Spring Hill’s World Championship Chicken Plucking Contest

Spring Hill first appeared on Hernando County Maps in the mid-1800s along what is today Fort Dade Avenue just north of the community of Wiscon.

The modern Spring Hill was founded in 1967 as a planned community,   developed by the Deltona Corporation and built by the Mackle Brothers. The plans for the community are identical to the community of Deltona, Florida.

Spring Hill opening
The Deltona Corporation and the Mackle Brothers founded Spring Hill as a census designated area in 1967.

The Mackle Brothers sold many of the properties in the area through intense advertising. They would advertise to New Yorkers, fly them to the area and sign them up for a nice winter or retirement home. This highly effective sales tactic is still practiced today. One of the techniques the Deltona Corporation used to get attention to the Spring Hill community was a fun PR stunt:

The World Championship Chicken-Plucking Contest

Until 1995, Spring Hill was the home of the World Championship Chicken-Plucking Contest.

chicken plucking contest
Fortune. Crowd gathered for a chicken plucking contest – Spring Hill, Florida. 1973. Black & white photoprint, 3 x 3 in. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

The idea started as a gimmick by the Deltona Corp. Over the years the event morphed into a fundraiser for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10209.

For more than 30 years, in little ole Spring Hill, here’s what happened on the first Saturday in October:

Chicken choirMembers of the Spring Hill Presbyterian Church choir, dressed in rubber beaks and formal wear – called the Chicken Concerto – clucked in harmony to songs like the William Tell Overture.

 

And then there was the Miss Drumstick Contest. Women and adolescent girls wore burlap bags over their upper bodies – with slits at their eyes so they could see – and were judged on the shapeliness of their legs.

Then an Evil Kchicken, a guy dressed up like a chicken, might attempt to leap across Lake Hunter on pedal-powered sky cycle.

Evil Kchicken
Arthur Lartz bought one of the first homes in Spring Hill in 1968. He was Evil Kchicken!

And let us not forget the main event, the chicken plucking contest. Individual and teams competed by plucking parboiled chickens. Whomever cleaned the birds best in the shortest time won. The chickens were brought in from a nearby farm, killed just before the event, and scalded in boiling water to loosen the feathers. After the contest, the carcasses are given to the owner of an alligator farm in Citrus County. And world records were set!

In 1976, Plucker Emeritus Dorothy McCarthy was a member of the Mother Pluckers who made it into the 1978 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records as the world record holder for the fastest three-chicken plucking time: 32.9 seconds. McCarthy was 40 years old at the time.

chicken pluckers

As Richard Elzey describes it, “The crowd went wild. Feathers flew. Sometimes there was blood.”

It was usually over in less than a minute.

After the awards were handed out, people went on with eating their chicken dinners, drinking a wishbone fizz concoction and topped the day with some “chicken bones” ice cream.

In 1995, The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida demonstrated successfully outside the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10209, essentially causing the end to this 25 year “tradition,” according to the Fall/Winter 1995 issue of Poultry Press.

Spring Hill before the planned community was built.
Spring Hill before the planned community was built.

Spring Hill has definitely grown up over the past 20 years since the World Champion Chicken Plucking Contest was abandoned as a PR stunt and then fundraising tool.  There are chain restaurants and stores, and a couple of years ago a fight to be allowed to have chickens in your back yard for egg production. Still, it’s good to be silly and have fun here on Florida’s Nature Coast.

Some of the information and images for this article appear courtesy of Richard Elzey of Spring Hill.