An Overview Of the History Of Backyard Chickens
By Tom Seest
What Is the History Of Backyard Chickens?
Cornell University has an exhibit that examines the history of backyard chickens. The library also houses a large collection of items related to chickens. One of the main collections is called the Rice Poultry Collection after James E. Rice and includes 800 pre-1900 books on poultry science. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of backyard chickens, the Cornell Mann Library is a great place to start.
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Table Of Contents
- Are Red Backyard Chickens Distinctive and Attractive?
- Do Backyard Chickens Lay Large Eggs?
- Are Backyard Chickens Docile?
- Are Backyard Chickens Good for Meat?
- Are Backyard Chickens Good for the Environment?
- Are Backyard Chickens Part Of the Food Revolution?
- Are Backyard Chickens Legal to Keep In Urban Settings?
- Are Backyard Chickens Responsible for the Covid-19 Pandemic?
- Are Backyard Chickens Part Of Sustainable Integrated Systems?
Are Red Backyard Chickens Distinctive and Attractive?
Red chickens have a distinct and attractive appearance and are excellent for backyard chicken keeping. The red color is naturally added during the egg-laying process and can be removed with soap and water. They can tolerate cold and heat well and are easy to handle. In addition to their eye-catching appearance, red chickens have a pleasant disposition and don’t require special care.
Red chickens can be found in a variety of breeds, from miniature to large. Red Cochin Bantams are a good choice if you only want a small flock. These hens are very docile and good with children. They lay between two and three eggs a week. They are also a good source of poultry meat. Other red chicken breeds include the Rhode Island Red, Production Red, and ISA Brown.
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Do Backyard Chickens Lay Large Eggs?
In the past, people raised large flocks of chickens primarily for their eggs. It was a popular way to earn money because chicken meat was a delicacy, and the average chicken laid 80-150 eggs a year. In those days, the chicken’s diet consisted of whatever it could find in forage, and it was also common for farmers to use buttermilk to fatten the hens for pot roasting. The lack of specific housing for chickens meant that the mortality rate was high, at around 40 percent.
In ancient times, chickens were revered as a symbol of fertility and a sign of virility. In Egypt, the hen was worshiped for her prodigious egg-laying capacity, and eggs were left on pillars in temples to ensure a bountiful flood. In Zoroastrianism, the lusty rooster was a universal symbol of virility, and in Roman times, a chicken’s good appetite was considered a sign of good fortune in battle.
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Are Backyard Chickens Docile?
One of the reasons why backyard chickens are so popular is because of their docility. There are many different breeds of chicken, and many of them are more docile than others. For instance, the Buff Orpington breed is very docile and lays about 200 eggs per year.
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Are Backyard Chickens Good for Meat?
Historically, backyard chickens were raised for eggs and meat, and the practice became very common in the United States. Most chicken meat in the country was produced by households during the nineteenth century when there were no factories. Households raised chickens and slaughtered, plucked, and eviscerated the animals themselves. The relationship between backyard chickens and the availability of meat and eggs was directly linked.
Backyard chickens have come a long way since they were first domesticated. Today, they are considered pets, and some chicken owners raise them to reach adulthood. While older hens may not lay eggs as quickly as younger hens, these chickens can still be good for meat. Some homesteaders will butcher older chickens for their meat.
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Are Backyard Chickens Good for the Environment?
In the past, Americans raised backyard chickens for eggs and meat. In the 19th century, chicken meat was a common commodity and was produced by households rather than by commercial farms. This allowed ordinary people to raise chickens without the expense or hassle of hiring a chicken farmer. Backyard chickens were closely linked to food production, so raising them became a popular pastime for those who had enough space for a chicken coop.
Backyard chickens do not produce much waste. Most chickens eliminate their waste every fifteen to 20 minutes. However, large commercial operations keep thousands of chickens in very close quarters and can produce a lot of ammonia. Backyard chicken operations are smaller, resulting in a much lower level of ammonia. However, it is still important to take steps to manage odors, particularly if the coop is in close proximity to neighboring homes.
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Are Backyard Chickens Part Of the Food Revolution?
Before the industrial revolution, chickens were reared in backyard flocks for eggs and the occasional dinner. But in the early 1900s, entrepreneurs began selling young chickens for meat. This practice was limited by the time of year and the lack of vitamin D. However, with today’s advances in food production and refrigeration, people are now raising chickens year-round.
After WWII, the government stopped encouraging backyard chicken keeping. Most Americans didn’t plant gardens during this period and consequently, the history of backyard chicken keeping was almost wiped out. This changed as large corporations began specializing in specific types of crops and livestock. The result was lower prices for food, and many family-owned chicken farms went out of business.
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Are Backyard Chickens Legal to Keep In Urban Settings?
Backyard chickens have a long and varied history in cities. In the 19th century, U.S. cities began to establish boards of health to regulate animal agriculture. These public health ordinances ultimately led to zoning regulations and drove piggeries, dairy farms, and slaughterhouses out of city centers. In recent decades, however, more cities have been exploring urban agriculture and the benefits of keeping backyard chickens.
In many cities, backyard chickens are allowed on residential properties, but restrictions can exist. Some cities prohibit backyard chickens because of noise, vermin, or foul odors. Others require you to register with the local government to keep your chickens. If you’re not sure of the laws in your area, talk to your neighbors and find out what their perspectives are on raising backyard chickens. Providing eggs to your neighbors is a great way to get their support and show them that you’re not causing them any harm.
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Are Backyard Chickens Responsible for the Covid-19 Pandemic?
A new outbreak of Salmonella, an invasive bacterial disease spread by backyard chickens, is causing concern. Public health agencies have warned that backyard poultry can carry the bacterium, which causes serious illnesses and sometimes even death. Each year, in the United States alone, an estimated 1.35 million people contract a salmonella illness. Most cases include diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. More than 26,000 people are hospitalized with the disease each year. Approximately 420 people die from salmonella-related illnesses.
The shortage of eggs attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many people to raise their own chickens. Several people, including children, have started keeping chickens for health reasons. Some people even call themselves “homesteaders” and visit homesteading websites.
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Are Backyard Chickens Part Of Sustainable Integrated Systems?
Whether for the local food economy, spiritual life, or other reasons, backyard chickens are an integral part of sustainable integrated systems. They help keep crops and fields weed-free and provide rich, nitrogen-rich manure for fertilizer. And although their presence is often frowned upon by communities, some have found ways to make them legal in urban settings.
One such practice is free ranging. By allowing backyard chickens to roam freely, farmers can provide their animals with easier access to water and feed. This is especially important in urban areas, where water scarcity may be a real issue.
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