The origin of…Chicken

“Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.” Chuck Palahniuk

Post 54 Chicken

The domesticated chicken, the Gallus domesticus, is a subspecies of the Red Junglefowl, the Gallus gallus, and has its origins in Southeast Asia. The chicken was first domesticated not for food purposes but for cockfighting. It has been argued that this happened around 5,400 BC in the Hebei province in China, where the first archaeological evidence of the domesticated chicken has been found. But researchers found that the modern chicken has more than one progenitor and some claim that the chicken that was brought westward descends from the birds domesticated in the Indus Valley during the Harappan culture (2,500-2,100 BC).

It is believed that chickens were brought to the Polynesian islands with the expansion of the Lapita, a pre-historic culture in the Pacific Ocean, around 3,300 year ago. It is still debated whether they were then brought to South America. Or whether the Spanish brought chickens to the continent. There is genetic research suggesting that pre-Columbian chickens existed in Chile and that these are related to the Polynesian ones, although not all researchers agree with this view (see: Because domesticated and wild birds mixed over time, the modern chicken has an inconclusive DNA trail, making it very hard to determine if there exist multiple heartlands of domestication and how the domesticated chicken spread exactly.

The chicken was brought to Egypt around 1,500 BC and reached Western Europe around 1,000 BC. Romans used chicken for fortunetelling, especially during wartime. If they ate well, victory was probable; if they beat their wings or flew away, it was seen as a bad sign.
Chickens were also considered a delicacy and they developed innovations such as stuffing the chicken. During the Middle Ages, the love for chicken declined and geese and partridge made their way on the menus.
Nowadays, it is nearly impossible to think of a world without chicken, with a global population of nearly 20 billion (compare human population: 7 billion).

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  1. a bird that is raised by people for its eggs and meat
  2. the meat of the chicken used as food
  3. a person who is afraid (source: Merriam Webster).

The English chicken comes from Old English cicen, young fowl, from Proto-Germanic *kiukinam, from the root *keuk-, echoic of the bird’s sound and possibly also the root of cock + diminutive suffixes.
Dutch kip probably derives from the sounds the bird makes, the onomatopoeic bird´s call kiep.
Spanish gallina and Italian gallina comes from Latin gallina, hen, feminine of gallus, cock/rooster.

Chicken in other languages:
Dutch: kip
Spanish: la gallina (the meat: el pollo)
Italian: la gallina (the meat: il pollo)


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