Wild chicken comes home to roost

We have a mascot. One chicken survived several months in the free life at Meadowcreek amongst the packs of coyotes, foxes, possums, hawks, owls, and raccoons.

A batch of surplus and donated chickens were installed by a neighbor couple in a coop outside our new Co-op house months before anyone lived there.  They started nesting in the trees to avoid predators after a few were nabbed.  Their eggs were no longer laid in the boxes.  The food provided was no longer as appetizing as the wild grubs. The neighbor couple gradually forgot about the flock for weeks on end.

Visitors occasionally spotted a rooster and hens scurrying across the road near the house.  Now, after no sightings for months, one female has decided come in from the wild.   Did the rooster die protecting this girl’s honor from marauding hawks?  Or is he off in the woods still partying with the other girls, not worrying about winter?

All we really know is that this chicken is intelligent enough to know that it is safe sleeping on the screen door at the house at night. It can also fly fifty feet. We’ve named it Sky Chicken and hope to breed it with the new chickens to create a sky rooster who will be able to predict the future and retrodict the past. It may take several generations, but we will create the ultimate rooster. That rooster shall be named “Kwisatz Haderach”.

chilcken wild and super

You may say this is pie in the sky.  That “Kwisatz Haderach” will never lead a fleet of Sky Chickens to dominate the skies of Meadowcreek.  Little do you know that we have a Ph.D. in Genetics here.  His first genetics experiment was in 7th grade with chickens.  He had chickens hatching during the Science Fair to illustrate Mendel’s principles of segregation.

I know segregation and discrimination are dirty words, but just try to keep your emotions under control.  They have meanings in science which far predate the meanings which make you see red.  Segregation in genetics is the separation of genes and their independent transmission as separate gametes.

When we mate two breeds, such as speckled Sky Chicken and the white newbie chicks, the offspring are a hybrid of characteristics from both parents.  They have the genes for speckled and the genes for white.  If the gene for speckled is dominant, then the chicken’s appearance (it’s phenotype) will be speckled, but it will carry genes for both speckled and white.  This is called the F1 generation by breeders and geneticists.  The same as the hybrid seed available for most crops.

When species like humans and chickens reproduce, they form gametes.  These gametes have half the number of genes as their host.  Each gamete has a slightly different set of genes because the genes segregate when the gametes are created.  If the color of feathers is determined by just one gene, then the speckled gene from Sky Chicken and the white gene from its mate will go to different gametes and so to different offspring.

When members of the F1 generation are crossed, the segregated genes result in (on average) one offspring with both speckled genes, two offspring with one speckled and one white gene, and one offspring with two white genes.  Three of these will be speckled (due to the dominance of the speckled gene) and one will be white.  This is called the F2 generation.

The genes which enable Sky Chicken to fly so high and survive so well will also segregate.  If it’s only one gene causing Sky Chicken’s wondrous abilities (call that gene the wild gene), then the F2 generation will have an average of one chicken with both wild genes, two chickens which are mixed and one chicken with no wild genes left.

If we expose all the chickens to the same environment: nightly encounters with at least ten predators which love to eat chicken, then we’ll get some attrition.  But some should retain the wild character of Sky Chicken.  The wild character should combine with other characters from the white chickens to produce our “Kwisatz Haderach”.

We may have to introduce severe selection pressure since predicting the future has never been needed in chickens before.  Their lives were pretty well decided before they were born and there was not much they could do about it.

But our new breed will be independent and free chickens.  No longer bound to the confines of time and space, much less a lowly chicken coop.  Their consciousness will roam free and soar in the heavens along with Gurdjieff’s immortal soul.

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The biological process which creates segregation is called meiosis, but experience with undergraduate genetics students tells us it’s foolish to go any further without props.  If you want to learn more, look up meiosis and Gregor Mendel.  Chicken genetics is a specialty of researchers at University of Arkansas.  They can help you sort out genes. But don’t talk about Tyson with them.  They get really edgy when you mention that name.

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