Egg-Laying Machines!

May 11, 2011 | 2 comments

Mechanical Hen

       Our girls have been laying to beat their record!  This week the seven of them have given us six or seven eggs every day and they are cackling and clucking and making a great big noisy fuss about it, too.  They are apparently as proud as can be about their efforts.  So are we.
      The afternoon we returned from our trip to Olympia, we collected eleven eggs!  We realized that we were getting a day and a half’s production, since we hadn’t been home the day before, but it was still quite a thrill to gather almost a dozen in one fell swoop.  But, in actuality, it convinced me that having more hens probably wouldn’t be a good idea.  Enough are enough for us, at least when it comes to eggs.
     I was thinking about all that productivity when I ran across a little article and picture about the World’s Poultry Congress, held at London’s Crystal Palace back in 1930.  It said that one exhibit featured a giant wood and wallboard hen built by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
     Spectators, including the Duke of York, watched as motors powered the bird’s digestive system, resulting in an oversized egg.  A phonograph record provided the chicken’s play-by-play narration.
     Fabulous!  Way back before I was born, someone had translated all that clucking!  I’d love to hear what that wooden hen was saying.  I went online (you can find almost anything online) on the off-chance… 
      What I found was an article from the August 4, 1930 issue of TIME magazine:
     Curiosity seekers, poultry men, the Duke of York, and many a hen last week eyed the world’s strangest hen, at the Fourth World’s Poultry Congress, London Unperturbed she stared back out of her one shining glass eye, patiently explained how eggs are made.
     …she is 7 ft. tall… fully equipped with gullet, crop, copper-lined stomach, rubber intestines, a two-valved pump for a heart, all exposed to the public view. While her audience watched, she ate food, ground it, digested it, distributed it, laid a big egg, explained—in a polite voice with a U. S. accent—each step of her internal working as it took place.
     Electric motors behind the exhibit furnish operating power. Rate of egg-laying can be increased by speeding up a small motor which operates the lathe on which the eggs are turned. A phonograph record and amplifying apparatus make it possible for the great hen to speak. Upon its return from London, the exhibit will be sent to U. S. state fairs.
         I wonder if it ever got to fairs at the county level–specifically to the Pacific County Fair at Menlo.  Maybe it’s not too late.


  1. Pat Thomas

    Love the mechanical hen, Sydney! Makes me wish I still had my little yellow plastic hen with a spring inside and a hole in the bottom. You pushed her down on her little orange legs (poor girl) and out popped a little plastic egg–endlessly. Probably and Easter present.Very cool, and it lasted forever.

  2. Stephanie Frieze

    A very cool picture of something fun! I wish they would have something like that at the Puyallup Fair!


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