Seven to Ten thousand years ago the story of chicken domestication began. The Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus) was domesticated in Asia, the earliest fossils bones dating to approximately 5400. B.C. in northern China. Once chickens were domesticated, they spread throughout the world over the next two thousand years. Chickens were traded and taken with their owners as humans migrated and changed territories. Used for fighting, exotic display, egg-laying, and food chickens became an important animal in human agricultural practices. Chickens were a delicacy in the Roman Empire, adorned Egyptian tombs, and can be found on cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia.

The arrival of Spanish explorers in the 1400s is thought to be the introduction of chickens to the Americas. There is evidence that chickens may have also been introduced via Polynesian or Chinese explorers to South America. Since the chicken’s arrival, it has been used for meat, eggs, and fighting. Chicken fighting is now illegal in the United States.  

The American Poultry Association (APA) began defining breeds in 1873 and published the Standards of Perfection. The breeds defined were well adapted to outdoor production in various climates. Healthy and productive chickens provided protein to the growing United States. These original breeds are now known as Heritage Breeds. As agricultural practices changed and became more industrialized and chickens were selected for rapid growth rate, attained through hybridization, commercial breeds increased, and heritage breeds declined. In order to fit the definition of a heritage breed chickens must be an APA standard breed, naturally mating, have a long and productive outdoor lifespan, and slow growth rate. 

The Fayette Environmental Education Center (FEEC) has five breeds on display. A mixture of heritage and commercial chickens is used to demonstrate traits of individual breeds and introduce visitors to food systems. FEEC chickens were selected for good heat tolerance, egg production, foraging ability, predator avoidance, and in some cases heritage breed status. In our chicken coop, you will find Silver Leghorns, Anconas, Cuckoo Marans, Silver Laced Wyandottes, and Black Stars. 

Chickens can be a wonderful addition to a home with many benefits. Chickens can provide meat, eggs, pest control, fertilizer, and are extremely entertaining to watch run around. While chickens do not require a lot of care it is important to know what is required to keep them healthy and happy and to know any zoning or regulatory ordinances in your area. The Fayette Environmental Education Center is excited to provide visitors with the opportunity to view and learn about this important animal through displays and educational programs. 

Written by: Nick Kilburg, Senior Director of Parks & Education

References

  • Heritage chicken Definition. The Livestock Conservancy. (2021, August 18). Retrieved September 23, 2021, from https://livestockconservancy.org/heritage-chicken-definition/. 
  • Adler, J., Lawler, A. How the chicken conquered the world. Smithsonian Magazine June 2012.
ABOUT THE SOUTHERN CONSERVATION TRUST

Since 1993, the Southern Conservation Trust has dedicated itself to elevating nature through exceptional stewardship. We currently conserve more than 57,000 acres of protected land across 11 states. We don’t just believe in protecting land, we believe people should have access to enjoy it. Preserving nature is what brings us joy!

So we’re focused on making sure that everyone has equal access to nature. We develop public nature areas, provide environmental education, and conserve tens of thousands of acres of land, waterways, and valuable habitat each year. In addition to developing public nature areas, we manage 8 public nature areas in Fayette County with plans to open more in late 2021. Click here to learn more about our public natures areas.

We’re extremely excited about our latest project, the Fayette Environmental Education Center, which is set to open late 2021 in Downtown Fayetteville, Georgia, will be our premier nature facility where children, families, and visitors of all ages can connect with the wonders of nature in Georgia. A home base for conservation initiatives, nature area development, environmental education, agricultural education, and an environmental art program. This facility will encompass all that the Southern Conservation Trust does and share it in a teachable way with the community we love. Click here for more information about the Fayette Environmental Education Center.

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