Can you imagine life without chicken meals? I can’t. Chicken meals are both comfort food and special occasion fare for us, depending on how elaborate the chicken dish is.
Chicken is so ubiquitous that many rarely wonder about how the chicken ended up in the cold section of the grocery. Chicken as food has a long history. Humans have been eating chicken for thousands of years.
Chickens are “social” animals
They live in flocks. And it’s really not a good idea to raise a single chicken for whatever reason. Trust me, I know.
Years ago, we were given a rooster for safekeeping. It was a gift to my sister-in-law but raising a chicken in the city was no walk in the park. The rooster was kept tied at the back of the house, fed regularly but the poor thing never experienced seeing another of its kind.
So, the rooster was sent to us in the boondocks and we immediately noticed its strange behavior. It crowed at odds hours and it backed away when we tried to touch it. We thought it would learn to be less withdrawn if it had real company so we bought a hen hoping that the two would mate and we could have a regular supply of eggs.
Unfortunately, the rooster assaulted the hen in vicious ways. Then hen eventually became a battered chicken (no pun intended) and died. Unwilling to care for the violent rooster any longer, we gave it away to a neighbor who was adept at caring for fighting cocks.
Our daughters missed having a chicken in the backyard so my husband bought a pair of bantam chickens. The pair behaved as mates and, pretty soon, the girls were gathering eggs every few days. We couldn’t bring the bantam chickens with us when we moved to a new house so we gave them away too.
Chickens are omnivores
Most people think that chickens are herbivores. The misconception is probably due to the nature of “chicken feed” that comes in the form of grains and seeds.
But if you’ve experienced having chickens that are allowed to roam freely, you’ll know that, left on their own devices, they will eat meat — insects, mostly, but they will eat lizards, small mice and snakes too, if available.
Roosters and cocks are male chickens
Depending on where you are in the English-speaking world, the male chicken is either a rooster or a cock. They’re cocks in the UK and Ireland; they’re roosters in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
How can you tell between a rooster and a hen? The easiest way is by looking at the comb (also called cockscomb) — the fleshy “crown” on the head — which is larger on male chickens. Generally, roosters also have longer tails and more colorful plumage.
Chicken as food today
Chickens are raised for two reasons — for the meat or the eggs. Poultry farming can either be “intensive” (commercial poultry raising where chickens are kept in “factory farms” under a controlled environment) or free-range.
There is a lot of debate about this subject, I don’t want to get into that (because, seriously, will there be enough chicken and eggs, and will they be affordable, if only free-range poultry farming was allowed by law in the entire world?) but I do have to say the free-range chicken meat is tastier and the bones make the tastiest broth.