Nature Notes: The domestic chicken probably originated from one of several jungle fowl, still found wild throughout Southeast Asia. Although the exact date of domestication is unclear, archaeological evidence places the chicken in human settlements at around 3250 B.C. The bird quickly dispersed throughout the world, both for its uses in agriculture and as a combatant in cockfights. Some scholars believe that interest in this “sport” was what led to the domestication of the chicken. Although it is of little importance to the commercial poultry industry, chicken breeds have been to some extent, standardized. Many strains are crossed to achieve the ultimate type for layers or broilers and the exact breeding is a closely guarded trade secret.
An intact adult male is called a “rooster”, (under a year of age the term “cockerel” may be used); a castrated male is a “capon”; an adult female is called a “hen,” under a year of age the term “pullet” may be used; a newly hatched bird I s “chick”’ and a juvenile of either sex is called a “poult.”
The heart rate of an adult chicken is about 350 beats per minute. The digestive system is somewhat different from mammals. The mouth lacks teeth and lips. Instead, the horny beak serves to bite off food. Barbs on the tongue help food to be moved backwards, so it can be easily swallowed down into the gizzard were the food will be ground and crushed with the help of small amounts of gravel or grit.
Only the hen will lay eggs. A rooster is needed to fertilize the egg. Eggs are incubated about 21 days before hatching.
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