ACKLEY, Iowa –
Iowa farmer Warren Milledge has a lot to be proud of lately. He has a new grand-daughter, was recognized by the local Grange for 40 years of service, and as a lifelong chicken farmer, he has been the first person to successfully bred a three-legged chicken.
“I’m naturally most proud of our new grand baby, Sunny Ann Milledge,” said in an interview on his Marshalltown Pike farmstead. “Eight pounds, seven ounces and giggles and gurgles all day long. Gosh, we love that baby! “But those three-legger hens are surely an amazing miracle.”
Milledge, a 1977 graduate of the University of Iowa Cedar Rapids Agriculture program, explained how he came up with the idea a three legged chicken in the first place. “You see, it was when there were just the three of us, this was before our son Benjamin was married. I love a drumstick, Ben loves a drumstick, and mother loves a drumstick, but as you know a chicken only has two legs so only two drumsticks. That meant roasting two chickens each time so there were enough drumsticks.”
Milledge says that at first, it was just a joke around the house that they should try to somehow breed a three-legged chicken. Then after joking about it for several months, it started to become less of a joke, and more of an intriguing possibility.
“One day a Divine Providence visited this humble Iowa farm,” said Milledge. “A chick was born with two normal legs and a smaller, non-functioning leg that sort of twitched a bit. You’ve probably seen pictures of two-headed snakes or two-headed cows and sheep and whatnot. Well, this was along those lines.”
“Normally those freak animals don’t survive birth, but this little chicken, we eventually found out he was a rooster, was very lively so I chose him for breeding and after a few peeps, which is what we call bunches of newborn chicks for you city fellers, we got two more chicks with those little legs. So we started breeding those two with the rooster and eventually achieved chicks with fully functional third legs. There was a short piece in Iowa Farmer’s Digest and that’s when KFC got involved.”
Purvis Jones, a spokesperson for KFC, confirmed that the fast food company has taken a keen interest in the three-legged chickens, and have approached Milledge with the idea of being one of their key breeders.
“The long range plan for us is to offer meals with three drumsticks, but that is a few years away. Right now, we are working with Mr. Milledge to breed a solid base of three-legged chickens for production. He has about two hundred chickens now, but we need to see flocks in the many thousands before the three-leggers are commercially viable for us. Right now, three-legged chick births are only running about 60% and we’d like to see some improvement in those numbers. Plus, there’s the other problem,” Said Jones, deferring to the Milledge Farm for further comment.
“Yep, that’s true,” said Milledge, with a slight laugh. “The problem, well…we have a big problem with the three-leggers. You see, we don’t yet know how these chickens taste because, well, do you have any idea how fast a three-legged chicken can run? Well, it’s pretty fast, I’ll tell you fer darn sure. We haven’t caught one yet.”
Once Milledge is finally able to catch and sample the chicken meat, KFC will request samples for their future meal plans.