Feb 19 2014
Surprise! The chickens are back.(*)
In The Botany of Desire Michael Pollan remarks that the plants humans desire are more numerous and successful than those we don’t care about. Apples and potatoes would be overlooked plants, found only in their native ranges in Asia and South America, if we didn’t like to eat them.
This is true of birds, too. Chickens were domesticated about 8,000 years ago from the red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) of India and Southeast Asia. By now the domestic chicken comes in several colors, is barely able to fly, and is found around the globe. “With a population of more than 24 billion in 2003, there are more chickens in the world than any other species of bird,” according to Wikipedia.
This is hard to imagine until you realize that 74% of ‘meat’ chickens and 68% of egg layers are raised by intensive farming methods, such as battery cages, where space per bird is minimized. Fortunately there is pressure to legislatively and voluntarily stop inhumane practices. The EU, for example, outlawed battery cages in 2012.
Meanwhile urban farming is picking up, even in my own city neighborhood. A couple of years ago I met a family of four hens who lived a few blocks from my home. Though kept for their egg-laying and treated as pets I was impressed by their “bird-ness” and their pecking order. They were fascinating to watch.
Our desire for chickens and eggs insures these birds will always be the most numerous bird on earth.
(photo of Bresse chickens from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)
(*) Peekaboo. This post appeared for two hours on January 31 and then disappeared until today. Were you one of the few who saw it then? Leave a comment if you did.