You can’t herd cats.
That’s a well-known truth. What many poultry farmers have discovered is that you can’t herd chickens, either.
Pigs are no problem. Cattle are quite cooperative as well. But chickens? Not only will they not cross the road, they won’t even cross the barnyard in an orderly fashion.
To deal with this difficulty, poultry farmers have had to pull out their checkbooks and hire specialized laborers called “chicken catchers.” Their task is to run around inside chicken houses and grab, by hand, all the crazed chickens they can, and then stuff them into cages.
These chicken catchers capture 8 billion birds a year, and the toll is high on both chickens and their catchers. The birds get roughed up as they are violently grabbed, and the catchers get scratched and dirtied by the flapping chickens. Most catchers quit after a few months and head for better jobs — such as working in toxic waste dumps.
For years, engineers have tried to find an automated answer to the question of how...
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