The Chickens of War

An interesting story from War Illustrated of June 24, 1916 , attested as true by a soldier stationed on a farm in France:

The men there often heard a sound as of a falling shell, not followed by the burst, and they concluded that the shell must be a ‘dud’. But one day, sitting in the farmyard, one soldier heard the sound repeated twice within a couple of minutes, close at hand, and on the second occasion found that a hen was responsible for it. Immediately afterwards a cock replicated the exact imitation of a falling shell. Comrades corroborated the observation, and the French farmer assured them that the fowls had learnt to make the noise since the war began, and sometimes kept it up for a long time.

The author of the article (who was clearly more of a Lamarckian than a Darwinist) reflects:

It would indeed be strange if the accomplishment were transmitted to these fowls’ progeny, and in future peaceful days hens perpetuated the memory of the Great War by roaring like a falling shell every time they laid an egg.


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