Why do we eat chickens and not, say, seagulls?


How did humans come to their regular raising and consumption of chickens? Why not pigeons, seagulls, or crows? How long has man been eating chicken, and why is this particular type of fowl so popular over all others? I mean, there seem to be plenty of crows and pigeons to be raised and eaten also.

-- GC in LJ

We human beans have always been partial to eating things that don't move too fast and aren't very bright. Four thousand years ago in Southeast Asia and India, that was the junglefowl, a very poor flier that lurked around the forests floor, pecking away for grain and seeds. Apparently they're not shy and liked to live near humans, so they were good targets for domestication. (We'd long before subdued dogs, horses, goats, cattle, sheep, and guinea pigs.) But the junglefowl was first domesticated for cockfighting, not primarily for food. The fact that you could eat their eggs and roast the losers was just gravy. The Romans spread the domesticated bird, as food and sport, to the rest of Europe. Once cockfighting wasn't fun any more, chickens were selectively bred as show animals, for their spectacular feathers. The chicken didn't become a true selectively-bred, industrial food until after World War II. Now it's the perfect corporate bird, an estimated eight billion of them on Earth at any given time.

We do eat domesticated pigeons (squab), but we've mostly prized pigeons for their superior flying abilities. And crows? Get to know that scrappy animal up close, and you'll know why we keep our distance. Mankind has shot out of the sky any number of species to cook, eat, or use for decoration. The easiest ones to domesticate are those that are cheap to feed and aren't inclined to fly away.

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