All about chickens

Photo from Scott Radcliffe, Purdue UniversityIn farming, the term “poultry” is used for birds being raised for its meat or eggs. The most commonly raised member of this group is the chicken, an animal that is raised worldwide on small and large farms.

The chicken was domesticated about 7,500 years ago in either Vietnam or Thailand and is descended from a South Asian species of wild red jungle-fowl.

Today, there are about 60 breeds of chicken in the world, most of which are raised as a food source, both for their meat and eggs. Female chickens, called hens, lay eggs often whether there is a male chicken around to fertilize them or not. The eggs that you buy in the grocery store are the unfertilized eggs. Some eggs are fertilized in order to make the new generation of chickens.

Chickens can eat almost anything. Left to their own devices, they can eat insects, seeds and even baby mice. Zoos and farms typically feed them pellets of meat, corn or grains.

Chickens are highly social animals. Chickens grouped together will set up a “pecking order,” in which the most dominant chicken will have first choice of food, nesting location and mate. The dominant male chicken will often surround himself with several female chickens that he will mate with, called a harem.

Though the term “bird-brain” is an insulting one, it’s actually not very accurate—birds, including chickens, are actually quite intelligent. Chickens can be trained to run obstacle courses and solve simple problems to get food, much like dogs can.

Learn about where chickens are raised

Learn about products that come from chickens

Featured Resource

Many people do not realize that chicken breast and scrambled eggs come from two different types of chickens. In this video, you’ll learn about chicken breeding, health, and anatomy in both the broiler and layer industries.

Follow Us