domesticated bird kept by humans primarily as a food source
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Chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) are a domesticated fowl of the red junglefowl who appeared the most common and widespread domestic animals, with a population of more than 19 billion in 2011, there are more chickens in the world than any other species of bird or domestic animal. Humans keep chickens primarily as a source of food, consuming both their meat and their eggs.

Chickens, surely the most maligned and abused animal on the face of the earth, and—just as surely—among the brightest, most social birds we'll find anywhere. ~ Tom Regan


You look into the eyes of a chicken and you lose yourself in a completely flat, frightening stupidity. ~ Werner Herzog
For Pigeons' flesh he seems not much to care; / Cram'd Chickens are a more delicious fare. ~ John Dryden
  • I have looked attentively at chickens raised in this [battery] fashion, and to me they seem to be unhappy and in poor health. Their combs are dull and lifeless except for glaring and unnatural patches of color that appear occasionally … The battery chickens I have observed seem to lose their minds about the time they would normally be weaned by their mothers and off in the weeds chasing grasshoppers on their own account. Yes, literally, actually, the battery becomes a gallinaceous madhouse. The eyes of these chickens through the bars gleam like those of maniacs. Let your hand get within reach and it receives a dozen vicious peeks—not the love peck or the tentative peek of idle curiosity bestowed by the normal chicken, but a peck that means business, a peck for flesh and blood, for which in their madness they are thirsting.
    • Roy Bedichek, Adventures with a Texas Naturalist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010) [1947], p. 101
  • Our appetite for meat leads to widespread, horrific cruelty to animals—chickens pressed wing-to-wing into filthy sheds and debeaked, for example. … These chickens never raise families, root in the soil, build nests, or do anything natural. … Animals have feelings, they suffer; they have needs and desires. They were created by God to breathe fresh air, raise their families, peck in the grass, or root in the soil. Today's farms don't let them do anything God designed them to do. Animal scientists attest that farm animals have personalities and interests, that chickens and pigs can be smarter than dogs and cats. I like that even Jesus identified himself as “a mother hen who longs to gather us under her wings.”
    • John Dear, They Will Inherit the Earth: Peace and Nonviolence in a Time of Climate Change (New York: Orbis Books, 2018), "Become Vegetarians"
  • [Chickens] may be capable of affection or loyalty or maybe even pride, but if so, they feel these feelings in an ancient and birdlike way, like glassy-eyed visitors from another world.
    • Ira Glass, The Fairest Fowl: Portraits of Championship Chickens, cited in Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals (New York: Ballantine Books, 2004), ch. 2, p. 58
  • Along with its aggressive streak, the Chicken also seemed to have an appetite for play. Was it pure coincidence that she liked to sneak up on Yowzer, the cat most likely to develop a nervous twitch when caught unawares? Time after time I saw the Chicken trot up delicately when Yowzer had his back turned, squawk a couple of times, and then watch as the cat leaped a couple of vertical feet. The Chicken, after a successful ambush, would run off jauntily, with a cackle that sounded suspiciously like a chuckle.
    • William Grimes, My Fine Feathered Friend, New York: North Point Press, 2002 ebook edition, p. 41
  • Today more than ninety per cent of all large animals are domesticated. Consider the chicken, for example. Ten thousand years ago it was a rare bird confined to small niches of South Asia. Today billions of chickens live on almost every continent and island, bar Antarctica. The domesticated chicken is probably the most widespread bird in the annals of planet Earth. If you measure success in terms of numbers, chickens, cows and pigs are the most successful animals ever. Alas, domesticated species paid for their unparalleled collective success with unprecedented individual suffering.
  • Well they are very frightening for me because their stupidity is so flat. You look into the eyes of a chicken and you lose yourself in a completely flat, frightening stupidity. They are like a great metaphor for me... I kind of love chicken, but they frighten me more than any other animal.
    • Werner Herzog, on the Signs of Life (1968) DVD audio commentary (2005).
  • The worst torture to which a battery hen is exposed is the inability to retire somewhere for the laying act. For the person who knows something about animals it is truly heart-rending to watch how a chicken tries again and again to crawl beneath her fellow-cage mates to search there in vain for cover.
  • I didn't even know that chickens could fly, and suddenly one was landing on me. It happened when I was visiting a farm sanctuary. If I had been younger I would have asked my parents if I could take her home, please! After all, she chose me. Never mind that she chose everybody; she was a particularly friendly chicken. She made soft, strange cooing sounds and nestled into my arms like a happy kitten. … In fact she was an ordinary chicken, but simply one who had no reason to believe that people were after her. This is how chickens and humans would relate to one another if one was not exploited and the other doing the exploiting. Very much like cats and dogs. They just wait for the chance.
    • Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals (New York: Ballantine Books, 2004), ch. 2, p. 57
  • Perhaps if we had realized they are birds, with all the wonderful characteristics of birds, we would have paid closer attention to the ways in which chickens can enchant us. Take dust-bathing, for example. We call it a bath because the chicken finds a small indentation of dry earth and then proceeds to immerse herself in it as into a warm bath. The earth cleans her feathers. The first time I saw a chicken taking a dust bath, stretching out one iridescent wing and holding it up to the sunshine, then settling into the warmth of the afternoon only to fly effortlessly to a tree to roost in the evening, I was astonished.
    • Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals (New York: Ballantine Books, 2004), ch. 2, p. 59
  • Then there are those proverbial “bird brains” of the barnyard, chickens, surely the most maligned and abused animal on the face of the earth, and—just as surely—among the brightest, most social birds we'll find anywhere. … Chickens not only are capable of learning, they are also capable of teaching one another. It turns out that chickens are not as dumb as popular mythology makes them out to be.
    • Tom Regan, Empty Cages: Facing the Challenge of Animal Rights (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2004), ch. 6, p. 105
  • Eggs are generally considered kosher, but what about eggs from chickens who spend their entire lives imprisoned in a cage one cubic foot in size? Food pellets are brought to them on one conveyor belt; their droppings and eggs are taken away on another. The Bible forbids us to torment animals or cause them any unnecessary grief. Raising chickens who can go out sometimes and see the sky or eat a worm or blade of grass is one thing, but manufacturing them in the concentration camp conditions of contemporary "poultry ranches" is quite another.
    • Zalman Schachter-Shalomi with Donald Gropman, The First Step: A Guide for the New Jewish Spirit (New York: Bantam Books, 1983), p. 74
  • It may be the cock that crows, but it is the hen that lays the eggs.
    • Margaret Thatcher, as quoted in Animal Sciences: The Biology, Care, and Production of Domestic Animals (2009) by John R. Campbell, M. Douglas Kenealy, Karen L. Campbell, p. 68


  • Good-morrow to thy sable beak,
    And glossy plumage, dark and sleek,
    Thy crimson moon and azure eye,
    Cock of the heath, so wildly shy!
    • Joanna Baillie, "The Black Cock", Stanza 1, in English Minstrelsy, ed. Walter Scott, vol. 2 (1810), p. 248
  • While the cock with lively din
    Scatters the rear of darkness thin,
    And to the stack or the barn door
    Stoutly struts his dames before.
  • The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,
    Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat
    Awake the god of day.
  • Hark, hark! I hear
    The strain of strutting chanticleer
    Cry, cock-a-diddle-dow.


  • Alas! my child, where is the Pen
    That can do justice to the Hen?
    Like Royalty, she goes her way,
    Laying foundations every day,
    Though not for Public Buildings, yet
    For Custard, Cake and Omelette.
    Or if too old for such a use
    They have their fling at some abuse
    As when to censure Plays Unfit
    Upon the stage they make a Hit
    Or at elections seal the Fate
    Of an Obnoxious Candidate.
    No wonder, Child, we prize the Hen,
    Whose Egg is Mightier than the Pen.
  • Recently, while I was in the street, my eye was caught by a poulterer's shop; I stared unthinkingly at his piled-up wares, neatly and appetizingly laid out, when I became aware of a man at the side busily plucking a hen, while another man was just putting his hand in a cage, where he seized a live hen and tore its head off. The hideous scream of the animal, and the pitiful, weaker sounds of complaint that it made while being overpowered transfixed my soul with horror. Ever since then I have been unable to rid myself of this impression, although I had experienced it often before.
    • Richard Wagner, Selected Letters, translated by Stewart Spencer and Barry Millington (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1987), p. 422

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