The ancient history of chickens is simple. The Red Junglefowl, is the ancestor of all modern domestic chicken breeds, according to DNA studies.
The bird likely originated in Asia, possibly Thailand, where it’s believed they were first domesticated 8,000 years ago, though still in their unaltered state in some locations.
Japanese scientists have compared DNA and found that every breed of domesticated chicken descended from Red Junglefowl. The Junglefowl and various chicken breeds have spread around the world in the care of human fanciers for a very long time.
I have seen this wild bird, called “Moa”(pictured on the left) in Hawaii, thriving on the island of Kauai. After seeing them it’s easy to assume they are ordinary farm chickens that have gone for a stroll in the evergreen forests and lush jungles of this beautiful place. Moa were brought to Hawaii by the first Polynesians, possibly as early as 300 – 500 AD.
Red Junglefowl, Gallus Gallus, resembles a domestic chicken but there isn’t much variation in this species. Tracing the history of chickens to this hearty species should be no surprise.
Behaviors and sounds that remind us of the barnyard began in a very different setting. Junglefowl can live to be 10 years old, young are fully feathered by 4 - 5 weeks, and can reproduce by five months of age.
Like their free ranging domesticated relatives, Junglefowl eat grasses, plants, roots, fruit, worms, seeds or grains, bugs and insects they find while scratching through their home turf.
They generally fly only to escape danger or to get to their roosts in trees where they spend the night. Females are a mottled color enabling them nest on the ground in camouflage, often incubating a dozen light tan eggs that hatch in 18 – 20 days, once or twice a year.
A rich and natural diet produces dark yokes with thick membranes but smaller eggs than domesticated chickens.
The history of chickens is much like the wolf being the common ancestor of dog breeds.
Man has engineered the Junglefowl into an amazing variety of sizes, shapes and colors. It’s the natural heartiness of this wild chicken that has enabled it to spread and thrive across the globe in many different climates and habitats.
It doesn’t seem to matter if they are traveling thousands of miles across the sea in primitive boats, are pampered in a cozy coop and yard, or if they never see the light of day in a battery cage, these beautiful feathery creatures seem to adapt.