May 12, 2022

#187 Flying the Coop

by Reply All

Background show artwork for Reply All

A community of chicken lovers faces an unlikely foe.


TIM HOWARD: Reply All is brought to you by dark matter. You know that feeling when the galaxy you’re in spirals together in a kind of harmony, rather than just flinging off into the outer reaches of the universe? That’s thanks to the massive gravitational pull of dark matter. And even though we can’t see or touch it or even detect it…we like it. Alright, here are the rest of the ads.

EMMANUEL DZOTSI: From Gimlet, this is Reply All. I’m Emmanuel Dzotsi.

ALEX GOLDMAN: And I’m Alex Goldman.

EMMANUEL: Hey, Alex.


EMMANUEL: Uh, we are joined today, uh, by someone we are never joined by—our editor, the mysterious Tim Howard.

TIM: Hey, guys.

ALEX: Hey, man. What’s going on?

TIM: Hello.

EMMANUEL: So what do you have for us?

TIM: I am very excited to say that I have a story for you today.


TIM: So I heard from this listener named Iris.

TIM: Um, where are you?

IRIS: I am in Des Moines, Iowa, so.

TIM: Ah, cool.

IRIS: Exotic.


TIM: She had written us a very delightful email about something just absurd that had happened in this Facebook group devoted to backyard chickens. 



TIM: So, Iris said like a couple years ago, she was in grad school, and she had this friend from Oregon who had started chicken farming in their backyard. And her friend would always tell her about it and like, send her pictures. So, Iris started to be like, “Oh, maybe I want to get into chicken farming.”

TIM: What was your chicken dream? What did it look like?

IRIS: Well, at the time, I was cooking very little meat and a lot of eggs. So I was like, oh, well, I’m buying the really expensive eggs at the grocery store, so what if I just had five chickens one day? You know, like, how fun would that be? 

TIM: And so, when she was looking into chickens, she came across this Facebook group. It was called Backyard Chickens. She joined it.

(rooster crow) 


TIM: Backyard Chickens is a huge group. It’s like 90,000-ish people. 

FEMALE: Amber’s such a sweetie. That’s Cotton. Hi, Ziggy [crosstalk] down there.

MALE: I added 15 new chicky babies to the flock today. Five…

TIM: It’s a really interesting mix. You have like, suburbanites, off-the-gridders, librarians, teachers, tech people—

MALE: [Speaking foreign language] 

TIM: … all these people all over the world who are getting to live out their farm homesteading dream with their little flock of birds behind their house.

MALE: I have turned into this guy—the guy who sits in a rocking chair at night holding his chicken.

TIM: So, they’re posting their corny chicken memes, their chicken videos, chicken love.

FEMALE: I know, I know you want hug…okay ready hug! Oh hug! Ready, want another one?

TIM: Uh, a lot of them are doing it for the first time, like Jessica Arroyo.

JESSICA ARROYO: Um, I guess you could call me a city girl. Um.

TIM: Okay.

JESSICA: And I had not ever been around anyone with chickens ever before. Never. [TIM laughs]

TIM: Jessica said she landed on this page, and it was just like tapping into a treasure trove.

JESSICA: Just tried and true tricks just passed down from generation to generation, basically.

TIM: Yeah.

JESSICA: And, um, I just picked it up from reading the group posts like it was a book every day. 

TIM: A thing I didn't realize is that chickens are very sensitive creatures with a lot of medical emergencies. Like, um, there's this kind of infection called bumblefoot [EMMANUEL: Bumblefoot?] which is like a bulbous infection in the foot.

ALEX: Auchhhh.


ALEX: Ahh.

TIM: Yeah. And they get like, you know, they get parasites, but they’re also like, just getting constantly getting mauled by whatever animal is able to make its way inside their coop.

And Iris, the original woman who had got in touch with me, she read me some of those posts. 

IRIS: “While Chico was dying, she fecal vomited these two brown shapes. Can anybody identify if they’re parasites or what?” And then it’s like, a post of a completely dead chicken.

TIM: Uch, god.

IRIS: It’s like, “Look at this photo. My chicken got attacked by a fox and his eyeball is hanging out, what do I do?”

ALEX: Ohhh. [laughing]

EMMANUEL: What do you do?

TIM: Yeah.

EMMANUEL: It’s over, man. At that point, it’s over. 

ALEX: Put that creature down. [laughing]

TIM: Wow, you guys would be good in this group. Um, I- Iris is realizing that chickens live their whole lives on this like, little tightrope over this yawning chasm of death. There’s always coming for them. And so, she decided, “I don’t want to get chickens.”

IRIS: But I thought the group was fun, and I just stayed in it.

TIM: She’s in it for like, three years. And then she said that in—at the end of October of last year, [EMMANUEL: Mm-hmm.] there was a very strange development, which is that the administrator of the group, this guy named Connor, [EMMANUEL: Uh-huh.] he posted something. I'm just gonna share it with you.


TIM: And you know what? And you guys elect which one of you is gonna read it.

ALEX: I'd like to read it.

TIM: All right, Alex wants to read it.

ALEX: [clears throat] All right. This is from Connor. “Good afternoon. We know all good things must come to an end. Sadly, this group is no longer for chickens.” [laughing]  

EMMANUEL: No longer for chickens?!

ALEX: “Don't worry, tons of backyard chicken groups have been made. Did not want to leave y’all hanging, so please join those. However, if you're interested in crypto and maybe want to learn, you're free to stay.”


ALEX: “Until then, God bless.”

EMMANUEL: Oh, fuck off. 


TIM: Yeah.

EMMANUEL: [laughs] What?! [laughs]

TIM: That's what Iris said!


IRIS: It was a chicken group! [Tim laughs]  It wasn't like, a gaming group where you could maybe think like, okay, these are computer people, like—

TIM: Sure.

IRIS: There’s some overlap. No. It’s like, people who take their chicken to the county fair.

TIM: I talked to a bunch of people who were on Backyard Chickens at the time and they were very baffled by this post, like Ashlie. 


ASHLIE: I was just like, shocked. Like, obviously this is like, a community that we had for years, so [laughs] it was just like, a lot to process when I read that. 

TIM: I talked to another Backyard Chickens member named Alex who hadn't actually noticed the changeover yet. Like, all she knew was that she no longer could find her beloved Backyard Chickens. So I asked her if she wouldn’t mind just like, looking through her Facebook groups.

ALEXANDRA: Waltham High School Show Choir Alumni. [TIM laughs] Let me tell you, that’s an active one. Um… Greenfield, Mass Moms, Parents, and Caregivers. Um…Crypto with Connor I’m not sure what that is.

TIM: I showed her Connor's post — the one where he changed the group.

TIM: Do you want to read—uh, you want to read this?

ALEXANDRA: Oh my god! You're blowing my mind right now! [laughing] Oh my god. “Good afternoon. We know all good things must come to an end. Sadly, this group is no longer for chickens.” [laughs] I am drooling. “Don’t worry. There are other chicken groups.” [laughing] You are blowing my mind right now. [laughs] Wow. Okay.

TIM: Yeah. So that's why you can no longer find Backyard Chickens.

ALEXANDRA: That is bonkers. 

ALEXANDRA: [MUSIC] Crypto has like, infiltrated my life in every way at this particular junction, but I have absolutely no interest in it. 

TIM: Alex couldn't help but find it funny that crypto has reached the, the very last place that it belongs, which is like, this community of people who are to trying to turn back to traditional techniques, away from modern life. 

ALEX: Right. 

TIM: And, you know, I've seen it popping up in surprising places too.

Like, a good friend of mine, really lovely, sweet person, who, one evening over drinks with me and my wife, starts telling us about the promise of decentralized autonomous organizations. Um, or the friendly guy at the dog park who gives me his business card, and, uh, he's an NFT evangelist.

It's a trippy feeling. It’s like the world went to a seminar that I slept through. And I can’t help but feel skeptical — like, I'm being invited to a gold rush that’s really only gonna benefit the first people who show up.

And the people in Backyard Chickens, they’re extremely skeptical, especially because this admin guy Connor – who had suddenly turned the group into a crypto group – he'd appeared out of nowhere. 

And everybody was like wait, who is this?

TIM: Did you have a sense of who ran the group?

ASHLIE: No. I had never even considered it until I saw that post, um, from 

Connor, and… [laughs]

TIM: Yeah. 

JESSICA: We didn't even know who this—well, I never knew who this guy was.  

TIM: That’s Jessica Arroyo again.

JESSICA: Like, like, how do I even know this Connor is a Connor? I don't know. [laughs] [TIM: Mm-hmm.] You know what I'm saying?

TIM: So Connor changes the name of Backyard Chickens to Crypto with Connor, and he immediately starts posting about crypto coins like Yo Coin and Cumrocket. And he's posting polls like— 

ALEX: Hold on, hold on. You can't just, you can’t just blow past Cumrocket. That's a kind of cryptocurrency, I suppose?

EMMANUEL: I’m glad you said that, Alex, ‘cause I didn’t want to be the person to [crosstalk].

ALEX: Oh, I'm happy to be the person who does that. That’s—what the hell is Cumrocket?

EMMANUEL: Oh, my god.

ALEX: Okay. Uh, well, Cumrocket looks like it’s sort of like a crypto OnlyFans.


TIM: Oh. What? What does that mean?

EMMANUEL: Wait, but sorry, I just—sorry, how does that work?

ALEX: So. Creators make sexy NFTs. [Tim laughs] 


ALEX: You buy the, the currency of the Cumrocket website, which is called Cummies. 

EMMANUEL: Uh-huh. Naturally.

ALEX: [laughs] And then you buy the NFTs with the Cummies. [laughing]

EMMANUEL: Huh. Okay.

TIM: So that’s Cummies. Um, Iris and I noticed he had also post about this, um, coin called PHUCKS, P-H-U-C-K-S.  

TIM: Connor writes, “It’s a long-term gem. Give it three years, and I’ll be smoking the good stuff on my yacht.” [laughing]

IRIS: But, but then if you scroll down, there’s this woman, Jessica, who, every single one of these posts, she posts, “Please report this group.”

TIM: She’s pissed.

JESSICA: I was so upset. And I wanted to do more, and I was totally refraining. My heart was broken, so I could—I couldn’t handle it. And then he blocked me.

TIM: Yeah.

JESSICA: And I just have to kind of go in the corner and sit down and be quiet.

TIM: But Jessica wasn’t the only one protesting. Like, people were commenting on his posts about crypto and being like, “This is lame,” and “I hope you get bumblefoot.” 

ALEX/EMMANUEL: [laughing] 

TIM: Uh, but then he started blocking those people too, of course. Here’s Iris again.

IRIS: So, people would—I, I assume were trying to post chicken things still. But they—like, new posts about chickens have stopped appearing.


TIM: The members of the Backyard Chickens group, they had all sorts of theories about what was going on. They were like, “The group’s definitely been hacked, or it’s been sold for followers.” Um, Jessica, her mind just went to the most conspiratorial place, and she was like, “Maybe it had something to do with Russia?”

This other woman pointed out that Connor claimed to have started the group…four years ago…but he'd only been an admin for like two years.

So, like everybody in the group, I really wanted to know, who is this person, and how had he seemingly come out of nowhere to take control of the group and turn it into this crypto thing?

So, I message Connor.


TIM: And I got a response immediately.


EMMANUEL: Oh, whoa. What did it say?

TIM: I’ll tell you that after the break.

ALEX: [laughs] Nice!

EMMANUEL: Are you serious? [laughing] Like, are we doing this right now? Can you just tell me?

TIM: No, we’re doing—we’re in the middle of ads right now.


TIM: Welcome back to the show.

So, I reached out to Connor on Facebook, asked him, “Would you be interested in talking to me?” He said he would.



TIM: But scheduling was tricky because the nefarious owner of this chickens-turned-crypto group, he had baseball practice every day after school. [EMMANUEL laughs] Uh, Connor is 17, he’s is still in high school.


TIM: But eventually, one night in February, we finally connected.

CONNOR: Do you want me to go ahead and press, uh, the audio record? 

TIM: Oh yes, please. Yeah, thank you.

TIM: Connor lives in Monroe, North Carolina, which is this like, small-towny suburb of Charlotte.

TIM: And you're, uh, are you like a senior in high school? 

CONNOR: I'm a junior. I just turned 17. 

TIM: Oh, okay, you’re a junior.

CONNOR: Yeah. 

TIM: Right off the bat — Connor just wasn't who I expected. Like, he talks with this flat affect of a teenager, but he's actually a really open, curious person

CONNOR: I'm really interested in this whole podcast thing. When did y’all start Gimlet Media? 

TIM: He was asking me all of these questions. 

CONNOR: Gimlet is based out of New York City, right?

TIM: He said these days, he only listens to podcasts.

CONNOR: All the kids are like, “Dude, what? You don't listen to music?” I'm like, “Nope. Podcasts. I get to learn while I'm just chillin’ in school.” 

TIM: As we were chatting, I was wondering, how the hell did this 17-year-old kid find himself in charge of this 90,000-person group? I told him I would love to hear the story.

TIM: And I want to—I want to start all the way at the beginning. 

CONNOR: Okay, yeah. I can do that. 

TIM: Connor said the story starts back in 2017. 

CONNOR: Yeah. So, at the time, I was only, I think, 12 or 13. I was in [TIM: Wow.] fifth grade, I think. 

TIM: Uh-huh.

CONNOR: And I'm not like—I'm not a country person. I just had this fascination of how you could turn a [sic] egg into a living creature. 


CONNOR: My neighbors, they own a farm where they have like, zebras, camels, all types of exotic animals [TIM: Amazing.] And so, they got me into it, ‘cause I went over there one summer to help them out.

TIM: His neighbors, they showed Connor all the different birds they had on the property: ostriches, peacocks, emus.

CONNOR: The emus, they were just scary, because I was 12. I was just a kid, and these big birds with long necks and beaks trying to poke you and stuff, so. [TIM: Oh wow.] I didn't really hang around them much.

CONNOR: Have you heard of, uh, the guinea? It's native to Africa. 

TIM: No. 

CONNOR: What it does, why most people have them down here is one guinea can clean one, one whole acre of ticks. Do you know what a tick is? 

TIM: Connor had this habit that I’m-I’m just not super used to in teenagers, which is that he would regularly interrupt himself to make sure that I was keeping up — like that I knew the thing he was talking about. It was actually sweet. Over the course of the interview, he asked me if I was familiar with use case, FOMO, homesteaders, Gary V., federal mediators, Tractor Supply, and ticks.


TIM: Anyway, um, more than even just the exotic birds — at the farm, it's really the eggs that catch Connor's attention.

For instance, the emu egg—I looked this up, and it is this gorgeous like, massive sparkly blue-green egg. It’s like the size of your hand. Um, here I’m just gonna send you a picture.

ALEX: Holy moly! That thing looks like—

EMMANUEL: It looks like—it, it looks like, uh, like, if you told me that was like, a fake dragon’s egg off of like, Game of Thrones or something, [TIM: Exactly.] I would tell you—I would say, “Yeah, that makes sense.”

CONNOR: And I've never seen an egg like that ever, like not even online or anything.

TIM: Hm. 

CONNOR: And I just became obsessed with it. And I was like, wow, I want to get into it. 


TIM: Connor, unexpectedly, really gravitated toward his neighbors chickens.

Because these weren't just any old chickens. They had chickens like the silkie bantam, which is like, this adorable tiny muppet chicken.

CONNOR: Basically, like a huge cotton ball. And their eggs, their eggs were so small. It’s like, the size of your thumb.

TIM: There's the Ayam Cemani, out of Indonesia… 

CONNOR: Everything on them is black. 

TIM: Black eyes, beak, feathers, feet, even tongue. Connor had never seen anything like it.

CONNOR: I fell in love with it. 

There's the Polish chicken, a very friendly bird with this like, blow-dried pompadour.

CONNOR: They have a funky look to ‘em. 

ALEX: This thing’s gorgeous! I have never felt—

TIM: Totally.

ALEX: I have never thought to myself, “I bet there are aesthetically pleasing chickens out there.” But holy shit.

TIM: And Connor, he doesn’t respond to his newfound fascination by deciding to become like, a veterinarian or a scientist or a farmer. He goes in a very different direction.

Like, Connor has this dream. [MUSIC] He has a dream of one day running a 40,000-square-foot hatchery just full of chickens, pumping out chicks day and night.

He wants to be a chicken mogul.

ALEX: [laughs]

TIM: And so, he starts hatching chickens himself, at home. Uh, I talked to Carol, his mom, about it. 

CAROL: I remember one time, he actually hatched a chicken in his bedroom when he was first starting out.

TIM: No. [laughs]

CAROL: You know, me personally, as a mom, I’m like, okay that’s gross. I mean, I know that’s where we get eggs from. I know that’s where we get chickens from. But still, I was like, that is in your bedroom. But what are you gonna tell a young boy, you know? It’s just like, okay. I guess there’s always worse things that, you know, could be happening.

TIM: He takes over his parents’ garage with this giant incubator, gets a license to sell chickens in North Carolina, and he starts his own business.

He calls it Connor's Chickens.

ALEX: What is he doing? Is he selling eggs?

TIM: Uh, he’s actually selling chicks by mail. They can apparently live off their yolks for like, 72 hours after they hatch.

And his mom also starts bringing him around to these auctions in the area where he can sell his chicks.

CONNOR: The one that sticks out most to me was, um—it was like, November. It was cold, it was foggy. And it was up on a hill, from what I remember. 

TIM: Mm.

CONNOR: And there was like, probably 150 to 200 just old people there, you know, with all their trucks.

TIM: Mm-hmm.

CONNOR: They had all their fowl there and stuff. So, it was kinda weird, you know, me being a 10, 11, 12-year-old, you know, I was kinda intimidated, creeped out, ‘cause I was the youngest one there by like, five decades. I try to get along with everyone. But I mean, it's like, they're not the people I go and hang out with, if that makes sense, 

TIM: Connor’s really not into these auctions. He needs to find a different way to find customers. So he goes on Facebook. He sees that there are already other groups devoted to chicken farming, and he decides he’s gonna start his own. And he does. He calls it Backyard Chickens. 

He told me that he had actually janked the name from another group that already existed that was also called Backyard Chickens. And he decided to target them to get some of their members. So he took his link, and he went over to that group’s page.

CONNOR: And so, what I would do is I’d spam it in the comments of the post for like, the first week. 

TIM: [laughs] Wait, wait. Wait, what— 

CONNOR: And I had like, 500 people. 

TIM: Wait, how did thi—[laughs] how did this work? So, there was already a group called Backyard Chickens— 

CONNOR: Yeah. I would take—yeah, yeah, yeah.

TIM: You made your group.

CONNOR: I would take my link, [TIM: Uh-huh.] and I would like, spam, spam promote it, which was, I mean, very, I guess, unethical. [TIM: Uh-huh.] But I was like, whatever it takes, you know? 

TIM: Connor was running circles around the adults that ran the other chicken boards. And he notices a weakness in the competition, which is that a lot of the time, they were getting so many posts, and they only had maybe like, one mod, so people’s posts weren’t getting approved fast enough, which, if you have a chicken who’s like, injured or ill, that could actually just be a death sentence.

ALEX: Right.

TIM: So, Connor, he’s like, “Join my group, and you'll get instant post approval.” But of course, for it to work, he realizes that he can't actually just be the moderator. Like, he needs to have multiple mods, ideally in different time zones, so that the chicken owners, no matter where they are, they get their answers really fast. 

And his plan works. The group takes off. And in the first year alone, there’s like, 20,000 members.

ALEX: Oh wow.

TIM: But even as the group is exploding, Connor is starting to feel like he might’ve made a mistake. Because he just didn’t take into account who this page would really be attracting. It wasn’t people like him.  


CONNOR: Honestly, the majority of it was moms posting their version of cute pictures, their like, four to six chickens they have in their backyard, 

TIM: Mm.

CONNOR: And I mean, don't get me wrong, I mean, chickens are a fascinating bird, this and that, but it's… I was like, well, this group, you know, it's not really for me, so I kind of like, stepped down. 

TIM: Huh.

CONNOR: I actually got kicked out. 

Someone got a hold that I was only 13 or something or 12. 

TIM: [laughs] 

TIM: So, Connor is too young to even have a Facebook account, so he's banished – he’s locked out of the group that he himself created. He was like a deposed king, who would one day return and take over again.

But I didn't understand how he would pull it off, let alone why. 

Connor, meanwhile, he moves on from chickens. He’s over chickens. He sells off his flock and incubators, and he begins high school. He does not enjoy it. 

CONNOR: Well, honestly, I get very bored in school because I look through and it's like, man, all these kids are just going through the motions. Even the teachers, like, they don't really know what they want to do in their life. So, that's a very depressing… So, and it's very hard because I don't really know anyone at my school that thinks the same way that I do.

TIM: Other kids are going to parties; they’re having fun. But Connor doesn't want to do all that. Like, he's way too distracted by the fact that adulthood is screaming down on them.

All around him, he is seeing grownups forced into 9 to 5 jobs. They’re not getting a chance to go anywhere, see the world, have new experiences. They’re getting married because they think that’s what they’re supposed to do. They have one to two kids. But then they’re not even seeing the kids because they’re working all the time and they’re exhausted. And Connor is just like, these are my options? Really?

And it’s just like, I wasn’t expecting Connor to hit on my favorite subject. 


EMMANUEL: I feel like, more than anybody I’ve ever met, Tim, uh, you have, you have talked about why we shouldn't be working 9 to 5, which I, I agree with. I remember when I first started the team, any time I would be like, “Have a good weekend,” you’d be like—or “Have a good long weekend,” like it’d be going into Memorial Day or something, you’d be like, [TIM: Mm-hmm.] “This is not a long weekend, Emmanuel. This is a regular weekend. [Tim laughs] We should start changing the culture just through our own vernacular when talking about like, these measly three days we have.”

ALEX: So, a three-day weekend is a regular weekend; a two-day weekend is a short weekend, to Tim Howard.

TIM: Exactly. Like, we need to reject the idea that weekend means this shitty little thing; we have to start calling Saturday and Sunday what it really is. Call it the "short weekend." Then maybe we can change it. Anyway, it’s not like Connor’s some raging anticapitalist. But he’s definitely feeling desperate to find a way out. And that’s when he comes across what feels like an escape hatch.

TIM: Is crypto thing actually that everybody, like, in your school talks about? 

CONNOR: Oh, no. [laughs] People at my school, they don't know what crypto is. 

TIM: Okay.

CONNOR: E- e- even the teachers and stuff. And if they do, they think it's a scam. They’re like, “Aw, man, that’s, that’s, that’s fake. It’s gonna go to zero one day.”

TIM: What do you say to them?

CONNOR: Uh, what I say to them, I’m just like, “Hey, you know, that's what people said to people that bought Bitcoin in, in 2009, 2010. And now they’re on their yacht in the middle of the Caribbean.”

TIM: Sometimes after school, Connor would go to the local gym, and he would get in these conversations with these dudes there who were a little bit older. They were already in their twenties. They were already working jobs. And they were like, “Hey, kid, check out this thing called crypto.”

So, Connor does, and he throws a few dollars on Dogecoin. At the time, it was basically known as like, a joke coin. And this is really not long before the whole thing when Elon Musk goes on Saturday Night Live.

EMMANUEL: Oh yeah. 

MALE: Oh, okay, Dogefather. So, what is Dogecoin?

ELON: Well, it actually started as a joke based on an internet meme. 

MALE: Mm-hmm.

ELON: But now it’s taken over in a very real way.

MALE: Okay. But what is Dogecoin? [laughing]

ELON: Yeah, like I said, it’s a digital currency.

TIM: In the Dogecoin community, all the hullaballoo about Elon Musk going on SNL? It had driven the price of the coin through the roof.     

TIM: Tell me about watching Dogecoin go up. Like, when, when you—I don't know. I don't even what my question is. It just feels surreal to me. Like— 

CONNOR: It feels illegal, almost. When, when the numbers [TIM: Yeah.] kept going up and up as Saturday Night Live was going on, I felt like a—like El Chapo, just doing something very illegal, you know? 

Tim: But then Dogecoin actually tanked, in part because Elon called it a “hustle” on the SNL skit. A lot of people lost money. 

TIM: [laughs] Did you end up making money with it, or did you hold on—like, ‘cause what's it at right now? Isn't it—didn't it like, go back into— 

CONNOR: Oh, I sold it ‘cause I knew it was gonna tank. I wasn't a total n00b at the time.

TIM: Oh, wow. 

CONNOR: Yeah. So, for a 16-year-old, a new 16-year-old, I was like, wow, this is crazy.

TIM: [laughs] Wait, like, like, I mean, you don't have to tell me how much you made, if you don't—but like, ballpark, like, what, what are you talking about? How much—did you make like, tens of thousands? 

CONNOR: I could buy a G-Wagon with it. 

TIM: I looked it up — on the low end, you can get a used G-Wagon for like 75 grand. 

Connor finally felt like he’d found a way out. 


And he went all in on crypto, throwing a couple hundred bucks on a ton of different small coins that you’ve never heard of, hoping that one day one of them will one day skyrocket.

Then one evening, he’s hanging out with a couple friends, and they bring up his Backyard Chickens group, and they point out it’s this huge platform that he could do really anything with.

CONNOR: They’re like, “Dude, you have this group with like,” I don’t know if it was 80 or 90,000 people. They’re like, “Why don’t you just do it to—with your crypto now?” 

CONNOR: I was like, you know what? That’s a pretty good idea.

TIM: Okay sure, but how was he going to actually regain control of the group? That’s what I was wondering [EMMANUEL: Totally.] Um, it turned out to be pretty simple actually because Connor he had been too young to start Backyard Chickens in the first place on Facebook [ALEX: Right.]. So he had had to make his mom an admin of the group. So when he wanted to get back in, he just made a new Facebook account and said, “Hey mom, will you reinstate me?” and she did. 

ALEX: Ohhh.

TIM: Later, Connor carefully drafted the note that would effectively end Backyard Chickens and make it Crypto with Connor. He said he didn't want to upset people; he tried to be graceful about it. He wrote, “We appreciate all the love we have gotten and the 91k we have got.” And he added, ”I don't want to leave you all hanging, so just check out one of the other chicken groups.” He thought that would work. He showed it to his mom, make sure she thought it would look good. She gave him a couple notes. He tweaked it, and then he posted it.

It did not go as he had hoped. 

CONNOR: You wouldn't believe how mean chicken people can be when something doesn't go their way. 

TIM: Really?

CONNOR: Yeah. Over something like this

TIM: Wait, what, what were some of the things that they were saying to you? 

CONNOR: They were saying—oh, I can't repeat it on the podcast, of course, but they were just saying terrible things.

TIM: Connor quickly found himself on the receiving end of 90,000 wounded chicken people. They were sending him angry DMs, telling him he’s lame and shady. Somebody else tracked down his mom’s business and left her bad Google reviews. 

CONNOR: And I’m—I was telling my mom. I was like, “Mom, these chicken people are crazy.” It's just a chicken group. Chill out. 

TIM: And as quickly as the storms came in, the clouds cleared. And the chicken people, they tuned out Connor’s new group. There were no more cute photos of silky bantams, no more chicken memes, no more quick answers to tough bumblefoot questions.  

TIM: Do you feel bad at all, like, there, there—for, like, the people who were posting in it a lot, and who, who are really into the chickens? 

CONNOR: I don't feel bad, because there are so many other groups. But also, when I say these people were on this page 24/7, these people were on this page 24/7. Like, do something else than be on Facebook talking about chickens and other fowl, you know? 

TIM: Connor admitted to me that what he'd done was a little selfish. In the end, I think Connor just wasn't a chicken person.


Because the chicken people that I’ve talked to, their lives are already like fully, intractably in motion. They’re married, they have kids, full-time jobs, maybe all these things. Some real thick grownup shit. And they need some sort of like, small, accessible escape from all of these pressures.

Connor hasn’t experienced all those things yet, so to him, the kind of escape that chickens provide just looks like giving up.

That's just my hypothesis—as a guy who's into plants.

At this point, Connor's still figuring out what he wants his life to look like. Right now he's busy visiting colleges. He's like finally really sampling the future that he might get to experience. He might even get to play college football. He can't wait. 

TIM: Oh, yeah. Last question. Summer’s coming up. I'm already thinking about summer like crazy, even though I’m not even in high school. Do you have summer plans?

CONNOR: Honestly, my plans will probably be going to more universities. So, it's not going to be like a regular kid summer but it should be fun. I'm still gonna go to the beach and all. I mean, I'm still gonna like have summer. You know, I'm gonna chill, go to the pool, like pool party, stuff like that. Hanging out. Maybe four wheeling, dirt biking, fishing. Oh, we're gonna go to the lake. [FADE DOWN]


So that's the story of how Backyard Chickens became Crypto with Connor. And I feel like, if there's any lesson in it, it’s that the suffocating promises of capitalism make people do weird things, like sacrifice a chicken community, or buy Cummies, or go to work five days a week for decades, or perform minor surgery on a bird’s foot in the kitchen sink . After all that's actually how most of the milder cases of bumblefoot are treated — the bulk of the work is done with some Epsom salt and water, followed a gentle massage of the foot, accompanied by some tender words for your chicken, your familiar voice keeping her calm.


TIM: Today’s episode of Reply All was produced by Anna Foley and Sanya Dosani. It was edited by Damiano Marchetti and Sanya Dosani.

This episode also wouldn’t have happened without the rest of the Reply All production and editing team. Phia Bennin, Lisa Wang, Kim Nederveen-Pieterse, Aaron Edwards, and Bethel Habte.

The show is hosted by Alex Goldman and Emmanuel Dzotsi.  Our intern is Sam Gebauer.  This episode was mixed by Rick Kwan, with fact-checking by Isabel Cristo, and music and sound design by Luke Williams — who also made this beautiful song we are listening to right now. Additional music by the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder,  Mariana Romano, and myself. 

Special thanks to Jonathan Goldstein and Jorge Just. Thanks for listening!