Chicken Specs

Anyone who’s ever observed chickens has seen them peck each other. It’s not the roosters that are hen pecked, it’s other hens and they may be pecked to death. This has long been a problem for chicken farmers and various solutions have been proposed.

In 1903, Andrew Jackson, jr. was granted a patent for chicken spectacles. These are, in effect, safety glasses meant to protect a chicken’s eyes. But that’s not the only vulnerable spot on a chicken. Hens will peck at another bird’s tailfeathers until they expose skin and then attack the exposed area until it bleeds. Once blood is drawn, other birds will peck at the wound until the hurt bird suffers serious injury.

So, at about the same time Louis Harwood and Joseph Haas developed spectacles for chickens — not to protect the victim’s eyes, but to prevent the aggressor from attacking. Once these spectacles are attached to a chicken’s beak, it will not peck at blood. You see, these are rose-colored glasses; the lenses filter out the color red. The glasses from Haas are hinged and fall away from the chicken’s eyes when it lowers its head so that it can still forage for red stuff. [See them in action here.]

The National Band and Tag Company sold many thousands of the Haas glasses until the 1970s when they quit manufacturing them. Now they are collectible. There is a problem with the specs though, one that caused the United Kingdom to ban them: they are attached to the bird’s head by a cotter pin run through its nostrils. I suppose that sounds cruel. Anyway, that’s one reason chicken ranchers have turned to other anti-pecking measures, like clipping the bird’s beak.

Backyard chicken-raising has become a bit of an urban fad in the last few years. Sooner or later, these city farmers are going to be faced with the problem of restraining their flock’s natural murderous instincts. Perhaps some new form of chicken specs will be introduced for their benefit.