Written by Samuel Phineas Upham
When Darwin observed the Red Jungle Fowl of Southeast Asia, he believed that he was looking at the ancestor of the modern barnyard chicken. He also made some guesses as to its origins, placing the fowl in India, or the Indus Valley.
Today, we have some more precise ideas on when and where the chicken came from. We know that the chicken was known in Sumer, and that people there referred to it as “the king bird.” The Egyptians knew of it as early as the second dynasty, and the Greeks wrote extensively throughout the fourth century on advice for keeping and raising chickens. There are even Greek writings that indicate the Egyptians raised chickens for their eggs, and that they were able to incubate chicken eggs for hatching. It is said that Egyptians had incubators so grand in scale that they could hatch 10,000 chicks at a time.
Prior to the 1920s, chickens were raised as meat in the USA, but the practice of mass-production did not happen until well after World War I. The best-known birds are the varieties of Brahma that are available. These birds have a full breast, and have large portions of meat in proportion to the size of the bones.
There was also a great emphasis placed on marketing the birds, with special care taken to show packaging. It was recommended that chickens were placed in small wicker baskets and wrapped in linen or white paper to make them appear more attractive. Such a bird was likely to fetch a higher market price than those who were carelessly presented.