Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The answer to that age long question is the egg. You’re probably thinking, how could there be an egg without a chicken? Well, the egg didn’t come from a chicken, it came from a chicken-like species. This is what happened in a nutshell (or an eggshell if you prefer): A chicken-like hen laid an egg, an egg that was fertilized by a chicken-like rooster and there was a mutation somewhere along the way. Voila—you have a chicken.
Of course that mutated chicken is not the same chicken that we get from KFC. Chickens have adapted a lot since then, here are some examples:
There are hundreds of chicken breeds around the world. They vary in size, shape, and color, and may have a different number of toes, but most have four toes.
Domesticated chickens live around 8-15 years. Most are kept in a coop with a nesting box filled with wood shavings or straw. Most coops also have a perch; chickens use perches to sleep.
Hens can lay eggs without a rooster but they won’t hatch. Eggs only hatch when they are fertilized, which roosters do when they mate with a hen. In a year, an average hen lays about 260 eggs. Around the world, hens lay more than 3 ½ billion eggs every day.
A hen that has mated will lay 8 to 12 eggs over a week or two, then she will take a break from laying eggs and incubate them. Incubating the egg includes sitting on them to keep them warm and turning them over. This is called “going broody.” During this time the hen rarely leaves her nest. Hens growl when they are sitting on eggs and are disturbed. A fertilized egg that was kept warm and turned will hatch in about 21 days.
It takes a chick hours to emerge from an egg. The chicks use a special egg tooth on their beak to get out. The mother of the chicks keeps them warm and protects them from danger for the first few weeks of their life.
Young roosters are called cockerels and young hens are called pullets. Pullets can lay eggs when they are five months old. Cockerels and pullets look a lot like their parents when they are six weeks old, and are full grown after a year.
Free range chickens don’t live very long because they normally don’t have a flock and never have a coop, so predators can get them easily. Roosters call out to alert other chickens to get to their coop, but hens will do it, too. Chickens can fly a short distance, maybe up to a low tree branch or over a low fence.
Roosters make a “perp-perp” noise to call hens over to food. Hens make a similar noise to their chicks. Chicks eat the same food as their mother; roosters eat the same food as hens. Free range chickens eat nuts, fruits, insects, and small animals. Domesticated chickens eat chicken feed (seeds and grains), but if they can roam they will peck at about everything.
Roosters crow when they become sexually mature; they don’t just do it in the morning. Hens make a calling noise after they lay an egg, other hens may join in. Roosters and hens make a “chuck-chuck” or “cluck-cluck” noise in conversation.
Have you learned a lot about chickens? I sure did while researching and writing this. Chickens have adapted so much. I don’t know what the first chicken looked like, but I know it wasn’t anything like the one we see today. Now for the next big question, which came first: the chicken-like creature or the chicken-like egg?