Where would we be without the iconic roasted chicken? Photo courtesy McCormick.





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September 2011
Last Updated January 2014

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Meat & Poultry

Chicken History & Chicken Glossary

Page 1: The History Of Chicken


Chicken History

In 2003 there were some 24 billion chickens* on earth, used for eggs and meat.

Chickens are domesticated birds descended from the Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus), possibly crossed with the Grey Junglefowl. Both are members of the pheasant family. Our domesticated chicken is the subspecies Gallus gallus domesticus.

Wild chickens were domesticated in Asia, possibly as far back as 7000 B.C.E. Certainly, the Chinese had domesticated them by about 5000 B.C.E., as well as East Asia neighbors such as Thailand and Vietnam. Evidence shows domestication in India around 3000 B.C.E.

The tasty little animals were carried from West Asia to Africa. Chicken bones have been found in Egyptian tombs (from the slaughtered chickens that fed the deceased on the journey to the other side).

Eggs and meat were excellent sources of protein, and chickens are the ultimate low-maintenance protein. Almost anyone could afford to purchase two chickens to breed. They ran around the yard and ate bugs and food scraps. At night, they didn’t mind tight confinement in a cage.

And in the millennia before refrigeration,† a chicken was a single-meal proposition. Unlike slaughtering a pig or a goat, which provided many potential meals, there was no meat to go bad.


The wild, bright-plumed Red Junglefowl is the ancestor of today’s domestic chicken. This stamp honors the domestication of chickens, which took place independently in India and China.

*Source: Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds, Ed. Perrins, Christopher. Buffalo, N.Y.: Firefly Books, Ltd., 2003.

†While home refrigerators debuted around 1911, most American homes did not have refrigerators until after World War II.

This is Page 1 of a seven-page glossary of chicken parts and terms. Click on the black links below to visit other pages. See almost 100 food glossaries: details on all of your favorite foods.


This glossary is protected by copyright and cannot be copied in whole or in part.


Chicken Cuts Chart

How many parts of the chicken can you name? Probably most of them!


Chart courtesy Osovo.com.

Continue To Page 2: Chicken Definitions With A & B

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