As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Understanding Humanity’s Infatuation With Chickens

There’s been quite a bit of research performed lately about the origins of birds. Adding to the fray is a study from Bournemouth University which aims to uncover the origin of chickens and their relationships with humans. For millennia we’ve been keeping these flightless birds near us, using them for work, for sport, for food, for religion, etc.

The Bournemouth University researchers, as well as those from the Universities of Durham, Nottingham, Leicester, Roehampton and York, want to understand where these chickens came from, how they spread so wildly across Europe and at what point humankind looked at these fowl and decided to start eating their eggs. Moreover, the researchers plan to uncover the origins of chicken bones in religious ceremonies and the cultural significance of cockfighting. When completed, the research will have scanned the history of chickens and humans over the past 8,000 years. The research will begin, appropriately, in January 2014, otherwise known as the Year of the Chicken.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to work with a team of high international esteem drawn from a wide range of disciplines that includes genetics, cultural anthropology, history and archaeological science,” said Dr. Mark Maltby with the University of Bournemouth in a statement. The researchers will also borrow some of the expertise of local poultry breeders and farmers as well as other interested members of the public.

“We are united by our mutual research interests in how chickens and people have interacted in the past and the present,” said Dr. Maltby.

When they set out to start this research, the scientists say they’ll start by digging into archeological records to map out the evolution of the bird and how it made its way from its original home in Southeast Asia to Europe and elsewhere. It’s already known that the earliest ancestors of the chicken were wild jungle fowl, but it’s not yet clear when humans began not only hunting these birds for food, but domesticating them and eating their eggs.

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