Adapting Chicken Production to Climate Change Through Breeding
Delaware’s official state bird is a chicken — the Delaware Blue Hen, to be exact. Dr. Carl Schmidt at the University of Delaware heads a team that’s developing a breed of chicken that will be more resistant to high temperatures, enabling the chicken to survive the almost-guaranteed extreme heat waves of the future.
Why we chose these super-chickens:
Schmidt is motivated by a desire to feed a global population in a changing climate. His team has been researching breeds of chickens that fare well in hotter climates — for example, the Transylvanian Naked Neck — and is now working to develop its own breed. They aren’t interested in creating a Frankenchicken using genetic engineering. Instead, they are sticking to traditional breeding methods by isolating genetic variants that make chickens less sensitive to heat. The project is in its early stages; Schmidt estimates that it will be another 15 years before they’ve developed a living, breathing prototype.
On getting a head start:
Says Schmidt: “My hope is that if 20 years from now, we really need a chicken that can withstand these heat waves, people can look to this work and say, ‘And here is what we need.’”