Where does the word chicken come from?


A colorful rooster with two hens on the farm

Chickens are birds that lay many and large eggs. We know chickens from the farm or from the shop. We buy chickens to eat there. In Germany we speak more of chicken, in Austria of chicken. In Switzerland we need the French name Poulet, read: Pule. We also find boxes of hen eggs on the shelves.

We talk about chickens in everyday life. In biology there is the order of the chicken bird. These include the following species: the partridge, the quail, the turkey, the capercaillie, the pheasant, the peacock and the domestic chicken. When we talk about the chicken, we actually always mean the domestic chicken.

In agriculture, the domestic chicken is counted as a poultry. The male is called Hahn or Gockel. The female is the hen. When it has young animals it is called a mother hen. The young animals are called chicks.

Bantams weigh about half a kilogram, other chickens weigh over five kilograms. The roosters are always a little heavier than the hens. Chickens wear feathers like all birds. However, they are difficult to fly and usually stay on the ground.

Where does the domestic chicken come from?

Rooster and hens of the bankiva chicken: the domestic chickens were bred from them.

The domestic chicken is the most common pet of humans. There are an average of three chickens for every human in the world. Our chickens are bred from the bankiva chicken.

The bankiva chicken is a wild chicken native to Southeast Asia. Breeding means that people have always used the best chickens to make young. Either these are the chickens that lay the most and the largest eggs. Or the chickens, which get fat the fastest. But you can also keep breeding the healthiest chickens. This is how the different races came about.

How do domestic chickens live?

This is how chickens are kept in cages.

When chickens live freely on a farm, they will eat grass, grains, worms, snails, insects, and even mice. Chickens also swallow some stones. When the muscles around the stomach contract in rhythm, the stones grind up the food.

They live freely in groups. Such a group always has only one rooster and many hens. There is a strict hierarchy among the hens. They are called pecking order because the animals sometimes peck at each other with their beaks. The hen with the highest rank is allowed to sleep on the top bar and pick the best food. Therefore, chicken feed has to be spread widely so that there is less fighting.

However, the individual group of chickens on the farm is becoming increasingly rare. Most of the chickens come from huge farms. The chickens live best free-range. So you have daily exercise in the open air. In the middle, the hens are kept on the floor. You live on the floor of a hall. The most unnatural is the cage. The chickens only sit on bars or even on the bottom of the cage.

What kind of domestic chickens are there?

Breeding chickens is a hobby of many people. The more unusual, the better. There are two crested hens sitting here.

Brood chickens are kept for their offspring. The hen and the rooster are therefore carefully selected and combined. The domestic chicken is a broiler chicken, but there are many different breeds. This depends on whether meat or eggs are to be produced. Breeding chickens live no differently than laying hens or broilers. Due to the one-sided breeding, there are also many sick and weak animals that are no longer used.

The laying hens were bred to lay as many eggs as possible. In 1950 a good laying hen produced around 120 eggs a year. In 2015 there were around 300 eggs. This is the equivalent of six eggs a week. They begin to lay eggs 20 weeks after hatching. After about 60 weeks, they are killed because the eggs are getting fewer and worse. That no longer pays off for the chicken farmer.

The broiler chickens should get fat as quickly as possible so that they can be cooked in the kitchen after slaughtering. Roosters and hens are used for the chicken dishes. In Germany they are called chicken, in Austria chicken and in Switzerland chicken. This word is actually French. Broilers are slaughtered after 4 to 6 weeks. They are then one and a half, or two and a half pounds.

How do domestic chickens breed?

Chicken chicks often differ slightly in the color of the feathers.

The hens indicate to the roosters when they are ready to mate. The hen crouches and folds the tail feathers up. The rooster mounts the hen from behind. The rooster then presses its body opening onto that of the hen. Then his semen drips out. The sperm cells find their way to the egg cells themselves. The sperm cells can live there for up to 12 days and fertilize egg cells.

The germinal disc is formed from the fertilized egg cell. From this the chick develops. As food, it gets the yolk with it on the way. It is also called yolk. This is wrapped in a kind of skin, like a piece of candy in its paper.

The germinal disc sits on this transparent skin. The egg white or egg white lies around the outside. The hard shell follows on the very outside. If you break an uncooked egg, you can see the germinal disc on the transparent skin around the yolk.

It only takes 24 hours from fertilization to the hen she lays her egg. Then the next egg gets ready. It is fertilized from the supply of sperm cells. If the hen lives without the rooster or if the supply of sperm cells is depleted, eggs will still develop. You can eat them, but they don't make chicks.

The hen must incubate the laid egg for 21 days. This can also be done in an incubator with artificial heat. During this time, the germinal disc develops into a finished chick. A small point has grown on its beak, the hump. With it the chick hits the eggshell and makes a notch all around. Then it presses the two halves apart with its wings.

Chickens flee the nest. They quickly get up on their feet and go looking for food with their mother. So they don't have to be parent-fed like many other birds. The hen protects her chicks and leads them to the water and good feeding places. The rooster does not care about its offspring.

  • Roosters are much more colorful than hens and have a conspicuous comb on their heads.

  • Hens do not wear a comb or only wear a smaller one.

  • Domestic chickens are also often friends with humans.

  • Here the rooster and hen live freely on a farm.

  • These two have to spend a lot of time in a cage.

  • These chicks grow up in a large stable and without a mother.