Scientists at Hebrew University in Israel have successfully created a breed of featherless, fast-growing chickens. The birds are not genetically modified, but instead the result of selective breeding of a natural mutation.
While this may seem like a strange trait to deliberately breed into a chicken, researchers claim there are many reasons why bald chickens are necessary. They point to the fact that fast-growing “boiler chickens” produce excessive body heat and may suffer tremendously in warmer climates, so the lack of feathers would make these creatures more comfortable.
They may also be leaner and grow faster, which might improve the quality of meat and result in a cost savings. The lack of feathers means that the birds won’t need to be plucked after they’re slaughtered, which not only saves time, claim the researchers – it reduces pollution. Plucking contaminates large quantities of water with feathers and fat.
Animals rights groups aren’t buying it – they claim the changes don’t do anything to improve the lives of chickens and may actually make them worse. For one, the lack of feathers removes crucial protection against parasites. Featherless chickens are also far more vulnerable to sunburn. They also fear that featherless male chickens won’t be able to mate.
It seems that the real issue here is with modern farming techniques – if producers didn’t “intensively” feed these chickens to try to promote quicker growth, they wouldn’t suffer the host of issues which makes featherless chickens necessary to begin with. The solution to animals suffering from inhumane living conditions isn’t to alter them so that they can better tolerate those conditions. Maybe instead of breeding bald chickens, we should be working on improving farms so that regular chickens can have access to sunlight and air, and grow at a natural pace.
Photo by: Steven L Johnson