- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2002

JERUSALEM (AP) Seedless watermelon was one thing, but a featherless chicken? An Israeli researcher is growing bald birds that will stay cool in the sultry Middle East and other hot regions.

The less fatty, crossbred chickens will fare better in tropical climates, where expensive cooling systems are needed to raise poultry, Hebrew University's Avigdor Cahaner said yesterday. The new birds are also better for the environment because the absence of feathers eliminates the need for water and electricity to run machinery in processing them for food.

"We're talking about sustainable agriculture. Farming should be aimed at reducing waste," Mr. Cahaner said.

He crossbred normal chickens with birds already partly bald because of a naturally occurring "naked neck" gene. The result is a somewhat funny-looking, normal-size boiler chicken that carries the special naked gene.

The university's agriculture school has several dozen of the new chickens, and Mr. Cahaner expects the birds could be produced commercially within two years.

They could catch on in developing countries, where poorer farmers often can't afford cooling systems.

Consumers will benefit from a better looking product since chickens will not be damaged during plucking.

Sunburn should not be a problem since most commercially raised birds already are kept inside, Mr. Cahaner said, who added he wasn't promoting the breed for cooler climates where the bald fowl might be chilly.

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