In 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.
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract of avian species is notably different from other species. In general that tract is much shorter and therefore lighter. Kind of an important feature if you are going to fly? Even though birds are considered monogastrics, (meaning they have a simple, one chamber stomach) like pigs and humans, their GI tracts look much different. For one thing, they don't have teeth, so they rely on a specialized organ called a gizzard to help breakdown food particles. They also have a crop, which is basically a pouch off of the esophagus where feed can be stored and moisture is added, prior to entering the proventrriculus (similar to the stomach). The video below details the anatomy and physiology of the avian GI tract.
Through the Jr. Animal Scientist magazine and special online resources, kids can learn about pets, farm animals and zoo animals. Scientific information is tailored for kids ages 5 to 9 (K-3rd grades). Eye-catching photos and exciting animal activities add to the fun! Plus, all Jr. Animal Scientists get special prizes just for joining.