Poultry Science, Chicken Culture: A Partial Alphabet

Poultry Science, Chicken Culture: A Partial Alphabet

Poultry Science, Chicken Culture: A Partial Alphabet

Poultry Science, Chicken Culture: A Partial Alphabet


Poultry Science, Chicken Culture is a collection of engrossing, witty, and thought-provoking essays about the chicken-the familiar domestic bird that has played an intimate part in our cultural, scientific, social, economic, legal, and medical practices and concerns since ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Organized as a primer, the book reaches beyond narrow disciplines to discover why individuals are so fascinated with the humble, funny, overlooked, and omnipresent chicken.

Spanning fascinating and diverse fields, Susan Merrill Squier assesses the chicken as the focus of film, photography, and visual art in many media; details some of the roles played by chickens and eggs in the development of embryology, biology, and regenerative medicine; traces the iconic figure of the chicken (and the chicken thief) in political discourse during the 2008 presidential election; demonstrates the types of knowledge that have been lost as food production moved from small-scale farming to industrial agriculture; investigates the connection between women and chickens; analyzes the fears and risks behind the panic around avian flu; and scrutinizes the role of chicken farming in international development. A combination of personal passion and surprising scholarly information, Poultry Science, Chicken Culture will change forever the way you think about chickens.


“Don’t try to convey your enthusiasm for chickens to anyone else.”

—E. B. White, Introduction to Roy E. Jones’s
A Basic Chicken Guide for the Small Flock Owner

The Chickens and I

One morning in July, several years ago, I got a phone call from a man who identified himself as Glenn, from the Poultry Education and Research Center (PERC) at my university. “When do you want to pick up your hens?” he asked. Several weeks earlier, I had been searching for chickens to build up my flock. My favorite hen had died, and I had realized I should call perc. After all, I had long rejoiced in working at what I called a “full-service university”: it was time to draw on some of those services. and so, I , I had asked. Nope, they had meat birds, he told me. I was pretty dubious about using a meat bird as a laying hen. But we had left it that he would call me when he had some hens that were old enough for me to look at them, to decide whether I would add them to my flock. Now whatever birds they had were apparently old enough for that look.

“What breed are they?” I asked.


“But that’s not a breed, that’s a brand,” I replied. “What breed are they?”

I had done a little bit of research into chickens by then, and thought I was pretty on top of things. I had discovered that Cobbs, like other meat birds raised by agricultural schools in their poultry science programs, were hybrids created by poultry breeding companies specifically for the demands of the poultry market. This was pretty interesting to someone who teaches and does research in science studies for a living. Glenn explained, patiently, that Cobbs were created by crossing two breeds of chickens: the Cornish and the Barred Rock. They were the standard hybrid produced as broilers by the poultry industry. Would they . . .

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