Researchers join artist in quest to create the perfect chicken for Ethiopia’s farmers

Chickens in the new facility (photo credit: Camille Hanotte).

Researchers in Ethiopia are embarking on a quest to create the perfect chicken for African farmers with an unlikely ally—a Belgian conceptual artist who has spent 20 years crossbreeding indigenous chickens, from China and Egypt to Senegal and Cuba.

‘Incubated Worlds, a research and breeding centre in the capital Addis Ababa, will also house a permanent art installation showcasing the work of Koen Vanmechelen, including photographs, videos and books of chickens’ genetic codes.

‘“It’s the most sexy chicken coop in the world,” said Vanmechelen, whose Cosmopolitan Chicken Project set out to create a chicken carrying the genes of all the planet’s breeds.

‘The artist told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that each successive generation of Cosmopolitan Chickens is more resilient, lives longer, and is less susceptible to diseases, proving the importance of genetic diversity.

‘At the centre, scientists from the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and local partners will compare different types of Ethiopian chickens and crossbreed them naturally with others, including Vanmechelen’s. . . .

‘Olivier Hanotte, a scientist with ILRI in Addis Ababa, said crossbreeding Vanmechelen’s highly diverse birds with local varieties could result in a breed that is healthier and more resilient—but they must also be productive.

‘“What we want is an animal who produces eggs, which would grow relatively fast and can reach a weight of two to three kilos in a minimum amount of time,” he said.

‘Hanotte praised Vanmechelen for doing what scientists could not—creating a unique population of chickens that gives a snapshot of the genetic diversity of birds outside Ethiopia. . . .’

Read the whole article at Thomson Reuters Foundation: Art and science marry in Ethiopia’s quest for the perfect chicken, 26 Apr 2018.

Read ILRI’s press release about this launch: Art and science bring poultry genetics to life in Ethiopia while celebrating local diversity in all its forms, 26 Apr 2018.