Gallus Gallus Domesticus

Most of us, when we think of chickens, picture the farmer’s wife (or in my case, the boyfriend’s mom) taking out her kitchen scraps to a few hens pecking around the yard. As of now, I had never thought much of the history of chickens so I decided to do a little research. Here is what I discovered.

Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus)

The domestic chicken evolved from the Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus) of southern and southeastern Asia. These jungle fowl lived in flocks which had a dominant male and a definite pecking order. Our domestic chickens have many things in common with their distant relatives.

For a long time the main reason for keeping or breeding chickens was for fighting. The original farm hens were dual purpose, being bred for both their laying and meat qualities. Gradually, through selective breeding, these characteristics were developed separately.

Little by little other breeds were introduced from Europe and from the East. Some of the best breeds were produced in North America around the turn of the 20th century, perhaps the most notable being the Rhode Island Red and the Leghorn.

After World War I, many ex-servicemen started their own poultry farms as the demand for fresh food increased. These were always free-range and it was quite common to see large fields filled with grazing hens. As demand increased, more intensive methods were developed. In the 1950s and 1960s, the preferred method was deep-litter, where many hens were housed together indoors on bedding of straw or shavings.

This progressed in the late 1960s and 1970s to the system we have today – the intensive battery farming. This is where hens spend their lives -one laying season-

Standard Battery House

in tiny cages being denied the pleasure of foraging for their own food or experiencing any daylight.

In recent years there has been a lot of negative reaction towards this method of keeping chickens, and we are again seeing a resurgence of part-time farmers and smallholders who keep chickens for their eggs, meat and quite simply for their own pleasure. Hopefully, one day consumers will give preference to free-range over the desire to buy cheap produce.

Now let’s hear from you. Would you consider purchasing free-range eggs and other poultry products although they are more expensive?


The past is not a package one can lay away.

Lately, Alex and I have been uncovering moments from our past that serve as an explanation for our current admiration for our backyard pets. I believe that when we were young, we subconsciously absorbed a love for chickens, which in turn lead us to raise chickens.

The other day, my boyfriend’s mom brought up some baby pictures from the basement. She picked one out of the bunch and put it on the fridge. It was a picture of Alex and his little sister Danielle when they were babies. They were in the bath together and both kids had toy cups. Danielle’s cup was plain but Alex’s cup had a white hen on it. 

What a coincidence! Or is it? Could it be that Alex’s toy engraved an image of a little white hen in his brain? Could it be that subconsciously Alex relates chickens with the joy of his youth? The subconscious is a powerful thing. It is a force that can only be recognized by its effects – it expresses itself in the symptom. I believe that Alex’s desire to raise chickens is a symptom of his subconscious mind which links chickens to his youth.

When I was in the seventh grade, my best friend Gabrielle and I would go all out for class presentations. Presentations became one of our favorite things to do. We dressed up like news reporters, moody poets, weight lifters and celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and Jared from Subway.

For this particular presentation we had to create two urban legends. Mine was on Ouija boards, and hers was on chicken fingers. We decided to make costumes to go with our urban legends so we made a Ouija board out of a television and cereal box and then we made the chicken costume. This was absolutely the most ridiculously amazing costume we had every put together. We had feathers, orange tights, beak and even chicken feet. I remember being jealous that I wasn’t going to be the chicken, that I was stuck being the stupid TV box Ouija board.

I am now certain that this chicken costume plays a part in my devotion to the flightless bird. My envy may have resulted in my desire to own chickens. I am the only one of my friends to possess chickens and this therefore validates my childhood jealousy.

When I was 13 years old, I created my first e-mail address. Out of the endless name options for the e-mail, my selection was of course coincidentally related to chickens. That was my first ever e-mail address. This is possibly the most revealing chicken fact from my childhood. 

Why did I consider myself a chicken fan at the age of 13? I had never seen a chicken in person until I was 19 and no one in my family owned chickens.  Did my 13 year old self see into the future at my present self and understand exactly how much of a fan I would become? Perhaps my subconscious became aware of my adulation for chickens long before my hobby came into place.

Although there is no proof that the previously mentioned occurrences from our youth have directly affected our subconscious, I am certain that they have had an influence on our present-day passion for chickens.

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