Although it sounds like something out of the lab of a mad scientist, the featherless chicken is a real thing. Professor Avigdor Cahaner of the Hebrew University if Jerusalem’s Faculty of Agriculture, Rehovot, is trying to convince the world that a chicken without feathers has better “economic and environmental advantages” in hotter climates that traditional feathered chickens.
So why a bald chicken?
After years of research, Cahaner is claiming that bald chickens have an advantage in hotter climates because bald chickens grow faster, are more efficient, and heat resistant. He claims that the chickens could be a serious benefit to the poultry industry.
The problems that chicken farmers face in hotter climates is that the feathers of standard chickens prevent dissipation of internal body heat. This build-up of internal heat greatly reduces their growth rate, meat yield, and meat quality. Many standard chickens also simply die because of the higher temperatures which decrease production efficiency.
Cahaner goes on to explain, “Currently, these negative consequences can be countered only by expensive energy-dependent cooling and ventilation systems that increase costs and reduce the competitiveness of broiler production in hot climates.”
The question remains, are bald chickens a viable answer to chicken production in hot climates? Joyce D’Silva of Compassion in World Farming certainly doesn’t think so. She says that the idea of a bald chicken is “disgusting”, and that “It’s a prime example of sick science and the suggestion that it would be an improvement for developing countries is obscene. Factory farming is such an inappropriate technology for developing countries because it uses scarce resources like water, electricity and grain that could be used for human consumption, to produce meat that only the middle classes can afford.”
One thing to consider is simply: nature gave chickens feathers for a reason. “Naked” chickens are more much more susceptible to parasites, mosquitos, sunburn, and even slight temperature variations. Then, there is the problem with mating. Deputy Director of research at the Russian Veterinary Institute for Poultry Farming, Margarita Dmitrieva, points out that “When pairing the rooster may injure the hen with its nails and beak because it has no feathers on the head and the neck. Even now, the nails of two of the rooster’s fingers have to be cut off in order to prevent him from injuring the hen. But in the case of new breed, there will be scratches left on the hen’s skin while the rooster will have nothing to hold on to with its beak. This can be quite dangerous for the hen because when other birds see an injured hen they start plucking her. This means that the hen would have to be isolated, treated or culled.”
Now it is important to point out that the bald chickens were not a result of genetic modification. The Israeli scientists insist that the breed was developed naturally through natural selection and selective breeding. Also, according to the researchers, “The food prepared from bald chicken does not taste any different from those prepared from ordinary chicken”. That’s all fine and well, unless you happen to see the bald chicken alive – in which case, would you eat it?