The flock gets sight of a spot of blood on some chicken and they all go to peckin’ at it, see, till they rip the chicken to shreds, blood and bones and feathers. But usually a couple of the flock gets spotted in the fracas, then it’s their turn. And a few more gets spots and gets pecked to death, and more and more. Oh, a peckin’ party can wipe out the whole flock in a matter of a few hours, buddy, I seen it. A mighty awesome sight. The only way to prevent it—with chickens—is to clip blinders on them. So’s they can’t see.
– One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey.
Domestic chickens are not easy to care for, especially when they are reared for egg production. Aside from the calcium-rich diet when they’re young, and the antibiotic treatment in the case of diseases, farmers are also faced with a couple of problems that they cannot resolve with drugs: feather pecking and cannibalism. Feather pecking occurs when a bird pecks at another’s feathers repeatedly, thus causing entire areas of the other bird’s body to completely lack feathers altogether. Cannibalism in poultry can arise from severe pecking, and can lead to an increased mortality rate in a flock, and can also cause a decrease in production, because the pecked birds become stressed.
In order to stop this practice among chicken, several solutions were proposed, including beak trimming, which was done either with a heated blade when the chick was one day old. Another solution came in the form of chicken glasses.
Chicken glasses were patented in 1903 by Andrew Jackson, Jr. of Tennessee and were designed to prevent feather pecking and poultry cannibalism. Unlike blinders, which did not allow the chickens to see forward, these specs could be semi- or even fully transparent, and even rose-tinted. Rose was used, as opposed to any other color, because it disguises the color of blood, which is said to effectively stop pecking and even cannibalism. Rose-tinted contact lenses were also proposed as a method to decrease chicken mortality.
The specs consisted of two oval panels that would fit perfectly over the upper beak of the chicken, and were made of celluloid aluminum. A cotter pin is also passed through the nostril of the chicken, to keep the oval panels in place. Of course, different designs were produced, each one with a different way of attaching the glasses to the chicken’s head, like a strap, for example. The practice was so widespread that one inventor of a type of chicken specs proposed a law by which all chickens in the state of Kentucky were to be bespectacled, however, his campaign was not successful.
Elmer Haas, who worked for a major rose-tinted specs producer, and whose grandfather invented wire frames for chickens in 1902, came out and said that the idea that the rose-colored lenses masked the color of blood was simply a myth, as chickens are color-blind. The company Haas worked for added the colored lenses in 1939, branding them as Anti-Pix. It’s unknown whether or not the rose tint was effective, however, chickens have perfect color vision, like any other bird.
Chicken eyeglasses are no longer produced, but they can be bought as collector’s items.