Chubby Mealworm’s Fun Chicken Facts – Some Historical Chickens…and Egg

Chubby Mealworm’s Fun Chicken Facts – Some Historical Chickens…and Eggs

Chubby Mealworm’s Fun Chicken Facts – Some Historical Chickens…and Eggs

Posted:

If I hadn't started painting, I would have raised chickens.
Grandma Moses

Mealworms have been around for a really long time…and they aren’t as scarce as hen’s teeth! Ever wonder where those sayings hatched from? Just when did humans and chickens begin to interact? Probably at the same time they were finding mealworms in the clay grain storehouses (much to those ancient chickens’ delight)! This topic has stumped archaeologists and researchers, but we do have an exciting list of findings that portray the cross-species relationship we have cultivated with these birds.

Fowl puns intended

Evolution has answered the question of the chicken and the egg. Chickens evolved over the eons – just like the rest of us. There really is nothing unique about eggs, other than they are how many animals, like frogs and lizards, reproduce. Chickens are pheasants and their name Gallus gallus domesticus means the pheasant with the comb. 

“Gallus” is Latin for comb.

Curiously, humans and the combed pheasants have been hobnobbing for millennia. Archaeologists can’t narrow down the origin of our fascination with these stunningly plumed and intelligent avians, but their regal nature and imposing presence has left a trail throughout recorded history from Asia, Africa and into the Americas. One thing is certain, chickens had their passports stamped across the globe. In fact, one reference to the chickens’ comeliness emerges from antiquity. A handsome human was referred to as “having hatched from an egg.” Who can argue with that?

The egg

Eggs are curious objects. Humans noticed that chickens would continue to replenish their nests if eggs were removed. Chickens were then selectively bred to enhance that genetic propensity. Eggs were held in high esteem and were assumed to embody religious and supernatural powers. We still remember echoes of these practices by enjoying eggs as icons at spring festivals and for Easter. Eggs are symbols of fertility and rebirth.

In ancient times, if you met two people with similar characteristics and skills they were said to “have hatched from the same egg.” [1] This is not merely hens’ scratchings. Even that description for scribbled penmanship has been found in the writings of the Roman playwright Plautus (254-184 CE).

Eggs were more than just the cement for wit. Those of us raising birds have come into contact with the occasional teeny egg. These songbird-sized eggs contain only whites and are referred to as “rooster” or “wind” eggs. The term wind egg can be traced to the classical era. One writer, Varro, explained that these were the eggs that had been “fertilized by the wind.” Ancient Greeks called them “hypenemia,” the wind egg.


Hatching eggs under the pyramids. SAY What?

Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.

Aesop

The chicken female’s ability to lay with a regularity not shared by other birds was duly noted by people in antiquity. The chicken egg brought a natural process directly into classical era backyards. People began to engage in the study of avian family structure with this ease of access!

The chicken flock is a tightly formed community with intricate social constructions. Ancient documents record the rooster’s dedication to the flock and to his paternal duties. The hens were clever and industrious. Their motherly actions, dedication to placing, setting and brooding their clutches was only usurped by the delicate rearing of those babies. These events were found to be wondrous, didactic and almost supernatural - views that haven’t changed through the centuries! Even as biology has unwrapped the process of behavior (and we understand the chemistry of affection and relationships), the hypnotic and charismatic merits of chickens remain intact.


But...few of us put chicken-keeping and ancient Egypt in the same portfolio. Along with massive stone architecture and monuments – the Egyptians constructed egg hatcheries. These master breeders set eggs in man-made brooders without electricity and thermostats. Human demand for getting more chickens than nature can naturally produce led to the creation of hen-less incubation. The Egyptians had trays filled with eggs that were artificially brooded in large brick incubators. A poultryman kept constant watch over the brick oven, tending the huge number of eggs and assisting the chicks.This astounding agricultural technology was only attempted again in the mid-20 th century. 

Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral.

Frank Lloyd Wright


[1] Twin chickens are very rare. For a chicken to have a twin brother or sister, two embryos must develop within the SAME egg. If you have ever cracked open a double yolked egg, you have just seen the beginnings of a chicken twin. Usually, the embryos do not survive, but every once in a while…they do. And that is real treat!