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The Big Chicken

Standing proudly at the intersection of Cobb Parkway and Roswell Road, “The Big Chicken” is an iconic Marietta landmark. The towering 56-foot-tall steel-sided structure is a stylized rooster, complete with a moving beak and eyes, that overlooks a KFC restaurant.

The Big Chicken was built in 1963 for a restaurant called Johnny Reb’s Chick-Chuck-‘N’-Shake (see below). The owner, Stanley Reginald “Tubby” Davis, had opened the restaurant in 1956 and later commissioned the construction of the five story tall Big Chicken as a way to advertise his eatery. Davis earned the nickname “Tubby” due to his feats of devouring whole buckets (tubs) of chicken.  The Big Chicken was designed by Hubert Puckett, a Georgia Tech student of architecture, and fabricated by Atlantic Steel.

Big Chicken Ad
Big Chicken Ad from the early 1960’s. “Picnic Fried Chicken – Ready to Go!”

The restaurant featured “Dixie Fried Chicken, by the sack, by the box, by the barrel.  Eat it in your car or take it home.  Try our new taste in hamburgers, our own Johnny Reb’s Chuck burgers.  Other tantalizers include our creamy rich milk shakes, cheese chucks, dressed hotdogs, fried pies, banana splits, homemade ice cream.”

The Big Chicken in the 1960’s before it was a KFC

Soon after it was complete, the 56-foot tall towering landmark became a reference point and local favorite, and phrases like “turn left at the big chicken” or “just one mile south of the big chicken” became common.  “I wanted to build it as high as I could to attract customers,” said Tubby. “I had no idea it would become a landmark.”

In 1966, just three years after construction of the big chicken, Davis transferred ownership of the restaurant to his brother, Arthur Terrell Davis. A.T. Davis operated one of his Davis House cafeterias at this site. At the time, Colonel Sanders licensed his 11 herbs and spices secret recipe to other restaurants that also served their own unique dishes, and Davis House was among the initial establishments allowed to serve Kentucky Fried Chicken.

In 1974, the location became a franchise of KFC.  KFC’s leadership, Colonel Sanders included, wanted to dismantle the Big Chicken to align the restaurant with their corporate branding. Colonel Sanders thought the restaurant should promote him, not a chicken. However, the Colonel changed his mind after learning that the Marietta restaurant was the busiest KFC franchise in the world at the time. This decision secured the Big Chicken’s place as a landmark, with many believing it would remain indefinitely. Yet, unforeseen circumstances would later arise, as nature had different intentions.

In early January of 1993, a severe winter storm hit Cobb County, tearing off metal sheets from the Big Chicken and leaving the famous landmark with significant damage. Afterward, engineers found the structure to be in dire condition, leading to a January 15th, 1993 announcement that the Big Chicken would be demolished. This decision was met with strong opposition from the Marietta and Atlanta community.

Responding to the outcry, evidenced by nearly 10,000 calls and letters from locals, KFC realized demolition wasn’t a viable option. On January 27, 1993, KFC’s Vice President Chuck Rawley announced the company’s commitment to invest up to $200,000 for a new landmark, ensuring the Big Chicken would “fly again.” The reconstruction commenced swiftly, and during the reconstruction, pieces of the original structure were sold to collectors as souvenirs.  The restaurant reopened in 1994, thus preserving the beloved landmark for future generations.

The Big Chicken in Marietta
The Big Chicken after the 1993 restoration.

2017 Restoration:

The Big Chicken underwent a $2 million renovation again in 2017, updating the logo as well as the interior and exterior, adding a gift shop, and adding a voice to the beloved bird – tune in to 820 AM to hear deep thoughts from the previously silent rooster.

The Big Chicken today.

The Big Chicken is located at the intersection of Cobb Parkway (U.S. Highway Route 41) and Roswell Road (Georgia State Route 120 Loop). Inside, you’ll find a small history museum as well as a unique gift shop for those interested in purchasing souvenirs, distinguishing it as the only KFC location with its own gift shop. Alternatively, the Marietta History Center is also a great place to visit for an expanded selection of Big Chicken merchandise.

Kentucky Fried Chicken – The Big Chicken
12 Cobb Parkway N
Marietta GA 30062
(770) 422-4716

The Big Chicken sign.
The Big Chicken side entrance.
The Big Chicken front right view.
The Big Chicken exterior front view.
The Big Chicken left front view.
The Big Chicken entrance.
The Big Chicken interior.
The Big Chicken interior featuring Colonel Sanders.

Colonel Sanders – The Original Celebrity Chef.
The Big Chicken interior decor.
"Turn at the Big Chicken, you can't miss it" Sign
The Big Chicken interior décor.

The Big Chicken store.
The Big Chicken exit.
The drive through and back of the Big Chicken.

Did you know:

  • There was once a peach orchard where the Big Chicken now stands.
  • The land was purchased by the Frey family, who, in addition to the orchard along Roswell Rd, owned a cotton gin located near what is now the Big Chicken.  The road that farmers would take to get to the cotton gin is now known as Frey’s Gin Rd – just down the street from the Big Chicken.
  • When the road formerly known as “4-Lane” was changed to “Cobb Parkway” the Big Chicken’s address changed from “100 N. 4-Lane Hwy” to “12 Cobb Pkwy N.”
  • Stanley Reginald “Tubby” Davis and Arthur T. Davis were the Davis Brothers who collectively operated 20 Davis Bros cafeterias, 143 Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises, 12 smorgasbords, four in-plant food service operations, and 14 motor lodges.
  • Johnny Reb’s Chick-Chuck-‘N’-Shake opened on Friday, May 17, 1963 at 5pm.  Before that, it was a home to a Miss Georgia Dairy in the early ’60s and a Zesto Ice Cream in the mid to late ’50s.  That Zesto Ice Cream was owned by franchisee John Livaditis, and in November and December, when ice cream sales were slow, John began selling Christmas trees in the parking lots of his ice cream stores.  His tree business eventually became known as as Big John’s Christmas Trees. 70+ years later, Big John Livaditis’ family still runs the Christmas tree business in locations throughout metro Atlanta, as well as three remaining Zesto’s locations in East Atlanta, Forest Park, and Buckhead.
Cobb County, early 1900s. Will and Kate Frey in a peach orchard, on Roswell Road.  via https://dlg.usg.edu/record/dlg_vang_cob016
Johnny Rebs Restaurant
There was also a Johnny Reb’s in Atlanta. “Johnny Reb’s – Featuring Confederate Fried Chicken …served with an authentic Civil War atmosphere with true Southern Hospitality – Yankees Welcome.”

The other Big Chicken in Georgia:

In 2019, the small town of Fitzgerald in south Georgia announced that they were building a slightly bigger chicken.  Mayor Jim Puckett said that the Fitzgerald Chicken would be a wire framed topiary reaching 62ft in height, making it the world’s largest topiary chicken.  The creation was designed by a Tennessee sculptor known as Topiary Joe, and was designed to contain a bed-and-breakfast inside the topiary chicken. The project cost was estimated to be about $150,000, but reportedly more than doubled in price before work was stopped in late 2021.  Soon after that, Mayor Puckett was voted out of office. The new mayor, Mayor Jason Holt, stated in early 2022 that a committee would be formed to decide the fate of the new chicken.  Eventually they decided to leave it unfinished as is, plant tall grass around the base of the statue to resemble a nest, and install benches and a fence to turn the area into a new park.

I think we’re done with oversized animals
– Mayor Jason Holt, 2023.

Big Chicken Church:

Church by the Sea was built in the 1940’s and features a central tower with circular windows – features that just happen to look a bit like a chicken.

Big Chick-fil-A:

A Chick-fil-A opened just across the street from The Big Chicken on January 12, 2022.  The competing chicken restaurant is located at 1110 Roswell Rd, Marietta, GA 30062.