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Four people playing dominoes at a table.

Is Mexican Train the same as chicken foot dominoes? What's the difference?

Chicken foot dominoes is a "tree" game, where Mexican Train is a connecting "train" series game

Domino games evolve a lot over time, across cultures and languages, and even into the digital era. There are sub-genres and categories of domino games, and in the "Train Family" of domino games four or five popular games exist:

Each of these have their own rules, but they all require "connecting" or linking dominoes end-to-end with matching domino pips. So a 5 matches a 5, for instance, similar to a real series of train cars.

On the surface, Chicken Foot Dominoes (sometimes called "chickie dominoes") and Mexican Train are very similar. But Chicken Foot is technically in the “Tree” game category of dominoes, not a “Train” game. And their histories, background, rules, and even the number of dominoes you typically play with vary significantly.

Chicken Foot vs. Mexican Train - similarities and differences

  • Uses double nine dominoes and 55 tiles
  • Originated in south Texas or Mexico, as a version of the older domino game Maltese Cross
  • Can be played with a double twelve set of dominoes and 91 tiles
  • Best played with four people
  • Doubles are played vertically to the train, not horizontal
  • After each double, the next 3 plays must "branch" off the double
  • Players start with 11 dominoes (if with 4 people)
  • The winner is the player with the lowest score
  • Uses a double twelve set of dominoes and 91 tiles
  • Originated in Cuba and parts of the southern United States
  • Can be played with a double nine domino set and 55 tiles
  • Best played with four players
  • Doubles are played horizontally with the train
  • After each double, the next play must connect to the one matching domino end
  • Players start with 15 dominoes (if with 4 people)
  • The winner is the player with the lowest score
These are the rough similarities between Chicken Foot vs. Mexican Train. Mexican Train has a set of rules and processes where each player operates with their own private train and a public Mexican Train. Chicken foot has one chain where all tiles are played from a single, shared domino.

Chicken foot doubles behave differently compared to most train domino games

The differences emerge more with how doubles are handled. In Mexican Train, doubles are straightforward: when a player lays a double tile, they must "cover the double" and if they can't, their train is now "open", other players can play on it, but nothing can happen until someone plays a domino that connects with the open double tile.

In Chickenfoot Dominoes, you lay the double crosswise (called the "spinner") and the next three moves must connect off that double tile. This gives the tiles their distinctive "chicken toes" look with three new chicken toes as tiles.

Some of the vernacular is different, too. In Mexican Train, we call the remaining dominoes "the boneyard." In Chickenfoot Dominoes, it's called "chicken yard." It's also customary for players to say, "chicken foot" or "chickie" to warn people that special rules are in effect when laying a double tile. Play proceeds once that double has been thrice covered. A double-blank tile works the same as any other pipped tile.

Double nine dominoes and double twelve sets are mostly interchangeable

Most players agree you can use a double nine set or a double twelve for either Chicken Foot or Mexican Train. Traditional rules would dictate a double nine for Chicken Foot and double fifteen for Mexican Train Dominoes. But this can vary depending on the number of players you have and the set you have available. We have guides on how to play Mexican Train with other sets, including double six and double fifteen models and ways to play with up to eight players or more.

Scoring the remaining dominoes works the same — except for the double-zero

The lowest score wins in either game based on the number of pips left in your hand. Thus the strategy is to ensure the highest pip-count tiles played early stay out of your hand and you end with the fewest points, particularly as the game progresses.

One domino is different in Chicken Foot, with the 0-0 being worth a customary fifty points! So if one tile has to go, unload the 0-0 (the double blank) right away.

Each game ends the same (what we call 2.5 ways in Mexican Train), whenever someone plays all their dominoes or play is stalled and no one can make any legal play with what are likely only one or a few dominoes in the chicken/boneyard.

Chicken Dominoes is a lot of fun because the doubles really grind on all players since most people are unlikely to be able to cover it with three dominoes on their own.