Her great-great-...-great-grandma was a T-rex.
Birds descended from a group of two-legged dinosaurs whose members include the Tyrannosaurus rex and the velociraptors. And no bird is more closely related on the genetic level to the dinosaurs than the chicken!
The ancestors of the domestic chicken can be traced back to four species of wild jungle fowl from Southeast Asia, mainly the red junglefowl with some probable participation of the grey junglefowl.
Red junglefowls live in forest areas where they forage for seeds, fruits, and insects. They are able to fly short-distances, but they mainly travel by foot and prefer areas with dense vegetation for ground cover.
Jungle fowls usually live in a small group with one male and several females. Within the group’s territory, there are regular roosting sites where they sleep high in the trees at night and rest during the hottest part of the day.
They breed and lay in spring. The hens lay 10 to 15 eggs per year, and incubate the eggs for 18 to 20 days. The average size of a brood is 4 to 6 chicks.
Domestication likely began in India and China approximately 8,000 years ago. Early on chickens became a center of folklore, mythology, and religious symbolism. But they really started traveling around the world as fighting birds with the rising popularity of cock fighting. Chicken meat came to the table but only on very special occasions, and eggs were a luxury.
About 3,000 years ago, Egyptians developed the technique of artificial incubation to free the hens from brooding so they can lay more eggs.
Chickens became common on family farms, and were raised in small numbers.
Humans started to selectively breed chickens to provide more egg, meat, and in some cases special plumage. Today there are more than 400 breeds of domestic chickens.
Until the appearance of large-scale industrial production in the 20th century, the economic and nutritional contribution of chickens was modest.
It is only in the 1950s with scientific discoveries and technological advances that intense agriculture started. The discovery of vitamin D was a milestone for poultry farming, as it made possible to keep chickens confined indoors year-round.
With scientific breeding, the chicken industry developed specialized hybrids for meat and egg production. The broiler chicken is bred to grow muscle super fast, and reaches the slaughter size at 6-7 weeks old. While the egg layer is bred to lay 250-300 eggs a year.
Chicken meat and eggs are now a common and very cheap food. But it comes with a huge cost to the environment, our health, and the animals.
As people become aware of the impact of factory farming, they are taking things into their own hands. Chickens are now found in urban backyards, and heritage breeds are coming back. Things are shifting from quantity to quality and sustainability.
As chickens are moving into our backyards, they are also making their way into our lives and hearts. They are slowly becoming companion animals along with our dogs and cats.
Her great-great-...-great-grandchild may well be a pet chicken :)
Did you know?
A bantam eats an average of 0.5lb of feed during a week, a light breed eats 2lb, and a heavy breed 4lb.
Of course, it depends on the quality of the food, its energy and protein content. It also varies with the chicken’s age, breed, activity level, and health. The external temperature is also a factor. Chickens eat more when it’s cold than when it’s hot.
Normally chickens should be free fed so they can eat whenever they feel like it.