Chick Chick Chick Chicken

Village chickens

Chickens bloody chickens. There’s chickens every bloody where, and roosters too.

Since spending a fair amount of time over the years in Thailand I have often wondered if KFC stood for Kill the Fuc*ing Chicken, rather than Colonel Sanders old hat Kentucky fried version, because in a rural village they are everywhere. If the bastards buggers aren’t waking you up at half four in the morning then they’re crapping on your lawn. But surely they’ve got a use or two.

I’d like to know how at the height of the H5N1 Bird flu virus outbreak in 2004, when Thai authorities killed over 40 million chickens, whenever I walked under Wonderful Wi’s mama’s house I got chicken crap on my shoes. 40 million, how bloody many are there in Thailand.

Thai fried chickenIf you culled every last chicken in Thailand then you’d destroy with them so many Thai dishes their receipe books would have to be rewritten. From Thai red chicken curry to kao pad Kai (chicken fried rice), the bird nests among many pages in every Thai cookery book and there seems to be someone selling classic Thai style fried chicken on every street corner.

I’ve got to put my hand on my heart and admit the garlic tasting Thai fried chicken doesn’t dance on my palate as much as it does for others. Having an aversion to garlic does slim down the Thai cookery book a bit. A sweet tasting yellow chicken curry is for myself the absolute of culinary delights, and I’ll even forgo French fries to spoon it upon a hot steaming bed of rice.

If it’s free range you’re after then rural village chickens are footloose and fancy free. They don’t stray too far from their territory but can often be seen reappearing from under a passing truck or stood eyeball to eyeball with a soi dog. More often than not the dog will traipse off first.

If threatened, chickens will attack and sometimes kill small snakes. I have read they will even eat them, but whether that’s true, I’ll pass on. Village chickens will eat anything and can be seen pecking away at the dusty ground all day long. Free range and free fed, apart from a handful of rice corn. Some however, do have their range restricted at times by a large upturned bamboo type basket. Cage to be more precise.

Muay Kai - Cock Fighting

Cock fighting is very popular throughout Thailand and none more so than in the villages of Isaan. Fighting cocks are often paired off as friends gather for drinks and some small talk. When the rice season has passed, local work is scarce and weekend cock-fighting events become near daily events.

Fighting cock ownerCock fighting doesn’t appeal to many westerners raised in an anti blood sports era, but for some, and I include myself, they are a great spectacle of fast action and the atmosphere is boisterous and at times quite intense. Winning means everything to the roosters owners but not necessarily at the cost of their prized cock’s life.

With money scarce in typical Isaan villages, losing your fighting cock in a bout against a friends’ rooster is not a clever idea. The small village bouts are often stopped way before any real damage has been inflicted, and the roosters don’t usually have spikes or spurs attached to their legs.

The larger organized cock fights where big money changes hands in the form of illegal gambling on the outcome of each bout is a far different matter. In Bangkok a highly rated fighting cock can be worth a few thousand US dollars and a champion a lot more. You wouldn’t see those birds wandering without care or purpose along the middle of a busy road.

cock fightingYour neighbours rooster may wake you at 4-30 every morning, but ridding yourself of that wake up call could prove costly. Bird owners can claim compensation from any party known to have killed one of their birds, although a one-off incident would be unlikely to result in any more than a few choice words.

Recently one of our dogs killed two young chickens and Wi was politely advised by our neighbour that any more incidents would result in payment of compensation. That would amount to around 100 baht for a chicken. The settlement for a promising or active fighting bird would be considerably higher.

KFC, perhaps it means Kinda Fuc*ing Costly.


I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

30 Responses

  1. malcolm says:

    Martyn , being a preacher all those years plus growing up in the South of the USA chicken eating is one of my favorite, it is a tradition in the south to invite the preacher over for dinner after Sunday services and Most of the time it is Fried chicken , and nothing pleased me more .My Mom before she passed was a great cook and all the relatives and neighbors said noone cood fried southern style chicken like my Mom.
    As far as chickens in Thailand , I love the cock fights, and all the chicken dishs that Ciejay cooks and all the meat (chicken) on a stick you can buy on every street in our village , and Thank god none of my neighbors raise chickens or keep fighting chickens in their yard, but on a side note chickens would be hard pressed to make it one day, on our soi ,what with all the dogs we have around the neighbor hood. I can still hear the chicken early in the morning from the folks down the way in the next soi ,but I just turn up the speed on the ac or fan and the noise drowns them out and I roll over and go back to sleep . Malcolm
    .-= malcolm´s last blog ..I ATE A RAT =-.

  2. Mike says:

    Martyn trust you to mention chickens-have just got back from shopping to find the Thai equivalent of Fowler crowing from my garden wall again.

    To rub salt into the wound my favourite soi dog was stretched out in the flower bed on the cool watered soil having rearranged the flowers first.

    Ah…….village life.

    Now I know why MTF bought me a catapult the other day-just like being a kid again 🙂
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Google Countdown I’m Feeling Lucky =-.

  3. Talen says:

    Martyn, I have no love for the free range chickens and roosters in the village. I have tried unsuccessful to kill the various roosters at 5 am when no one is looking but to no avail.

    They realize they are annoying and are always on the lookout for the stray shoe or rock thrown at them. I did chase one off with a water gun at songkran though.

    An American president once ran on the ticket of a chicken in every pot…I would bet he had been to Thailand and hated the little bastards too. I hate KFC just as much just because what they represent but I am all for eating every Thai dish that contains my little feathery friends.
    .-= Talen´s last blog ..Thai BBQ For You =-.

  4. *lynne* says:

    Oh no, you don’t like garlic? Oh my, well stay away from my cooking, I use lots every time 🙂 My one foray into real thai cuisine (Pad Thai) wasn’t very successful, but my other experiments seem to come out okay 🙂
    .-= *lynne*´s last blog ..Guantánamo news affecting Illinois and Switzerland =-.

  5. Steve says:

    Martyn, Thai food without chickens would be unimaginable. And the Thai garlic fried chicken…oh man don’t get me started. I could eat that every single day. Khao man gai, laab gai, peek gai tod and tom yum gai are all favorites and staples at our place.

    Thankfully there are no feathered friends anywhere near my in-laws place so no early morning cock-a-doodle doo wake-up (that phrase makes Golf fall out laughing – “chicken doesn’t sound like that AT ALL!”). Maybe if I had to listen to that racket I’d hate them more, but it would be a love/hate relationship. Hate the noise/Love the taste!
    .-= Steve´s last blog ..Mexico Photos =-.

  6. Lawrence says:

    Martyn: my former neighbour bred and fought fighting cocks (no, he didn’t actually fight them bare-handed, he was more their manager) but lost so much he had to sell up the house. We were sorry to see him and his family go but don’t miss the cockerels and hens.

    One of the nastiest aspects (from my point of view) of breeding fighting cocks was that they seem to suffer from congested nostrils and he used to spend a lot of time sucking out whatever was in there. A dangerous occupation in lots of ways, I should think.

    The food though … I’m definitely with Talen and Steve on that.
    .-= Lawrence´s last blog ..Just another quiet day in Phana =-.

  7. Hoo Don says:

    I will get back to everyone’s comments but at the moment I’m very busy with last minute holiday plans and working the night shift. Absolutely cream crackered. Thanks.

  8. Hoo Don says:

    Malcolm, I do love chicken myself but just plain old chicken and not the garlicky version you see in Thailand. I love the cock fights and often go over the road from our place and have a look. I sometimes take a bottle or two of Leo with me and a bottle of lao khao as well. I call it my entrance money and it always goes down well.

  9. Hoo Don says:

    Mike Wi’s dogs keep the chickens out of our garden but out on the soi I have noticed the soi dogs don’t take much notice of the chickens and vice versa. Young Cola has apparently not taken any notice of the street rules and has killed a couple of young chicks. Now the chicks owner has issued a polite warning to Wi, I think he may dish out a severe beating to Cola if or probably when he does it again.

  10. Catherine says:

    Martyn, I too hate chickens nearby. Borneo was the worst for me. Bangkok is not too shabby though. The chickens my neighbours did get are quiet. Or… they have eaten them already.

    But eating chickens… they are my favourite over turkeys any day. Especially with garlic 😉

    Btw – have a great trip ‘home’.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Gourmet Holiday Hampers in Thailand =-.

  11. Hoo Don says:

    Talen I don’t mind KFC, it’s McDonalds which doesn’t do much for me(taste wise) but as far as what they both represent goes then I figure if they stopped business then someone else would quickly take their place. Killing the roosters is tempting but if caught then it won’t go down too well and being a westerner the compo will be twice as much. It might be cheaper to buy a stress ball and a pair of ear plugs.

  12. Hoo Don says:

    Lynne I’m not keen on garlic unless I know it’s there and is only a mild dose. When I’m unaware and I eat something with high content it just tastes awful to me. Wilai as you would expect absolutely adores the stuff. Best wishes.

  13. Hoo Don says:

    Steve chicken is very prominent in Thai cooking and along with beef is the number one choice in the villages. It’s funny how some of our sayings make them laugh but then again ‘baa baa ba bor’ has the same effect on me as well. I hope it warms up a bit for you and Golf in the states.

  14. Hoo Don says:

    Lawrence I take it you mean by ‘lost’ illegal gambling on the cock fights and if so then I have seen it at first hand. As far as his habit of draining their nostrils goes then I’d say he has less sense than money and he hasn’t got a lot of the latter. That would however be a sight worth seeing.

  15. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine thanks for the great trip wishes. Turkeys…I won’t forget when Wi and I went to look at the turkey farm in Loei. I’d been looking forward to going there for a day or so and when we arrived we found out it had shut months before and yet it was still advertised in the hotel foyer. So annoying but I should have checked first. As a one off like Christmas I much prefer turkey. Have a good time in the UK.

  16. Martin In Bulgaria says:

    Hi Martyn,
    Chicken eh. You love them or hate them, but most just like to see it on their plate cooked. Cock fighting may see a bad show to westerners but it goes on naturally in many chicken based areas as it is a case of natural survial of the fittest, it just isn’t done with an audience othe then the hen divas waiting to be serviced with the winner. I personally cull most of my cockrels up to the point of them starting fighting, the reason is simly that they will lose weight with the excersion!
    As for KFC, well my son used to work for them and I used to eat the stuff as a treat when I was in the UK – grease ball city! Even now I recall the pleasure I had from stuffing myself with a bucket load whilst watchin football with a few beers. I still get a pang every once in a while, I look upon it as lazy food and feel foolish by subjecting my body to such treatment. Mind you, constipation was never a problem the following morning – but after a few years of this diet eventually morning will turn to mourning!
    The call of the cockrels in the morning is part and parcel of noise, rather that then cars revving up!
    Take Care Martyn
    .-= Martin In Bulgaria´s last blog ..Working Before Holidays In Bulgaria =-.

  17. Hoo Don says:

    Martin a merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you and I hope you enjoy it in true rural fashion. I love the KFC morning and mourning quote although my stomach is very strong and nothing really bothers me that way. I’ll be tucking into a bucket of KFC in Thailand although just the once and it’ll be shared around. Wilai and her mama love eating with their spicy salad. Down a few beers for me.

  18. Catherine says:

    Martyn, when I did my Thanksgiving post about turkeys and Thailand, I was told that they are mighty tough. Even simmering them for hours in a pot does not improve the texture.

    Taking a stab at it… turkeys in the west are usually harvested in the cold season, after they have put fat on their bodies to stave off the weather. As that is not going to happen in Thailand, they are mere sinewy meat on bone. It is just my theory though…
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Gourmet Holiday Hampers in Thailand =-.

  19. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine – All theories and indeed fairies are welcome at Christmas time. I have got a feeling you are going to really enjoy your Christmas dinner and I hope if you want it you get a little snow as well, provided I’m out of the country first. I’m taking off at 20:40 tonight. Merry Christmas and I hope you enjoy it to the full. The UK ain’t a bad place to be this time of year.

  20. Adullamite says:

    Getting lots of presents this Christmas?
    Or are you not one to count your chickens……?
    .-= Adullamite´s last blog ..Dangerous Snow! =-.

  21. Hoo Don says:

    Adullamite – In Thailand everyday is a heaven sent present, if you have never been here then try your best to get here and sample a quality way of life. Even Craig Burley couldn’t go wrong here.

  22. john says:

    me and the wife rented a room in Thailand a few years ago in the corner next to what looked like a quiet area next to a large wall unknown to me i was within a few meters of a large cock
    no not the lady boy next door but a evil cockerel which awoke every morning at sunrise – 2 hours and drove me crazy not just because of the noise but the fact my wife could sleep throw it
    as always said if they put sleeping as gold medal contest in the next Olympics the Thais would win gold every time
    .-= john´s last blog and new year expat udon thani issan =-.

  23. Hoo Don says:

    John your stories are great and you really should recount some of them on your blog, readers would enjoy them. The cockerels do have some advantages for me in the village because if I wake up in the night and I can hear them then I know its about half four and I’ll roll over for another hour or so.

  24. I lived in an apartment in Bangkok when I was working there and the roosters used to wake me up every morning at 2am, damn things didnt know what time it was!

    I now keep my own at home in the UK and i get to sleep until 5am now hehe.

  25. Building Chicken Coops says:

    I went to Koh Samui for a long holiday and my friend that lives there got me a bunglalow for under £100 a month, I thought it was amazing until I realised the landlord of the resort was breeding fighting cocks! there must have been 20 of them making a racket every morning, but it worked out OK in the end because they had shut up by the time we came home from the parties 😉

  26. Herbalife says:

    Well personally I dont like fighting cocks. But I really am a huge fan of chicken dishes. Chicken dishes are quite a delicacy in the Asian countries especially. Tandoori chicken is really awesome. Which you guys have to try out if you haven’t already.

  27. I bet some of these roosters could give the local dogs a good fight. I miss my rooster “alarm clock” from my visits to Asia.
    .-= Sandra@therapeutic massage´s last blog ..$$$ Weight Loss $$$ – Win The Weight (new) Natural Weight Loss!!! =-.

  28. BD Live says:

    You mention the bird virus in 2004. Did this significantly curb the consumption of chicken in Thailand during that time? I would guess in the US if this happened, and 40 million chickens were killed, people would stop eating chicken pretty quickly. It would be a pr nightmare, making Oprah’s “don’t eat beef” thing seem minor in comparison.

  29. That’s really cruel if you ask me. Chicken are animals too. They need to be treated with respect.

  30. diets that work says:

    Country which got village that far from city usually still do this cock fighting. On Indonesia also have this. The owner said to the chicken “if you don’t want to be fried, then you better win” lol
    .-= diets that work´s last blog ..Losing Fat =-.

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