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Basic Information

The chicken was domesticated from wild jungle fowl in India and Asia about 7,000 years ago. This bird is particularly noteworthy for its ability to lay an egg a day, making it a reliable source of food (and a good example of the r- path of r/K selection theory). It's believed that they evolved this ability because of fruit trees with multi-year cycles in the jungle that would suddenly drop a startling amount of food to the forest floor from time to time, so having a large number of eggs on deck allowed chickens to benefit from such spikes in nutritional prosperity. The domestic chicken is a remarkably unselective omnivore, grazing on plants or predating small animals up to the size of mice or small lizards as opportunity permits. Generally barnyard chickens can be fed on scraps (yes, this can include leftover chicken) and waste grain to supplement whatever they can forage - many owners also recycle old eggshells into the chicken feed as a calcium supplement.

The male chicken is called a rooster or cock, and the female is a hen. Roosters can be very aggressive and territorial. It's believed that chickens were initially domesticated for cockfighting, not for food. The entire species remain realtively aggressive towards one another and have to be carefully managed to avoid them injuring or killing one another. Chickens were also sometimes used for divination and rituals. That said, the egg production of the chicken was so beneficial to humans that they basically ended up everywhere humans went before long. They had spread as far as Ancient Egypt by the 15th Century BC, and then north to Ancient Greece by the 5th Century BC and up into the rest of Europe thereafter.

Historically, aside from the cockfighting, egg-laying was the main role of chickens and the appearance of one on the table was a much bigger deal than it is today (unless it was a boiler - a "retired" laying hen, with the name implying the amount of work that it took to soften the meat enough for eating) - the majority of the "eating chickens" from before the mid 20th century were capons (castrated males raised for meat, and they were rare and expensive.

See Also:


2. Ted-Ed Video on "History through the eyes of a chicken"

Game and Story Use

  • Domesticated chickens are likely running around in the background of most settings. They may be critical to the continued health and survival of the community.
  • Video game NPCs have a history of badly over-reacting to the death of a domesticated chicken. Whether you're in Dwarf Fortress or Skyrim, do not mess with the chickens!
    • Not that unrealistic - as noted above they are economcially important but over exposed to theft and so tend to be a point of friction. Passers by - migrant labour, travelling communities or suchlike - are often quick to be accused if chickens go missing.
  • It is widely accepted that everything, especially meat of unusual origin, tastes like chicken. In a very silly game, this may mean that the chicken is descended from the doppleganger, or has the magical property of transforming other foods into chicken. A chicken-shaped god of death, complete with poultry-based transubstantiation could be hilarious.
    • Basing it on the whole "birds are dinosaurs" meme, it's clearly a common ancestor.
    • This can be overstated - unless you're a truly appalling cook no mammal should taste like chicken - but the meat of many reptiles and amphibians has quite a lot in common with chicken, especially when it comes to texture (although as to flavour, gator has always tasted of cajun seasoning in my experience).
  • Roast chicken, as noted above, will be a big deal - most chicken consumed will be (expensive) capon or a boiler served as a stew or soup.
  • The weirdest use of chickens would probably be the (hypothetical) nuclear chicken mine — codename Blue Peacock — these were developed by NATO to perform timed nuclear demolitions in the event of the Cold War going hot and the Soviet Union invading Western Europe. Unfortunately, at the time of development it was found that the timing devices available to fire a nuclear demolition charge tended to fail in the cold of the German winter. It was discovered that the most cost effective way to prevent this failure was to place a chicken, complete with food and water supplies, into the casing with the timing device … the chicken's body heat would then keep the timing device warm enough to function for the few days until it detonated. Thankfully none of these devices was ever run to the point of detonation.
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