RCM&E at 50 – Funky Chicken



Once in a while a product comes onto the market that endeavours to turn model flying on its head and challenge the thoughts of those who believe aeromodelling has nothing more to offer. I say this after coming back from the first flight of my Graupner Funky Chicken which, in model flying terms, provided the most fun I’ve had in ages. In fact, so much so, it was only the nigh-on pitch dark conditions outside that eventually forced me to call it a day.

Now, bearing in mind I was completely unaware of the kit’s existence before our editor suggested I should seriously (!) consider doing it, my initial reaction, whilst taking a rummage through his kit cupboard, was rather dismissive. Actually, “You must be having a laugh,” were my exact words! However, it would appear to be Graupner who are doing that, and yes, the Germans have a sense of humour after all!


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If it hadn’t been for the Editor’s tirelessly persistent and persuasive tones, I may have left it in said cupboard, but fortunately, I didn’t. As regular readers will know, I’m a bit of a scale buff and only really jump at review kits if they happen to be scale models. With this in the back of my mind and with Graham giving the ‘Chicken the full hard sell, a smile began to creep from ear to ear… “AH HA, looks as if I convinced you ‘Tone… will you do it?” Waiting just a few seconds (to increase the suspense and add a little drama), I replied: “Yep, I certainly will, and do you know what? I’m going to do a scale paint job based on Henny Penny, the families ‘full-size’ chicken who lives at the bottom of the garden.” There, I think I’ve convinced myself that this is a scale model after all.

After getting the box home and having a closer inspection of the parts and instructions I reckoned this could quickly become the shortest review in RCM&E history! Even if the building instructions were copied straight into the review it would still only amount to a thousand words. Seemingly, this model wouldn’t take long to put together.

Using 5-minute epoxy it took just two hours to finish, ready for paint – the application of which actually took as long as the build. By the way, don’t worry if the thought of having to paint puts you off, read on and I’ll explain two alternatives.


Okay, on with the assembly. In total there are 6 injection-moulded polystyrene parts that make up the model, coupled with some die-cut birch ply parts, a small bag of accessories and a set of pushrods – that’s pretty well it.

The first thing to do is glue the servos in place. The servo mounting holes are moulded into the fuselage and are designed to take standard servos. I had a pair of mini JP SuperTecs at my disposal that are only a few millimetres smaller all round than a standard servo, so these went in. The pushrods comprise very thin wire, and Graupner have thoughtfully included servo output arms drilled with tiny holes to suit. These fitted onto the JP units with no problem.
The pushrod outer tubes were then installed in the locations shown and the top rear decking glued to the main fuselage. There are two different lengths of pushrod ‘outer’ so it’s important to make sure they’re installed in the correct location, i.e. the longer of the two serving the rudder.


Rudder and elevator horns were then removed from the die cut sheet and glued into position. At this point I noticed that there were two identical sheets of die-cut components, although this isn’t a mistake, it has been done to simplify the design process. Next on the list was to glue the tail and fin into position, install the pushrod inner, and make the connection between the servos and the tail.
A pair of ply doublers were then glued into position in order to stiffen the fuselage section forward of the wing. At the front end, the doublers also have a cunning hook cut into them to allow the top of the head to be secured using looped rubber bands.

Motor installation is next, indeed this is glued into a pre-moulded channel using epoxy – nothing very difficult here. The suggested motor and battery combination is a 6V Speed 400 (with speed controller attached to the rear of the motor) and a 7-cell 1000mAh NiMH pack – all available from Motors & Rotors. As for the prop? A 6 x 5” folder is recommended but be careful on start-up as it can easily gouge a chunk of the ‘Chicken’s eyes when left in the folded position… eggstremely painful! To overcome this, either lock the blades or fabricate some sort of deflector to protect the polystyrene. Alternatively, you could use a fixed pitch prop.

The top part of the head also provides access to the battery pack, indeed, gluing the upper plywood fairing (or comb, if you want the technical term) and bulbous eyes completes the job. Before installing the comb it’s worth giving the wood a coat of dope or sanding sealer, ready for painting. Cleverly, this ply comb passes through into the hatch below and forms the retaining hook that keeps the top of the head in place. Having cut the necessary slot in the foam, the lower plywood fairing (technical term: wattle) was then fitted. Finally, tapped plastic sleeve nuts (which accept the wing bolts) were secured to the fuselage, followed by the plywood wing tips. Giving a very realistic feathered effect, the ply tips are eminently practical and prevent damage in the event of a cartwheel style arrival… not that I’d recommend it!
Well that’s the building sorted, just add sticky-back Velcro to fix the receiver and battery pack into position and this hen’s ready to fly – in around two hours!


As I mentioned earlier, the finishing – in terms of painting – doubled the overall construction time, so if you don’t fancy the extra work there are two alternatives. First, you could convert your Funky Chicken into a funky white duck. Use a black marker pen to highlight the outline of the eyes, beak and feathers, and replace the respective plywood parts with white plastic card of a similar thickness. Alternatively, you could let your young offspring get their poster paints out. Hand the model over and tell them to come back in 10 minutes! Remember, this is a fun model and no rules should apply. That said, since mine was a review item, I decided that my lot should probably be kept at bay! Believe me, they were just itching to have a go, brushes at the ready. Oh well, sorry guys. Looks as if I‘m going to have to invest in another one!

Right, let’s assume you’re going to finish with a ‘proper’ paint job. The easiest products to use are acrylics which brush on well and also dry particularly fast. Alternatively, you could use Humbrol enamel – indeed, since I was going to apply a scale paint job I decided to use the latter, of which three small tins are easily enough to cover the model. As a point of interest: although enamel doesn’t dry as quickly as acrylic, I’ve discovered a very novel approach to speeding up the process.
Paint the underbelly and head so they dry first, then paint the remaining model. When you’ve finished, load the ‘Chicken and your flight-box into the car, drive to your site and fly. I can guarantee that after 10 minutes in the air the paint will be dry as a bone – I kid you not – such was my enthusiasm! So, from opening the box at 4pm on Sunday to flying by 8pm. Not bad for something one could have assumed would take a month of Sundays to finish. Anyway, that leads me nicely on to the flying bit.

There’s no information to guide you on the rudder and elevator movements so I set them up for maximum deflection via the transmitter. Even then the movements didn’t seem that great, but time would tell! Fitting the suggested 7-cell 1000mAh NiMH pack in the stated location achieved the correct centre of gravity without the need for additional weight.

For the first flight I opted to use my local field, which is just down the road. As it happens, the hay crop had recently been cut and was still waiting to be bailed. This wouldn’t normally have been a problem except that I decided to perform a test glide – quite safe for a model like this, but not ideal if the paint is wet. Oh well, at the very least I guess you could argue that the bits of grass stuck to the bottom have improved the scale appearance!

With all seemingly well I went for a powered flight. Even though the evening was flat calm, only a gentle throw was required to see the ‘Chicken head skywards at quite a pace. Now, if you like lots of stick movement with your models, be warned, because this rudder / elevator job will act more like an IFO (Indoor Flying Object). As such, you may need to use rates or, do as I did and slow the model down to half throttle soon after launch.
The first thing I noticed was the agility of the thing. Having rudder and elevator as primary controls doesn’t reduce your ability to have fun.
After gaining some height (still on half throttle) the hen was trimmed out to fly hands off. Although I personally like a large amount of stick movement for control of my models, reducing the rates was only going to reduce the amount of fun, so I didn’t bother. After a very careful flight of circuits, finishing with a climb and glide lasting 10 minutes, a safe landing was achieved and I decided it was a time to return the ‘Chicken safely to its coop ready for the obligatory photography.

On now to the Editor’s local for the next flight and the photo session.
With the pictures out of the way it was time to put this bird through its paces. Prior to the flying session I had the misfortune to short out the 1000mAh NiMH pack, so I had to make space for a set of eight Sanyo 500ARs, which fortunately still gave the correct C of G. An 8-cell 800AR pack (being the same cross-sectional dimension) will also fit, but the C of G does move forward by 10mm or so. Mind you, this isn’t a problem, especially if you want a less lively animal.

The 8-cell pack gave the ‘Chicken loads of power, indeed a gentle throw saw the model climb away quickly and achieve enough height to give the option of throttling back as soon as the first turn was entered. Due to the tip dihedral the ‘Chicken is quite stable, especially in the turn. There’s certainly no tendency to lose height when rudder is applied, which reminds me of Junior 60 flying characteristics, but that’s where the similarity ends! With maximum rates the model has great agility, in fact, performing a rudder-induced roll is very easy (would love to see Christophe Paysant-Le Roux at the helm doing his famed Funky Chicken four-pointer!).

There’s no doubt about it, the looks of the model are unique and flying it does give a real sense of pleasure. The light wing loading will allow it to thermal in the right conditions and at this point it takes on the looks of a real bird of prey. A few words of caution, though: Do remember to double tie the elastic band that secures the top access hatch. If this is too loose the hatch will lift and turn into a very effective air brake, sending the model into a stall. Also, the fin (wattle) that sits under the chin will get pushed backwards into the foam on landing; gluing it at a reclined angle overcomes this.

All-in-all the Funky Chicken is great fun; a bit of a departure from the ‘norm’, but isn’t variety the very spice of life?

  • The Graupner Funky Chicken review was first published in November 2003.

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