I first saw this Edison short back in the late twentieth century, when I was in film school, only it was presented as a woman feeding chickens. This resulted in my belief for some time that, “a hundred years ago, chickens could fly,” because midway through the film, some noise causes all the doves to suddenly take flight. Watching it again today, it all makes more sense. There’s a mixture of doves and chickens on the screen, with the chickens mostly in the foreground. Thus, when the birds suddenly leap into the air, what you notice on the ground are the remaining chickens, giving a sort of optical illusion you have seen chickens fly. This appears not to be the case. This movie is actually historically interesting, because it marks the point (October 23, 1896), where Edison started sending prints on paper to the Library of Congress for copyright. This resulted in the inadvertent preservation of a number of films whose negatives were otherwise lost. The flight of the doves adds a good deal of motion to the image, which is probably why someone offscreen made a loud noise to make a more interesting movie.
Director: James H. White
Camera: William Heise
Run Time: 25 seconds
You can watch it for free: here.