A chicken wearing glasses. It almost sounds like a new meme, but this particular image goes back to 1903 and Andrew Jackson Jr., who was likely not related to the much more well-known President Andrew Jackson. Mr. Jackson, of Munich Tennessee, was the first to file a patent for chicken glasses, and his basic design was used for well over 70 years in farms across the world. But why in the world did chickens need glasses?
Chickens need glasses?
As it turns out yes, but not for the same reason as we humans need glasses. Glasses for chickens are more like safety glasses than vision correction glasses. Chickens, as it turns out, can be incredibly violent toward one another, especially in crowded conditions. They can become cannibalistic, especially when stressed. Once one chicken pecks at another and blood is drawn, it can cause a frenzy. The eyes are a particularly vulnerable spot, so in 1903 Andrew Jackson Jr filed patent 730,918 for “Eye Protector for Chickens”. These were, in essence, little protective glasses for chickens. Here’s an image from the patent filing:
These were basic glasses that simply covered the eyes and prevented pecks from damaging or ruining the chicken’s eyes. They were amazingly popular and were sold at chicken feed stores and in the Sears Roebuck catalog, proving that at one point, you could buy just about anything from a catalog. Other versions of these began to pop up, with some held on by straps, instead of a wire frame. Others used small hooks into the nostrils of the chicken, and several inhumane varieties were held on by a pin that had to piece the bone between the nostrils.
Tinted glasses also became popular. It was found that rose-colored lenses would help block out any blood spilled. If the chickens couldn’t see the blood, they couldn’t go into a frenzy. Some firms created lenses that would hang over the eyes until a chicken lowered their head. Once the checked dropped its head, the lenses swung out of the way. Then they could see the ground with no color tinting. If they raised their head, the lenses dropped, and the rose-colored glasses would help them ignore any blood.
Chicken glasses, Chicken Spectacles, Anti-Pix, or any other of the many names these were called, were sold until the late 1970s. Blinders were also a popular choice, invented in 1935. Rather than protecting the eye and preventing the chicken from seeing blood, these blinders stopped the chicken from seeing directly in front of them. This stops them from being able to look straight ahead to peck at another chicken. It also helps prevent feather picking and egg eating!
While chicken glasses fell out of favor, chicken blinders remain popular to this day. They are available not only in farm stores, but also Amazon. The glasses themselves actually became quite the collector’s item! They can be sold for over $100. Not bad for a pair of chicken specs.