Wednesday, April 13, 2011

M is for Male

is for male.  As in being a boy.  A dude.  I am one, and there are lots of others out there.  Now, most of us who are males have been males since the day we were born, although you can get all sorts of hormone therapies and sex change operations.  However, it doesn't usually just naturally occur in this world, except in a chicken in England.
     That's right, Company, there is a chicken in England who has pulled a one-two switcheroo of epic proportions.  Jeanette Howard, of Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, England (wherever that is) has two hens that she keeps in her backyard.  Over this past winter, both hens produced fewer eggs, and one of them - Gertie - stopped laying eggs at all.
    But that's not where she stopped.  She developed other male chicken characteristics.  First, she came out of her moulting with more feathers and filled out a lot with more muscle and more mass.  "I thought Gertie came out of that really well" said Howard.  Then she developed wattles (like under her neck like a male) and her comb - that red pointy thing on top of her head - got bigger and much more defined.  All male characteristics of the body.  And he behavior followed suit with strutting in the coop and marching like a male around the yard.  All that was pretty strange until Gertie tried to crow.  "She wasn't very good at it at first, but she's progressed nicely and now she really goes for it" related Howard.
Mr. or Ms. Gertie.  We're not entirely sure which.
Photo courtesy of BBC.
     So what is the deal with this shit?  A female hen chicken just becoming a rooster.  A cock!?  That is unbelievable.  Call the World Weekly News, there must be some sort of curse or alien technology at work here because animals just aren't supposed to be doing that.  I mean, maybe under the sea there are some strange creatures that change back and forth depending on if light is hitting them or something, but it is just not commonplace especially on animals that I can eat.  Well, you're right, it is strange.  And there are some outside forces at work here, just not as far outside as aliens.
      English veterinarian Marion Ford, who specializes in poultry - as theorized that something in the stored chicken feed could be the culprit.  And, even more stunningly, that apparent sex changes in female chickens is not that uncommon.  Apparently most of these sex changes aren't featured on the BBC.  "An increase in testosterone will result in a hen growing an extended comb, exaggerated wattles, and cockerel-like behavior including strutting and crowing" said Dr. Ford.  Or Ms. Ford if she prefers, I am not sure if she is a doctor or just a chicken expert.  But she seems to know what she is talking about so let's go with it.  She has hypothesized (that means made an educated guess for those of you without dictionaries handy) that mycotoxins or fungi in the stored chicken feed could be acting like synthetic hormones, which by the way are what they give you as part of a sex change operation.
     So what does this all mean?  First of all, keep your hands out of the chicken feed.  Second of all, there are probably more natural cures and processes than we never could know.  Third, apparently something you eat I guess CAN just change sex sort of at will.  As for our subject, "I'm not really sure whether Gertie has actually changed sex, but to all intents and purposes she's now a cockerel" said Howard.  I guess in the end it doesn't really matter much, she is no good for laying eggs either way.  And she's still equally as good for the pot.

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