Brits Say Chicken-Equipped Nuke No Hoax

LONDON -- A claim that Britain considered using live chickens in a nuclear weapon aroused skepticism Thursday, but officials insisted it was not an April Fool's hoax.

"It's a genuine story," said Robert Smith, head of press and publicity at The National Archives.

The archives released a secret 1957 Ministry of Defense report showing that scientists contemplated putting chickens in the casing of a plutonium land mine.

The chickens' body heat was considered a possible means of preventing the mine's mechanism from freezing.

Listing ways of extending the armed life of the land mine, the declassified document proposed "incorporating some form of heating independent of power supplies under the weapon hull in the emplacement. Chickens, with a heat output of the order of 1,000 BTU (British Thermal Units) per bird per day are a possibility."

The seven-ton device, code named "Blue Peacock," would have been detonated from a distance or by timer in the event of a retreat from invading Soviet troops, to prevent them from occupying the area.

Andy Oppenheimer, co-editor of Jane's World Armies, said he found the idea of using chickens hard to believe.

"I have a feeling that it's an April Fool," he said in a phone interview. He said wrapping the device in fiberglass to keep it warm would have been a better option.