What if all the chickens die? Once there was a movie about a possible apocalypse, “No Blade Of Grass” in which a blight caused all the grasses of the world to die. It was scary, hoods in viking costumes rampaging about on motorcycles, women an childrens in peril, famine and pestilence and only one guy with a big gun to straighten things out, you know the story. Well, what if the chickens all die? No arroz con pollo, no huevos rancheros, no hen and chicks, no easter bunny, no cock a doodle do! It could happen.
Chickens are the world’s most populous livestock, existing in every continent, including Antarctica, (though there as frozen nuggets). There are over 22 billion of them, that’s a lot of fowl, and they rate as the world’s favorite food source. Humans raise an eat then in thousands of different ways, braised, boiled, blanched, broasted, jerked and jerkied. We eat them as ovum, we keep them as pets. We make fishing lures and ear decorations from their feathers. We use them to annoy the neighbors. We let them loose in the garden to control insects and feed the coyotes. There is no better alarm clock. And although they are incredibly useful and fun to have about, who hasn’t ever tried to catch one, we are close to losing them all.
Regardless of breed, color or location, they are all in danger of becoming extinct within a years time, according to this fellow, Olivier Hanotte. Chickens worldwide all have a common genetic marker, more or less they are all the same regardless of how they appear, (a lot like people). And like any mono-culture are susceptible to extermination by a single disease or virus. At one fell swoop, every chicken in the world could perish should the right airborne bacteria or avian flu gain a foothold in even a small population, like say those banty roosters and hens in Tim Orpington’s backyard in Millington, TN. So pernicious are these airborne viruses that having swept across the US they could easily be carried aloft on the warm air currents generated by the gulf stream that in mere months the pandemic would be worldwide. Dead and dying birds would be everywhere, think of the stench. And the concomitant uptick in disease from those over 22 million carcasses would wreak havoc upon the starving human population, many of which had relied upon the species for foodstuff.
As to a way out, well Hanotte and his fellow scientist have no real answers at this time but continue to study the problem. They have worked closely with a team of Chinese aviculturists to set aside a large surplus stock of thousand-year-eggs as a possible way to bring the species back should it be necessary and recommend that anyone with a domestic flock that is afflicted with avian flu choke all members to avoid a spread of the plague.