Bird Vain: Fantastic Fowl

Chronicle Books' "The Magnificent Chicken" celebrates the bird.
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White Leghorn Bantam Cock

White Leghorn Bantam Cock

Photo by: Image courtesy of Tamara Staples

Image courtesy of Tamara Staples

A native of Italy, the Leghorn is known for its production of a great quantity of eggs according to Chronicle Books' "The Magnificent Chicken."

"The Magnificent Chicken: Portraits of the Fairest Fowl"

"The Magnificent Chicken: Portraits of the Fairest Fowl"

Photo by: Image courtesy of Tamara Staples

Image courtesy of Tamara Staples

Chronicle Books and photographer Tamara Staples offer a virtual Miss USA pageant of good looking birds in the new book "The Magnificent Chicken."

We’ve seen portraiture of captains of industry, portraits of movie stars and presidents.

But chickens?

Photographer Tamara Staples makes a pretty convincing case that it’s a darn good idea to give the chicken its Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame in her irrepressibly charming collection of photographs: The Magnificent Chicken: Portraits of the Fairest Fowl.

Black Langshan Cockerel

Black Langshan Cockerel

Photo by: Image courtesy of Tamara Staples

Image courtesy of Tamara Staples

This elegant portrait of the Black Langshan cockerel is one of the many eclectic, fascinating images of chickens featured in photographer Tamara Staples' "The Magnificent Chicken" (Chronicle Books).

Staples’ photographs of White Showgirl bantam cockerels, Red Naked Neck large fowl cocks and Silver Sebright bantam cockerels are chicken glamour shots, devoted to the full-feather splendor of these charming chicks. The chickens themselves couldn’t be more varied, as different as a Bangladeshi cab driver is from a Park Avenue debutante. The Dark Cornish large fowl cock, for instance, with its wide-legged fighter’s stance, inky feathers and no-nonsense gaze looks like the James Cagney of chickens: all business, and ready to rumble. The Bearded Buff Laced Polish large fowl hen, meanwhile, has the haughty demeanor and extravagant French vanilla plumage of a snazzy Las Vegas showgirl. 

Bearded Buff Laced Polish Frizzle Bantam Hen

Bearded Buff Laced Polish Frizzle Bantam Hen

Photo by: Image courtesy of Tamara Staples

Image courtesy of Tamara Staples

This fluffy beauty originates in Eastern Europe. The Frizzle is one of the glorious chickens featured in Chronicle Books' "The Magnificent Chicken."

"This American Life" host Ira Glass provides a 1997 interview with Tamara Staples along with the portraits, to get you into the spirit of her photo shoots. We learn compelling details - like how Staples introduces herself by name to the birds and then proceeds to sweet talk her chicken subjects, to put them at ease. In addition to those stunning portraits The Magnificent Chicken is a crash course in the world of show chickens, with quotes from those who love them; a visual guide to feather coloring and patterns; and a run-down of what the Bible of chicken beauty, the 1874 American Standard of Perfection published by the American Poultry Association thinks amounts to real style and class in the chicken department. Matters as exacting as chicken earlobes, Staples notes, are discussed in The Standard.

Staples’ glorious birds are examples of fowl perfection as it is measured at the chicken version of dog shows -- the poultry events where chicken connoisseurs exhibit their fancy birds. Though the portraits are the eye candy, each image comes with a baseball card rundown of essential chicken stats: average weights, country of origin, feather pattern and other interesting details that may make you long to actually visit one of these chicken beauty pageants and get a real-life gander at these utterly bodacious birds.

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