Local legend is that the town was named after a group of miners decided to name it Ptarmigan after the local birds, but unable to agree on the spelling finally decided "Hell, let's just call it Chicken" (the nickname for ptarmigan).
Founded in 1886 as a gold rush town, Chicken served a remote river valley with almost 400 settlers by 1903. The Pedro Dredge, built in 1938 to mine Pedro Creek north of Fairbanks, was moved to Chicken in 1959 and used to mine 55,000 ounces of gold over the next dozen years. As the amount of remaining gold dwindled, commercial mining operators left; the Dredge was moved to its present location at the Chicken Gold Camp in 1998. While operation is now largely seasonal, a thousand acres of mining claims along the Chicken Creek remain open for temporary lease (days or weeks) to recreational part-time prospectors looking to pan for the last few bits of gold.
The vast majority of visitors will arrive by car along the gravel Taylor Highway. The road is not maintained year-round, so travel by road may be impossible once snow falls. The town also has a small dirt runway (IATA: CKX) located 0.8 miles east of the highway that is accessible to private planes year-round.
Forty Mile Air, Mile 1313 Alaska Highway, Tok, Alaska 99780, ☎ , fax: +1 907 883-5194. leaves Tok 12:30 Tu Fr, arrives Chicken 13:00, leaves 13:15 for Tok. Twice-weekly airline service to Chicken International Airport with flag stops at Eagle and Boundary. Price includes 30 lbs baggage per passenger. $80/person each way.
There are 3 businesses in Chicken: "Chicken Gold Camp & Outpost", "Downtown Chicken" and the "Goldpanner". The first two are located a short distance off of the highway on the Airport Road spur road. The Goldpanner gift shop is located along the Taylor highway.
Given the town's small size (the official population was 38 in 2002) the most obvious way to get around is by foot. Those unwilling to walk the short distances between the town's three businesses may want to ask themselves what they're doing in the wilds of Alaska!
Pedro Gold Dredge #4 (located at the Chicken Gold Camp/Chicken Creek Outpost). This gold dredge operated on Chicken Creek from 1959 until 1967, and was previously used on Pedro Creek outside of Fairbanks. The Pedro Dredge is a National Historic Site and is open to daily tours. It is one of the most complete Alaska gold dredges, an example of the type of equipment used to mine the area's gold deposits.
- Tisha's School House. Abandoned 1920's schoolhouse originally run by teacher Anne Hobbs Purdy, author of "Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness" (1976) and "Dark Boundary" (1954). Tours 9am and 2pm daily (summer only) from Goldpanner to the town and schoolhouse.
- Chicken Gold Camp & Outpost $10 to $50/day for mining activities and $30 for 1/2 day kayak rentals. Gold panning and recreational mining are provided on their claims for daily fees. Rental equipment, kayaking adventures on the nearby Fortymile River. Daily tours of the Pedro Dredge and museum, a National Historic Site.
Chickenstock Music Festival, ☎ . Two-day annual gathering of global ‘chickenites” and ‘chickenuts’ and local bluegrass music, mid-June, since 2007. Pack up your ‘nest’, ‘comb’ your feathers and come ‘strut’ your stuff in the midnight sun.
- Goldpanner offers recreational gold panning on their claim on Chicken Creek.
Chicken Creek Café, Saloon and Mercantile Emporium, Airport Road (Downtown Chicken).
Goldpanner Gift Shop, ☎ . T-shirts, postcards, jewellery, furs, souvenirs, ice cream, soda, coffee, fudge, gas, diesel, wi-fi.
The Outpost (Chicken Creek Outpost), at the Chicken Gold Camp, ☎ . 7:30am-7:30pm. Alaska Made clothing, jewelry, art, pottery, hand-made knives and ulus, children's gifts and clothing, t-shirts, hats, Native arts, crafts carvings and clothing, ivory, gold, hand-dipped ice cream, smoothies, espresso, beer & wine.
- Chicken Creek Café Pies, buffalo burgers, reindeer bratwurst, potato salad and baked wild Alaskan salmon.
- Chicken Gold Camp & Outpost Café with fresh baked scones, egg soufflés, deli style paninis, soup du jour, BBQ chicken, ice cream, espresso and other beverage concoctions.
- Chicken Creek Saloon. Best bar in town. Only bar in town.
Chicken Creek RV Park, at Goldpanner shop, ☎ , fax: +1 925-226-4066. Campground beside Chicken Creek, wi-fi, firewood. Store with local gold jewellery, ice cream, t-shirts, fuel station, walking tours thru historical Chicken, goldpanning.
Chicken Gold Camp & Outpost, 1/4 mile Airport Rd, ☎ . (winter), (summer)Camping on 50 sites with hookups and amenities including free wireless internet, free firewood, BBQ pits, picnic pavilion, dump station, potable water and access to public restrooms and pay-showers. Offers cabins for up to six or rooms with two single beds, propane heat, free wireless internet, kitchenettes, and access to public restrooms and pay-showers. Daily tours of the Pedro Dredge, gold panning and recreational mining on their claims. Tours of an active gold mine available. camping: $28/night with hookup, $14night without, lodging: starting at $90/night cabins (double occupancy)..
There is one small post office in Chicken, Alaska 99732 which receives mail twice weekly. As Chicken is off the grid, there is no telephone exchange or other utility service in the area. Any Internet access, presumably, is via satellite. Internet telephony may suffice to get a call through, using phone numbers from some other community closer to the beaten path.