Chicken-based technologies

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Little known outside specialized fields, technological advances have been made only through use of the chicken, Gallus gallus. Some uses, indeed, have been classified information. All too often, "chicken technologies" are merely considered ways to breed chickens, a limiting assumption.[1]

Nuclear weapons

For more information, see: Blue Peacock (nuclear weapon).

British nuclear weapons designers on the Blue Peacock project faced the challenge of the electrical circuitry, of atomic demolition munitions (ADM) to be emplaced in West Germany against a potential Soviet invasion, becoming too chilled to operate. One proposal put dedicated chickens into the bomb housing, to generate the needed heat.[2]

Sentinels against disease

Chicken flocks are used in a number of "sentinel" application, especially for the early detection of viral diseases. "The California Department of Health Services, together with several vector control districts, maintains an active "early warning" program to help detect the presence of encephalitis virus. In the San Francisco Bay Area counties, they have placed 15 sentinel chicken flocks of 10 birds each. If antibodies appear in the blood of the chickens, it shows they were recently bitten by infected mosquitoes. "[3]

Australia used sentinel chickens to detect SARS. [4]

Chicken cannon

Bird strikes can bring down aircraft, especially if ingested by jet engines. Aviation manufacturers and research institutions do safety tests by flinging, usually with compressed gas, chicken carcasses into target aircraft; a number of improvements have been made to improve aircraft resistance. [5]

Nevertheless, the reality has grown over time. A persistent story addresses a high-speed train manufacturer that wanted to evaluate the dangers of bird strikes. Obtaining a "chicken cannon" from an aerospace firm, they tested it, and were shocked by the utter devastation. Consulting with the cannon's manufacturer, they allegedly were advised, "first, thaw the chicken."[6]

The Canadian comedy team Royal Canadian Air Farce had a regular segment on their television show in which a chicken cannon would be fired at photos of various public figures. For variety, the group would solicit audience suggestions for ammunition other than chicken.[7]

Tissue culture and vaccines

In the laboratory of Alexis Carrel circa 1910-1912, chickens were among the first successful sources of animal tissue culture.[8]

Alternative energy

Chickens feature in several methods of generating electricity. An experimental power plant in Eye, Suffolk, connected to the British national grid, burns nothing but chicken droppings from farms.[9]

Even more varied applications generate methane from chicken by-products. In the Netherlands, it is used for home heating. [10] English inventor Harold Bate has patented a chicken-powered methane generator for use on individual automobiles.[11]


  1. C. Mapiye, M. Mwale, J.F. Mupangwa, M. Chimonyo, R. Foti, M.J. Mutenje (November 2008), "A research review of village chicken production constraints and opportunities in Zimbabwe", Asian - Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences
  2. British Military planned chicken-powered nuke, National Archives (UK), 5 April 2004
  3. Disease Surveillance, Marin/Sonoma Mosquito & Vector Control District
  4. Annette K. Broom (September 2003), "Sentinel Chicken Surveillance Program in Australia, July 2002 to June 2003", Communicable Diseases Intelligence
  5. "Bird strikes: FAQs", CBC News, 19 January 2009
  6. Catapoultry,
  7. Chicken Cannon Reference Guide
  8. John A. Ryan, 1910 to 1923 - Carrel and the early days of tissue culture, Corning Laboratories
  9. Dianne Stradling (17 July 1992), "Chicken power makes its debut on the national grid: Dianne Stradling reports on a commercial breakthrough for alternative energy", Independent (UK)
  10. Mike Chino (9 August 2008), "Chicken Manure to power 90,000 Homes in the Netherlands!", Inhabitat
  11. Barry Grindrod (July/August 1971), "The Marvelous Chicken-powered Motorcar!", Mother Earth News