Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Mystery RPPC: Feeding chickens (Chapter 2)

As a nice bookend to January's "Mystery RPPC: Feeding chickens" post, here are some more Chickens of Long Ago being fed. This time it's five folks feeding some healthy-sized poultry on what appears to be a pleasant day. Nothing is written on the back of this postcard. Based on the AZO stamp box, it was produced between 1910 and 1930.

How long have we been feeding chickens in our villages and yards? Here's an excerpt from a 2012 Smithsonian article:
"The domesticated chicken has a genealogy as complicated as the Tudors, stretching back 7,000 to 10,000 years and involving, according to recent research, at least two wild progenitors and possibly more than one event of initial domestication. The earliest fossil bones identified as possibly belonging to chickens appear in sites from northeastern China dating to around 5400 B.C., but the birds’ wild ancestors never lived in those cold, dry plains. So if they really are chicken bones, they must have come from somewhere else, most likely Southeast Asia. ...

"Once chickens were domesticated, cultural contacts, trade, migration and territorial conquest resulted in their introduction, and reintroduction, to different regions around the world over several thousand years. Although inconclusive, evidence suggests that ground zero for the bird’s westward spread may have been the Indus Valley, where the city-states of the Harappan civilization carried on a lively trade with the Middle East more than 4,000 years ago."
Historian Andrew Lawler has written a book titled Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?: The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization, and in a 2014 interview with National Geographic, he made the point that, up until very recent times, it made good sense to have chickens near the house — or even in the house:
"I think one of the most important things that chickens can do for us urban folk is to remind us where our food comes from. In earlier times chickens ate the scraps that the housewife threw out the door after dinner. The chickens took care of insects. In West Africa, they were important for exterminating pests. So chickens were welcome around the house, unlike, say, pigs and cows, which traditionally were kept farther away from dwellings. When archaeologists study ancient sites in the Middle East, they find chicken bones right in the living area. That's because the chicken does a lot of things for us. It cleans things up, gets rid of bugs, and provides us with those eggs we like to have for breakfast."
Today, most of us are far, far removed from ever interacting with chickens. Or understanding where the chicken or eggs on our plate comes from. And that makes it easier for too many of us to be numb to the horrific reality of how most chickens are raised around the world. Unlike the chickens on this postcard, most never see the light of day once during their lives.

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