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6 things you didn’t know about the Big Chicken

The Big Chicken is one of Atlanta’s great landmarks. But there’s a lot you might not know about the 56-foot-tall structure.

1. It was not built for a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.

S.R. "Tubby" Davis built it for his eatery called Johnny Reb's Chick, Chuck 'N Shake in 1956 at 12 Cobb Parkway in Marietta. Highway 41 had just been built. He thought it was a great way to advertise. In 1966, Davis sold the restaurant to his brother, who turned it into a KFC franchise.

(Photo by Bob Andres)

2. Prior to GPS, it was used for directions in Marietta and is mentioned in a video game.

Anyone who drove before the days of GPS in Marietta knows it, but before GPS, drivers relied on maps, road signs, landmarks and stopping at gas stations to ask for help (well, maybe not male drivers.) In Marietta, directions virtually always included the Big Chicken. Ask anyone for directions in Marietta today and the Big Chicken will still likely be included.

According to AARP, Rock Band 3's "Road Challenge Mode" references that fact, "Don't be alarmed if you're asking for directions in the bus and the locals tell you to 'turn left at the Big Chicken.'"

(Photo by Marlene Karas AJC Archives)

3. It was nearly torn down, but public outcry, including that from airplane pilots, saved it.

In 1993, a bad windstorm hit the Big Chicken. Combined with deterioration over the years, Kentucky Fried Chicken planned to tear it down. The public was not having it. There was a rally to save the chicken and the Cobb County Government noted that pilots even voiced their displeasure with the plan, saying they used the building as a reference when landing in Atlanta and at Dobbins. The company changed its plan and decided to rebuild.

During the rebuild, there was talk that the new chicken would be contemporary and distinctively female. That didn't fly. (Photo by Nelson Hicks/

4. The renovated Big Chicken was going to be distinctly female.

When Kentucky Fried Chicken decided to rebuild the Big Chicken in 1994, the company considered making the new Big Chicken look much more feminine. Eventually, KFC changed its mind.

5. The chicken's eyes and beak broke windows.

In 1964, the original motor that powered the chicken's eyes and beak caused so much vibration that all the windows shattered in the restaurant.

(Photo courtesy of The Big Chicken Chorus)

6. There is a Big Chicken Chorus.

The chorus is a chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society and was founded in 1986. Its founder, Bill Schreiner, suggested the chorus adopt the name of the famous landmark. The group’s logo features the Big Chicken with barber pole stripes and they’ve performed at the restaurant.

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