Saturday, August 06, 2022

A Few Questions, and Songs, About Chickens

This morning's post is a mixed medium of both song and information about the world's most common bird, the chicken.

All three songs are by Louis Jordan, a great American saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter. and bandleader.

Feeling a little down in the dumps?  Put on a little Louis Jordan and make yourself a couple of egg sandwiches with hot sauce and a cup of coffee or tea!

Ten Questions About Chickens:
  1. You just got 25 hatchery hens. What happened to the roosters?

  2. You raise 25 roosters. What happens next?

  3. Wild chickens still exist in Asia. What are they called?

  4. Wild chickens routinely sit on clutches of 10 or more eggs. What does this tell us about chicken mortality?

  5. What is the rate of wild chicken mortality if we factor out predation? In other words, if raised in an aviary free of predators, what percentage of wild chickens die of disease in the first 3 months?

  6. Chicken farmers routinely trim beaks of egg-layers. Why?

  7. Chicken farmers never trim the beaks of meat birds. Why?

  8. Is beak trimming a modern practice?

  9. Is rooster culling a modern practice?

  10. What is the best way to kill a chicken?

Answers to Ten Questions About Chicken:
  1. What happened to the roosters? Since you were only ordering hens, you were no doubt ordering chicks of an egg-laying breed, and the rooster chicks of egg-laying breeds are normally killed as soon as they can be sexed (i.e. within the first week after hatching).

  2. What happens when you have 25 adult roosters? Simple: a lot of noise. Depending on the number of hens in the flock, and the room allocated, you can also have fighting that can lead to death. Meat chickens are typically killed between the age of 6 and 16 weeks, before the age when roosters will begin to fight amongst themselves.

  3. Wild chickens are called junglefowl. They come in three basic types: Red Junglefowl, Grey Junglefowl, and Green Junglefowl. The modern chicken seems to be a descendant of both Grey and Red Junglefowl.

  4. Any animal that has a lot of babies is telling you a lot of them die very young.

  5. When junglefowl are raised in an aviary by a professional, over 65% die of disease before the age of three months.

  6. Beak trimming is done because chickens have a tendency to become cannibalistic. Chicken cannibalism occurs in 13-15% of all free range egg-laying birds, and occurs among all breeds. Cannibalism seems to be a learned behavior, and so it is more prevalent in larger flocks than smaller ones, and it is generally triggered at the beginning of egg laying. Too much light can trigger chicken cannibalism (one reason chicken houses have very low-lighting), while pellet food, reduced crowding, and an ability to forage may reduce incidence rates (without ever completely eliminating them). 

  7. Meat birds generally do not need beak trimming because they are killed at a young age, before egg laying begins. Individually caged egg-laying birds have less opportunity to engage in cannibalism, and so beak trimming is often omitted. Egg-laying birds in commercial operations that are not individually caged, however, are generally beak-trimmed to reduce feather-plucking and cannibalism.  Cage-free hens are almost always beak trimmed.

  8. Beak trimming has been done for more than 70 years. While there may be no reason to trim beaks if you have only a dozen back yard birds for personal consumption, commercial egg producers often have 50,000 to 250,000 chickens at a time, and in these kinds of situations beak trimming is automated, and done with a hot cauterizing wire or laser that removes the tip of the top half of the beak when the chick is less than 10 days old. With just the top tip of the beak removed, the chicken can no longer grasp hard enough to pluck feathers or bite a neighbor's flesh.

  9. Rooster culling is a very old practice, though now it tends to be done with chicks under the age of 10 days, rather than with very young birds weighing just 3 pounds -- the proverbial "spring chicken."

  10. The best way to kill a chicken is the best way to kill any animal -- quickly.

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