You'd be excused for thinking a documentary about competitive chicken breeding in New Zealand could be either a little dry or a touch wacky.

Turns out, it's a rather delightful way to pass the time.

Pecking Order introduces members of the Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon Club, as they prepare for the NZ National Show held in Oamaru. The story itself is relatively straightforward; but the charming and colourful stars - and I'm talking about the breeders, not the chickens - are wonderfully quirky.

I don't think they'd mind me saying so. They're like anyone who loves their hobby; passionate, obsessive and competitive, and their dedication is admirable.


At first Pecking Order treads a fine line between documentary and mockumentary, and it was hard to tell if the laughter in the theatre was coming from a good place. But as the story settles, director Slavko Martinov does a lovely job revealing the characters with respect and dignity, and you find yourself wishing them well and seeing chicken shows as perfectly everyday.

We meet veteran and sitting President Doug Bain, who has been showing chickens for over 50 years and is under pressure to stand aside for a younger, more progressive President. The alternative leader is Mark Lilley, who would love the job but refuses to take it if one feather is ruffled in the process. Sorry, resisting chicken puns is hard.

Mark shares his love of poultry with his son Rhys, who at 14 has been showing at (and winning) competitions for five years. He thinks he's a bit different - I reckon he's one of the coolest teens I've met; comfortable and content in his own interests.

Oh, I should mention the chickens are impressive too - quite beautiful in fact.

But there's more to this film than a tribute to Best in Show with chickens, this is a film about Kiwis being Kiwis, delivered thought the portrayal of a club in disarray and all the wonderful human-ness and drama it brings with it.

2017 marks the 150th anniversary of the Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon Club, and Pecking Order is a wonderful way to celebrate.


Doug Bain, Mark Lilley


Slavko Martinov


PG (Coarse language)

Running time:

85 mins


A heartwarming Kiwi classic.