The goal for each team is to score as many runs as possible.
Nominate one team to start as the batting team, and the other as the fielding team.
To start, one person from the batting team will toss the rubber chicken anywhere in the designated playing space.
The fielding team will quickly retrieve the chicken, form a straight line, and pass the bird over the first person’s head, and then under the second person’s legs, and so on down the line.
When the last fielding team member grabs the chicken, he/she yells “STOP.”
Meanwhile, the batting team members huddle closely together, while one of their group runs around their team as many times as possible.
Every full rotation the runner makes around their team before the fielding team yells “STOP,” earns the batting team one point.
The fielding team then tosses the chicken to another spot, and the batting and fielding roles reverse.
The game is over after five innings, 15 minutes, or when your group is exhausted.
Video Transcript for Chicken Baseball presented by Nate Folan
Two teams, and we’re going to engage in an American pastime that has certainly travelled around the world, the game of baseball.
There’ll be a batting team and a fielding team. The batting team’s ultimate goal is trying to score runs. The fielding team is to field, not a ball but in this case a rubber monkey, often times a rubber chicken or another animal, something… another rubber animal that you could toss. Right?
What will happen is the batting team is going to throw this rubber monkey any direction, any distance that they want.
When they do that they’re going to clump up in a real tight clump of people. One person is going to run laps around that clump and they’re going to try to score as many runs as they can. Each time they run a lap around their team, one run. Got it?
Fielding team is going to run to wherever the rubber monkey has landed, create a straight line. First person there is going to pick it up. They’re going to go over their head, under their legs, over the head, right down the line to the last person.
When the last person gets it they’re simply going to toss any direction, any distance and the teams will flip flop sides. The fielding team will become the batting team and the batting team becomes a fielding team.
Let’s do a slow demo. Once we get through one rotation the game will start instantly. Alright? So if you’re the batting team, anyone want to give this a toss? Any direction, any distance.
(So we’re the batting team.)
Nice. So you’re going to clump up. Nice.
Clump up. Clump up. Clump up and run. Nice.
Nice. Come on in a little bit closer. You’re totalling your runs. Some groups care to total their runs, others don’t, and we’ll talk about that but it seems like it was important to you. So how many runs did you have?
(We only did it because they were doing it.)
So it’s them. They did it.
(We got fifteen.)
Okay, so you dare to go first. How many did you get?
See? Now ultimately do counting runs matter in this game?
No. What matters?
Having fun, laughter… What else?
(Build the energy)
Get the heart rate up. Move the energy a little bit. What was that?
(Putting forth a good effort.)
Putting forth a good effort. Great, yeah.
(And talk to each other.)
Talking to each other.
(Coordinating our effort.)
There was a lot of talking. Help me with your name again.
Brent. Brent, in that moment of confusion… this instant confusion with this activity sometimes. They say run, Brent, and Brent runs away from the group. But where? No, no, no. Over here. So lots of communication…
How To Play Narrative
You need two teams, so take a look at Getting Into Teams for some fun ways to do this. It’s helpful if the number of people on each team is even, but not critical.
Announce that over several rounds, each team will have the opportunity to score as many runs as possible. Naturally, the team with the most runs wins. Typical baseball stuff.
However, that’s where the typical stops. Explain that one team will start as the ‘batting’ team, and their only task is to toss the rubber chicken anywhere within the designated perimeters of your playing space.
Once the chicken is despatched, instruct all batting team members to huddle as close together as possible, and have one of their team members to run around the outside of the huddle as many times as possible. Indeed, they should keep running, counting each full rotation, until the other team, the fielding team, yells “STOP.”
As you may have guessed, every full rotation of the runner around their team earns the batting team one point. No fractions, they’re too hard to add up.
Now, while all this running is going on, the fielding team’s primary task is to gather the far-flung chicken, form a single-file line and start to pass the bird over the first person’s head, and then under the legs of the person behind them, over the third person’s head, and so on.
The bird is passed all the way down the line in this up and down manner until the final team member grabs it and yells “STOP.” At which point, the fielding team tosses the chicken anywhere they choose, and the batting and fielding roles reverse.
Play for a designated number of rounds (where both teams have batted the same number of times.) Or, if the energy and interest hasn’t waned, continue until the fatigue really starts to set in.
The team with the most runs wins, but in my experience, most people are so pooped at the end, very few care too much to ask.
Practical Leadership Tips
A rubber chicken works best. If you use a ball, it tends to roll away and slow the game down, exhausting everyone quicker than is necessary.
Also, try to find a very open, wide field in which to play. This provides ample space in which to toss the chicken which causes your group to run even further.
If the chicken goes out-of-bounds, set up a sideline throw, or determine an appropriate ‘penalty.’
My suggestion – if your teams are smaller than six people, play as many rounds as there are people. Otherwise, limit the number of rounds your group plays, unless you have a particularly athletic group.
Naturally, as this exercise involves teams, you may wish to encourage a short group discussion at the end (as everyone is catching their breaths) to explore what worked and didn’t work in each of the teams.
For those who love trivia, in some parts of the world, such as Australia, a chicken is called a ‘chook.’
You could integrate Chicken Baseball as part of a well-designed SEL program to help establish and promote healthy and positive relationships in your group.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Setting Personal & Group Goals
Use Planning & Organisational Skills
Build Positive Relationships
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits of a good dose of physical exercise and a good laugh.
In a small way, you could argue that the team skills required to successfully play Chicken Baseball may leverage certain healthy behavioural norms. For example, the effort required to retrieve the chicken and pass it under/over the bodies of all members of a team in the most efficient and speedy manner takes some coordination. To this end, you may wish to invite your group to reflect on certain skills such as leadership, followership, initiative, and planning to squeeze even more value from the activity.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which this highly energetic game could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
New Runner: Add the rule that each team must choose a different runner to score runs for each innings. Same goes for the person who tosses the chicken.
Exercise Runs: Involving more athleticism, instruct the batting team to perform some type of exercise, such as jumping jacks or push-ups, while their team member runs around the outside of them.
Kicker: The batting team kicks a ball (eg soccer ball) forward of a prescribed line, and proceeds to run around the rest of their group three times. If the kicker completes three full rotations of their team before the receiving team collects the ball and passes it under all of their legs (tunnel-ball style) then the batting team scores a point. If the receiving team completes their task quicker, then no points are awarded to the batting team.
Different Tossable: Use a rubber or foam ball, or whatever soft tossable you have at your disposal.
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Useful Framing Ideas
We’re going to play a game of baseball. This version of baseball has two teams and each team aims to score as many runs as possible, but that’s where the similarities stop…
You figure you’ve got lots of energy, right? Then, try to keep up with this next exercise…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this highly energetic game:
What were some of your team’s best strategies to score as many runs as possible?
What did you learn during the exercise?
Did you cheat, or perhaps bend the rules? Is this okay? When is it not okay?
The inspiration for Chicken Baseball was from Karl Rohnke, who first demonstrated this fun, run-around, sport-like activity during my internship with Project Adventure in 1990.