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The surprisingly complicated history of chickens in Counter-Strike

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is an outstanding esport, and deservedly recognized as the top competitive shooter on the market. But despite the community’s best efforts, it didn’t quite make the shortlist for Steam’s coveted Best Use Of A Farm Animal award.  

If you’ve ever fired up CS:GO's deathmatch mode, you’ve probably noted an epidemic of chickens plaguing the server. Relegated to target practice in most players' minds, it’s about time these long-running birds got the recognition they deserve. From zombification to the time a chicken got a professional player killed, let's reflect on the ways our feathered friends have embedded themselves in Counter-Strike’s history.

Festive feathers

With the changing of the seasons, so too comes the inevitable swathe of holiday updates for our favourite online games. But where others run huge events, reworking levels or modes and adding unique player skins, CS:GO has, well, chickens. Since Halloween 2013, Valve has patched the little mascots to match the mood, festooning chickens with all manner of spooky or festive gear. Starting with an adorable, bed-sheet ghost costume, chickens have donned Christmas jumpers, pumpkin heads, antlers and more.

Each update included its own quirks, from bunnyhopping chickens at Easter, to death-confetti for CS:GO’s anniversary. The most impressive change came on Halloween 2014, when patch notes ominously listed: “When there’s no more room in chicken hell...” Players soon discovered that chickens no longer remained dead when shot, rising from the grave in ghoulish green to stalk both the battlefield and your nightmares. Okay, it was mostly adorable, but they’re trying their best.

A history of hens

Counter-Strike’s love-hate affair with these iconic birds stretches far back to the days of CS 1.6, where two chickens could be found feeding in cs_italy’s market. These early birds were incapable of moving, pecking on the spot until killed. However, despite their limitations, players quickly took a shine to them. Chickens returned in Condition Zero’s singleplayer, Deleted Scenes, which contained two hidden chickens as easter eggs. Sadly, upon the release of Counter-Strike: Source in 2004, the popular birds were nowhere to be found, and Counter-Strike’s mascot appeared to be plucked from the game forever. Until the 2012 launch of CS:GO. 

The long-awaited return was a clear point of celebration to the development team, who announced their appearance before release. It’s clear to see why, as the bold little birds had come far in the transition. Free-range, chickens could roam the map and react to player shots/movement. Now found on the competitive Inferno, Cobblestone, Italy, Militia and Rush maps, chickens will also spawn anywhere during deathmatch, and even score 1 point when killed. In homage to 1.6’s originals, two butchered chickens can be found hanging in Italy’s market.  Take a look through the offices of the updated Nuke, and you’ll find a message informing staff to “stop letting chickens in the facility.” Since release, chickens have also been included in many of the game’s Operations, requesting the player eliminate them through a variety of means. Even CS:GO’s bots appear to take umbrage at their smaller companions, voicing their disgust.

Valve has done much to accommodate the influx, patching a henhouse into Inferno’s T-side spawn, and even allowing players to claim chickens as their own. Press E on a chicken and she’ll follow you until death, even teleporting to spawn if she survives the round. When killed, your period of ownership is reported, letting you remember the good times spent together. 

Fowl play

The inclusion of livestock to the competitive world was always a risky proposition, and on more than one occasion they’ve interfered with professional play. When first added, chickens would run away and squawk when approached. In Dreamhack Winter 2013, this led to the death of Recursive’s star sniper kennyS, when a fleeing chicken caused his opponent to fire early.

Professional AWPers are trained to react with split-second timing, and the unwitting bird triggered Skadoodle to fire right as kenny prepared to peek, killing him through the corner of a wall.

When Keyd Stars faced rampageKillers in the R1SECUP, 2015, Fallen found himself a personal chicken bodyguard, casually blocking SHOOWTiME’s sight to soften the blow. Unfortunately, rampageKillers went on to win the round, proving this bird’s sacrifice in vain.

Following a number of professional’s complaints, Valve eventually patched chickens, reducing their responsiveness to player movement and the volume of their clucks, citing professional suggestions in the patch notes. When asked directly, however, professional opinions are mixed. While some only want to save their feathered brethren, others simple want to kill them all. Despite the complaints, some chickens still take that extra step for attention.

The popularity of chickens with the game’s fanbase has inspired a plethora of entertaining fan art, in-game stickers, videos, and even mods. 1.6’s chicken attack mod transformed one side into bloodthirsty birds intent on pecking the opposition to death. Global Offensive’s offerings gave players the chance to race chickens, or attempt to defuse bombs strapped to them.

Source Filmmaker and the Saxxy awards sparked the creation of some amusing chicken clips, most notably the 2014 entrant, Defuse on the Fly (above), by Deviant Pictures Films. 

It would seem, however, that chickens don’t want to be limited to just canon fodder. Chiken, a silver ranked player, has gained legendary status by infiltrating not only a large number of big CS:GO streamers, but even a LAN tournament semi-final. Joining the lobbies, the infamous Chiken was initially friendly, stating that he only wanted to play. However, following the inevitable kicking that followed, chiken has become more ominous, finally leaving the message: “This is only the beginning.” With security measures tightened up, the return of chiken at future events remains to be seen. 

The inclusion of comedic birds in an otherwise realistically-themed competitive shooter has helped highlight the fun in what can often be a very silly game. So next time you see a chicken on the battlefield, think twice before you end its life.