Hen one minute, gone the next

Agatha with her owner Melanie Brookes.

Her owner Melanie Brookes launched a Facebook search to find her

A hitchhiking hen named Agatha, whose disappearance sparked a Facebook search, has been found 40 miles (64km) from her home in a Derbyshire village.

Agatha the chicken jumped on to a delivery van at the home of her owner, Melanie Brookes.

The driver did not discover the bird until his next delivery in the village of Hathersage.

Mrs Brookes launched a Facebook campaign to find Agatha and eventually tracked her down.

She said: “We didn’t know where she’d gone.

“We went out round the fields looking for her but couldn’t see any feathers, which you’d normally see if she’d been taken by an animal.

Agatha climbing into a car.

“A delivery van had been here dropping off pipes for our extension and I wondered if she had jumped on board, but my husband thought I was being silly.”

‘Such a character’

However, when Mrs Brookes phoned the delivery company to check, the manager said the driver had seen her jump out of the van in Hathersage.

Mrs Brookes launched a Facebook page to find Agatha, a two-year-old brown warren.

She said: “It took two weeks for us to find her. In the end, we spoke to a farmer and he knew the man who had found her.”

It transpired Agatha was found by a man who also kept chickens.

Agatha the chicken.Mrs Brookes, who has kept chickens as pets for three years said: “We haven’t stopped smiling since. We missed her, she is such a character.

“We think we might have to put a sign up asking delivery drivers to check they have no unwanted packages on board. But apart from that, there’s not much we can do. She’s so inquisitive.”

Keeping Guinea Fowl – Getting Started

We thought it would be helpful to give you a background to keeping guinea fowl, and to address a lot of the frequently asked questions about guinea fowl.

The meat of a young guinea is tender and of especially fine flavor, resembling that of wild game, and therefore has been substituted for game birds such as grouse, partridge, quail and pheasant Guinea fowl has a taste similar to other game birds and has many nutritional qualities that make it a worthwhile addition to the diet. It is second only to turkey in calories, having 134 Kcal (Calories) per 100 grams (turkey has 109 Kcal). The meat is lean and is rich in essential fatty acids.

Why raise guinea fowl? There are many reasons. The guinea has been used in protecting the farm flock from intruders because of its loud, harsh, cry and its pugnacious disposition. Since one of the main sources of food for wild guineas is insects, they have gained popularity for use in reducing insect populations in gardens and around the home, especially because, unlike chickens, they do not scratch the dirt much and do very little damage to the garden. Recently, guineas have been used to reduce the deer tick population, associated with Lyme disease. Other people raise them for their unique ornamental value.

File:Numida meleagris -Serengeti National Park, Tanzania-8 (1).jpgThere are three principle varieties of helmeted guinea fowl reared in the United States at this time, the Pearl, White and Lavender. The head and neck are bare, but there may be some wattles. The wattles on the male guinea are much larger than on the female. The Pearl is the most popular variety and the one most people recognize. The Pearl has purplish-gray plumage regularly dotted or ” pearled” with white spots and its feathers are often used for ornamental purposes. The next most common variety is the White Guinea (also called African White). The White Guinea has pure-white feathers and its skin is lighter than the other two varieties. These birds are not albino and are the only solid white bird that hatches solid white and not yellow. Lavender guineas are similar to the Pearl, but with plumage that is light gray or lavender dotted with white.

Basic Management of Guinea Fowl

If you already have other poultry, you will soon discover that guineas are not chickens. They are much more active than chickens and not as easily tamed. They seem to retain some of their wild behavior and will remind you of this whenever they get spooked.

Guineas require a dry environment with plenty of room. Guinea fowls are extremely good runners and use this method, rather than flying, to escape predators. Since most people raise guineas with the intention of letting them run loose after reaching adulthood, space is usually not a problem. If you are confining your birds for any length of time, give them as much room as possible outside and a minimum of 2-3 square feet per bird inside. The more room they have, the less likely they will become overly stressed. Guineas tolerate weather extremes fairly well after they are fully feathered and have reached adult size.

Guineas begin to fly at a very early age and can be confined only in covered pens. It is not unusual to find adults roosting 20-30 feet above the ground complaining about everything they see. They are very strong fliers and the birds will often fly 400-500 feet at a time when moving around the farm, especially if startled.

The laying season will vary depending on your latitude and local weather patterns. The Pearl and Purple usually have the longest laying season and the lighter colors have the shortest.

Managing Adults

If you are purchasing guineas for tick and insect control then you are better off purchasing adult guineas as they require little care and do very well on their own. Clean water and a regular chicken laying mash is basically all you need to rear them. They enjoy a little scratch feed mixed in with their feed and scattered on the ground. If your birds are allowed to roam freely they will eat very little during the summer months. If you keep their feed restricted during the summer months, then they will spend more time eating insects.

Feeding Guineas

Keets need a 24% – 26% protein ration such as turkey starter or gamebird feed. It is recommend using an unmedicated feed to avoid potential problems with keets getting over-medicated. Reduce the protein to about 18% – 20% for the fifth through eighth weeks. After that they will do well on regular laying mash that is usually 16% protein. If you can’t find feed with different amounts of protein, mix the higher protein feed with laying mash to get the proper protein mix. The guineas’ natural diet consists of a high protein mix of seeds and insects. If your birds have a large area to roam they will usually get enough to eat on their own, but you can train the birds to stay closer to home by providing supplemental feed in a regular location. Guineas need a higher protein feed than chickens, but do quite well on regular poultry mash or crumbles. It is recommended that they be given only mash or crumbles instead of pelleted feed. They will not eat much supplemental feed if they are finding plenty to eat on their own, but it has been found that they really like wheat, milo, and millet and will clean up every kernel. However, only give whole or cracked grains as a treat or supplement, but not too much. The protein content is too low and the fat content too high to be much value. They don’t care for the larger grains and will ignore whole corn kernels.

Make sure they have access to clean water. Give keets warm water only! They don’t tolerate cold water well.

Sexing Guineas

One of the most-often asked questions about guineas is how to tell the hens from the cocks. Young guineas cannot be sight-sexed like other poultry or fowl. The hens and cocks look exactly the same except for some of the newer colors where the hens are darker, as both keets and adults. The only precise way to tell the sexes apart is to listen for the two-syllable call the hen makes. This sound has been described as sounding like “buckwheat, buckwheat”, “put-rock, put-rock” or “qua-track, qua-track”. This is the only sound that the hen makes that the rooster doesn’t. The young birds start making these sounds at 6-8 weeks, but some hens do not start calling till much later.

Source: http://web.uconn.edu/poultry/poultrypages/guineafowlmanagement.html

How a dead duck changed my life

One afternoon, Kees Moeliker got a research opportunity few ornithologists would wish for: A flying duck slammed into his glass office building, died, and then … what happened next would change his life. [Note: Contains graphic images and descriptions of sexual behavior in animals.]

The Robotic Chicken Butcher

If you’ve ever wondered how boneless chicken parts end up that way, take a peek inside one of the 4,000 or so poultry processing plants in the U.S. Workers man massive assembly lines to scald, pluck, gut, slice, and wrap an estimated nine billion birds annually.

Unsurprisingly, work in poultry plants is dirty and dangerous. The job of chicken deboner (who cuts through the shoulder joint to separate the wing from the body) is particularly brutal since it requires performing repetitive motions with a knife for hours on end in a room the temperature of a refrigerator. If ever there was a job for a robot, this is it. But teaching a machine to carve poultry is difficult. No two chickens are the same, and each cut must be perfect. If a robot splinters a bone, it contaminates the meat. If it leaves too much flesh behind, it costs its owner money.

Later this year, a team from the Geor­gia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta will put the finishing touches on an autonomous robotic chicken butcher. The Intelligent Deboning System, a one-armed knife-wielding automaton, has the brains and dexterity to debone a bird in four seconds flat, on par with a human butcher.


The Robotic Chicken Butcher

The Robotic Chicken Butcher:  Daniel Schumpert and Jason Briney



1) Queue
Gutted whole chickens sit on metal cones as they travel along a conveyor belt, just as they would in a conventional poultry factory.

2) Assess
Each chicken passes through a kind of photo booth. Inside, two pairs of stereo cameras scan the bird, one pair per side. A computer instantly renders the images into a 3-D map of the bird. It also identifies useful markers, such as the humerus and the coracoid bones.

3) Calculate (Not shown in illustration)
In a production model that the Georgia Tech researchers plan to build, two robotic arms work on opposite sides of the conveyor belt—one arm for each side of the bird. Equipped with a 3-D map of the incoming chicken, the robots calculate a cutting trajectory accurate to within three millimeters. Fortunately, the body proportions of a chicken adhere to quantifiable standards. So by calculating the dimensions of one body region the machines can deduce the dimensions of all the other body parts.

4) Slice
To remove the wings from the breast meat, the robotic arms slice into the chicken with a knife at the collarbone, move toward the shoulder, cut through the shoulder joint, and continue down the bird’s backside along the shoulder blade, all in two seconds.

5) Repeat
Nine billion times a year.


Knife Arm
The business end of the robot is an industrial arm similar to those used to weld and paint car parts. The prototype features six degrees of freedom (one less than a human arm) to make cuts as fluid and graceful as possible.

Force Feedback
A force-torque sensor on the tip of the knife imparts sensitivity to the blade. Because the arm can sense resistance, it can move the blade along the surface of the bone without slicing through it and can discern between meat, tendons, and ligaments. “The big challenge is teaching the robot to adjust its behavior in real time to account for all the variation in different birds,” says Ai-Ping Hu, senior research engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute. Force feedback is key to accomplishing this. Dull blade? The sensor knows that too and signals the robot to sharpen it.

Brain (Not shown in illustration)
To help the robot calculate the cutting path, algorithms compare 3-D maps of each chicken to a database of dozens of different body types. The machine also learns on the fly and gets smarter with each new chicken it carves.


Calculations per Second to Render a Map of the Bird: 1,000
Seconds it Takes to Calculate a Cut: 0.5
Seconds to Debone an Individual Bird: 2–4
Estimated Cost of Each Robot Butcher: $350,000
Pounds of Chicken Consumed per Capita in the U.S. Each Year: 84

Source: http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2013-03/robotic-chicken-butcher

Seoul’s Chicken Art Museum – A Place of All Things Fowl

For years, Kim Cho-gang kept her oddball art collection out of sight, hidden away in a basement.

She admits hers is a rather unusual assemblage: wood carvings, paintings, puppets and embroidery — all celebrating the lowly chicken. There are roosters and hens big and small, birds depicted clucking, scratching and crowing.

Since 2006, these works have had a public place to roost.

Setting aside her lifelong dream of opening a child-care center, the 70-year-old former public health professor runs the Seoul Museum of Chicken Art, a private facility containing all things fowl.

Kim is crazy about chickens, including their looks and their historical and cultural significance in countries across the world.

“I do not buy luxuries. I don’t buy cosmetics. I am only indulged in chickens,” said Kim, an elegant gray-haired woman with glittering chicken earrings and a multicolored rooster brooch. “Whenever I make money, I mostly spend it buying chicken art pieces.”

In 2000, the South Korean government passed a law that opened the door to for-profit private museums of all kinds. Since then, Seoul has become the home of a wide variety of private museums containing collections of what many might consider offbeat subjects.

There’s a museum dedicated to kimchi, one of Korea’s national dishes. There’s a dumpling museum, a sex museum, and showcases for rocks, masks, owls and traditional knots — many in the same neighborhood as Kim’s museum.

“There are so many Koreans who are passionate about collecting,” said Kim In-whoe, president of the National Trust Cultural Heritage Fund of Korea. By opening a museum, he says, they can try to turn their passions into profits.

Kim Cho-gang’s gallery shows that the East and West have something in common when it comes to the chicken — an emblem of luck, fertility and wealth across cultures.

The rooster was once within a whisker of being picked as the national bird of the U.S., Kim says. In Russia, she notes, chickens signify arrogance and in China, they are a symbol of the zodiac. In Korea, they represent wealth, fertility and protection from evil.

Kim got her start as a chicken icon collector decades ago when she came to the conclusion that the bird’s image wasn’t fully appreciated. She was taken aback to see puppet roosters burned as firewood in the countryside. Those roosters were originally attached to a traditional Korean funeral casket.

“I saved a few of the unlit puppet roosters and brought them to Seoul,” she said.

Kim collected chicken art while on vacation and during her academic travels. When she retired a few years ago, she decided to share her acquired knowledge of chicken culture.

Scholars say her fascination with chicken art is far from outlandish.

“The chicken is one of man’s universal livestock, absorbed in various cultures, but barely known,” said Kim In-whoe of the National Trust Cultural Heritage Fund.

The tiny Museum of Chicken Art, in a fashionable neighborhood not far from South Korea’s Constitutional Court, contains 2,000 exhibits. Many artists have donated or lent their works on the winged creature to the museum.

The art is not for sale, but Kim Cho-gang charges a small admission fee and sells souvenirs and postcards.

A brace of chicken sculptures from Mexico seems to cackle in a doorway while a roomful of chicken-shaped charms from Europe reflect light nearby.

There’s a display of bronze, wooden and porcelain fighting cocks from countries that ban cockfighting and those that regard the battles as national sport.

And there is a collection of the wooden roosters that got Kim started as a chicken arts expert: A showroom features kokdoo, bright sculptures that were once a common decoration on Korean funeral biers.

Yu Yeon-joon, a former art magazine writer and freelance photographer, marveled at the range of color at Kim’s museum. “If Picasso was alive, he’d extol flamboyance of chicken arts,” said Yu as he took in the gallery one recent morning.

But not every visitor to Kim’s chicken menagerie gets the point.

One walked in with an unusual question: Does the museum serve chicken soup?

Source: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/oct/19/world/fg-korea-chicken-art19

Supermarkets ditch their ban on GM-fed chickens

SUPERMARKETS have dropped their ban on chicken reared on genetically-modified “Franken Feed”.

The U-turn emerged after Sainsbury’s announced it was scrapping its commitment to only stock poultry reared on non-genetically modified food.

The decision came after Tesco, the Co-op and Marks & Spencer also abandoned their pledges to not sell birds reared on GM feed.

And it followed a similar move by Asda and Morrisons. Only Waitrose is standing by its promise. The supermarkets blame a “chronic shortage” of non-GM soya — one of the key ingredients in chicken feed.

Last night a Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “It has become increasingly difficult to source guaranteed non-GM feed in the short term.

“So from this Monday the fresh and frozen chicken sold in our ‘By Sainsbury’s’ and ‘Basics’ ranges will be from birds that have been fed on feed we cannot guarantee to be GM free.”

The Soil Association called for clear labelling for shoppers.

Spokesman Peter Melchett said: “As the horsemeat scandal continues, the last thing the public want is another secret ingredient in the food chain.” Cattle is already reared on GM feed.

Source: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/money/4885831/Supermarkets-ditch-ban-on-GM-chickens.html#ixzz2RU7ddz6I