Chickens: Foragers, Not Fighters by Nature

IF chickens could sue for defamation of character, they'd have a winning case against the article ``Kinder, Gentler Hens for the '90s,'' Oct. 4. Chickens are neither ``clucking cowards'' nor descendants of ``wild jungle beasts'' prone to violent intra-species aggression.

Scientific field studies of the social organization and behavior of the feral chicken (e.g. research by McBride et al. in the mid-'60s) show a highly complex social life with virtually no fighting.

Marian Stamp Dawkins at Oxford provides insight into the causes of ``cannibalism'' that can occur in a cage: ``Junglefowl, which are the wild ancestors of our domesticated chickens, spend long hours scratching away at the covering of leaves that hides one of their favorite foods - the minute seeds of bamboo.

``An ancestral memory of this way of life seems to have carried down the generations into the cages of our modern intensive farms so that even highly domesticated breeds have the same drive to scratch away to get their food - if they have the opportunity.''

Chickens are natural foragers with an evolutionary instinct to range. They have excellent full-color vision, like ours. They have highly developed hearing enabling them to recognize the location and identity of other members of the flock over vast areas amid dense foliage. Our society has chosen to imprison these active birds for life and then to resort to ``blaming the victims'' for the results of what we have done to them. Karen Davis Potomac, Md. United Poultry Concerns Inc.,

Talking and paying

The author of ``It's Time to Put Automated Services on `Hold,' '' Oct. 6, considers automated self-services as efficient, but adds to the isolation and abstraction of an already fast-paced, impersonal society.

Her examples include doing banking through an automated teller machine to get cash to pay an attendant for gas at a station and to pay for stamps from a machine. She extends this to minimal conversation with a waitress in a cafe while getting breakfast.

My experiences have been just the opposite. When I go to a gas station, I slip my credit card into the machine and get gas; however, while the tank is filling, I am able to talk with the station manager who is at the pumps ready to provide assistance if needed. We exchange pleasantries and light conversation since we aren't burdened with handling cash.

At the grocery store, the clerk is using a scanner to record bar-coded items while I slip my credit card through a terminal at the register. We are able to have light conversation while the machines do the recording, because we aren't absorbed with detailed key-punching and hand recording. G. Stanley Doore Silver Spring, Md.,

Smelling like an ashtray

The article ``Lessons from a First-Time Cruiser,'' Oct. 5, hit everything right on the head. We took our first cruise in April. We thoroughly enjoyed it, but the author should have stressed the smoking issue a little more. Most of the meals and entertainment are indoors.

We are nonsmokers and when we asked about a nonsmoking section, we were told that cruise ships are foreign-owned. Therefore, they do not have ventilation requirements.

The smoke can become extremely irritating. We ended up avoiding indoor entertainment and ate our meals quickly. We were never bothered by the long waits, but were bothered by smelling like an ashtray all the time. We would definitely support a nonsmoking, nonalcoholic ship. Kenny and Tammy Daubach El Centro, Calif.,

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