Breeds of Chicken and their History
Chickens have been used for many things in history. For example, Romans once used them as oracles because they thought that they could see into the future. Romans also believed that if you soaked a piece of bread in milk and then fed it to a chicken they thought that it would make the meat taste better. The first chickens originated from jungle fowl and then were first kept in Asia. Male chickens roosters or cockerels have spurs, which are like a fifth toe (except in five toe breeds) and are very short and pointy. Males also have a saddle or also called a hackle, which is used for tying flies for fly fishing.
Cornishes are an important breed to the meat industry because they are the ultimate meat bird. These birds are the most efficient meat producers because they can convert two pounds of feed into one pound of meat which makes them the ideal broiler or meat bird. I will discuss more about the broiler industry in chapter two. The Leghorn is the most prolific layer of eggs laying sometimes more than one a day for a whole year. These Leghorns are also a big part of the modern chicken industry.
The Phoenix is known for its 6-7 foot long tail, which originated from its ancestors the Onagadori, which have been known for their 40-foot long tail. The Phoenix is a popular breed for people seeing them for the first time but they are a lot of work and they need very high dry perches. One of my favorite chickens, is the Serema. A special fact about this breed is that it is the smallest breed in the world with the rooster averaging at 12 ounces and the hen at 11. The hens don’t usually tend to go broody which means that they try to hatch their eggs and if they do they aren’t very good mothers.
One breed that is very handsome is the Sumatra. The breed did originate in the Indonesian island of Sumatra just like the nearby island of Java, which is also famous for the same reason as a Sumatra, for flying great distances. People who keep Sumatras have to keep them in a coop with a roof or else they could and probably would fly away. The Sumatra breed has been known to fly from the Indonesian island Sumatra to the Indonesian island Java for over six miles on prevailing winds and have been known to jump six feet with clipped wings.
Another interesting breed, is the Egyptian Fayoumi. Fayoumi’s are well known for their resistance to many diseases such as the bird flu otherwise known as Avian Influenza. This bird has almost became extinct, but a healthy new flock has been kept alive at Iowa State University. One breed that is very popular is the Orpington, which was created by William Cook in England. These birds are excellent layers all through the year. These birds are also excellent meat birds with a full-grown rooster averaging a weight of 10 pounds. People in the northern climates or the colder ones will keep Orpingtons because they can keep warm very well.
One of my all-time favorites is the Modern Game, which is basically an evolved version of the Old English Game. These birds stand extremely upright and are bigger than the Old English Game and taller than most other breeds. People who get Modern Game or Old English Game have to have them dubbed if they are going to enter them in a show. Dubbed means that when they are baby chicks the roosters have to get their earlobes, wattle and comb surgically removed when they are only a couple of minutes old. These two breeds have to be dubbed because a long time ago these breeds would be used for cockfighting so they removed these parts to make it less bloody and now it has become a part of the breed.
One of my real favorites is the Polish, which is famous for its crest, which is basically like a chicken top hat. These crests interfere with their vision so they can be spooked easily. An interesting breeds is the Japanese Bantam, which is a special breed because of its amazing tail, which soars right up past its head at farther than a 90-degree angle. It is the one exception to a normal disqualification that is called squirrel tail when the tail of a rooster or a cockerel goes past 90 degrees. This breed is also famous for its genetic condition that kills 25% of chicks die before hatching.
Another interesting breed, which I like a lot is the Penedesenca which is famous for its ability to lay the darkest eggs of any chicken appearing almost black. This breed also almost became extinct except breeders kept the breed alive because of the dark brown almost black eggs. My last breed is the Aseel which originated in 1000 B.C. in India. These birds were bred for cockfighting. The most interesting fact I think is that the hens will only lay only 2-3 eggs a year. There are so many breeds of chickens and this truly shows how unique this animal is.