Chick sexing is the profession of separating newly hatched female from male chicks. Hatcheries employ chick sexors so that they don't waste money feeding the male chicks that aren't going to grow up to lay eggs.

Differentiating a male from a female chick is quite challenging, especially doing this quickly. The techniques for doing so were first developed in Japan and then brought to America, where Japanese-Americans dominated the industry for most of the 20th century.

The main industry organization was the National Chick Sexing Association and School. But a smaller school, based in Atlanta Georgia in the late 1940s, called itself Speed-O-Sex.

Gotta wonder if that name ever caused confusion among local residents.

More info:

Chicago Japanese-American year book, 1947

Posted By: Alex - Mon Oct 16, 2023 - Comments (1)
Category: Jobs and Occupations, Odd Names, Farming, 1940s

Wingless Chickens

Because he disliked "gnawing on stringy chicken wings," Peter Baumann bred wingless chickens. This was back in the 1940s. Evidently his wingless chickens failed to interest the chicken industry. I haven't been able to find out what became of his flock.

To illustrate the helpless quality of these wingless birds, photographer Francis Miller dropped one from six feet to show how it failed to fly, as opposed to a winged chicken that glided downwards.

Images from Life - July 18, 1949:

"Wingless chicken (below) plummets helplessly downward when dropped from 6-foot height, while normal bird settles gently with wings spread"

Posted By: Alex - Sun Nov 13, 2022 - Comments (1)
Category: Animals, Farming, 1940s

The Devil’s Rope Museum

I just returned from a cross-country road trip — visited family on the East Coast then drove back home to Phoenix, which recently became my home. Along the way I stopped at the "Devil's Rope and Route 66 Museum" in McLean, Texas, located on the I-40 east of Amarillo. 'Devil's Rope' is a term for barbed wire.

I hadn't expected the barbed wire section of the museum to be very interesting. I stopped to see the Route 66 memorabilia. But the barbed wire display turned out to be the better part of the museum. Definitely worth checking out if you're ever in the area.

As one might expect, the museum had a lot of info about the use of barbed wire in cattle farming. But it also included a large section about military uses of barbed wire.

Barbed Wire Cutter during World War I

How to build a 'Knife Rest' - War Department, Jan 1944

There were also random oddities, such as a barbed wire hat and boot.

"Hat made by Kevin Compton in 1985. Made from Burnell Four Point Barbed Wire found on the west side of the Rio Grande River near Dixon, New Mexico."

"Barb-Wire Boot"

And in the entrance to the museum, one could view samples of dirt collected from every county in Texas.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Jun 05, 2022 - Comments (0)
Category: Museums, Farming

Lambs in a wind tunnel

Controversial experiments in which British government scientists subjected newborn lambs to prolonged periods in a wind tunnel and baths of cold water to test their weather resistance have been stopped by the Agricultural Research Council.

After spending more than $40,000 on the experiments the scientists concluded that lambs with short wool got cold faster than lambs with long wool.

Sounds like Nobel Prize material there.

San Francisco Examiner - Dec 9, 1979

I'm not entirely sure, but Deborah Samson's research at the University of Edinburgh seems like it was the original study: "Genetic and physiological aspects of resistance to hypothermia in relation to neonatal lamb survival".

You can download at this link (pdf file) her doctoral thesis describing the research. As usual with things like this, the actual scientific study doesn't seem as wacky as the media report of it.

Update: While browsing through Samson's thesis, I discovered that she had a picture of the lamb "wind tunnel apparatus".

Posted By: Alex - Sun Dec 05, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Experiments, Farming, 1970s

Miss Chicken of Tomorrow

Two "Chicken of Tomorrow" contests were held. The first in 1948, and the second in 1951. Their purpose was to encourage farmers to breed meatier chickens. And they apparently succeeded. Modern Farmer magazine reports that, "Some of the champions of these competitions became the major genetics suppliers of today's poultry."

Of course, at the time one couldn't hold such a major competition without simultaneously holding a beauty contest to find a young woman to be its queen. So, Nancy Magee became the first "Chicken of Tomorrow Queen" and Joan Walters was the second. Joan got quite a bit more publicity. She was paraded around the country as "Miss Chicken of Tomorrow."

For more info, check out this old documentary on YouTube about the 1948 contest.

Nancy Magee, the 1948 Chicken of Tomorrow Queen

"Miss Joan Walters of Rogers, Ark., 18-year-old brunette beauty, was crowned Chicken-of-Tomorrow Queen here last Friday night in a ceremony at the University of Arkansas field house."--The Madison County Record - Apr 12, 1951

"Miss Joan Walters of Rogers, Ark., was recently named National Chicken-of-Tomorrow Queen." Image source: Arkansas Land and Life - Spring/Summer 2004

San Bernardino County Sun - Apr 8, 1951

Orlando Evening Star - May 25, 1951

Posted By: Alex - Tue Nov 02, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Awards, Prizes, Competitions and Contests, Farming, 1940s, 1950s

The Farm Art of Jens ‘Art’ Morrison

Jens 'Art' Morrison, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was a practitioner of 'farm art'. Or, as he put it, he was a 'farmicist'. He mostly worked in ceramics and was most active during the 1970s and '80s.

By 'farm art' he meant that a) farm animals were a recurring theme throughout his work, and b) there was a heavy emphasis on quirky, folk humor in his work, as well as A LOT of bad puns (see 'farmicist'). So, 'farm art' was deliberately distinct from 'serious art'.

One of his creations was 'Juxtapachickens.' This was a series of fourteen-inch ceramic chickens. (The url leads to a site that consists solely of a picture of two skinned chickens in a pot. I have no idea if this was somehow inspired by or related to Morrison's work. I'm guessing not.)

Far more elaborate was his "artillogical" discovery of the "Farmounians," who he claimed were the ancient, original settlers of Iowa. As he put it:

About 450 B.C. (before ceramics), the Farmounians crossed the Boaring Straits, sailed down the River Swine, and settled in the eastern basins of Iowania, to farm the fertile fields and rolling hills. The ancient glyphs and corntainers are imporktant because they depigt the lifestyles and legends of the Farmounians: the mysteries of the Corn Cult, the age of Barcornius, and the winter dwelling or Pigloo. These frelics of the daily rituals, banal activities, and peculiar characteristics make Farmounian art unique in the western world.

He created (or 'discovered') numerous artifacts of these Farmounians, such as 'corntainers' that displayed ancient-looking ceramic reliefs he called 'Pigtaglyphs'. He said he was just providing 'infarmation' about this ancient culture.

Morrison even wrote a book about the Farmounians — A History of Farmounia. He described it as a 'Historical Gehography'. It's an obscure work, but there's a copy available on abebooks for $33.66 (plus $34 shipping from the UK to US).

Posted By: Alex - Tue Oct 12, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Animals, Farming, Art

Portable Pig Launchers

In the pipe industry (that is, pipes through which things flow, not the pipes one smokes), 'pigs' are defined as inspection gauges that travel through pipes (see wikipedia).

This leads to some odd product names, such as Portable Pig Launchers, Bi-Directional Pigs, and Subsea Pig Trackers.

iNPIPE Products offers a full line of portable pig launchers.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Oct 01, 2021 - Comments (7)
Category: Odd Names, Farming

Teacher fired for in-class castration

June 1992: Dick W. Pirkey Jr., a teacher at Harmony High School in Texas, was fired from his job after a student in his animal husbandry class castrated a pig with his mouth. Pirkey acknowledged that he had described such a procedure to his students, but insisted that the 17-year-old had performed the procedure without his permission and before he could stop it.

Seven months elapsed between the incident and Pirkey's termination. Explaining the delay, the School Superintendent admitted that when the board had first heard about the in-class oral castration they had thought it was a joke and that someone was trying to play a trick on them.

Pirkey appealed his termination, noting that oral castration was described in a state-approved textbook, and that it was also "routinely practiced throughout the state, but not in our locale, and is normally performed on sheep."

However, his firing was ultimately upheld by the State Commissioner of Education who pointed out that instead of stepping in to stop the student from performing the procedure, Pirkey had actually taken pictures of him as he did it. In fact, Pirkey even took a picture of the student "holding the testicle overhead in a victory stance."

Tyler Morning Telegraph - June 20, 1992

Longview News Journal - Feb 26, 1994

Posted By: Alex - Tue Sep 15, 2020 - Comments (3)
Category: Animals, Farming, Education, 1990s

Johnnie the Tractor-Driving Monkey

The 1977 video below features both Johnnie and his son, Johnnie II. But mostly Johnnie II.

The owner of both, Australian farmer Lindsay Schmidt, said of the original Johnnie:

"I trust him with my life driving the tractor. He can hold it on a hill and keep it from slowing down. You should see him holding that wheel as he skirts the hill and I work behind.

We take it in turns to drive and toss off the hay to the sheep and cattle."

Billings Gazette - Jan 17, 1965

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jul 24, 2020 - Comments (1)
Category: Animals, Farming, Motor Vehicles

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