Population problems and chickens / by Chris Maynard

Green junglefowl feathers, chicken feathers.

Green junglefowl feathers, chicken feathers.

We humans, being quite inventive creatures, have successfully increased our population to over 7 billion. A lot of our inventions and population increase depend on fossil fuels. Where would we be without use of gas and oil to make fertilizers, to transport raw and finished materials, and to manufacture about everything?

If a certain measure of success is how many there are of an animal, chickens have got us beat. At any one time, 19 billion chickens live in the world according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. In a sense, they are using us. Like we are dependent on oil, they are dependent on us for their population success.

Where would chickens be without us?  Probably where they started: a few relatively small populations of the four species of junglefowl, all in Asia. They look a lot like chickens. The feathers shown here are from a male green junglefowl who sports a beautiful pink, turquoise, and yellow comb on his head.

Next: what to do with all the chicken feathers?

Sources: 1. Howman, Pheasants of the World, 1993 and UN Food and Agriculture Organization http://faostat3.fao.org/browse/Q/QA/E