to pass through. Cameras recorded the collision.
The chicken gun was first used in the mid-1950s at de Havilland Aircraft, Hatfield, Hertfordshire. The chickens were killed at a local farm shortly before use. Another early use of a chicken gun was by the Royal Aeronautical (Aircraft) Establishment (RAE) in Farnborough, Hampshire in 1961.
During the development of the Boeing 757, the cockpit windows were subjected to a "chicken test", where "an anesthetized 4-pound [1.8 kg] chicken was loaded in a pneumatic gun and fired at 360 knots [410 mph; 670 km/h] head-on". It is described as "a very messy test."
- "It's a Bird, It's a Plane... It's a Bird Striking a Plane". National Research Council of Canada. January 2007. Archived from the original on 2013-06-22. Retrieved 2009-09-14.
- Rinearson, Peter (June 21, 1983). "Designing the 757". Seattle Times. Retrieved April 5, 2019.