Since Salmonmac said she had to see a knitted chicken, here's the first of three in my coop. Be careful what you wish for.
This is the UK Chicken, so named because that's where it wound up going. A high school friend of Wendy's (my girlfriend) lives in London and they occasionally exchange stuff they've made. Kate (the expatriate friend) does quilts (among other things) and had sent a small cat-sized cotton quilt, so it was our turn. The only specification was that the main fiber had to be cotton. So Wendy made a hat/scarf set and I embarked on ... this.
The yarn was Cotton Ease, which may or may not be 100% cotton, but it was in the stash and it wasn't going to be a huge loss if I completely screwed up the whole thing.
Needles were US 6 Clover bamboo circulars (I think in 32" and 16") plus either US 4 or 6 for the I-cord bits (I can't remember now which I used).
The pattern you may recognize. It's an adaptation of the classic Blue Sky Alpacas Knit Chickens by Susan B. Anderson.
There are parts of the pattern (as it's written) that I didn't really understand. (Read: a few parts that I just didn't like.) Specifically I re-engineered the crown/comb as one piece because... well, mainly because I don't like sewing so awfully much. (Originally I did it the way it was written, but I didn't like the results I got, so that went over the side.) It's a bit bigger than I'd have liked, but I was guesstimating what I needed based on the size of the head.
Apparently this is a hugely popular pattern. (Probably because you don't find all that many patterns for knitted chickens.) But I've seen dozens of variations on it (besides my own). Unfortunately, it's not a free pattern, or even an especially cheap one ($9). But it's so ubiquitous that you can probably find someone who has it that you can borrow from.
I used it as a learning aid, because it used a lot of techniques I didn't know yet and if I screwed it up... chickens don't care! That said I wouldn't recommend diving into it unless you have some proficiency in basic shaping techniques and at least a little bit of experience in circular knitting. It's a good way to expand your skill set, but definitely not a "learn-the-basics" pattern.
For instance, this is all the stuff I learned that I either didn't know or didn't know very well before my first chicken:
- Picking up stitches (I'd sewn bits together before, but this is different)
- Small-diameter circular work (Magic Loop in my case, but the pattern specifies DPNs. Use what works for you; it comes out the same either way.)
- Making stripes in the round (actually, I'm not sure I'd done color changes of any kind before this, but I'm not sure)
Also, in the process of making this thing I found a way to get rid of the "step" you get when doing stripes in the round. Unfortunately, I can't remember now where I found it or how to do it, so if anybody has a how-to on that one I'd appreciate it!
- Kitchener stitch (including how to tighten up Kitchener stitch that ended up looking like the laces in a football)
Up to that point my experience had been ... a scarf, a hat, the back of a sweater (which still isn't finished) and a selection of ...ahem... "novelty items" that I won't discuss here. (Long story) In other words, not a lot but enough to get some basic stuff figured out.