It’s your clucky day! Whether it’s shrink-wrapped in your refrigerator, a tub of extra-crispy at the drive-through or, as in my case, cackling in the coop, today, March 19, is National Poultry Day, declared by someone at some point (no one really knows who or when) and set aside for you to hug the chicken nearest and dearest to you.
Or you could read about them. Thanks to my thoughtful friend, Nancy, who gifted me Andrew Lawler’s book Why Did the Chicken Cross the World, I can now shine in the chicken trivia category. And so can you:
Did you know?
- More than 20 billion chickens live on the planet at any given moment.
- Red Jungle Fowl are the source of all the world’s chickens. They are suicidally skittish; there is a 5% chance every time you hold one that it will die.
- The chicken was a rare and royal bird in ancient Egypt. Pottery dated between 1300 and 1100 B.C.,depicting a Red Jungle Fowl rooster, was found in Tutankhamen’s tomb
- Grandmother really does know best: all that fuss about chicken soup may have a scientific base. Chicken meat contains cysteine, an amino acid related to a drug used to treat bronchitis, and possibly possesses anti-inflammatory properties.
- The first documented chickens in New World arrived in 1493 en route from Canary Islands with Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to Hispaniola.
- Fun fact: for all that crowing, roosters don’t have penises.
- A chicken in every pot: the average American eats close to 100 lbs of chicken a year.
- More medicinal qualities: rooster combs are a rich source of hyaluronan, which reduces inflammation and has been used on racehorses for decades.
- Thanks to Queen Victoria’s infatuation with Cochins, from 1845-55 Britain and America were gripped by an obsession with exotic chickens.” In 1849, the price for a pair of Cochin fowl could range from $150 to $700.
- In the sadness department, 15 million gamefowl die annually in Filipino cock-fighting rings. And yes, it happens in the U.S., too.
- The word auspice comes from Latin and means “observer of birds”.
- Also in the sadness department: poultry grown for food is exempted from all U.S. government rules regulating animal welfare. The words “free-range” and “organic” are meaningless. “Grass-fed” and vegetarian” are ridiculous – chickens are not vegetarians! You can look for the word “pastured” on meat and eggs but apparently even that appellation is questionable – there is no official certification for these terms.
- But the French, who know a good fricassee when they see it, have figured it out: the famed French Bresse chickens feast on a diet of corn, wheat and skimmed milk and forage on their own for tasty worms and bugs. They wander at least 30 square feet of open field for four months and are then fattened up for an additional two weeks.
- I’ll have the dinosaur tenders: in 2007, scientists extracted a protein from a Tyrannosaurus Rex that proved to be identical to the chicken.
So today’s the day to cockle-doodle-doo. Spread your wings, do the funky chicken, feather your nest and cackle to your heart’s content. As for me, I’m headed out to the coop with a celebratory treat – mealworms all around!