1975: Rather than installing expensive signs or speed bumps, Napa, California experimented with using chickens to slow down motorists on one of its streets — Streblow Drive, bordering Kennedy Park. They simply let 85 chickens roam the park and street at will. Said park superintendent Bob Pelusi, "Only occasionally does an errant driver charge through the flock. In the nine months we've had the chickens on the job, we've lost 12 of them — gone in the line of duty, so to speak."
1976: Drs. William Johnson and Robert Truax of Louisiana State University raised and studied featherless chickens.
Aside from the physical problems, the chickens have social problems and psychological hangups, Johnson said.
"I guess 'embarrassed' is as good a word for it as any. You put one of them in with a flock of normal birds, and it huddles off in a corner by itself. The other birds won't have anything to do with it until they get used to it," he said.
"And then they're just not as active sexually. They will court and strut much more than the normal bird, but they don't mate as readily."
The story reminds me of the old urban legend about KFC raising mutant, featherless chickens. Maybe this is where the story started.
An experiment conducted by animal behavior expert Marc Bekoff of the University of Colorado, Boulder with his dog, Jethro:
While talking Jethro on his daily walk I conducted a study of his sniffing and urination patterns. To learn about the role of urine in eliciting sniffing and urinating, I moved urine-saturated snow ("yellow snow") from place-to-place during five winters to compare Jethro's responses to his own and other dog's urine. Immediately after Jethro or other known males or females urinated on snow, I scooped up a small clump of the yellow snow in gloves and moved it to different locations. For some reasons passers-by thought I was strange and generally left me alone. Moving yellow snow was a useful and novel method for discovering that Jethro spent less time sniffing his own urine than that of other males or females.
Edmund Gerstein claims to have invented a "Manatee Alerting Device" (aka MAD) that, when attached beneath a boat, will emit a beam of sound alerting manatees to get out of the way. But it's controversial. Other researchers insist the device will just add more noise to an already noisy underwater environment. It would be like "putting a siren on every car on a highway." And that manatees wouldn't be able to tell where the sound is coming from.
Complicating the controversy, it turns out Gerstein has a history of advancing unorthodox manatee theories. Back in the 1990s he claimed to have discovered that manatees can hear high-speed boats better than low-speed ones. His claim was promoted by boaters who wanted no speed regulations, but after paying tens of thousands of dollars on extra manatee research, the state of Florida decided Gerstein was wrong. He was also busted for faking a degree. Which is why researchers aren't exactly welcoming him with open arms now.
Crow experts over in Japan have figured out a way to stop crows from ripping old insulation material off of pipes (the birds use the insulation for their nests). The researchers simply hung signs that read (in Japanese), "Crows do not enter." The crows seem to be obeying the signs. At least, they abruptly stopped attacking the pipes. This has now been working for three years.
Professor Katsufumi Sato thinks the signs work because people see the signs then look up into the sky for the birds, and when the crows realize they're being observed they fly away. More info: asahi.com
Or maybe the birds can read. I happen to have had in my files an example from 1960 of seagulls in San Diego who obeyed signs ordering them to stop dropping clams on the pavement.
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Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
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