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Old May 21st, 2002, 01:37 PM
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Researcher breeds featherless fowl

Researcher breeds featherless fowl

Chickens bred to beat the heat

A featherless chicken is seen in this photo from the Hebrew University school of agriculture in Rehovot Israel. (AP Photo/HO/Hebrew University)
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Seedless watermelon was one thing, but a featherless chicken?

An Israeli researcher is growing bald birds that will stay cool in the sultry Middle East and other hot climates.

The less fatty, crossbred chickens will fare better in tropical climates, where expensive cooling systems are needed to raise poultry, Hebrew University's Avigdor Cahaner said Tuesday.

The new birds are also better for the environment because the absence of feathers eliminates the need for water and electricity to run machinery in processing them for food.

"We're talking about sustainable agriculture," Cahaner said. "Farming should be aimed at reducing waste."

He crossbred normal chickens with birds already partly bald because of a naturally occurring "naked neck" gene. The result is a somewhat funny-looking, normal sized boiler chicken that carries the special naked gene.

The university's agriculture school has several dozen of the new chickens, and Cahaner expects the birds could be commercially produced within two years.

They could catch on in developing countries, where poorer farmers often can't afford cooling systems.

Consumers will benefit from a better looking product since chickens will not be damaged during plucking.

Sunburn should not be a problem since most commercially raised birds already are kept inside, Cahaner said, who added he wasn't promoting the breed for cooler climes where the bald fowl might be chilly.
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