Even though most Americans unfortunately have moved far from the countryside, children learn about farm animals early on. My one-year-old daughter is quite taken with ducks, but she will look at photos of chickens as well. We had the chance to take her to a real farm, and she loved to watch the rooster moving proudly and carefully. The hens made an odd clucking noise, and all of the children jumped up and down happily in response.
The chicken family tree is well known. The rooster is the father, the hen is the mother, and the chicks are the children. A group of chickens is called a flock. The great-great grandfathers of most chickens are wild Red Junglefowl of India.
There are two main types of chickens. Bantam chickens are 30% smaller than large chickens. There are more than 200 breeds of chickens including Buff Orpingtons, a name that sounds like an action star, and Golden Laced Wyandottes, a name that sounds like a country music group.
Chickens eat worms, insects, and seeds. They clean themselves by shaking sand on themselves and fluffing their feathers.
Hens can lay up to 5 eggs per week. They lay fewer eggs in autumn and fall.
I had always want to hear a rooster crowing in the morning, perhaps because I am already a morning person and can wake up at the crack of dawn. I never heard this sound until I lived for a year in Manila, the Philippines, where it was common for people to keep chickens even in an urban area.
On the Hawaiian island of Maui, I came across a group of feral red junglefowl (the ancestors of domestic chickens) in a grove near a popular beach. Wild populations live on the island of Kaua'i. The junglefowl were brought to the Hawaiian islands by the Polynesians. True wild populations are shy and live in deeply wooded areas of the rainforest.
Traditionally in the philosophy of the Chinese Zodiac, roosters have symbolized bravery and showy behavior (as evidenced by the photograph below). They have a deep respect for time, especially for letting us all know about the coming of dawn each morning (a fact that seems to resonate across many cultures). A more surprising interpretation is that they have a concern for others, because they let other birds in the flock know when they have found food.
The following excerpt from the poem "The Roosters" by Ch'en T'ao writing in the T'ang Dynasty and quoted in Animals of the Chinese Zodiac by T. C. Lai shows how roosters set time in the countryside:
"The roosters crow in the park on a spring dawn:
The first crow-- the moon goes down in a swoon;
The second crow-- people are wakened from their dreams;
The third crow-- the streets are a-dust with a milling crowd."
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