We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Poultry Science, Chicken Culture

A Partial Alphabet

Susan Merrill Squier

Publication Year: 2010

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.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (54.9 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (24.8 KB)
pp. vii-viii


pdf iconDownload PDF (55.8 KB)
pp. ix-xii

read more

Introduction: Why Chickens?

pdf iconDownload PDF (118.3 KB)
pp. 1-18

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...

read more

1. Augury

pdf iconDownload PDF (223.7 KB)
pp. 19-33

6:45 A.M. One chick jumps on the hen’s back. The hen ruffs up her feathers, crouches down, fans her tail feathers, and spreads her wings. All ten chicks run under her tail and backfeathers, pressing in as tightly as possible. The two Cobb 700s freeze still and silent right where they are standing, on the little hill next to the chicken shed, and the Buff Orpington is quiet in the tall grass. I wonder what...

read more

2. Biology

pdf iconDownload PDF (168.7 KB)
pp. 34-52

“Go to work on an egg” urged the British Egg Board in 1990, in advertisements showing dark-suited men and women riding giant hen’s eggs down crowded city streets. I was living in London that year, reading Guardian reports on Parliamentary debates over human embryo research, and the Egg Board ads made me laugh. What an unfortunate choice of slogan! In the years since, however, that slogan has seemed prophetic, challenging the narrow focus on...

read more

3. Culture

pdf iconDownload PDF (559.4 KB)
pp. 53-74

From the large-format photographs of colorful chickens decorating the restaurant on Tenth Avenue where my family celebrated Father’s Day to the smashing close-ups of exotic breeds in a calendar I leafed through at the Barnes and Noble on Sixteenth Street, New York City seemed full of chicken culture in 2007.1 What do I mean by that term? Until very recently I would have meant something agricultural. As Raymond Williams has observed, “culture in all its...

read more

4. Disability

pdf iconDownload PDF (227.5 KB)
pp. 75-96

One chilly night near the end of December 2007, I sat in a cramped theater watching a chicken crowing on stage. To be more precise, I was watching a woman acting the role of a disabled man crowing like a chicken. Celeste Moratti, an Italian actress living in New York City, was playing the role of Antonio, a psychiatric hospital patient who believed he was a chicken. Chickens and disability: this unlikely combination of themes had drawn me to the...

read more

5. Epidemic

pdf iconDownload PDF (130.8 KB)
pp. 97-118

Remember the children’s story in which Chicken-licken is hit on the head by a falling acorn? She turns it into a global catastrophe, racing around to warn all her friends, “The sky is falling!” (Anon. 1914). This story came to mind one morning in 2005 as I was writing about issues of risk and safety. That night I...

read more

6. Fellow-Feeling

pdf iconDownload PDF (220.2 KB)
pp. 119-137

I had been raising chickens for a while—sitting with them in the morning as they scratched for insects in the dirt, making sure they were safely on the perch when I closed them in at night—when I began to think about fellow-feeling. The curious word came to mind when I thought about my feeling for my chickens. A kind of empathy—born in the intimate encounters that are so much a part of chicken farming: pouring the birds scratch grain and clean water as they mill...

read more

7. Gender

pdf iconDownload PDF (329.3 KB)
pp. 138-155

Two versions of the same children’s story have pride of place on my office shelf: a large-format illustrated pulp paperback version of The Little Red Hen, produced by the Saalfield Publishing Company in Akron, Ohio, in 1928, and a glossy child-sized hardback version of The Little Red Hen (Rand McNally Junior Elf Book) published in 1957. These children’s books provide my point of entry to...

read more

8. Hybridity

pdf iconDownload PDF (259.7 KB)
pp. 156-177

In February 2008 I spent several days in intense conversation with artist Koen Vanmechelen—at his kitchen table in Meeuwen-Gruitrode, Belgium, where we sat surrounded by cabinets on which perched taxidermied chickens; on the bright red couch in his living room, under the vivid photograph of a white rooster with a bright red comb; at the dining table, where from a sideboard stared three stuffed lizard-chicken hybrids; and finally in his Toyota...

read more

9. Inauguration

pdf iconDownload PDF (168.3 KB)
pp. 178-197

Writing before the swearing-in ceremony for the forty-fourth president of the United States, and the first African American president, Washington Post reporter John Kelly recalled the original meaning of the term inauguration:
The upcoming inauguration of Barack Obama allows us to have a quick lesson in Roman history. Though its precise etymology is disputed...

read more

Conclusion: Zen of the Hen

pdf iconDownload PDF (78.9 KB)
pp. 198-206

This book ends, as it began, with sitting—or to be exact, with Zen meditation. One morning in July 2005, the idea for a book appeared in my mind, chapters and all, while I was meditating. I was keeping chickens at the time; just a week before I had added to my flock the two Cobb 700 pullets whose short lives I chronicled in the introduction. Bred for meatier breasts and easier deboning...


pdf iconDownload PDF (121.2 KB)
pp. 207-226


pdf iconDownload PDF (101.4 KB)
pp. 227-240


pdf iconDownload PDF (128.3 KB)
pp. 241-256

About the Author

pdf iconDownload PDF (40.8 KB)

E-ISBN-13: 9780813552361
E-ISBN-10: 0813552362
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813549248

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 23
Publication Year: 2010