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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

"Swat the Rooster"

This mysterious headline appeared in the Pantagraph August 6, 1915. Poultry farmers were being urged to dispose of their roosters in June. What terrible crime were the roosters accused of? Causing the loss of foodstuffs! The absence of roosters would allow the farmers to have a healthier supply of eggs for market.

In 1917 the State of Michigan printed a extensive explanation of why it was wise to dispose of roosters or keep them away from the hens during the summer months. If the rooster is allowed to fertilize the eggs of the hens, those eggs are not available for human food in the hot summer months. If an egg was not removed from the nest in a timely manner (nests should be emptied twice a day during the summer months) the embryo of a chick would begin to form and the egg will be unsuitable for human consumption. Eggs had to be "candled" or examined by the farmers to find out if there was the beginnings of a chick in the egg. Any egg that had a blood ring or sign of a fertilized egg must be discarded and wasted. But if there is no rooster in the hen yard, there was no possibility of eggs being wasted in this manner.

Candling is also how eggs are graded for quality. During WWI it was very important that every bit of food that was produced be edible and of good quality. As the war wore on, the instructions to preserve eggs as food would come more frequently.

It is unclear why the Pantagraph was giving this rather untimely advice (It was August after all). It was common for the Pantagraph to run the same articles for several days, or to fill an empty space in the paper with an article previously published in the Pantagraph or even another paper. For instance, the story of a birthday or other anniversary might run in the paper for three days before being removed.

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