The chicken is probably the most well known and widely used domesticated animals in the world. In 2003, the chicken held a population of more than 24 billion. There are more chickens in the world than any other type of bird. Like any animal, the chicken started out in the wild. The modern day chickens are thought to be domesticated from the red junglefowl, said to have originated in India and still there living today, approximately 8,000 years ago. Although, genetic and archeaological studies suggest mutiple origins of domestication. It is argued that chickens actually originated from China, instead, at least 10,000 years ago. The first images of chickens were found on the 7th Century BC Corinthian pottery. There were also early pictures of chickens found on Greek red and black-figure pottery.
The domesticated version of the chickens is believed to have traveled from India to the Persianized kingdom of Lydia in western Asia Minor and imported to Greece by the fifth century BC. From there, the chickens have been transported throughout the world, constantly growing and changing. As this was taking place, and chickens were introduced to new elements, they began to obtain certain types of diseases. Therefore, there was a need to treat these diseases. In 1879 Louis Pasteur was working on a cure for chicken cholera. This was a devastating poultry disease that was considered the nineteenth century version of the bird flu. There were many diseases that were found and cured throughout time. To this day there are still poultry parasites and diseases, although, not as common and mostly curable, unlike before.
The modern-day, domesticated chicken tends to be more of a flightless bird. They only fly when they need to, and the flight is always short. Usually a reason for them to fly would be to reach a perch to roost on or to quickly escape danger. Mostly, they prefer to walk. Their eating habits have remained typically the same as their ancestors. They are still omnivores and prefer to peck and scratch for insects, small animals, such as lizards or baby mice, and certain greenery.
The life of a chicken can vary anywhere from five to ten years, depending on the breed. According to the Guiness Book of World Records, the oldest living chicken died at age 16, due to heart failure. Typically, the younger a chicken is, the more fresh-tasting and tender the meat is. Generally chickens that are commerically farmed for their meat are slaughtered at the age of six weeks. Chickens that are raised free-range, or organically, are typically slaughtered around the age of 14 weeks. Commercial laying hens are typically kept for one year to harvest their eggs. They generally lay 300 eggs per year. After that, their egg-laying abilities tend to decline, thus, leaving them to be sold as ‘soup hens’ and slaughtered to be used in processed foods.
Chickens are used for a variety of things. Whether it be for their eggs, meat, beauty or even companionship. The chicken has always been a useful part of life and has evolved into a very important part of modern-day living.