Could your chickens assist academic research?
The chicken is the most widely established livestock species on the planet.
We are looking for your help to better understand the changing size and shape of chickens over the last 8000 years. Our research team will be exploring whether it is possible to identify specific breeds through their bones and using scientific analysis to understand changing patterns of disease and injury related to chicken husbandry. One of the first steps is building a skeletal reference collection of birds of known breed, age and sex, focusing on breeds that are documented in the UK and Europe before 1800.
We are very keen to hear from breeders interested in helping us acquire the specimens which will aid them in their research. We can only accept birds which have died naturally or been slaughtered as part of normal husbandry practices (culled cockerels, for instance). All contributions will be acknowledged in any publications arising from this research and we will collect specimens personally. Breeds could include (but are not limited to) Old English Game (especially the Oxford type); Dorking; Poland; Malay; Hamburgh (particularly Spangled or Black Hamburgh) and Silkie; breeds with inherited traits such as Rumpless fowl and those with Creeper genes such as Japanese Bantams or Scots Dumpies would also be useful.
This research is part of a larger project: the “Cultural and Scientific Perceptions of Human-Chicken Interactions” which will tell us how the relationship between chickens and people has developed over the last 8000 years. In recent years, there has been a drive for food to be produced at cheaper prices and intensive farming practices have been developed; these have led to very selective breeding which has left the food we eat vulnerable to disease. With the recent food scandals, it is easy to see that ensuring a sustainable food chain is of vital importance to us, the consumer and the economy.
Researchers from the Universities of Bournemouth, Durham, Nottingham, Leicester, Roehampton and York will be examining the spread of the domesticated chicken, the history of meat and egg production and the cultural significance of chickens in, for example, ancient religious rituals. This research will inform policy on poultry-borne disease, food security and environmental ethics. These are all issues of particular importance at a time when billions of people rely on mass-produced chickens as a source of sustenance.
Project website: http://www.chickenco-op.net/
University of Leicester Bone Lab:
Dr Richard Thomas: [email protected]
Dr Tyr Fothergill: [email protected]
Alison Foster: [email protected]