Hen changing colours, scientists studying the phenomenon

Scientists are studying a hen that changes its colour frequently.

Thiruvananthapuram: A hen that changes its colour frequently owned by a farmer at a coastal hamlet near here has evoked keen interest not only among lay men but also
the scientific community.

The Zoologists here are studying the phenomenon as it was the first such documented case.

The six-year old bird, which was black originally, changed its colour four times in the last six years without shedding its plume or any other physical problem.

The bird turned black-and white twice in 2009 while it remained pristine white so far this year, Selvaraj, a farmer from Mukkola village, who owns the wonder bird, said.

"The change of colour of its feathers was noticed after it laid eggs for the first time. The black-coloured bird then became pure white within a year. But its health remained
alright and it did not manifest any other abnormality. It continued to lay eggs also," he said.

According to Dr Oommen V Oommen, a Emeritus Scientist with CSIR, who has been observing the hen since 2008, it is a "rare phenomenon" which deserved detailed study.

"It is an uncommon, freak case. As we do not want to sacrifice the bird, we are attempting external examinations only,” Dr Oommen said.
“Blood and hormone samples of the bird have been collected in 2008, 2009 and 2010 continuously and analysed. Estrogen (female sex hormone) count is found to be very high in the hen than the normal rate, which could be the reason for the phenomenon," Dr Oommen, a former Heald of Department of Zoology at the Kerala University, said.

Estrogen could inhibit pigmentation in femlaes.However, this had to be established after further studies including the genetic aspects of the bird, he said.
The chicks of the bird were also being observed as the farmer had reported that one of them appeared to have the same tendency as the mother bird.

The matter had also been brought to the notice of experts of the Banares Hindu University also, he said.


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