The History of the Chicken
When you look at many modern domesticated animals, it seems like they must have always been domesticated. The dog must have always loved to lay by his owner’s feet. The hamster must have always enjoyed taking sunflower seeds from little fingers. And the chicken must have always been content scratching around in a yard all day, pecking at the ground, enjoying the sun. But in reality, the chicken has not always been a barnyard regular.
The wild chicken, also called the Red Junglefowl, is spread throughout Southeast Asia and North and South China, even today. They are even occasionally spotted in countries like Burma, India, and Thailand.
These Junglefowl are very much the opposite of their domesticated brethren. While chickens are often viewed as laid-back, less active animals with few social interactions, the Junglefowl are aggressive scavengers that have larger eggs and less plumage. Egg production also starts earlier in life, and hens are extremely protective of their eggs.
There are actually several origins of domestication according to the genetic studies of the modern chicken. The first people that began to domesticate the Junglefowl were those in China around 5400 BC, but Xian and Beixen started their own projects with the chicken some thousand years later.
The almost-domesticated chicken began to appear in Mohenjo-Daro an area near Pakistan around 2000 BC. This is when the chicken became popular, and people began to take it with them to other countries in Europe and Africa.
So how did our feathered friend eventually wind up in America? No one’s quite sure, but scientists believe that the chicken was brought to the Polynesian islands from Southeast Asia. This was part of the Lapita expansion, and didn’t happen until about 3,000 years ago. Many people assumed the chicken had been brought to America when Spanish conquistadors began to explore the Europe, Africa, and Asia, but there have been about a dozen pre-Columbian chickens identified in several sites throughout both North and South America!
People occasionally try to catch a Junglefowl today to tame it and keep it as a pet, but none come close to the docile, peaceful chicken the world knows and adores.