Chicken

Chicken by Inked Animal

Chicken | Gallus gallus

 


Chicken info via Wikipedia:

"Gallus gallus domesticus" and "Chooks" redirect here. For other subspecies, see Red Junglefowl. For other uses of Chooks, see Chooks (disambiguation).
This article is about the animal. For chicken as human food, see Chicken (food). For other uses, see Chicken (disambiguation).
Chicken
Chicken by Inked Animal
A rooster (left) and hen (right)
Conservation status
Domesticated
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Phasianidae
Subfamily: Phasianinae
Genus: Gallus
Species: G. gallus
Subspecies: G. g. domesticus
Trinomial name
Gallus gallus domesticus
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) is a domesticated fowl, a subspecies of the Red Junglefowl. As one of the most common and widespread domestic animals, with a population of more than 24 billion in 2003,[1] there are more chickens in the world than any other species of bird. Humans keep chickens primarily as a source of food, consuming both their meat and their eggs.

The traditional poultry farming view of the domestication of the chicken is stated in Encyclopædia Britannica (2007): "Humans first domesticated chickens of Indian origin for the purpose of cockfighting in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Very little formal attention was given to egg or meat production... "[2] Recent genetic studies have pointed to multiple maternal origins in Southeast, East, and South Asia, but with the clade found in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa originating in the Indian subcontinent. From India, the domesticated chicken was imported to Lydia in western Asia Minor, and to Greece by the fifth century BC.[3] Fowl had been known in Egypt since the mid-15th century BC, with the "bird that gives birth every day" having come to Egypt from the land between Syria and Shinar, Babylonia, according to the annals of Thutmose III.[4][5][6]

Terminology

In the UK and Ireland adult male chickens over the age of 12 months are primarily known as cocks, whereas in America, Australia and Canada they are more commonly called roosters. Males less than a year old are cockerels.[7]Castrated roosters are called capons (surgical and chemical castration are now illegal in some parts of the world). Females over a year old are known as hens and younger females as pullets[8] although in the egg-laying industry, a pullet becomes a hen when she begins to lay eggs at 16 to 20 weeks of age. In Australia and New Zealand (also sometimes in Britain), there is a generic term chook /ˈʊk/ to describe all ages and both sexes.[9] The young are called chicks and the meat is called chicken.

"Chicken" originally referred to chicks, not the species itself. The species as a whole was then called domestic fowl, or just fowl. This use of "chicken" survives in the phrase "Hen and Chickens", sometimes used as a British public house or theatre name, and to name groups of one large and many small rocks or islands in the sea (see for example Hen and Chicken Islands).

In the Deep South of the United States chickens are also referred to by the slang term yardbird.[10]

General biology and habitat

Chicken by Inked Animal
In some breeds the adult rooster can be distinguished from the hen by his larger comb

Chickens are omnivores.[11] In the wild, they often scratch at the soil to search for seeds, insects and even larger animals such as lizards, small snakes or young mice.[12]

Chickens may live for five to ten years, depending on the breed.[13] The world's oldest chicken, a hen, died of heart failure at the age of 16 according to Guinness World Records.[14]

Roosters can usually be differentiated from hens by their striking plumage of long flowing tails and shiny, pointed feathers on their necks (hackles) and backs (saddle), which are typically of brighter, bolder colours than those of females of the same breed. However, in some breeds, such as the Sebright chicken, the rooster has only slightly pointed neck feathers, the same colour as the hen's. The identification can be made by looking at the comb, or eventually from the development of spurs on the male's legs (in a few breeds and in certain hybrids, the male and female chicks may be differentiated by colour). Adult chickens have a fleshy crest on their heads called a comb, or cockscomb, and hanging flaps of skin either side under their beaks called wattles. Collectively, these and other fleshy protuberances on the head and throat are called caruncles. Both the adult male and female have wattles and combs, but in most breeds these are more prominent in males. A muff or beard is a mutation found in several chicken breeds which causes extra feathering under the chicken's face, giving the appearance of a beard. Domestic chickens are not capable of long distance flight, although lighter birds are generally capable of flying for short distances, such as over fences or into trees (where they would naturally roost). Chickens may occasionally fly briefly to explore their surroundings, but generally do so only to flee perceived danger.

Behaviour

Social behaviour

Chickens are gregarious birds and live together in flocks. They have a communal approach to the incubation of eggs and raising of young. Individual chickens in a flock will dominate others, establishing a "pecking order", with dominant individuals having priority for food access and nesting locations. Removing hens or roosters from a flock causes a temporary disruption to this social order until a new pecking order is established. Adding hens, especially younger birds, to an existing flock can lead to fighting and injury.[15] When a rooster finds food, he may call other chickens to eat first. He does this by clucking in a high pitch as well as picking up and dropping the food. This behaviour may also be observed in mother hens to call their chicks and encourage them to eat.

Roosters crowing (a loud and sometimes shrill call) is a territorial signal to other roosters. However, crowing may also result from sudden disturbances within their surroundings. Hens cluck loudly after laying an egg, and also to call their chicks. Chickens also give a low "warning call" when they think they see a predator approaching.

Courtship

To initiate courting, some roosters may dance in a circle around or near a hen ("a circle dance"), often lowering his wing which is closest to the hen.[16] The dance triggers a response in the hen[16] and when she responds to his "call", the rooster may mount the hen and proceed with the mating.

Nesting and laying behaviour

Chicken by Inked Animal
Chicken eggs vary in colour depending on the hen, typically ranging from bright white to shades of brown and even blue, green, and recently reported purple (found in South Asia) (Araucana varieties).
Chicken by Inked Animal
Chicks before their first outing

Hens will often try to lay in nests that already contain eggs and have been known to move eggs from neighbouring nests into their own. The result of this behaviour is that a flock will use only a few preferred locations, rather than having a different nest for every bird. Hens will often express a preference to lay in the same location. It is not unknown for two (or more) hens to try to share the same nest at the same time. If the nest is small, or one of the hens is particularly determined, this may result in chickens trying to lay on top of each other. There is evidence that individual hens prefer to be either solitary or gregarious nesters.[17] Some farmers use fake eggs made from plastic or stone (or golf balls) to encourage hens to lay in a particular location.

Broodiness

Under natural conditions, most birds lay only until a clutch is complete, and they will then incubate all the eggs. Many domestic hens will also do this–and are then said to "go broody". The broody hen will stop laying and instead will focus on the incubation of the eggs (a full clutch is usually about 12 eggs). She will "sit" or "set" on the nest, protesting or pecking in defense if disturbed or removed, and she will rarely leave the nest to eat, drink, or dust-bathe. While brooding, the hen maintains the nest at a constant temperature and humidity, as well as turning the eggs regularly during the first part of the incubation. To stimulate broodiness, an owner may place many artificial eggs in the nest, or to stop it they may place the hen in an elevated cage with an open wire floor.

Chicken by Inked Animal
Skull of a three-week-old chicken. Here the opisthotic bone appears in the occipital region, as in the adult Chelonian. bo = Basi-occipital, bt = Basi-temporal, eo = Opisthotic, f = Frontal, fm = Foramen magnum, fo = Fontanella, oc = Occipital condyle, op = Opisthotic, p = Parietal, pf = Post-frontal, sc = Sinus canal in supra-occipital, so = Supra-occpital, sq = Squamosal, 8 = Exit of vagus nerve.

Modern egg-laying breeds rarely go broody, and those that do often stop part-way through the incubation. However, some "utility" (general purpose) breeds, such as the Cochin, Cornish and Silkie, do regularly go broody, and they make excellent mothers, not only for chicken eggs but also for those of other species—even those with much smaller or larger eggs and different incubation periods, such as quail, pheasants, turkeys or geese. Chicken eggs can also be hatched under a broody duck, with varied success.

Hatching and early life

At the end of the incubation period (about 21 days),[16] the eggs, if fertile, will hatch. Development of the egg starts only when incubation begins, so they all hatch within a day or two of each other, despite perhaps being laid over a period of two weeks or so. Before hatching, the hen can hear the chicks peeping inside the eggs, and will gently cluck to stimulate them to break out of their shells. The chick begins by "pipping"; pecking a breathing hole with its egg tooth towards the blunt end of the egg, usually on the upper side. The chick will then rest for some hours, absorbing the remaining egg yolk and withdrawing the blood supply from the membrane beneath the shell (used earlier for breathing through the shell). It then enlarges the hole, gradually turning round as it goes, and eventually severing the blunt end of the shell completely to make a lid. It crawls out of the remaining shell, and its wet down dries out in the warmth of the nest.

The hen will usually stay on the nest for about two days after the first egg hatches, and during this time the newly hatched chicks live off the egg yolk they absorb just before hatching. Any eggs not fertilized by a rooster will not hatch, and the hen eventually loses interest in these and leaves the nest. After hatching, the hen fiercely guards the chicks, and will brood them when necessary to keep them warm, at first often returning to the nest at night. She leads them to food and water; she will call them to edible items, but seldom feeds them directly. She continues to care for them until they are several weeks old, when she will gradually lose interest and eventually start to lay again.

Earliest gestation stages and blood circulation of a chicken embryo

Embryology

In 2006, scientists researching the ancestry of birds "turned on" a chicken recessive gene, talpid2, and found that the embryo jaws initiated formation of teeth, like those found in ancient bird fossils. John Fallon, the overseer of the project, stated that chickens have "...retained the ability to make teeth, under certain conditions... ."[18]

Breeding

Origins

The domestic chicken is descended primarily from the Red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) and is scientifically classified as the same species.[19] As such it can and does freely interbreed with populations of red jungle fowl.[19] Recent genetic analysis has revealed that at least the gene for yellow skin was incorporated into domestic birds through hybridization with the Grey junglefowl (G. sonneratii).[20] The traditional poultry farming view is stated in Encyclopædia Britannica (2007): "Humans first domesticated chickens of Indian origin for the purpose of cockfighting in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Very little formal attention was given to egg or meat production... "[2] In the last decade there have been a number of genetic studies. According to one study, a single domestication event occurring in the region of modern Thailand created the modern chicken with minor transitions separating the modern breeds.[21] However, that study was later found to be based on incomplete data, and recent studies point to multiple maternal origins, with the clade found in the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Africa, originating from the Indian subcontinent, where a large number of unique haplotypes occur.[22][23] It is postulated that the Jungle Fowl, known as the "bamboo fowl" in many Southeast Asian languages, is a special pheasant well adapted to take advantage of the large amounts of fruits that are produced during the end of the 50 year bamboo seeding cycle to boost its own reproduction.[24] According to Daniel H. Janzen of the University of Pennsylvania, in domesticating the chicken, humans took advantage of this prolific reproduction of the jungle fowl when exposed to large amount of food.[25]

It has been claimed (based on paleoclimatic assumptions) that chickens were domesticated in Southern China in 6000 BC.[26] However, according to a recent study,[27] "it is not known whether these birds made much contribution to the modern domestic fowl. Chickens from the Harappan culture of the Indus Valley (2500-2100 BC), in what today is Pakistan, may have been the main source of diffusion throughout the world." A northern road spread the chicken to the Tarim basin of central Asia. The chicken reached Europe (Romania, Turkey, Greece, Ukraine) about 3000 BC.[28] Introduction into Western Europe came far later, about the 1st millennium BC. Phoenicians spread chickens along the Mediterranean coasts, to Iberia. Breeding increased under the Roman Empire, and was reduced in the Middle Ages.[28] Middle East traces of chicken go back to a little earlier than 2000 BC, in Syria; chicken went southward only in the 1st millennium BC. The chicken reached Egypt for purposes of cock fighting about 1400 BC, and became widely bred only in Ptolemaic Egypt (about 300 BC).[28] Little is known about the chicken's introduction into Africa. Three possible routes of introduction in about the early first millennium AD could have been through the Egyptian Nile Valley, the East Africa Roman-Greek or Indian trade, or from Carthage and the Berbers, across the Sahara. The earliest known remains are from Mali, Nubia, East Coast, and South Africa and date back to the middle of the first millennium AD.[28] Domestic chicken in the Americas before Western conquest is still an ongoing discussion, but blue-egged chickens, found only in the Americas and Asia, suggest an Asian origin for early American chickens.[28]

A lack of data from Thailand, Russia, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa makes it difficult to lay out a clear map of the spread of chickens in these areas; better description and genetic analysis of local breeds threatened by extinction may also help with research into this area.[28]

South America

An unusual variety of chicken that has its origins in South America is the araucana, bred in southern Chile by the Mapuche people. Araucanas, some of which are tailless and some of which have tufts of feathers around their ears, lay blue-green eggs. It has long been suggested that they pre-date the arrival of European chickens brought by the Spanish and are evidence of pre-Columbian trans-Pacific contacts between Asian or Pacific Oceanic peoples, particularly the Polynesians, and South America. In 2007, an international team of researchers reported the results of analysis of chicken bones found on the Arauco Peninsula in south-central Chile. Radiocarbon dating suggested that the chickens were Pre-Columbian, and DNA analysis showed that they were related to prehistoric populations of chickens in Polynesia.[29] These results appeared to confirm that the chickens came from Polynesia and that there were transpacific contacts between Polynesia and South America before Columbus's arrival in the Americas.[30]

However, a later report looking at the same specimens concluded:

A published, apparently pre-Columbian, Chilean specimen and six pre-European Polynesian specimens also cluster with the same European/Indian subcontinental/Southeast Asian sequences, providing no support for a Polynesian introduction of chickens to South America. In contrast, sequences from two archaeological sites on Easter Island group with an uncommon haplogroup from Indonesia, Japan, and China and may represent a genetic signature of an early Polynesian dispersal. Modeling of the potential marine carbon contribution to the Chilean archaeological specimen casts further doubt on claims for pre-Columbian chickens, and definitive proof will require further analyses of ancient DNA sequences and radiocarbon and stable isotope data from archaeological excavations within both Chile and Polynesia.[31]

Farming

Main article: Poultry farming
Chicken by Inked Animal
A former battery hen, five days after her release. Note the pale comb and missing feathers.

More than 50 billion chickens are reared annually as a source of food, for both their meat and their eggs.[32][better source needed]

The vast majority of poultry are raised using intensive farming techniques. According to the Worldwatch Institute, 74 percent of the world's poultry meat, and 68 percent of eggs are produced this way.[33] One alternative to intensive poultry farming is free range farming.

Friction between these two main methods has led to long term issues of ethical consumerism. Opponents of intensive farming argue that it harms the environment, creates human health risks and is inhumane. Advocates of intensive farming say that their highly efficient systems save land and food resources due to increased productivity, stating that the animals are looked after in state-of-the-art environmentally controlled facilities.

In part due to the conditions on intensive poultry farms and recent recalls of large quantities of eggs, there is a growing movement for small scale micro-flocks or 'backyard chickens'. This involves keeping small numbers of hens (usually no more than a dozen), in suburban or urban residential areas to control bugs, utilize chicken waste as fertilizer in small gardens, and of course for the high-quality eggs and meat that are produced.

Reared for meat

Main article: Broiler
Chicken by Inked Animal
A commercial chicken house with open sides raising broiler pullets for meat

Chickens farmed for meat are called broiler chickens. Chickens will naturally live for 6 or more years, but broiler chickens typically take less than 6 weeks to reach slaughter size.[34] A free range or organic meat chicken will usually be slaughtered at about 14 weeks of age.

Reared for eggs

Chickens farmed for eggs are called egg-laying hens. In total, the UK alone consumes over 29 million eggs per day. Some hen breeds can produce over 300 eggs per year, with "the highest authenticated rate of egg laying being 371 eggs in 364 days".[35] After 12 months of laying, the commercial hen's egg-laying ability starts to decline to the point where the flock is unviable. Hens, particularly from battery cage systems, are sometimes infirm, have lost a significant amount of their feathers, and their life expectancy has been reduced from around 7 years to less than 2 years.[36] In the UK and Europe, laying hens are then slaughtered and used in processed foods, or sold as "soup hens".[36] In some other countries, flocks are sometimes force moulted, rather than being slaughtered, to reinvigorate egg-laying. This involves complete withdrawal of food (and sometimes water) for 7–14 days[37] or sufficiently long to cause a body weight loss of 25 to 35%,[38] or up to 28 days under experimental conditions[39] which presumably reflect farming practice[original research?]. This stimulates the hen to lose her feathers, but also reinvigorates egg-production. Some flocks may be force moulted several times. In 2003, more than 75% of all flocks were moulted in the US.[40]

Artificial incubation

Chicken by Inked Animal
An egg incubator

Incubation can successfully occur artificially in machines that provide the correct, controlled environment for the developing chick.[41][42][43][44] The average incubation period for chickens is 21 days but may depend on the temperature and humidity in the incubator. Temperature regulation is the most critical factor for a successful hatch. Variations of more than 1 °C (1.8 °F) from the optimum temperature of 37.5 °C (99.5 °F) will reduce hatch rates. Humidity is also important because the rate at which eggs lose water by evaporation depends on the ambient relative humidity. Evaporation can be assessed by candling, to view the size of the air sac, or by measuring weight loss. Relative humidity should be increased to around 70% in the last three days of incubation to keep the membrane around the hatching chick from drying out after the chick cracks the shell. Lower humidity is usual in the first 18 days to ensure adequate evaporation. The position of the eggs in the incubator can also influence hatch rates. For best results, eggs should be placed with the pointed ends down and turned regularly (at least three times per day) until one to three days before hatching. If the eggs aren't turned, the embryo inside may stick to the shell and may hatch with physical defects. Adequate ventilation is necessary to provide the embryo with oxygen. Older eggs require increased ventilation.

Many commercial incubators are industrial-sized with shelves holding tens of thousands of eggs at a time, with rotation of the eggs a fully automated process. Home incubators are boxes holding from 6 to 75 eggs; they are usually electrically powered, but in the past some were heated with an oil or paraffin lamp.

As pets

Main article: Chickens as pets

Chickens are sometimes kept as pets and can be tamed by hand feeding, but roosters can sometimes become aggressive and noisy, although aggression can be curbed with proper handling. Some have advised against keeping them around very young children. Certain breeds, however, such as silkies and many bantam varieties are generally docile and are often recommended as good pets around children with disabilities.[45] Some people find chickens' behaviour entertaining and educational.[46]

Diseases and ailments

Chickens are susceptible to several parasites, including lice, mites, ticks, fleas, and intestinal worms, as well as other diseases. Despite the name, they are not affected by chickenpox, which is generally restricted to humans.[47]

Some of the common diseases that affect chickens are shown below:

Name Common name Caused by
Aspergillosis fungi
Avian influenza bird flu virus
Histomoniasis Blackhead disease protozoal parasite
Botulism toxin
Cage Layer Fatigue mineral deficiencies, lack of exercise
Campylobacteriosis tissue injury in the gut
Coccidiosis parasites
Colds virus
Crop Bound improper feeding
Dermanyssus gallinae Red mite parasite
Egg bound oversized egg
Erysipelas bacteria
Fatty Liver Hemorrhagic Syndrome high-energy food
Fowl Cholera bacteria
Fowl pox virus
Fowl Typhoid bacteria
Gallid herpesvirus 1
or Infectious Laryngotracheitis
virus
Gapeworm Syngamus trachea worms
Infectious Bronchitis virus
Infectious Bursal Disease Gumboro virus
Infectious Coryza bacteria
Lymphoid leukosis Avian leukosis virus
Marek's disease virus
Moniliasis Yeast Infection
or Thrush
fungi
Mycoplasmas bacteria-like organisms
Newcastle disease virus
Necrotic Enteritis bacteria
Omphalitis Mushy chick disease umbilical cord stump
Peritonitis[48] Infection in abdomen from egg yolk
Prolapse
Psittacosis bacteria
Pullorum Salmonella bacteria
Scaly leg parasites
Squamous cell carcinoma cancer
Tibial dyschondroplasia speed growing
Toxoplasmosis protozoal parasite
Ulcerative Enteritis bacteria
Ulcerative pododermatitis Bumblefoot bacteria

In religion and mythology

Chicken by Inked Animal
Vatican Persian Cock — A 1919 print of a fabric square of a Persian cock or a Persian bird design belonging to the Vatican (Holy See) in Rome dating to 600 C.E. Notice the halo denoting the status of being holy in that religious schema.

Since antiquity chickens have been, and still are, a sacred animal in some cultures[49] and deeply embedded within belief systems and religious worship. The term "Persian bird" for the cock appears to been given by the Greeks after Persian contact "because of his great importance and his religious use among the Persians".[50]

In Indonesia the chicken has great significance during the Hindu cremation ceremony. A chicken is considered a channel for evil spirits which may be present during the ceremony. A chicken is tethered by the leg and kept present at the ceremony for its duration to ensure that any evil spirits present go into the chicken and not the family members. The chicken is then taken home and returns to its normal life.

In ancient Greece, the chicken was not normally used for sacrifices, perhaps because it was still considered an exotic animal. Because of its valor, the cock is found as an attribute of Ares, Heracles, and Athena. The alleged last words of Socrates as he died from hemlock poisoning, as recounted by Plato, were "Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; will you remember to pay the debt?", signifying that death was a cure for the illness of life.

The Greeks believed that even lions were afraid of cocks. Several of Aesop's Fables reference this belief.

In the New Testament, Jesus prophesied the betrayal by Peter: "Jesus answered, 'I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.'"[51] It happened,[52] and Peter cried bitterly. This made the cock a symbol for both vigilance and betrayal. The rooster(cock) serves as a tangible vessel of Christ for some as in the gospel of Matthew, Mark and Luke in the New Testament with Christ speaking through the cock.[53]

Earlier, Jesus compares himself to a mother hen when talking about Jerusalem: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing."[54]

In the sixth century, Pope Gregory I declared the cock the emblem of Christianity[55] and another Papal enactment of the ninth century by Pope Nicholas I[49] ordered the figure of the cock to be placed on every church steeple.[56]

In many Central European folk tales, the devil is believed to flee at the first crowing of a cock.

In traditional Jewish practice, a kosher animal is swung around the head and then slaughtered on the afternoon before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in a ritual called kapparos; it is now common practice to cradle the bird and move it around the head. A chicken or fish is typically used because it is commonly available (and small enough to hold). The sacrifice of the animal is to receive atonement, for the animal symbolically takes on all the person's sins in kapparos. The meat is then donated to the poor. A woman brings a hen for the ceremony, while a man brings a rooster. Although not a sacrifice in the biblical sense, the death of the animal reminds the penitent sinner that his or her life is in God's hands.

The Talmud speaks of learning "courtesy toward one's mate" from the rooster.[57] This might refer to the fact that when a rooster finds something good to eat, he calls his hens to eat first. The Talmud likewise provides us with the statement "Had the Torah not been given to us, we would have learned modesty from cats, honest toil from ants, chastity from doves and gallantry from cocks,"[58][59] which may be further understood as to that of the gallantry of cocks being taken in the context of a religious instilling vessel of "a girt one of the loins" (Young's Literal Translation) that which is "stately in his stride" and "move with stately bearing" in the Book of Proverbs 30:29-31 as referenced by Michael V. Fox in his Proverbs 10-31 where Saʻadiah ben Yosef Gaon (Saadia Gaon) identifies the definitive trait of "A cock girded about the loins" in Proverbs 30:31 (Douay–Rheims Bible) as "the honesty of their behavior and their success",[60] identifying a spiritual purpose of a religious vessel within that religious instilling schema of purpose and use.

The chicken is one of the Zodiac symbols of the Chinese calendar. In Chinese folk religion, a cooked chicken as a religious offering is usually limited to ancestor veneration and worship of village deities. Vegetarian deities such as the Buddha are not recipients of such offerings. Under some observations, an offering of chicken is presented with "serious" prayer (while roasted pork is offered during a joyous celebration). In Confucian Chinese weddings, a chicken can be used as a substitute for one who is seriously ill or not available (e.g., sudden death) to attend the ceremony. A red silk scarf is placed on the chicken's head and a close relative of the absent bride/groom holds the chicken so the ceremony may proceed. However, this practice is rare today.

A cockatrice was supposed to have been born from an egg laid by a rooster, as well as killed by a rooster's call.

In history

An early domestication of chickens in Southeast Asia is probable, since the word for domestic chicken (*manuk) is part of the reconstructed Proto-Austronesian language (see Austronesian languages). Chickens, together with dogs and pigs, were the domestic animals of the Lapita culture,[61] the first Neolithic culture of Oceania.[62]

The first pictures of chickens in Europe are found on Corinthian pottery of the 7th century BC.[63][64] The poet Cratinus (mid-5th century BC, according to the later Greek author Athenaeus) calls the chicken "the Persian alarm". In Aristophanes's comedy The Birds (414 BC) a chicken is called "the Median bird", which points to an introduction from the East. Pictures of chickens are found on Greek red figure and black-figure pottery.

In ancient Greece, chickens were still rare and were a rather prestigious food for symposia.[citation needed]Delos seems to have been a center of chicken breeding (Columella, De Re Rustica 8.3.4).

The Romans used chickens for oracles, both when flying ("ex avibus", Augury) and when feeding ("auspicium ex tripudiis", Alectryomancy). The hen ("gallina") gave a favourable omen ("auspicium ratum"), when appearing from the left (Cic.,de Div. ii.26), like the crow and the owl.

For the oracle "ex tripudiis" according to Cicero (Cic. de Div. ii.34), any bird could be used in auspice, and shows at one point that any bird could perform the tripudium[65] but normally only chickens ("pulli") were consulted. The chickens were cared for by the pullarius, who opened their cage and fed them pulses or a special kind of soft cake when an augury was needed. If the chickens stayed in their cage, made noises ("occinerent"), beat their wings or flew away, the omen was bad; if they ate greedily, the omen was good.[66]

In 249 BC, the Roman general Publius Claudius Pulcher had his "sacred chickens" "[67] thrown overboard when they refused to feed before the battle of Drepana, saying "If they won't eat, perhaps they will drink." He promptly lost the battle against the Carthaginians and 93 Roman ships were sunk. Back in Rome, he was tried for impiety and heavily fined.

In 162 BC, the Lex Faunia forbade fattening hens to conserve grain rations.[68][69] To get around this, the Romans castrated roosters(capon), which resulted in a doubling of size[70] despite the law that was passed in Rome that forbade the consumption of fattened chickens. It was renewed a number of times, but does not seem to have been successful. Fattening chickens with bread soaked in milk was thought to give especially delicious results. The Roman gourmet Apicius offers 17 recipes for chicken, mainly boiled chicken with a sauce. All parts of the animal are used: the recipes include the stomach, liver, testicles and even the pygostyle (the fatty "tail" of the chicken where the tail feathers attach).

The Roman author Columella gives advice on chicken breeding in his eighth book of his treatise, De Re Rustica (On Agriculture).[citation needed] He identified Tanagrian, Rhodic, Chalkidic and Median (commonly misidentified as Melian) breeds, which have an impressive appearance, a quarrelsome nature and were used for cockfighting by the Greeks (De Re Rustica 8.3.4). For farming, native (Roman) chickens are to be preferred, or a cross between native hens and Greek cocks (De Re Rustica 8.2.13). Dwarf chickens are nice to watch because of their size but have no other advantages.

According to Columella (De Re Rustica 8.2.7), the ideal flock consists of 200 birds, which can be supervised by one person if someone is watching for stray animals. White chickens should be avoided as they are not very fertile and are easily caught by eagles or goshawks. One cock should be kept for five hens. In the case of Rhodian and Median cocks that are very heavy and therefore not much inclined to sex, only three hens are kept per cock. The hens of heavy fowls are not much inclined to brood; therefore their eggs are best hatched by normal hens. A hen can hatch no more than 15-23 eggs, depending on the time of year, and supervise no more than 30 hatchlings. Eggs that are long and pointed give more male, rounded eggs mainly female hatchlings (De Re Rustica 8.5.11).

Columella also states that chicken coops should face southeast and lie adjacent to the kitchen, as smoke is beneficial for the animals and "poultry never thrive so well as in warmth and smoke" (De Re Rustica 8.3.1).[71] Coops should consist of three rooms and possess a hearth. Dry dust or ash should be provided for dust-baths.

According to Columella (De Re Rustica 8.4.1), chickens should be fed on barley groats, small chick-peas, millet and wheat bran, if they are cheap. Wheat itself should be avoided as it is harmful to the birds. Boiled ryegrass (Lolium sp.) and the leaves and seeds of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) can be used as well. Grape marc can be used, but only when the hens stop laying eggs, that is, about the middle of November; otherwise eggs are small and few. When feeding grape marc, it should be supplemented with some bran. Hens start to lay eggs after the winter solstice, in warm places around the first of January, in colder areas in the middle of February. Parboiled barley increases their fertility; this should be mixed with alfalfa leaves and seeds, or vetches or millet if alfalfa is not at hand. Free-ranging chickens should receive two cups of barley daily.

Columella[citation needed] advises farmers to slaughter hens that are older than three years, because they no longer produce sufficient eggs.

According to Aldrovandi: Capons were produced by burning "the hind part of the bowels, or loins or spurs"[72] with a hot iron. The wound was treated with potter's chalk.

For the use of poultry and eggs in the kitchens of ancient Rome see Roman eating and drinking.

Chickens were spread by Polynesian seafarers and reached Easter Island in the 12th century AD, where they were the only domestic animal, with the possible exception of the Polynesian Rat (Rattus exulans). They were housed in extremely solid chicken coops built from stone, which was first reported as such to Linton Palmer in 1868, who also "expressed his doubts about this".[73]

As food

Main article: Chicken (food)

The meat of the chicken, also called "chicken", is a type of poultry meat. Because of its relatively low cost, chicken is one of the most used meats in the world. Nearly all parts of the bird can be used for food, and the meat can be cooked in many different ways. Popular chicken dishes include roasted chicken, fried chicken, chicken soup, Buffalo wings, tandoori chicken, butter chicken, and chicken rice. Chicken is also a staple of many fast food restaurants.

Eggs

Main articles: Egg (food) and List of egg dishes

In 2000, there were 50.4 million tons of eggs produced in the world (Executive guide to world poultry trends, 2001)[74] and an estimated 53.4 million tons of table eggs were produced during 2002.[75] In 2009, an estimated 62.1 million metric tons of eggs were produced worldwide from a total laying flock of approximately 6.4 billion hens.[76]

Chicken eggs are widely used in many types of dishes, both sweet and savory, including many baked goods. Eggs can be scrambled, fried, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, pickled, and poached. The albumen, or egg white, contains protein but little or no fat, and can be used in cooking separately from the yolk. Egg whites may be aerated or whipped to a light, fluffy consistency and are often used in desserts such as meringues and mousse. Ground egg shells are sometimes used as a food additive to deliver calcium. Hens do not need a male to produce eggs, only to fertilize them. A flock containing only females will still produce eggs; however, the eggs will all be infertile.

Gallery

References

  1. ^ according to Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds, Ed. Perrins, Christopher. Buffalo, N.Y.: Firefly Books, Ltd., 2003.
  2. ^ a b Garrigus, W. P. (2007), "Poultry Farming". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  3. ^ Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, (Anthea Bell, translator) The History of Food, Ch. 11 "The History of Poultry", revised ed. 2009, p. 306.
  4. ^ Howard Carter, "An Ostracon Depicting a Red Jungle-Fowl (The Earliest Known Drawing of the Domestic Cock)" The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 9.1/2 (April 1923), pp. 1-4.
  5. ^ Pritchard, "The Asiatic Campaigns of Thutmose III" Ancient Near East Texts related to the Old Testament, p240.
  6. ^ Roehrig, Catharine H.; Dreyfus, Renée; Keller, Cathleen A. (2005). Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 268. ISBN 978-1-58839-173-5. 
  7. ^ "Cockerel - definitions from Dictionary.com". Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved August 29, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Pullet - definitions from Dictionary.com". Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved August 29, 2010. 
  9. ^ Definition of "chook" in Encarta. The vernacular use is said to be offensive in this dictionary but it may also be used as a term of jocular familiarity. Archived from the original on October 31, 2009. 
  10. ^ Berhardt, Clyde E. B. (1986). I Remember: Eighty Years of Black Entertainment, Big Bands. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 153. ISBN 978-0-8122-8018-0. OCLC 12805260. 
  11. ^ "Info on Chicken Care". ideas4pets. 2003. Retrieved August 13, 2008. 
  12. ^ Gerard P.Worrell AKA "Farmer Jerry". "Frequently asked questions about chickens & eggs". Ferry Landing Farm & Apiary. Retrieved August 13, 2008. 
  13. ^ "The Poultry Guide - A to Z and FAQs". Ruleworks.co.uk. Retrieved August 29, 2010. 
  14. ^ Smith, Jamon. Tuscaloosanews.com "World’s oldest chicken starred in magic shows, was on 'Tonight Show’", Tuscaloosa News (Alabama, USA). August 6, 2006. Retrieved on February 26, 2008.
  15. ^ Stonehead. "Introducing new hens to a flock « Musings from a Stonehead". Stonehead.wordpress.com. Retrieved August 29, 2010. 
  16. ^ a b c Grandin, Temple; Johnson, Catherine (2005). Animals in Translation. New York, New York: Scribner. pp. 69–71. ISBN 0-7432-4769-8. 
  17. ^ Sherwin, C.M. and Nicol, C.J., (1993). Factors influencing floor-laying by hens in modified cages. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 36: 211-222
  18. ^ Scientists Find Chickens Retain Ancient Ability to Grow Teeth Ammu Kannampilly, ABC News, February 27, 2006. Retrieved October 1, 2007.
  19. ^ a b A genetic variation map for chicken with 2.8 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms. International Chicken Polymorphism Map Consortium (GK Wong et al.) 2004. Nature 432, 717-722| doi:10.1038/nature03156 PMID 15592405
  20. ^ Eriksson J, Larson G, Gunnarsson U, Bed'hom B, Tixier-Boichard M, et al. (2008) Identification of the Yellow Skin Gene Reveals a Hybrid Origin of the Domestic Chicken. PLoS Genet January 23, 2008 Genetics.plosjournals.org
  21. ^ Fumihito, A; Miyake, T; Sumi, S; Takada, M; Ohno, S; Kondo, N (December 20, 1994), "One subspecies of the red junglefowl (Gallus gallus gallus) suffices as the matriarchic ancestor of all domestic breeds", PNAS 91 (26): 12505–12509, doi:10.1073/pnas.91.26.12505 
  22. ^ Liu, Yi-Ping; Wu, Gui-Sheng; Yao, Yong-Gang; Miao, Yong-Wang; Luikart, Gordon; Baig, Mumtaz; Beja-Pereira, Albano; Ding, Zhao-Li; Palanichamy, Malliya Gounder; Zhang, Ya-Ping (2006), "Multiple maternal origins of chickens: Out of the Asian jungles", Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 38 (1): 12–19, doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2005.09.014 
  23. ^ Zeder, et al. (2006). "Documenting domestication: the intersection of genetics and archaeology". Trends in Genetics 22 (3): 139–155. doi:10.1016/j.tig.2006.01.007. 
  24. ^ King, Rick (February 24, 2009), "Rat Attack", NOVA and National Geographic Television 
  25. ^ King, Rick (February 1, 2009), "Plant vs. Predator", NOVA 
  26. ^ West, B.; Zhou, B.X. (1988). "Did chickens go north? New evidence for domestication". J. Archaeol. Sci. 14: 515–533. 
  27. ^ Al-Nasser, A. et al. (2007). "Overview of chicken taxonomy and domestication". World's Poultry Science Journal 63: 285–300. doi:10.1017/S004393390700147X. 
  28. ^ a b c d e f CHOF : The Cambridge History of Food, 2000, Cambridge University Press, vol.1, pp496-499
  29. ^ DNA reveals how the chicken crossed the sea Brendan Borrell, Nature, June 5, 2007. Retrieved October 1, 2007.
  30. ^ A. A. Storey et al., "Radiocarbon and DNA evidence for a pre-Columbian introduction of Polynesian chickens to Chile", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.0703993104; John Noble Wilford, "First Chickens in Americas were Brought from Polynesia, New York Times, June 5, 2007.
  31. ^ Indo-European and Asian origins for Chilean and Pacific chickens revealed by mtDNA. Jaime Gongora, Nicolas J. Rawlence, Victor A. Mobegi, Han Jianlin, Jose A. Alcalde, Jose T. Matus, Olivier Hanotte, Chris Moran, J. Austin, Sean Ulm, Atholl J. Anderson, Greger Larson and Alan Cooper, "Indo-European and Asian origins for Chilean and Pacific chickens revealed by mtDNA" PNAS July 29, 2008 vol. 105 no 30 Pnas.org
  32. ^ How to Do Animal Rights - Chicken Statistics - animalethics.org.uk/i-ch7-2-chickens.html
  33. ^ "Towards Happier Meals In A Globalized World". World Watch Institute. 
  34. ^ "Broiler Chickens Fact Sheet // Animals Australia". Animalsaustralia.org. Retrieved August 29, 2010. 
  35. ^ Guinness World Records 2011 ed. by Craig Glenday - page 286
  36. ^ a b Browne, Anthony (March 10, 2002). "Ten weeks to live". The Guardian (London). Retrieved April 28, 2010. 
  37. ^ Patwardhan, D. and King, A., (2011). Review: feed withdrawal and non feed withdrawal moult. World's Poultry Science Journal, 67: 253-268
  38. ^ Webster, A.B., (2003). Physiology and behavior of the hen during induced moult. Poultry Science, 82: 992-1002
  39. ^ Molino, A.B., Garcia, E.A., Berto, D.A., Pelícia, K., Silva, A.P. and Vercese F., (2009). The Effects of Alternative Forced-Molting Methods on The Performance and Egg Quality of Commercial Layers. Brazilian Journal of Poultry Science, 11: 109-113
  40. ^ Yousaf, M. and Chaudhry, A.S., (2008). History, changing scenarios and future strategies to induce moulting in laying hens. World's Poultry Science Journal, 64: 65-75
  41. ^ Joe G. Berry. "Artificial Incubation". Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Oklahoma State University. Retrieved September 29, 2010. 
  42. ^ Phillip J. Clauer. "Incubating Eggs". Virginia Cooperative Extension Service, Virginia State University. Retrieved October 1, 2010. 
  43. ^ "Incubation Handbook". Brinsea Products Ltd. Retrieved September 30, 2010. 
  44. ^ "How To Hatch Chicken Eggs". www.backyardchickens.com. Retrieved September 30, 2010. 
  45. ^ "Clucks and Chooks: A guide to keeping chickens". 
  46. ^ United Poultry Concerns. "Providing a Good Home for Chickens". Retrieved May 4, 2009. 
  47. ^ White, T. M.; Gilden, D. H.; Mahalingam, R. (2001). "An animal model of varicella virus infection". Brain pathology (Zurich, Switzerland) 11 (4): 475–479. doi:10.1111/j.1750-3639.2001.tb00416.x. PMID 11556693.  edit
  48. ^ "Clucks and Chooks: guide to keeping chickens". 
  49. ^ a b Jerry Adler and Andrew Lawler, "How the Chicken Conquered the World," Smithsonian magazine, June 2012
  50. ^ Dr. John P. Peters, "The Cock," Journal of the American Oriental Society, Volume 33, 1913, p.381 [1]
  51. ^ Luke 22:34
  52. ^ Luke 22:61
  53. ^ The New Testament | Matthew 26:34 | Mark 14:30 | Luke 22:34 | Matthew 26:74-75 | Mark 14:71-72 | Luke 22:60-61
  54. ^ Matthew 23:37; also Luke 13:34. For a recent study of chickens in the New Testament, see Joshua N. Tilton "Chickens and the Cultural Context of the Gospels" www.jerusalemperspective.com.
  55. ^ The Antiquary: a magazine devoted to the study of the past, Volume 17 edited by Edward Walford, John Charles Cox, George Latimer Apperson - page 202
  56. ^ The Philadelphia Museum bulletin, Volumes 1-5, Pennsylvania Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art, p 14, 1906
  57. ^ Eruvin 100b.
  58. ^ A Treasury of Jewish Quotations By Joseph L. Baron - 1985
  59. ^ Jonathan ben Nappaha. Talmud: Erubin 100b
  60. ^ PROVERBS 10-31, Volume 18, Michael V. Fox, Yale University Press 2009, 704 pages
  61. ^ [2] The Cambridge History of the Pacific Islanders By Donald Denoon, Malama Meleisea - Cambridge University Press, March 25, 2004 - page 56
  62. ^ [3] Anthropological Genetics: Theory, Methods and Applications edited by Michael H. Crawford - Cambridge University Press, November 30, 2006 - page 411
  63. ^ [4] Regional Greek Cooking By Dean Karayanis, Catherine Karayanis - Hippocrene Books, March 1, 2008 - page 176
  64. ^ [5] Cooking With the Bible: Biblical Food, Feasts, And Lore By Anthony F. Chiffolo, Rayner W. Hesse - Greenwood Publishing Group, August 30, 2006 - page 207
  65. ^ [6] A classical and archaeological dictionary of the manners, customs, laws, institutions, arts, etc. of the celebrated nations of antiquity, and of the middle ages: To which is prefixed A synoptical and chronological view of ancient history - P. Austin Nuttall - Printed for Whittaker and co., 1840 - page 601
  66. ^ [7] Chambers's information for the people, ed. by W. and R. Chambers - Chambers W. and R., ltd - page 458
  67. ^ [8] A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Greatest Empire by J. C. McKeown - Oxford University Press, Jul 22, 2010 - page 131
  68. ^ [9] A History of Food By Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat - John Wiley & Sons, March 25, 2009 - page 305
  69. ^ [A History of Food By Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat - John Wiley & Sons, March 25, 2009 - page 305]
  70. ^ Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, (Anthea Bell, translator) The History of Food, Ch. 11 "The History of Poultry", revised ed. 2009, p. 305.
  71. ^ [10] The New England farmer, Volume 6 By Thomas Greene Fessenden - Thomas W. Shepard, 1828 - page 69
  72. ^ [11] The Wisdom of Birds: An Illustrated History of Ornithology By Tim Birkhead - Bloomsbury Publishing, March 7, 2011 - page 278
  73. ^ [12] The Enigmas of Easter Island By Paul Bahn, John Flenley - Oxford University Press, May 29, 2003 - page 96
  74. ^ [13] Poultry Genetics, Breeding and Biotechnology edited by W. M. Muir, S. E. Aggrey - CABI, September 4, 2003 - page 5
  75. ^ [14] International Egg Commission IEC London Egg Conference - Sep 9 to 13, 2012
  76. ^ [15] WATT Ag Net - Watt Publishing Co

Further reading

  • Biswas Siddharth 2014 Gallus gallus domesticus Linnaeus, 1758: Keep safe your domestic fowl from your domestic foul. Ambient Science, 1(1): 41-43

External links

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallus_gallus_domesticus

Chicken Heads

Chicken Heads by Inked Animal

Chicken | Gallus gallus

Chicken info via Wikipedia:

"Gallus gallus domesticus" and "Chooks" redirect here. For other subspecies, see Red Junglefowl. For other uses of Chooks, see Chooks (disambiguation).
This article is about the animal. For chicken as human food, see Chicken (food). For other uses, see Chicken (disambiguation).
Chicken
Chicken Heads by Inked Animal
A rooster (left) and hen (right)
Conservation status
Domesticated
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Phasianidae
Subfamily: Phasianinae
Genus: Gallus
Species: G. gallus
Subspecies: G. g. domesticus
Trinomial name
Gallus gallus domesticus
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) is a domesticated fowl, a subspecies of the Red Junglefowl. As one of the most common and widespread domestic animals, with a population of more than 24 billion in 2003,[1] there are more chickens in the world than any other species of bird. Humans keep chickens primarily as a source of food, consuming both their meat and their eggs.

The traditional poultry farming view of the domestication of the chicken is stated in Encyclopædia Britannica (2007): "Humans first domesticated chickens of Indian origin for the purpose of cockfighting in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Very little formal attention was given to egg or meat production... "[2] Recent genetic studies have pointed to multiple maternal origins in Southeast, East, and South Asia, but with the clade found in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa originating in the Indian subcontinent. From India, the domesticated chicken was imported to Lydia in western Asia Minor, and to Greece by the fifth century BC.[3] Fowl had been known in Egypt since the mid-15th century BC, with the "bird that gives birth every day" having come to Egypt from the land between Syria and Shinar, Babylonia, according to the annals of Thutmose III.[4][5][6]

Terminology

In the UK and Ireland adult male chickens over the age of 12 months are primarily known as cocks, whereas in America, Australia and Canada they are more commonly called roosters. Males less than a year old are cockerels.[7]Castrated roosters are called capons (surgical and chemical castration are now illegal in some parts of the world). Females over a year old are known as hens and younger females as pullets[8] although in the egg-laying industry, a pullet becomes a hen when she begins to lay eggs at 16 to 20 weeks of age. In Australia and New Zealand (also sometimes in Britain), there is a generic term chook /ˈʊk/ to describe all ages and both sexes.[9] The young are called chicks and the meat is called chicken.

"Chicken" originally referred to chicks, not the species itself. The species as a whole was then called domestic fowl, or just fowl. This use of "chicken" survives in the phrase "Hen and Chickens", sometimes used as a British public house or theatre name, and to name groups of one large and many small rocks or islands in the sea (see for example Hen and Chicken Islands).

In the Deep South of the United States chickens are also referred to by the slang term yardbird.[10]

General biology and habitat

Chicken Heads by Inked Animal
In some breeds the adult rooster can be distinguished from the hen by his larger comb

Chickens are omnivores.[11] In the wild, they often scratch at the soil to search for seeds, insects and even larger animals such as lizards, small snakes or young mice.[12]

Chickens may live for five to ten years, depending on the breed.[13] The world's oldest chicken, a hen, died of heart failure at the age of 16 according to Guinness World Records.[14]

Roosters can usually be differentiated from hens by their striking plumage of long flowing tails and shiny, pointed feathers on their necks (hackles) and backs (saddle), which are typically of brighter, bolder colours than those of females of the same breed. However, in some breeds, such as the Sebright chicken, the rooster has only slightly pointed neck feathers, the same colour as the hen's. The identification can be made by looking at the comb, or eventually from the development of spurs on the male's legs (in a few breeds and in certain hybrids, the male and female chicks may be differentiated by colour). Adult chickens have a fleshy crest on their heads called a comb, or cockscomb, and hanging flaps of skin either side under their beaks called wattles. Collectively, these and other fleshy protuberances on the head and throat are called caruncles. Both the adult male and female have wattles and combs, but in most breeds these are more prominent in males. A muff or beard is a mutation found in several chicken breeds which causes extra feathering under the chicken's face, giving the appearance of a beard. Domestic chickens are not capable of long distance flight, although lighter birds are generally capable of flying for short distances, such as over fences or into trees (where they would naturally roost). Chickens may occasionally fly briefly to explore their surroundings, but generally do so only to flee perceived danger.

Behaviour

Social behaviour

Chickens are gregarious birds and live together in flocks. They have a communal approach to the incubation of eggs and raising of young. Individual chickens in a flock will dominate others, establishing a "pecking order", with dominant individuals having priority for food access and nesting locations. Removing hens or roosters from a flock causes a temporary disruption to this social order until a new pecking order is established. Adding hens, especially younger birds, to an existing flock can lead to fighting and injury.[15] When a rooster finds food, he may call other chickens to eat first. He does this by clucking in a high pitch as well as picking up and dropping the food. This behaviour may also be observed in mother hens to call their chicks and encourage them to eat.

Roosters crowing (a loud and sometimes shrill call) is a territorial signal to other roosters. However, crowing may also result from sudden disturbances within their surroundings. Hens cluck loudly after laying an egg, and also to call their chicks. Chickens also give a low "warning call" when they think they see a predator approaching.

Courtship

To initiate courting, some roosters may dance in a circle around or near a hen ("a circle dance"), often lowering his wing which is closest to the hen.[16] The dance triggers a response in the hen[16] and when she responds to his "call", the rooster may mount the hen and proceed with the mating.

Nesting and laying behaviour

Chicken Heads by Inked Animal
Chicken eggs vary in colour depending on the hen, typically ranging from bright white to shades of brown and even blue, green, and recently reported purple (found in South Asia) (Araucana varieties).
Chicken Heads by Inked Animal
Chicks before their first outing

Hens will often try to lay in nests that already contain eggs and have been known to move eggs from neighbouring nests into their own. The result of this behaviour is that a flock will use only a few preferred locations, rather than having a different nest for every bird. Hens will often express a preference to lay in the same location. It is not unknown for two (or more) hens to try to share the same nest at the same time. If the nest is small, or one of the hens is particularly determined, this may result in chickens trying to lay on top of each other. There is evidence that individual hens prefer to be either solitary or gregarious nesters.[17] Some farmers use fake eggs made from plastic or stone (or golf balls) to encourage hens to lay in a particular location.

Broodiness

Under natural conditions, most birds lay only until a clutch is complete, and they will then incubate all the eggs. Many domestic hens will also do this–and are then said to "go broody". The broody hen will stop laying and instead will focus on the incubation of the eggs (a full clutch is usually about 12 eggs). She will "sit" or "set" on the nest, protesting or pecking in defense if disturbed or removed, and she will rarely leave the nest to eat, drink, or dust-bathe. While brooding, the hen maintains the nest at a constant temperature and humidity, as well as turning the eggs regularly during the first part of the incubation. To stimulate broodiness, an owner may place many artificial eggs in the nest, or to stop it they may place the hen in an elevated cage with an open wire floor.

Chicken Heads by Inked Animal
Skull of a three-week-old chicken. Here the opisthotic bone appears in the occipital region, as in the adult Chelonian. bo = Basi-occipital, bt = Basi-temporal, eo = Opisthotic, f = Frontal, fm = Foramen magnum, fo = Fontanella, oc = Occipital condyle, op = Opisthotic, p = Parietal, pf = Post-frontal, sc = Sinus canal in supra-occipital, so = Supra-occpital, sq = Squamosal, 8 = Exit of vagus nerve.

Modern egg-laying breeds rarely go broody, and those that do often stop part-way through the incubation. However, some "utility" (general purpose) breeds, such as the Cochin, Cornish and Silkie, do regularly go broody, and they make excellent mothers, not only for chicken eggs but also for those of other species—even those with much smaller or larger eggs and different incubation periods, such as quail, pheasants, turkeys or geese. Chicken eggs can also be hatched under a broody duck, with varied success.

Hatching and early life

At the end of the incubation period (about 21 days),[16] the eggs, if fertile, will hatch. Development of the egg starts only when incubation begins, so they all hatch within a day or two of each other, despite perhaps being laid over a period of two weeks or so. Before hatching, the hen can hear the chicks peeping inside the eggs, and will gently cluck to stimulate them to break out of their shells. The chick begins by "pipping"; pecking a breathing hole with its egg tooth towards the blunt end of the egg, usually on the upper side. The chick will then rest for some hours, absorbing the remaining egg yolk and withdrawing the blood supply from the membrane beneath the shell (used earlier for breathing through the shell). It then enlarges the hole, gradually turning round as it goes, and eventually severing the blunt end of the shell completely to make a lid. It crawls out of the remaining shell, and its wet down dries out in the warmth of the nest.

The hen will usually stay on the nest for about two days after the first egg hatches, and during this time the newly hatched chicks live off the egg yolk they absorb just before hatching. Any eggs not fertilized by a rooster will not hatch, and the hen eventually loses interest in these and leaves the nest. After hatching, the hen fiercely guards the chicks, and will brood them when necessary to keep them warm, at first often returning to the nest at night. She leads them to food and water; she will call them to edible items, but seldom feeds them directly. She continues to care for them until they are several weeks old, when she will gradually lose interest and eventually start to lay again.

Earliest gestation stages and blood circulation of a chicken embryo

Embryology

In 2006, scientists researching the ancestry of birds "turned on" a chicken recessive gene, talpid2, and found that the embryo jaws initiated formation of teeth, like those found in ancient bird fossils. John Fallon, the overseer of the project, stated that chickens have "...retained the ability to make teeth, under certain conditions... ."[18]

Breeding

Origins

The domestic chicken is descended primarily from the Red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) and is scientifically classified as the same species.[19] As such it can and does freely interbreed with populations of red jungle fowl.[19] Recent genetic analysis has revealed that at least the gene for yellow skin was incorporated into domestic birds through hybridization with the Grey junglefowl (G. sonneratii).[20] The traditional poultry farming view is stated in Encyclopædia Britannica (2007): "Humans first domesticated chickens of Indian origin for the purpose of cockfighting in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Very little formal attention was given to egg or meat production... "[2] In the last decade there have been a number of genetic studies. According to one study, a single domestication event occurring in the region of modern Thailand created the modern chicken with minor transitions separating the modern breeds.[21] However, that study was later found to be based on incomplete data, and recent studies point to multiple maternal origins, with the clade found in the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Africa, originating from the Indian subcontinent, where a large number of unique haplotypes occur.[22][23] It is postulated that the Jungle Fowl, known as the "bamboo fowl" in many Southeast Asian languages, is a special pheasant well adapted to take advantage of the large amounts of fruits that are produced during the end of the 50 year bamboo seeding cycle to boost its own reproduction.[24] According to Daniel H. Janzen of the University of Pennsylvania, in domesticating the chicken, humans took advantage of this prolific reproduction of the jungle fowl when exposed to large amount of food.[25]

It has been claimed (based on paleoclimatic assumptions) that chickens were domesticated in Southern China in 6000 BC.[26] However, according to a recent study,[27] "it is not known whether these birds made much contribution to the modern domestic fowl. Chickens from the Harappan culture of the Indus Valley (2500-2100 BC), in what today is Pakistan, may have been the main source of diffusion throughout the world." A northern road spread the chicken to the Tarim basin of central Asia. The chicken reached Europe (Romania, Turkey, Greece, Ukraine) about 3000 BC.[28] Introduction into Western Europe came far later, about the 1st millennium BC. Phoenicians spread chickens along the Mediterranean coasts, to Iberia. Breeding increased under the Roman Empire, and was reduced in the Middle Ages.[28] Middle East traces of chicken go back to a little earlier than 2000 BC, in Syria; chicken went southward only in the 1st millennium BC. The chicken reached Egypt for purposes of cock fighting about 1400 BC, and became widely bred only in Ptolemaic Egypt (about 300 BC).[28] Little is known about the chicken's introduction into Africa. Three possible routes of introduction in about the early first millennium AD could have been through the Egyptian Nile Valley, the East Africa Roman-Greek or Indian trade, or from Carthage and the Berbers, across the Sahara. The earliest known remains are from Mali, Nubia, East Coast, and South Africa and date back to the middle of the first millennium AD.[28] Domestic chicken in the Americas before Western conquest is still an ongoing discussion, but blue-egged chickens, found only in the Americas and Asia, suggest an Asian origin for early American chickens.[28]

A lack of data from Thailand, Russia, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa makes it difficult to lay out a clear map of the spread of chickens in these areas; better description and genetic analysis of local breeds threatened by extinction may also help with research into this area.[28]

South America

An unusual variety of chicken that has its origins in South America is the araucana, bred in southern Chile by the Mapuche people. Araucanas, some of which are tailless and some of which have tufts of feathers around their ears, lay blue-green eggs. It has long been suggested that they pre-date the arrival of European chickens brought by the Spanish and are evidence of pre-Columbian trans-Pacific contacts between Asian or Pacific Oceanic peoples, particularly the Polynesians, and South America. In 2007, an international team of researchers reported the results of analysis of chicken bones found on the Arauco Peninsula in south-central Chile. Radiocarbon dating suggested that the chickens were Pre-Columbian, and DNA analysis showed that they were related to prehistoric populations of chickens in Polynesia.[29] These results appeared to confirm that the chickens came from Polynesia and that there were transpacific contacts between Polynesia and South America before Columbus's arrival in the Americas.[30]

However, a later report looking at the same specimens concluded:

A published, apparently pre-Columbian, Chilean specimen and six pre-European Polynesian specimens also cluster with the same European/Indian subcontinental/Southeast Asian sequences, providing no support for a Polynesian introduction of chickens to South America. In contrast, sequences from two archaeological sites on Easter Island group with an uncommon haplogroup from Indonesia, Japan, and China and may represent a genetic signature of an early Polynesian dispersal. Modeling of the potential marine carbon contribution to the Chilean archaeological specimen casts further doubt on claims for pre-Columbian chickens, and definitive proof will require further analyses of ancient DNA sequences and radiocarbon and stable isotope data from archaeological excavations within both Chile and Polynesia.[31]

Farming

Main article: Poultry farming
Chicken Heads by Inked Animal
A former battery hen, five days after her release. Note the pale comb and missing feathers.

More than 50 billion chickens are reared annually as a source of food, for both their meat and their eggs.[32][better source needed]

The vast majority of poultry are raised using intensive farming techniques. According to the Worldwatch Institute, 74 percent of the world's poultry meat, and 68 percent of eggs are produced this way.[33] One alternative to intensive poultry farming is free range farming.

Friction between these two main methods has led to long term issues of ethical consumerism. Opponents of intensive farming argue that it harms the environment, creates human health risks and is inhumane. Advocates of intensive farming say that their highly efficient systems save land and food resources due to increased productivity, stating that the animals are looked after in state-of-the-art environmentally controlled facilities.

In part due to the conditions on intensive poultry farms and recent recalls of large quantities of eggs, there is a growing movement for small scale micro-flocks or 'backyard chickens'. This involves keeping small numbers of hens (usually no more than a dozen), in suburban or urban residential areas to control bugs, utilize chicken waste as fertilizer in small gardens, and of course for the high-quality eggs and meat that are produced.

Reared for meat

Main article: Broiler
Chicken Heads by Inked Animal
A commercial chicken house with open sides raising broiler pullets for meat

Chickens farmed for meat are called broiler chickens. Chickens will naturally live for 6 or more years, but broiler chickens typically take less than 6 weeks to reach slaughter size.[34] A free range or organic meat chicken will usually be slaughtered at about 14 weeks of age.

Reared for eggs

Chickens farmed for eggs are called egg-laying hens. In total, the UK alone consumes over 29 million eggs per day. Some hen breeds can produce over 300 eggs per year, with "the highest authenticated rate of egg laying being 371 eggs in 364 days".[35] After 12 months of laying, the commercial hen's egg-laying ability starts to decline to the point where the flock is unviable. Hens, particularly from battery cage systems, are sometimes infirm, have lost a significant amount of their feathers, and their life expectancy has been reduced from around 7 years to less than 2 years.[36] In the UK and Europe, laying hens are then slaughtered and used in processed foods, or sold as "soup hens".[36] In some other countries, flocks are sometimes force moulted, rather than being slaughtered, to reinvigorate egg-laying. This involves complete withdrawal of food (and sometimes water) for 7–14 days[37] or sufficiently long to cause a body weight loss of 25 to 35%,[38] or up to 28 days under experimental conditions[39] which presumably reflect farming practice[original research?]. This stimulates the hen to lose her feathers, but also reinvigorates egg-production. Some flocks may be force moulted several times. In 2003, more than 75% of all flocks were moulted in the US.[40]

Artificial incubation

Chicken Heads by Inked Animal
An egg incubator

Incubation can successfully occur artificially in machines that provide the correct, controlled environment for the developing chick.[41][42][43][44] The average incubation period for chickens is 21 days but may depend on the temperature and humidity in the incubator. Temperature regulation is the most critical factor for a successful hatch. Variations of more than 1 °C (1.8 °F) from the optimum temperature of 37.5 °C (99.5 °F) will reduce hatch rates. Humidity is also important because the rate at which eggs lose water by evaporation depends on the ambient relative humidity. Evaporation can be assessed by candling, to view the size of the air sac, or by measuring weight loss. Relative humidity should be increased to around 70% in the last three days of incubation to keep the membrane around the hatching chick from drying out after the chick cracks the shell. Lower humidity is usual in the first 18 days to ensure adequate evaporation. The position of the eggs in the incubator can also influence hatch rates. For best results, eggs should be placed with the pointed ends down and turned regularly (at least three times per day) until one to three days before hatching. If the eggs aren't turned, the embryo inside may stick to the shell and may hatch with physical defects. Adequate ventilation is necessary to provide the embryo with oxygen. Older eggs require increased ventilation.

Many commercial incubators are industrial-sized with shelves holding tens of thousands of eggs at a time, with rotation of the eggs a fully automated process. Home incubators are boxes holding from 6 to 75 eggs; they are usually electrically powered, but in the past some were heated with an oil or paraffin lamp.

As pets

Main article: Chickens as pets

Chickens are sometimes kept as pets and can be tamed by hand feeding, but roosters can sometimes become aggressive and noisy, although aggression can be curbed with proper handling. Some have advised against keeping them around very young children. Certain breeds, however, such as silkies and many bantam varieties are generally docile and are often recommended as good pets around children with disabilities.[45] Some people find chickens' behaviour entertaining and educational.[46]

Diseases and ailments

Chickens are susceptible to several parasites, including lice, mites, ticks, fleas, and intestinal worms, as well as other diseases. Despite the name, they are not affected by chickenpox, which is generally restricted to humans.[47]

Some of the common diseases that affect chickens are shown below:

Name Common name Caused by
Aspergillosis fungi
Avian influenza bird flu virus
Histomoniasis Blackhead disease protozoal parasite
Botulism toxin
Cage Layer Fatigue mineral deficiencies, lack of exercise
Campylobacteriosis tissue injury in the gut
Coccidiosis parasites
Colds virus
Crop Bound improper feeding
Dermanyssus gallinae Red mite parasite
Egg bound oversized egg
Erysipelas bacteria
Fatty Liver Hemorrhagic Syndrome high-energy food
Fowl Cholera bacteria
Fowl pox virus
Fowl Typhoid bacteria
Gallid herpesvirus 1
or Infectious Laryngotracheitis
virus
Gapeworm Syngamus trachea worms
Infectious Bronchitis virus
Infectious Bursal Disease Gumboro virus
Infectious Coryza bacteria
Lymphoid leukosis Avian leukosis virus
Marek's disease virus
Moniliasis Yeast Infection
or Thrush
fungi
Mycoplasmas bacteria-like organisms
Newcastle disease virus
Necrotic Enteritis bacteria
Omphalitis Mushy chick disease umbilical cord stump
Peritonitis[48] Infection in abdomen from egg yolk
Prolapse
Psittacosis bacteria
Pullorum Salmonella bacteria
Scaly leg parasites
Squamous cell carcinoma cancer
Tibial dyschondroplasia speed growing
Toxoplasmosis protozoal parasite
Ulcerative Enteritis bacteria
Ulcerative pododermatitis Bumblefoot bacteria

In religion and mythology

Chicken Heads by Inked Animal
Vatican Persian Cock — A 1919 print of a fabric square of a Persian cock or a Persian bird design belonging to the Vatican (Holy See) in Rome dating to 600 C.E. Notice the halo denoting the status of being holy in that religious schema.

Since antiquity chickens have been, and still are, a sacred animal in some cultures[49] and deeply embedded within belief systems and religious worship. The term "Persian bird" for the cock appears to been given by the Greeks after Persian contact "because of his great importance and his religious use among the Persians".[50]

In Indonesia the chicken has great significance during the Hindu cremation ceremony. A chicken is considered a channel for evil spirits which may be present during the ceremony. A chicken is tethered by the leg and kept present at the ceremony for its duration to ensure that any evil spirits present go into the chicken and not the family members. The chicken is then taken home and returns to its normal life.

In ancient Greece, the chicken was not normally used for sacrifices, perhaps because it was still considered an exotic animal. Because of its valor, the cock is found as an attribute of Ares, Heracles, and Athena. The alleged last words of Socrates as he died from hemlock poisoning, as recounted by Plato, were "Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; will you remember to pay the debt?", signifying that death was a cure for the illness of life.

The Greeks believed that even lions were afraid of cocks. Several of Aesop's Fables reference this belief.

In the New Testament, Jesus prophesied the betrayal by Peter: "Jesus answered, 'I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.'"[51] It happened,[52] and Peter cried bitterly. This made the cock a symbol for both vigilance and betrayal. The rooster(cock) serves as a tangible vessel of Christ for some as in the gospel of Matthew, Mark and Luke in the New Testament with Christ speaking through the cock.[53]

Earlier, Jesus compares himself to a mother hen when talking about Jerusalem: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing."[54]

In the sixth century, Pope Gregory I declared the cock the emblem of Christianity[55] and another Papal enactment of the ninth century by Pope Nicholas I[49] ordered the figure of the cock to be placed on every church steeple.[56]

In many Central European folk tales, the devil is believed to flee at the first crowing of a cock.

In traditional Jewish practice, a kosher animal is swung around the head and then slaughtered on the afternoon before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in a ritual called kapparos; it is now common practice to cradle the bird and move it around the head. A chicken or fish is typically used because it is commonly available (and small enough to hold). The sacrifice of the animal is to receive atonement, for the animal symbolically takes on all the person's sins in kapparos. The meat is then donated to the poor. A woman brings a hen for the ceremony, while a man brings a rooster. Although not a sacrifice in the biblical sense, the death of the animal reminds the penitent sinner that his or her life is in God's hands.

The Talmud speaks of learning "courtesy toward one's mate" from the rooster.[57] This might refer to the fact that when a rooster finds something good to eat, he calls his hens to eat first. The Talmud likewise provides us with the statement "Had the Torah not been given to us, we would have learned modesty from cats, honest toil from ants, chastity from doves and gallantry from cocks,"[58][59] which may be further understood as to that of the gallantry of cocks being taken in the context of a religious instilling vessel of "a girt one of the loins" (Young's Literal Translation) that which is "stately in his stride" and "move with stately bearing" in the Book of Proverbs 30:29-31 as referenced by Michael V. Fox in his Proverbs 10-31 where Saʻadiah ben Yosef Gaon (Saadia Gaon) identifies the definitive trait of "A cock girded about the loins" in Proverbs 30:31 (Douay–Rheims Bible) as "the honesty of their behavior and their success",[60] identifying a spiritual purpose of a religious vessel within that religious instilling schema of purpose and use.

The chicken is one of the Zodiac symbols of the Chinese calendar. In Chinese folk religion, a cooked chicken as a religious offering is usually limited to ancestor veneration and worship of village deities. Vegetarian deities such as the Buddha are not recipients of such offerings. Under some observations, an offering of chicken is presented with "serious" prayer (while roasted pork is offered during a joyous celebration). In Confucian Chinese weddings, a chicken can be used as a substitute for one who is seriously ill or not available (e.g., sudden death) to attend the ceremony. A red silk scarf is placed on the chicken's head and a close relative of the absent bride/groom holds the chicken so the ceremony may proceed. However, this practice is rare today.

A cockatrice was supposed to have been born from an egg laid by a rooster, as well as killed by a rooster's call.

In history

An early domestication of chickens in Southeast Asia is probable, since the word for domestic chicken (*manuk) is part of the reconstructed Proto-Austronesian language (see Austronesian languages). Chickens, together with dogs and pigs, were the domestic animals of the Lapita culture,[61] the first Neolithic culture of Oceania.[62]

The first pictures of chickens in Europe are found on Corinthian pottery of the 7th century BC.[63][64] The poet Cratinus (mid-5th century BC, according to the later Greek author Athenaeus) calls the chicken "the Persian alarm". In Aristophanes's comedy The Birds (414 BC) a chicken is called "the Median bird", which points to an introduction from the East. Pictures of chickens are found on Greek red figure and black-figure pottery.

In ancient Greece, chickens were still rare and were a rather prestigious food for symposia.[citation needed]Delos seems to have been a center of chicken breeding (Columella, De Re Rustica 8.3.4).

The Romans used chickens for oracles, both when flying ("ex avibus", Augury) and when feeding ("auspicium ex tripudiis", Alectryomancy). The hen ("gallina") gave a favourable omen ("auspicium ratum"), when appearing from the left (Cic.,de Div. ii.26), like the crow and the owl.

For the oracle "ex tripudiis" according to Cicero (Cic. de Div. ii.34), any bird could be used in auspice, and shows at one point that any bird could perform the tripudium[65] but normally only chickens ("pulli") were consulted. The chickens were cared for by the pullarius, who opened their cage and fed them pulses or a special kind of soft cake when an augury was needed. If the chickens stayed in their cage, made noises ("occinerent"), beat their wings or flew away, the omen was bad; if they ate greedily, the omen was good.[66]

In 249 BC, the Roman general Publius Claudius Pulcher had his "sacred chickens" "[67] thrown overboard when they refused to feed before the battle of Drepana, saying "If they won't eat, perhaps they will drink." He promptly lost the battle against the Carthaginians and 93 Roman ships were sunk. Back in Rome, he was tried for impiety and heavily fined.

In 162 BC, the Lex Faunia forbade fattening hens to conserve grain rations.[68][69] To get around this, the Romans castrated roosters(capon), which resulted in a doubling of size[70] despite the law that was passed in Rome that forbade the consumption of fattened chickens. It was renewed a number of times, but does not seem to have been successful. Fattening chickens with bread soaked in milk was thought to give especially delicious results. The Roman gourmet Apicius offers 17 recipes for chicken, mainly boiled chicken with a sauce. All parts of the animal are used: the recipes include the stomach, liver, testicles and even the pygostyle (the fatty "tail" of the chicken where the tail feathers attach).

The Roman author Columella gives advice on chicken breeding in his eighth book of his treatise, De Re Rustica (On Agriculture).[citation needed] He identified Tanagrian, Rhodic, Chalkidic and Median (commonly misidentified as Melian) breeds, which have an impressive appearance, a quarrelsome nature and were used for cockfighting by the Greeks (De Re Rustica 8.3.4). For farming, native (Roman) chickens are to be preferred, or a cross between native hens and Greek cocks (De Re Rustica 8.2.13). Dwarf chickens are nice to watch because of their size but have no other advantages.

According to Columella (De Re Rustica 8.2.7), the ideal flock consists of 200 birds, which can be supervised by one person if someone is watching for stray animals. White chickens should be avoided as they are not very fertile and are easily caught by eagles or goshawks. One cock should be kept for five hens. In the case of Rhodian and Median cocks that are very heavy and therefore not much inclined to sex, only three hens are kept per cock. The hens of heavy fowls are not much inclined to brood; therefore their eggs are best hatched by normal hens. A hen can hatch no more than 15-23 eggs, depending on the time of year, and supervise no more than 30 hatchlings. Eggs that are long and pointed give more male, rounded eggs mainly female hatchlings (De Re Rustica 8.5.11).

Columella also states that chicken coops should face southeast and lie adjacent to the kitchen, as smoke is beneficial for the animals and "poultry never thrive so well as in warmth and smoke" (De Re Rustica 8.3.1).[71] Coops should consist of three rooms and possess a hearth. Dry dust or ash should be provided for dust-baths.

According to Columella (De Re Rustica 8.4.1), chickens should be fed on barley groats, small chick-peas, millet and wheat bran, if they are cheap. Wheat itself should be avoided as it is harmful to the birds. Boiled ryegrass (Lolium sp.) and the leaves and seeds of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) can be used as well. Grape marc can be used, but only when the hens stop laying eggs, that is, about the middle of November; otherwise eggs are small and few. When feeding grape marc, it should be supplemented with some bran. Hens start to lay eggs after the winter solstice, in warm places around the first of January, in colder areas in the middle of February. Parboiled barley increases their fertility; this should be mixed with alfalfa leaves and seeds, or vetches or millet if alfalfa is not at hand. Free-ranging chickens should receive two cups of barley daily.

Columella[citation needed] advises farmers to slaughter hens that are older than three years, because they no longer produce sufficient eggs.

According to Aldrovandi: Capons were produced by burning "the hind part of the bowels, or loins or spurs"[72] with a hot iron. The wound was treated with potter's chalk.

For the use of poultry and eggs in the kitchens of ancient Rome see Roman eating and drinking.

Chickens were spread by Polynesian seafarers and reached Easter Island in the 12th century AD, where they were the only domestic animal, with the possible exception of the Polynesian Rat (Rattus exulans). They were housed in extremely solid chicken coops built from stone, which was first reported as such to Linton Palmer in 1868, who also "expressed his doubts about this".[73]

As food

Main article: Chicken (food)

The meat of the chicken, also called "chicken", is a type of poultry meat. Because of its relatively low cost, chicken is one of the most used meats in the world. Nearly all parts of the bird can be used for food, and the meat can be cooked in many different ways. Popular chicken dishes include roasted chicken, fried chicken, chicken soup, Buffalo wings, tandoori chicken, butter chicken, and chicken rice. Chicken is also a staple of many fast food restaurants.

Eggs

Main articles: Egg (food) and List of egg dishes

In 2000, there were 50.4 million tons of eggs produced in the world (Executive guide to world poultry trends, 2001)[74] and an estimated 53.4 million tons of table eggs were produced during 2002.[75] In 2009, an estimated 62.1 million metric tons of eggs were produced worldwide from a total laying flock of approximately 6.4 billion hens.[76]

Chicken eggs are widely used in many types of dishes, both sweet and savory, including many baked goods. Eggs can be scrambled, fried, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, pickled, and poached. The albumen, or egg white, contains protein but little or no fat, and can be used in cooking separately from the yolk. Egg whites may be aerated or whipped to a light, fluffy consistency and are often used in desserts such as meringues and mousse. Ground egg shells are sometimes used as a food additive to deliver calcium. Hens do not need a male to produce eggs, only to fertilize them. A flock containing only females will still produce eggs; however, the eggs will all be infertile.

Gallery

References

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Further reading

  • Biswas Siddharth 2014 Gallus gallus domesticus Linnaeus, 1758: Keep safe your domestic fowl from your domestic foul. Ambient Science, 1(1): 41-43

External links

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallus_gallus_domesticus

European Starling

European Starling by Inked Animal

European Starling | Sturnus vulgaris

 


European Starling info via Wikipedia:

Common starling
European Starling by Inked Animal
Adult nominate subspecies in France
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Sturnidae
Genus: Sturnus
Species: S. vulgaris
Binomial name
Sturnus vulgaris
Linnaeus, 1758
European Starling by Inked Animal
Native:       Summer visitor       Resident       Winter visitorIntroduced:       Summer visitor       Resident

The common starling (Sturnus vulgaris), also known as the European starling or in the British Isles just the starling, is a medium-sized passerine bird in the starling family Sturnidae. It is about 20 cm (8 in) long and has glossy black plumage, which is speckled with white at some times of year. The legs are pink and the bill is black in winter and yellow in summer; young birds have browner plumage than the adults. It is a noisy bird, especially in communal roosts and other gregarious situations, with an unmusical but varied song. Its gift for mimicry has been noted in literature including the Mabinogion and the works of Pliny the Elder and William Shakespeare.

The common starling has about a dozen subspecies breeding in open habitats across its native range in temperate Europe and western Asia, and it has been introduced to Australia, New Zealand, North America, South Africa and elsewhere. This bird is resident in southern and western Europe and southwestern Asia, while northeastern populations migrate south and west in winter within the breeding range and also further south to Iberia and north Africa. The common starling builds an untidy nest in a natural or artificial cavity in which four or five glossy, pale blue eggs are laid. These take two weeks to hatch and the young remain in the nest for another three weeks. There are normally one or two breeding attempts each year. This species is omnivorous, taking a wide range of invertebrates, as well as seeds and fruit. It is hunted by various mammals and birds of prey, and is host to a range of external and internal parasites.

Large flocks typical of this species can be beneficial to agriculture by controlling invertebrate pests; however, starlings can also be pests themselves when they feed on fruit and sprouting crops. Common starlings may also be a nuisance through the noise and mess caused by their large urban roosts. Introduced populations in particular have been subjected to a range of controls, including culling, but these have had limited success except in preventing the colonisation of Western Australia. The species has declined in numbers in parts of northern and western Europe since the 1980s due to fewer grassland invertebrates being available as food for growing chicks. Despite this, its huge global population is not thought to be declining significantly, so the common starling is classified as being of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Taxonomy and systematics

The common starling was first described by Linnaeus in his Systema Naturae in 1758 under its current binomial name.[2]Sturnus and vulgaris are derived from the Latin for "starling" and "common" respectively.[3] The Old English staer, later stare, and the Latin sturnus are both derived from an unknown Indo-European root dating back to the second millennium BC. "Starling" was first recorded in the 11th century, when it referred to the juvenile of the species, but by the 16th century it had already largely supplanted "stare" to refer to birds of all ages.[4] The older name is referenced in William Butler Yeats' poem "The Stare's Nest by My Window".[5] The International Ornithological Congress' preferred English vernacular name is common starling.[6]

The starling family, Sturnidae, is an entirely Old World group apart from introductions elsewhere, with the greatest numbers of species in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.[7] The genus Sturnus is polyphyletic and relationships between its members are not fully resolved. The closest relation of the common starling is the spotless starling.[8] The non-migratory spotless starling may be descended from a population of ancestral S. vulgaris that survived in an Iberian refugium during an ice age retreat,[9] and mitochondrial gene studies suggest that it could be considered as a subspecies of the common starling. There is more genetic variation between common starling populations than between nominate common starling and spotless starling.[10] Although common starling remains are known from the Middle Pleistocene,[11] part of the problem in resolving relationships in the Sturnidae is the paucity of the fossil record for the family as a whole.[9]

Subspecies

European Starling by Inked Animal
S. v. vulgaris in Northern Ireland
European Starling by Inked Animal
S. v. faroensis in the Faroe Islands
European Starling by Inked Animal
S. v. tauricus in Ukraine
European Starling by Inked Animal
S. v. porphyronotus

There are several subspecies of the common starling, which vary clinally in size and the colour tone of the adult plumage. The gradual variation over geographic range and extensive intergradation means that acceptance of the various subspecies varies between authorities.[12][13]

Subspecies[a]
Subspecies Authority Range Comments
S. v. vulgaris Linnaeus, 1758 Most of Europe, except the far northwest and far southeast; also Iceland and the Canary Islands The nominate subspecies.
S. v. faroensis Feilden, 1872 Faroe Islands Slightly larger than nominate, especially bill and feet. Adult with darker and duller green gloss and far less spotting even in fresh plumage. Juvenile sooty black with whitish chin and areas on belly; throat spotted black.
S. v. zetlandicus Hartert, 1918. Shetland Islands Like faroensis but intermediate in size between that and vulgaris. Birds from Fair Isle, St Kilda and the Outer Hebrides are intermediate between this subspecies and the nominate and placement with vulgaris or zetlandicus varies according to authority.
S. v. granti Hartert, 1903 Azores Like nominate, but smaller, especially feet. Often strong purple gloss on upperparts.
S. v. poltaratskyi (Finsch, 1878) Eastern Bashkortostan eastwards through Urals and central Siberia, to Lake Baykal and western Mongolia Like nominate, but gloss on head predominantly purple, on back green, on flanks usually purplish-blue, on upper wing-coverts bluish-green. In flight, conspicuous light cinnamon-buff fringes to under wing-coverts and axillaries; these areas may appear very pale in fresh plumage.
S. v. tauricus Buturlin, 1904 From Crimea and E of Dnieper River eastwards around coast of Black Sea to W Asia Minor. Not in uplands where replaced by purpurascens Like nominate, but decidedly long-winged. Gloss of head green, of body bronze-purple, of flanks and upper wing-coverts greenish bronze. Underwing blackish with pale fringes of coverts. Nearly spotless in breeding plumage.
S. v. purpurascens Gould, 1868 E Turkey to Tbilisi and Lake Sevan, in uplands on E shore of Black sea replacing tauricus Like nominate, but wing longer and green gloss restricted to ear-coverts, neck and upper chest. Purple gloss elsewhere except on flanks and upper wing-coverts where more bronzy. Dark underwing with slim white fringes to coverts.
S. v. caucasicus Lorenz, 1887 Volga Delta through eastern Caucasus and adjacent areas Green gloss on head and back, purple gloss on neck and belly, more bluish on upper wing-coverts. Underwing like purpurascens.
S. v. porphyronotus (Sharpe, 1888) Western Central Asia, grading into poltaratskyi between Dzungarian Alatau and Altai Very similar to tauricus but smaller and completely allopatric, being separated by purpurascens, caucasicus and nobilior.
S. v. nobilior (Hume, 1879) Afghanistan, SE Turkmenistan and adjacent Uzbekistan to E Iran Like purpurascens but smaller and wing shorter; ear-coverts glossed purple, and underside and upperwing gloss quite reddish.
S. v. humii (Brooks, 1876) Kashmir to Nepal Small; purple gloss restricted to neck area and sometimes flanks to tail-coverts, otherwise glossed green. This is sometimes treated under the name indicus given by Hodgson.[b]
S. v. minor (Hume, 1873) Pakistan Small; green gloss restricted to head and lower belly and back, otherwise glossed purple.

Birds from Fair Isle, St Kilda and the Outer Hebrides are intermediate in size between S. v. zetlandicus and the nominate form, and their subspecies placement varies according to the authority. The dark juveniles typical of these island forms are occasionally found in mainland Scotland and elsewhere, indicating some gene flow from faroensis or zetlandicus, subspecies formerly considered to be isolated.[17][18]

Several other subspecies have been named, but are generally no longer considered valid. Most are intergrades that occur where the ranges of various subspecies meet. These include: S. v. ruthenus Menzbier, 1891 and S. v. jitkowi Buturlin, 1904, which are intergrades between vulgaris and poltaratskyi from western Russia; S. v. graecus Tschusi, 1905 and S. v. balcanicus Buturlin and Harms, 1909, intergrades between vulgaris and tauricus from the southern Balkans to central Ukraine and throughout Greece to the Bosporus; and S. v. heinrichi Stresemann, 1928, an intergrade between caucasicus and nobilior in northern Iran. S. v. persepolis Ticehurst, 1928 from southern Iran's (Fars Province) is very similar to S. v. vulgaris, and it is not clear whether it is a distinct resident population or simply migrants from southeastern Europe.[13]

Description

European Starling by Inked Animal
A young juvenile perching on a table in London. Its plumage is mainly grey-brown

The common starling is 19–23 cm (7.5–9.1 in) long, with a wingspan of 31–44 cm (12–17 in) and a weight of 58–101 g (2.0–3.6 oz).[14] Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 11.8 to 13.8 cm (4.6 to 5.4 in), the tail is 5.8 to 6.8 cm (2.3 to 2.7 in), the culmen is 2.5 to 3.2 cm (0.98 to 1.26 in) and the tarsus is 2.7 to 3.2 cm (1.1 to 1.3 in).[14] The plumage is iridescent black, glossed purple or green, and spangled with white, especially in winter. The underparts of adult male common starlings are less spotted than those of adult females at a given time of year. The throat feathers of males are long and loose and are used in display while those of females are smaller and more pointed. The legs are stout and pinkish- or greyish-red. The bill is narrow and conical with a sharp tip; in the winter it is brownish-black but in summer, females have lemon yellow beaks while males have yellow bills with blue-grey bases. Moulting occurs once a year, in late summer after the breeding season has finished; the fresh feathers are prominently tipped white (breast feathers) or buff (wing and back feathers), which gives the bird a speckled appearance. The reduction in the spotting in the breeding season is achieved through the white feather tips largely wearing off. Juveniles are grey-brown and by their first winter resemble adults though often retaining some brown juvenile feathering especially on the head.[12][19] They can usually be sexed by the colour of the irises, rich brown in males, mouse-brown or grey in females. Estimating the contrast between an iris and the central always-dark pupil is 97% accurate in determining sex, rising to 98% if the length of the throat feathers is also considered.[20][21]

European Starling by Inked Animal
An immature in California. It has partly moulted into its first-winter plumage; however, juvenile brown plumage is prominent on its head and neck

Like most terrestrial starlings the common starling moves by walking or running, rather than hopping. Their flight is quite strong and direct; their triangular-shaped wings beat very rapidly and periodically the birds glide for a short way without losing much height before resuming powered flight. When in a flock the birds take off almost simultaneously, wheel and turn in unison, form a compact mass or trail off into a wispy stream, bunch up again and land in a coordinated fashion.[19] Common starling on migration can fly at 60–80 km/hr (37–50 mi/hr) and cover a total distance up to 1,000–1,500 km (600–900 mi).[22]

Several terrestrial starlings, including those in the genus Sturnus, have adaptations of the skull and muscles that help with feeding by probing.[23] This adaptation is most strongly developed in the common starling (along with the spotless and white-cheeked starlings), where the protractor muscles responsible for opening the jaw are enlarged and the skull is narrow, allowing the eye to be moved forward to peer down the length of the bill.[24] This technique involves inserting the bill into the ground and opening it as a way of searching for hidden food items. Common starlings have the physical traits that enable them to use this feeding technique, which has undoubtedly helped the species spread far and wide.[14]

In Iberia, the western Mediterranean and northwest Africa, the common starling may be confused with the closely related spotless starling, the plumage of which, as its name implies, has a more uniform colour. At close range it can be seen that the latter has longer throat feathers, a fact particularly noticeable when it sings.[25]

Voice

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The song of a common starling
European Starling by Inked Animal
Adult male singing and displaying its long throat feathers

The common starling is a noisy bird. Its song consists of a wide variety of both melodic and mechanical-sounding noises as part of a ritual succession of sounds. The male is the main songster and engages in bouts of song lasting for a minute or more. Each of these typically includes four varieties of song type, which follow each other in a regular order without pause. The bout starts with a series of pure-tone whistles and these are followed by the main part of the song, a number of variable sequences that often incorporate snatches of song mimicked from other species of bird and various naturally occurring or man-made noises. The structure and simplicity of the sound mimicked is of greater importance than the frequency with which it occurs. Each sound clip is repeated several times before the bird moves on to the next. After this variable section comes a number of types of repeated clicks followed by a final burst of high-frequency song, again formed of several types. Each bird has its own repertoire with more proficient birds having a range of up to 35 variable song types and as many as 14 types of clicks.[26]

Males sing constantly as the breeding period approaches and perform less often once pairs have bonded. In the presence of a female, a male sometimes flies to his nest and sings from the entrance, apparently attempting to entice the female in. Older birds tend to have a wider repertoire than younger ones. Those males that engage in longer bouts of singing and that have wider repertoires attract mates earlier and have greater reproductive success than others. Females appear to prefer mates with more complex songs, perhaps because this indicates greater experience or longevity. Having a complex song is also useful in defending a territory and deterring less experienced males from encroaching.[26]

Singing also occurs outside the breeding season, taking place throughout the year apart from the moulting period. The songsters are more commonly male although females also sing on occasion. The function of such out-of-season song is poorly understood.[26] Eleven other types of call have been described including a flock call, threat call, attack call, snarl call and copulation call.[27] The alarm call is a harsh scream, and while foraging together common starlings squabble incessantly.[19] They chatter while roosting and bathing, making a great deal of noise that can cause irritation to people living nearby. When a flock of common starlings is flying together, the synchronised movements of the birds' wings make a distinctive whooshing sound that can be heard hundreds of metres (yards) away.[27]

Behaviour and ecology

A large flock in Rotterdam, Netherlands

The common starling is a highly gregarious species, especially in autumn and winter. Although flock size is highly variable, huge, noisy flocks may form near roosts. These dense concentrations of birds are thought to be a defence against attacks by birds of prey such as peregrine falcons or Eurasian sparrowhawks.[28][29] Flocks form a tight sphere-like formation in flight, frequently expanding and contracting and changing shape, seemingly without any sort of leader. Each common starling changes its course and speed as a result of the movement of its closest neighbours.[30] Very large roosts, exceptionally up to 1.5 million birds, can form in city centres, woodlands or reedbeds, causing problems with their droppings. These may accumulate up to 30 cm (12 in) deep, killing trees by their concentration of chemicals. In smaller amounts, the droppings act as a fertiliser, and therefore woodland managers may try to move roosts from one area of a wood to another to benefit from the soil enhancement and avoid large toxic deposits.[31]

Huge flocks of more than a million common starlings may be observed just before sunset in spring in southwestern Jutland, Denmark over the seaward marshlands of Tønder and Esbjerg municipalities between Tønder and Ribe. They gather in March until northern Scandinavian birds leave for their breeding ranges by mid-April. Their swarm behaviour creates complex shapes silhouetted against the sky, a phenomenon known locally as sort sol ("Black Sun").[32] Flocks of anything from five to fifty thousand common starlings form in areas of the UK just before sundown during mid winter. These flocks are commonly called murmurations.[33]

Feeding

European Starling by Inked Animal
A flock foraging at a farm in Northern Ireland

The common starling is largely insectivorous and feeds on both pest and other arthropods. The food range includes spiders, crane flies, moths, mayflies, dragonflies, damsel flies, grasshoppers, earwigs, lacewings, caddisflies, flies, beetles, sawflies, bees, wasps and ants. Both adults and larvae are consumed and common starlings will also feed on earthworms, snails, small amphibians and lizards.[34] While the consumption of invertebrates is necessary for successful breeding, common starlings are omnivorous and can also eat grains, seeds, fruits, nectar and food waste if the opportunity arises.[35][36][37] The Sturnidae differ from most birds in that they cannot easily metabolise foods containing high levels of sucrose, although they can cope with other fruits such as grapes and cherries.[38] The isolated Azores subspecies of the common starling eats the eggs of the endangered roseate tern. Measures are being introduced to reduce common starling populations by culling before the terns return to their breeding colonies in spring.[10]

An adult foraging and finding food for young chicks

There are several methods by which common starlings obtain their food but for the most part, they forage close to the ground, taking insects from the surface or just underneath. Generally, common starlings prefer foraging amongst short-cropped grasses and are often found among grazing animals or perched on their backs,[37] where they will also feed on the mammal's external parasites.[14] Large flocks may engage in a practice known as "roller-feeding", where the birds at the back of the flock continually fly to the front where the feeding opportunities are best.[35] The larger the flock, the nearer individuals are to one another while foraging. Flocks often feed in one place for some time, and return to previous successfully foraged sites.[35]

There are three types of foraging behaviour observed in the common starling. "Probing" involves the bird plunging its beak into the ground randomly and repetitively until an insect has been found, and is often accompanied by bill gaping where the bird opens its beak in the soil to enlarge a hole. This behaviour, first described by Konrad Lorenz and given the German term zirkeln,[39] is also used to create and widen holes in plastic garbage bags. It takes time for young common starlings to perfect this technique, and because of this the diet of young birds will often contain fewer insects.[25] "Hawking" is the capture of flying insects directly from the air, and "lunging" is the less common technique of striking forward to catch a moving invertebrate on the ground. Earthworms are caught by pulling from soil.[35] Common starlings that have periods without access to food, or have a reduction in the hours of light available for feeding, compensate by increasing their body mass by the deposition of fat.[40]

Nesting

European Starling by Inked Animal
A parent feeding a chick in a nest in a tree hole in England

Unpaired males find a suitable cavity and begin to build nests in order to attract single females, often decorating the nest with ornaments such as flowers and fresh green material, which the female later disassembles upon accepting him as a mate.[27][41] The amount of green material is not important, as long as some is present, but the presence of herbs in the decorative material appears to be significant in attracting a mate. The scent of plants such as yarrow acts as an olfactory attractant to females.[41][42]

The males sing throughout much of the construction and even more so when a female approaches his nest. Following copulation, the male and female continue to build the nest. Nests may be in any type of hole, common locations include inside hollowed trees, buildings, tree stumps and man-made nest-boxes.[27]S. v. zetlandicus typically breeds in crevices and holes in cliffs, a habitat only rarely used by the nominate form.[43] Nests are typically made out of straw, dry grass and twigs with an inner lining made up of feathers, wool and soft leaves. Construction usually takes four or five days and may continue through incubation.[27]

Common starlings are both monogamous and polygamous; although broods are generally brought up by one male and one female, occasionally the pair may have an extra helper. Pairs may be part of a colony, in which case several other nests may occupy the same or nearby trees.[27] Males may mate with a second female while the first is still on the nest. The reproductive success of the bird is poorer in the second nest than it is in the primary nest and is better when the male remains monogamous.[44]

Breeding

European Starling by Inked Animal
Five eggs in a nest
European Starling by Inked Animal
Chicks waiting to be fed at the entrance of their nest made in a gap in a wall in Galway, Ireland

Breeding takes place during the spring and summer. Following copulation, the female lays eggs on a daily basis over a period of several days. If an egg is lost during this time, she will lay another to replace it. There are normally four or five eggs that are ovoid in shape and pale blue or occasionally white, and they commonly have a glossy appearance.[27] The colour of the eggs seems to have evolved through the relatively good visibility of blue at low light levels.[45] The egg size is 26.5–34.5 mm (1.04–1.36 in) in length and 20.0–22.5 mm (0.79–0.89 in) in maximum diameter.[14]

Incubation lasts thirteen days, although the last egg laid may take 24 hours longer than the first to hatch. Both parents share the responsibility of brooding the eggs, but the female spends more time incubating them than does the male, and is the only parent to do so at night when the male returns to the communal roost. The young are born blind and naked. They develop light fluffy down within seven days of hatching and can see within nine days.[27] Once the chicks are able to regulate their body temperature, about six days after hatching,[46] the adults largely cease removing droppings from the nest. Prior to that, the fouling would wet both the chicks' plumage and the nest material, thereby reducing their effectiveness as insulation and increasing the risk of chilling the hatchlings.[47]Nestlings remain in the nest for three weeks, where they are fed continuously by both parents. Fledglings continue to be fed by their parents for another one or two weeks. A pair can raise up to three broods per year, frequently reusing and relining the same nest,[27] although two broods is typical,[14] or just one north of 48oN.[22] Within two months, most juveniles will have moulted and gained their first basic plumage. They acquire their adult plumage the following year.[27] As with other passerines, the nest is kept clean and the chicks' faecal sacs are removed by the adults.[48]

Intraspecific brood parasites are common in common starling nests. Female "floaters" (unpaired females during the breeding season) present in colonies often lay eggs in another pair's nest.[49] Fledglings have also been reported to invade their own or neighbouring nests and evict a new brood.[27] Common starling nests have a 48% to 79% rate of successful fledging, although only 20% of nestlings survive to breeding age; the adult survival rate is closer to 60%. The average life span is about 2–3 years,[22] with a longevity record of 22 yr 11 m.[50]

Predators and parasites

Adult common starlings are hunted by hawks such as the northern goshawk and Eurasian sparrowhawk,[51] and falcons including the peregrine falcon, Eurasian hobby and common kestrel.[52] Slower raptors like black and red kites, common buzzard and Australasian harrier tend to take the more easily caught fledglings or juveniles.[53][54] More than 20 species of hawk, owl and falcon are known to occasionally predate feral starlings in North America, though the most regular predators of adults are likely to be urban-living peregrine falcons or merlins (Falco columbarius).[55][56]Common mynas sometimes evict eggs, nestlings and adult common starlings from their nests,[27] and the lesser honeyguide, a brood parasite, uses the common starling as a host.[57] Nests can be raided by species capable of climbing to them, such as stoats, raccoons[58][59] and squirrels,[22] and cats may catch the unwary.[60]

Common starlings are hosts to a wide range of parasites. A survey of three hundred common starlings from six US states found that all had at least one type of parasite; 99% had external fleas, mites or ticks, and 95% carried internal parasites, mostly various types of worm. Blood-sucking species leave their host when it dies, but other external parasites stay on the corpse. A bird with a deformed bill was heavily infested with Mallophaga lice, presumably due to its inability to remove vermin.[61]

European Starling by Inked Animal
Dermanyssus gallinae, a parasite of the common starling

The hen flea (Ceratophyllus gallinae) is the most common flea in their nests.[62] The small, pale house-sparrow flea C. fringillae, is also occasionally found there and probably arises from the habit of its main host of taking over the nests of other species. This flea does not occur in the US, even on house sparrows.[63]Lice include Menacanthus eurystemus, Brueelia nebulosa and Stumidoecus sturni. Other arthropod parasites include Ixodes ticks and mites such as Analgopsis passerinus, Boydaia stumi, Dermanyssus gallinae, Omithonyssus bursa, O. sylviarum, Proctophyllodes species, Pteronyssoides truncatus and Trouessartia rosteri.[64] The hen mite D. gallinae is itself preyed upon by the predatory mite Androlaelaps casalis. The presence of this control on numbers of the parasitic species may explain why birds are prepared to reuse old nests.[65]

Flying insects that parasitise common starlings include the louse-fly Omithomya nigricornis[64] and the saprophagous fly Camus hemapterus. The latter species breaks off the feathers of its host and lives on the fats produced by growing plumage.[66] Larvae of the moth Hofmannophila pseudospretella are nest scavengers, which feed on animal material such as faeces or dead nestlings.[67]Protozoan blood parasites of the genus Haemoproteus have been found in common starlings,[68] but a better known pest is the brilliant scarlet nematode Syngamus trachea. This worm moves from the lungs to the trachea and may cause its host to suffocate. In Britain, the rook and the common starling are the most infested wild birds.[69] Other recorded internal parasites include the spiny-headed worm Prosthorhynchus transverses.[70]

Common starlings may contract avian tuberculosis,[71][72]avian malaria[73][74] and retrovirus-induced lymphomas.[75] Captive starlings often accumulate excess iron in the liver, a condition that can be prevented by adding black tea-leaves to the food.[76][77]

Distribution and habitat

The global population of common starlings was estimated to be 310 million individuals in 2004, occupying a total area of 8,870,000 km2 (3,420,000 sq mi).[78] Widespread throughout the northern hemisphere, the bird is native to Eurasia and is found throughout Europe, northern Africa (from Morocco to Egypt), India (mainly in the north but regularly extending further south[79] and extending into the Maldives[80]) Nepal, the Middle East including Syria, Iran, and Iraq and north-western China.[78]

European Starling by Inked Animal
A flock resting on a pine tree during migration

Common starlings in the south and west of Europe and south of latitude 40oN are mainly resident,[22] although other populations migrate from regions where the winter is harsh, the ground frozen and food scarce. Large numbers of birds from northern Europe, Russia and Ukraine migrate south westwards or south eastwards.[19][26] In the autumn, when immigrants are arriving from eastern Europe, many of Britain's common starlings are setting off for Iberia and north Africa. Other groups of birds are in passage across the country and the pathways of these different streams of bird may cross.[19] Of the 15,000 birds ringed as nestlings in Merseyside, England, individuals have been recovered at various times of year as far afield as Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Germany and the Low Countries.[81] Small numbers of common starling have sporadically been observed in Japan and Hong Kong but it is unclear from where these birds originated.[26] In North America, northern populations have developed a migration pattern, vacating much of Canada in winter.[82] Birds in the east of the country move southwards, and those from further west winter in the southwest of the US.[14]

Common starlings prefer urban or suburban areas where artificial structures and trees provide adequate nesting and roosting sites. Reedbeds are also favoured for roosting and the birds commonly feed in grassy areas such as farmland, grazing pastures, playing fields, golf courses and airfields where short grass makes foraging easy.[35] They occasionally inhabit open forests and woodlands and are sometimes found in shrubby areas such as Australian heathland. Common starlings rarely inhabit dense, wet forests (i.e. rainforests or wet sclerophyll forests) but are found in coastal areas, where they nest and roost on cliffs and forage amongst seaweed. Their ability to adapt to a large variety of habitats has allowed them to disperse and establish themselves in diverse locations around the world resulting in a habitat range from coastal wetlands to alpine forests, from sea cliffs to mountain ranges 1,900 m (6,200 ft) above sea level.[35]

Introduced populations

The common starling has been introduced to and has successfully established itself in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, North America, Fiji and several Caribbean islands. As a result, it has also been able to migrate to Thailand, Southeast Asia and New Guinea.[35]

South America

Five individuals conveyed on a ship from England alighted near Lago de Maracaibo in Venezuela in November 1949, but subsequently vanished.[83] In 1987, a small population of common starlings was observed nesting in gardens in the city of Buenos Aires.[37][84] Since then, despite some initial attempts at eradication, the bird has been expanding its breeding range at an average rate of 7.5 km (4.7 mi) per year, keeping within 30 km (19 mi) of the Atlantic coast. In Argentina, the species makes use of a variety of natural and man-made nesting sites, particularly woodpecker holes.[84]

Australia

The common starling was introduced to Australia to consume insect pests of farm crops. Early settlers looked forward to their arrival, believing that common starlings were also important for the pollination of flax, a major agricultural product. Nest-boxes for the newly released birds were placed on farms and near crops. The common starling was introduced to Melbourne in 1857 and Sydney two decades later.[35] By the 1880s, established populations were present in the southeast of the country thanks to the work of acclimatisation committees.[85] By the 1920s, common starlings were widespread throughout Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales, but by then they were considered to be pests.[35] Although common starlings were first sighted in Albany, Western Australia in 1917, they have been largely prevented from spreading to the state. The wide and arid Nullarbor Plain provides a natural barrier and control measures have been adopted that have killed 55,000 birds over three decades.[86] The common starling has also colonised Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Islands.[83]

New Zealand

The early settlers in New Zealand cleared the bush and found their newly planted crops were invaded by hordes of caterpillars and other insects deprived of their previous food sources. Native birds were not habituated to living in close proximity to man so the common starling was introduced from Europe to control the pests. It was first brought over in 1862 by the Nelson Acclimatisation Society and other introductions followed. The birds soon became established and are now found all over the country including the subtropical Kermadec Islands to the north and the equally distant Macquarie Island far to the south.[87][88]

North America

European Starling by Inked Animal
Flock in the Napa Valley, California

After two failed attempts,[89] about 60 Common starlings were released in 1890 into New York's Central Park by Eugene Schieffelin. He was president of the American Acclimatization Society, which tried to introduce every bird species mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare into North America.[90][91] About the same date, the Portland Song Bird Club released 35 pairs of common starlings in Portland, Oregon. These birds became established but disappeared around 1902. Common starlings reappeared in the Pacific Northwest in the mid-1940s and these birds were probably descendants of the 1890 Central Park introduction.[89] The original 60 birds have since swelled in number to 150 million, occupying an area extending from southern Canada and Alaska to Central America.[34][89]

Polynesia

The common starling appears to have arrived in Fiji in 1925 on Ono-i-lau and Vatoa islands. It may have colonised from New Zealand via Raoul in the Kermadec Islands where it is abundant, that group being roughly equidistant between New Zealand and Fiji. Its spread in Fiji has been limited, and there are doubts about the population's viability. Tonga was colonised at about the same date and the birds there have been slowly spreading north through the group.[92][93]

South Africa

In South Africa, the common starling was introduced in 1897 by Cecil Rhodes. It spread slowly and by 1954 had reached Clanwilliam and Port Elizabeth. It is now common in the southern Cape region, thinning out northwards to the Johannesburg area. It is present in the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape and the Free State provinces of South Africa and lowland Lesotho, with occasional sightings in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and around the town of Oranjemund in Namibia. In Southern Africa populations appear to be resident and the bird is very much associated with man, his habitations and pastures. It favours irrigated land and is absent from regions where the ground is baked so dry that it cannot probe for insects. It may compete with native birds for crevice nesting sites but the indigenous species are probably more disadvantaged by destruction of their natural habitat than they are by inter-specific competition. It breeds from September to December and outside the breeding season may congregate in large flocks, often roosting in reedbeds. It is the most common bird species in urban and agricultural areas.[94]

West Indies

The common starling was introduced to Jamaica in 1903, and the Bahamas and Cuba were colonised naturally from the US.[22][95] This bird is fairly common but local in Jamaica, Grand Bahama and Bimini, and is rare in the rest of the Bahamas, eastern Cuba,[96] the Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico and St. Croix.[97]

Status

The global population of the common starling is estimated to be more than 310 million individuals and its numbers are not thought to be declining significantly, so the bird is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as being of Least Concern.[1] It had shown a marked increase in numbers throughout Europe from the 19th century to around the 1950s and 60s. In about 1830, S. v. vulgaris expanded its range in the British Isles, spreading into Ireland and areas of Scotland where it had formerly been absent, although S. v. zetlandicus was already present in Shetland and the Outer Hebrides. The common starling has bred in northern Sweden from 1850 and in Iceland from 1935. The breeding range spread through southern France to northeastern Spain, and there were other range expansions particularly in Italy, Austria and Finland.[12] It started breeding in Iberia in 1960, while the spotless starling's range had been expanding northward since the 1950s. The low rate of advance, about 4.7 km (3 mi) per year for both species, is due to the suboptimal mountain and woodland terrain. Expansion has since slowed even further due to direct competition between the two similar species where they overlap in southwestern France and northwestern Spain.[14][98]

Major declines in populations have been observed from 1980 onward in Sweden, Finland, northern Russia (Karelia) and the Baltic States, and smaller declines in much of the rest of northern and central Europe.[12] The bird has been adversely affected in these areas by intensive agriculture, and in several countries it has been red-listed due to population declines of more than 50%. Numbers dwindled in the United Kingdom by more than 80% between 1966 and 2004; although populations in some areas such as Northern Ireland were stable or even increased, those in other areas, mainly England, declined even more sharply. The overall decline seems to be due to the low survival rate of young birds, which may be caused by changes in agricultural practices.[99] The intensive farming methods used in northern Europe mean there is less pasture and meadow habitat available, and the supply of grassland invertebrates needed for the nestlings to thrive is correspondingly reduced.[100]

Relationship with humans

Benefits and problems

European Starling by Inked Animal
Congregating on wires in France
European Starling by Inked Animal
Feeding on windfall apple

Since common starlings eat insect pests such as wireworms, they are considered beneficial in northern Eurasia, and this was one of the reasons given for introducing the birds elsewhere. 25 million nest boxes were erected for this species in the former Soviet Union, and common starlings were found to be effective in controlling the grass grub Costelytra zelandica in New Zealand.[14] The original Australian introduction was facilitated by the provision of nest boxes to help this mainly insectivorous bird to breed successfully,[35] and even in the US, where this is a pest species, the Department of Agriculture acknowledges that vast numbers of insects are consumed by common starlings.[101]

Common starlings introduced to areas such as Australia or North America, where other members of the genus are absent, may have an impact on native species through competition for nest holes. In North America, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, purple martins and other swallows may be affected.[89][102] In Australia, competitors for nesting sites include the crimson and eastern rosellas.[103] For its role in the decline of local native species and the damages to agriculture, the common starling has been included in the IUCN List of the world's 100 worst invasive species.[104]

Common starlings can eat and damage fruit in orchards such as grapes, peaches, olives, currants and tomatoes or dig up newly sown grain and sprouting crops.[37][105] They may also eat animal feed and distribute seeds through their droppings. In eastern Australia, weeds like bridal creeper, blackberry and boneseed are thought to have been spread by common starlings.[106] Agricultural damage In the US is estimated as costing about US$800 million annually.[101] This bird is not considered to be as damaging to agriculture in South Africa as it is in the United States.[57]

The large size of flocks can also cause problems. Common starlings may be sucked into aircraft jet engines, one of the worst instances of this being an incident in Boston in 1960. In this, 62 people died after a turboprop airliner flew into a flock and plummeted into the sea at Winthrop Harbor.[107] Their droppings can contain the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum, the cause of histoplasmosis in humans. At roosting sites this fungus can thrive in accumulated droppings.[14] There are a number of other infectious diseases that can potentially be transmitted by common starlings to humans,[101] although the potential for the birds to spread infections may have been exaggerated.[89]

Control

Because of the damage they do, there have been attempts to control the numbers of both native and introduced populations of common starlings. Within the natural breeding range, this may be affected by legislation. For example, in Spain, this is a species hunted commercially as a food item, and has a close season, whereas in France, it is classed as a pest, and the season in which it may be killed covers the greater part of the year. In the UK, the common starling may be killed at any time of year. This species is migratory, so birds involved in control measures may have come from a wide area and breeding populations may not be greatly impacted. In Europe, the varying legislation and mobile populations mean that control attempts may have limited long-term results.[105] Non-lethal techniques such as scaring with visual or auditory devices have only a temporary effect in any case.[22]

Huge urban roosts in cities can create problems due to the noise and mess made and the smell of the droppings. In 1949, so many birds landed on the clock hands of London's Big Ben that it stopped, leading to unsuccessful attempts to disrupt the roosts with netting, repellent chemical on the ledges and broadcasts of common starling alarm calls. An entire episode of The Goon Show in 1954 was a parody of the futile efforts to disrupt the large common starling roosts in central London.[108]

European Starling by Inked Animal
Visiting a bird feeder. The adult has a black beak in the winter.

Where it is introduced, the common starling is unprotected by legislation, and extensive control plans may be initiated. Common starlings can be prevented from using nest boxes by ensuring that the access holes are smaller than the 1.5 in (38 mm) diameter they need, and the removal of perches discourages them from visiting bird feeders.[89]

Western Australia banned the import of common starlings in 1895. New flocks arriving from the east are routinely shot, while the less cautious juveniles are trapped and netted.[85] New methods are being developed, such as tagging one bird and tracking it back to establish where other members of the flock roost.[109] Another technique is to analyse the DNA of Australian common starling populations to track where the migration from eastern to western Australia is occurring so that better preventative strategies can be used.[110] By 2009, only 300 common starlings were left in Western Australia, and the state committed a further A$400,000 in that year to continue the eradication programme.[111]

In the United States, common starlings are exempt from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which prohibits the taking or killing of migratory birds.[112] No permit is required to remove nests and eggs or kill juveniles or adults.[89] Research was undertaken in 1966 to identify a suitable avicide that would both kill common starlings and would readily be eaten by them. It also needed to be of low toxicity to mammals and not likely to cause the death of pets that ate dead birds. The chemical that best fitted these criteria was DRC-1339, now marketed as Starlicide.[113] In 2008, the United States government poisoned, shot or trapped 1.7 million birds, the largest number of any nuisance species to be destroyed.[114] In 2005, the population in the United States was estimated at 140 million birds,[115] around 45% of the global total of 310 million.[1]

In science and culture

European Starling by Inked Animal
Pet in a cage

Common starlings may be kept as pets or as laboratory animals. Austrian ethologist Konrad Lorenz wrote of them in his book King Solomon's Ring as "the poor man's dog" and "something to love",[116] because nestlings are easily obtained from the wild and after careful hand rearing they are straightforward to look after.[116][117] They adapt well to captivity, and thrive on a diet of standard bird feed and mealworms. Several birds may be kept in the same cage, and their inquisitiveness makes them easy to train or study. The only disadvantages are their messy and indiscriminate defecation habits and the need to take precautions against diseases that may be transmitted to humans. As a laboratory bird, the common starling is second in numbers only to the domestic pigeon.[38]

The common starling's gift for mimicry has long been recognised. In the medieval Welsh Mabinogion, Branwen tamed a common starling, "taught it words", and sent it across the Irish Sea with a message to her brothers, Bran and Manawydan, who then sailed from Wales to Ireland to rescue her.[118]Pliny the Elder claimed that these birds could be taught to speak whole sentences in Latin and Greek, and in Henry IV, William Shakespeare had Hotspur declare "The king forbade my tongue to speak of Mortimer. But I will find him when he is asleep, and in his ear I'll holler 'Mortimer!' Nay I'll have a starling shall be taught to speak nothing but Mortimer, and give it to him to keep his anger still in motion."

European Starling by Inked Animal
Mozart's "starling song"

Mozart had a pet common starling which could sing part of his Piano Concerto in G Major (KV. 453).[108] He had bought it from a shop after hearing it sing a phrase from a work he wrote six weeks previously, which had not yet been performed in public. He became very attached to the bird and arranged an elaborate funeral for it when it died three years later. It has been suggested that his A Musical Joke (K. 522) might be written in the comical, inconsequential style of a starling's vocalisation.[33] Other people who have owned common starlings report how adept they are at picking up phrases and expressions. The words have no meaning for the starling, so they often mix them up or use them on what to humans are inappropriate occasions in their songs.[119] Their ability at mimicry is so great that strangers have looked in vain for the human they think they have just heard speak.[33]

Common starlings are trapped for food in some Mediterranean countries.[14] The meat is tough and of low quality, so it is casseroled or made into pâté. One recipe said it should be stewed "until tender, however long that may be". Even when correctly prepared, it may still be seen as an acquired taste.[108][120][121]

Notes

  1. ^ The table is based on Feare & Craig (1998).[14] Parentheses indicate that the scientific name has changed from that originally given.
  2. ^ This form was described by Hodgson as S. indicus in Gray's Zoological Miscellany of 1831, and may have taxonomic priority over humii.[15][16]

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Cited texts

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Starling
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