Even chicks had to deal with weight limits when flying in the 1960s.
- By: Joshua F. Moore
Photograph Special Collections, Raymond H. Fogler Library, University of Maine
Overseas travel has always been a bit of a pain, but back in the 1960s it was especially challenging for chicks, who had a nasty habit of dying before they reached their destination. So chicken breeders like Arbor Acres, of Glastonbury, Connecticut, enlisted the help of the University of Maine, which boasted a Poultry Sciences Department (it was later combined with Animal Sciences). Arbor Acres, whose breeding stock was present in half the chickens consumed worldwide, was trying to find a way to keep chicks alive on the long trip to Spain.
In this photograph, UMaine senior David Pound is recording the weights of a flat of recently hatched chicks in a Hitchner Hall laboratory. Such newborns can survive for a couple of days on the yolk sac that they draw into themselves during hatching, but that doesn’t take care of all their needs. “The most critical aspect was water — how long they can survive without water without detrimentally harming the growth aspect,” explains Paul Harris, a retired UMaine poultry professor. “In the work that was being done in this picture, the chicks were hatched, weighed individually, placed in shipping boxes, and held in the laboratory for up to four days.”
Judging by the stacks of empty egg cartons, at top, and the broken shells in the wooden tray, at lower right, this is one of the first weigh-ins for this flock. Harris says they would be weighed every twelve hours or so to determine how much they lost in the meantime. Unfortunately for this fluffy little fellow, who tips the scales at just under fifty grams, these tests determined that the chicks could only make it about two days in such conditions — not long enough to make it to Barcelona.
Interestingly, these weren’t the only far-flying chicks in New England. Harry Whelden, who worked for the UMaine extension office starting in 1955, did similar longevity studies while he was at the University of Vermont — and with better results. “We had good luck shipping chicks to Iran, actually,” Whelden says. “They (Iran) were a lot friendlier then, and they had a project where they were trying to get farmers to raise chickens, but they didn’t have the meat-type chickens.”
If only we could step back fifty years — a shipment of the cute fluff-balls shown here might help ease tensions a half a world apart.
- By: Joshua F. Moore