Perhaps our city’s nickname should be The City That’s Too Busy to Properly Dispose of Chicken Bones. Because they’re all over Atlanta’s streets—and sidewalks and parks.
“I stepped on one pumping gas today,” says Atlanta magazine’s own marketing director, Jenn Agnew.
“That looks like the Miller Union parking lot on Sunday morning after Compound closes,” said chef Steven Satterfield when shown this photo.
Instagram and Tumblr accounts have been chronicling the phenomenon for years. @Wingsofatl launched in May 2014. Atlanta’s former design director, Liz Noftle, began documenting the detritus under the hashtag #atlantachickenbones later that year.
“I moved from Boston to Atlanta and just started seeing the bones everywhere,” she says. “I (sadly) never see them in Chicago, where I live now.”
Others joined in over time. And then, on March 18, two chicken bone photograph archivists launched an unofficial official Instagram account: @randomchickenbonesofatl. We had to find out who they were and what inspires their passion.
So you’re both male?
Speaker 1: Yeah, two dudes. Beyond that, we don’t really want our names or identities out there.
Speaker 2: As soon as you put a face, race, or age to this, the whole message and point gets misconstrued.
So why did you start this thing?
Speaker 1: It’s kind of dumbfounding how many chicken bones there are everywhere here. It’s like nowhere else. I lived in Chicago. You don’t see it there. I’ve lived in Chattanooga—it’s not there, either. The other thing is they aren’t centralized to one area, like [just] Old Fourth Ward or Georgia Tech. It goes everywhere. That shit’s deep.
Do you scout for chicken bones in different neighborhoods or do you just photograph them as you go?
Speaker 1: As I’m living, I’ll just see them. That’s the best time to do it.
Speaker 2: He skates a lot. So I mean, as you’re skating, they’re everywhere.
Speaker 1: I went out today skating and I saw a couple and took pictures of them.
Speaker 2: It just happens. That’s kind of the best part about it: none of it’s really forced.
Is there any significance to the launch date, March 18?
Speaker 1: You don’t know how far back this has gone! Four years ago, when we first came down to Atlanta, we were just sending pictures to each other—texting and Snapchat—and then I guess we got drunk one night and were just like, “What if we put this on Instagram?”
Speaker 2: Atlanta needs it.
Speaker 1: Yeah, the city needs it.
Where are you from?
Speaker 1: Uh, from like, the Roswell area.
Speaker 2: But I’m from the streets, you feel me? Don’t discredit me!
Speaker 1: We had a struggle. We had a struggle.
I just moved here from New York City, so I have no cred in the South, so far.
Speaker 1: What’s the bone game like there?
I’ve seen seen an errant chicken bone or two, but not quite this number and variety.
Speaker 2: It’s like it rains them.
Speaker 1: It was one of the first things I noticed [when I came to Atlanta]. You turn any corner, you look at your feet, and you will see a chicken bone—on every street! It’s crazy.
Speaker 2: You’ll see them on the corner of every building.
Why are they so prevalent?
Speaker 2: I’m guilty, I drop chicken bones all the time.
Speaker 1: People are hustling. That’s the other thing, people have places to be. They don’t have time to lounge around and work on their chicken. We’re always on the go.
Why so much chicken?
Speaker 1: It’s Atlanta. We love chicken. We love fried chicken, we love chicken wings, we just . . . I don’t know. It’s just a thing. Everyone has wings.
Speaker 2: [Georgia]’s the number one producer of poultry. I guess that’s [part of it].
Do just the two of you take all the photos?
Speaker 1: Yeah. But I’ve gotten so many submissions, it’s kind of stupid.
Speaker 2: Yeah, there have been a lot of submissions recently. But all their angles suck.
What makes a good angle?
Speaker 2: It’s almost like a dinner plate. You know how chefs will have that overhead picture? It’s almost like an urban buffet staring right back at you.
Who is that in your Instagram profile photo?
Speaker 1: That’s just from a random YouTube video. We have received some flak for it, but people take it way too seriously. At the end of the day, we’re just posting pictures of chicken on the street.
Why did you get flak?
Speaker 1: Because it’s of a black guy eating chicken.
Speaker 2: I’m black, by the way, so I’m can completely defend this. It’s just a screenshot of a random fucking YouTube video.
Speaker 1: And if someone feels that upset about it, I’m sorry, but I’m not trying to offend anybody. Everybody’s responsible for all these bones everywhere. It’s not one person or group of people. It’s our culture here in Atlanta, and that’s kind of what makes it the best, because anybody can drop chicken bones here.
Have you dropped chicken bones?
Speaker 2: Oh, for sure!
Speaker 1: We drop chicken bones all the time, come on. We’re always on the go.
Isn’t that littering?
Speaker 2: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
So you love chicken . . .
Speaker 2: For sure.
Speaker 1: We had wings the other night, at Hooters. I didn’t want to go at first, but . . .
Speaker 2: He didn’t want to go, but we made him go for the wings, and they were actually delicious. But Jack’s Pizza and Wings? Great wings!
Speaker 1: That’s true, they just take forever.
Speaker 2: Their service is awful.
Speaker 1: Oh, the Local has good wings. That’s a good Monday night wings spot. And they do karaoke, too.
Why do you think people are into @randomchickenbonesofatl?
Speaker 1: We live in a meme culture! Content with knowledge or information is not relevant to people; they’re just scrolling real quick on social media. They’re like, “Oh, chicken wings. That’s funny.”
Why chicken bones? Why not gum stuck to the sidewalk?
Speaker 1: ‘Cause they’re everywhere!
Speaker 2: I’m literally staring out the window right now, and I guarantee you I see one under this tree.
Do you spot them more often now that you’re looking for them?
Speaker 1: Oh, I’m conditioned to it.
Speaker 2: We have the eagle eye now. Our bird’s eye view on this shit.
What are your plans for the future?
Speaker 1: Until Mayor Kasim Reed figures out why this is happening, we’re going to keep documenting it. We’re bringing this to Capitol Hill! I want answers!
Speaker 2: Yeah. I want to get to the fucking bottom of why there are so many chicken bones.
Speaker 1: If I saw a UFO flying over us, I wouldn’t even care. I just want to know what’s up with these chicken bones.
Update 3/30/17: Instagram account @wingsofatl began posting chicken bones in May 2014. We’ve updated this story to reflect.