Chicken eyeglasses, also known as chickens specs, chicken goggles, generically as pick guards and under other names, were small eyeglasses made for chickens intended to prevent feather pecking and cannibalism. They differ from blinders as they allowed the bird to see forward whereas blinders do not. One variety used rose-colored lenses as the coloring was thought to prevent a chicken wearing them from recognizing blood on other chickens which may increase the tendency for abnormal injurious behavior. They were mass-produced and sold throughout the United States as early as the beginning of the 20th century.
A form of chicken eyeglasses was first patented in 1903 by Andrew Jackson, Jr. of Munich, Tennessee, as an "Eye-protector for chickens". Sometimes the devices took the form of blinders, but other versions were actually semi- or fully transparent glasses, often rose-colored. The idea behind the glasses is to prevent chickens from attacking and cannibalizing one another. Red-tinted lenses, as opposed to other colors, are said to be effective in stopping the internecine pecking because they disguise the color of blood. As summed up in a 1953 article in Indiana's National Road Traveler newspaper, "The deep rose-colored plastic lenses make it impossible for the cannibal [chicken] to see blood on the other chickens, although permitting it to see the grain on the ground."
The glasses were often made from celluloid or aluminum and typically consisted of "two oval panels that fit over the upper beak of the chicken. A pin is put through the nostril to-hold the oval pieces in place." Different designs were produced that attached to the chicken's head in different ways. The model described previously hooked through the nostrils with a cotter pin, while others had a strap. The glasses were available through the mail order company Sears-Roebuck, or through chicken feed stores for a few cents. The glasses are no longer produced, at least by their main manufacturer, but are sought as collector's items.
Even rose-colored contact lenses for chickens were seriously proposed to stop death loss in chickens. The common practice of beak trimming, done with a heated blade or infrared beam usually when chicks are one day old, is effective in reducing injuries due to pecking, but has significant effects on chicken welfare.
The practice of bespectacling one's chickens was alive and well, at least as of 1973, when an Illinois poultry farmer was reported in Illinois' The Hawk-Eye newspaper to have 8,000 chickens fitted with the rose-colored variety. One inventor of a form of the glasses proposed legislation in Kentucky to require all chickens in the state to be fitted with glasses, but his campaign was unsuccessful.
Elmer Haas of the National Band & Tag Company, a major producer of rose-colored eyeglasses for chicken, whose grandfather had "devised wire frames for chickens in 1902", indicated that the ideas about the blood masking effect of the rose coloring was a myth: "the firm added the rose colored glasses because it indulged the chicken owners ... [c]hickens are color blind". The firm had added the rose-colored feature to its glasses in 1939 under the brand name "Anti-Pix". Whether the tinting is effective or not, chickens in fact have, like other birds, good color vision, being able to be trained to recognize colors "quickly and accurately".
On January 16, 1955, one Sam Nadler of the National Farm Equipment Company of Brooklyn appeared on CBS' popular primetime television show, What's My Line? The show was in the format of a guessing game, in which a panel attempted to determine the line (occupation) of contestants. Show officials listed Mr. Nadler's occupation for the audience as "sells 'eyeglasses' for chickens". After the panel was unsuccessful in guessing his occupation, Mr. Nadler's identity was revealed and he stated that his company sold 2–3 million pairs of chicken eyeglasses per year. What's My Line?'s director, Frank Heller, said in a March 15, 1958, interview that the show's "most unusual occupation" over the shows then eight-season run was "the gentleman who makes eye glasses for chickens."
In the UK, the use of these devices is illegal on welfare grounds. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in their Codes of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock: Laying Hens, provides: "The Welfare of Livestock (Prohibited Operations) Regulations 1982 (S.I. 1982 No.1884) prohibits ... the fitting of any appliance which has the object or effect of limiting vision to a bird by a method involving the penetration or other mutilation of the nasal septum."
- Abnormal behaviour of birds in captivity
- Overview of discretionary invasive procedures on animals
- Vent pecking
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- National Band & Tag Company website featuring chicken sunglasses information, advertisements and photographs
- 1947 Paramount Newsreel about chicken glasses
- What's What's My Line? episode segment featuring chicken glasses
- 1902 patent: "Eye-protector for chickens"
- Image of a form of rose-colored chicken eyeglasses
- Pathe News reel showing poly-peepers on hens in the UK in 1951