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We suspected fowl play when we first discovered March 19 is annual National Poultry Day when we celebrate our national love affair with poultry. We scrambled to figure out how to celebrate poultry without bias because we are biased; chickens rule the roost when it comes to poultry. We are just going to have to wing this one.
History of National Poultry Day
Chicken is the most widely consumed meat in America, with each of us estimated to eat a clucking 101 pounds per year. Chicken has become our favorite protein because it is affordable (should we say “cheep-er”?) readily available, easy to cook, and versatile. But chickens were not always prized for how well they pair with an endless variety of seasonings, flavors, and cooking methods.
The word poultry is derived from the Latin word “pullus” which means “small animal.” Today we use the word poultry to describe domesticated birds kept for meat, eggs, and possibly feathers. But the first fowls intentionally raised by humans are believed to have been kept for their entertainment value, not for their spicy wings. Archeological evidence points to Southeast Asia and China as the first cultures to breed chickens for the sport of cockfighting as early as 10,000 years ago. Artistic depictions of roosters engaged in combat are found throughout the ruins of many ancient cultures.
Until recently the earliest evidence of large-scale chicken-eating was in first century B.C. Europe. But researchers have unearthed what may be evidence of chickens being domesticated for food at least 100 years earlier in an ancient Israeli city. We may never know when or how someone first tasted chicken roasted over a fire, but obviously that first barbequed chicken was not the last.
Outside the fighting rings and amphitheaters of ancient Rome, Greece, China, and Asia, chickens have held status as divinity in human societies for millennia. Chickens have been worshipped in many parts of the world because of their fighting prowess and are still considered to hold magical powers of divination in remote cultures.
Although some people around the world still engage in cockfighting legally and illegally, the world’s oldest continual sport has been illegal in all fifty of the United States since 2008. That makes us feel good because we think cockfighting is inhumane, plus our fine feathered friend the chicken is now a superstar in the scientific arena. The chicken was the first domesticated animal and first bird to have its genome completely mapped by geneticists in 2004. It turns out that the chicken is the first descendant of dinosaurs. Who knew? We wonder if a cockfight between two prehistoric roostasaurusrex would have been considered fowl play or pure poultry in motion. We are just glad modern chickens are pullus – small animals.
On National Poultry Day we celebrate chickens and other poultry not just for their culinary value, but for their other lesser-known contribution to mankind as pets. Chickens make wonderful pets, whether common laying hens or exotic heritage breeds that are as colorful as tropical fish and cost as much as $399 for a single day-old chick. Chickens make good mousers, some say better than cats, and will keep your vegetable garden fertilized and insect-free.
We realize that by winging it, we managed to duck the fact that poultry is more than just chickens. We will give it another crack and fry harder next year to include other fowl in our tribute on National Poultry Day.
National Poultry Day timeline
American chicken consumption surpasses beef for the first time.
Vitamin D supplements increase the winter survival rate of flocks, revolutionizing the chicken meat and egg industries.
The first confined housing of birds for meat in Delaware and the introduction of cage systems for hens in California became catalysts for poultry farming’s shift from small family enterprise to the industrial age.
Chicken meat was a delicacy and eggs were considered a luxury until the 1900s because flocks failed to thrive due to poor nutrition and Vitamin D deficiency during winter months due to lack of sunlight.
National Poultry Day FAQs
What is considered poultry?
“Poultry” is generally defined as domesticated birds raised for the production of meat, eggs and can include feathers. The word “poultry” also refers to the flesh of these birds when used as food. Most people think of chicken or turkey when they hear the word poultry, but geese, ducks, squab (young pigeons) pheasant, quail, guinea fowl, and ostrich are also poultry.
What are the personality characteristics of poultry?
All poultry are social animals who enjoy being with other birds and thus should never be kept alone in captivity. They have a clearly defined hierarchy, or pecking order, within their community with strong territorial instincts. Poultry will nest in the same spot every night to go to sleep if given the option.
When is National Poultry Day?
How to Celebrate National Poultry Day
Try a bird of a different feather
Pheasant, duck, quail, goose, and game hens are all poultry not often found on American dinner plates but popular in other cultures. If these are too exotic for your taste at least treat your palate to a capon. A capon is a rooster that is castrated before sexual maturity. The lack of testosterone and a special diet produces exceptionally tender, juicy, and flavorful meat that is superb compared to regular hens. Capons were considered a luxury and the poultry of choice for holiday feasting among wealthy families during the early nineteenth century. Capons are not easy to find these days, but once you taste this bird, you will never again say anything else “tastes like chicken.”
Roast a Turducken
If you are undecided which poultry to serve for dinner on National Poultry Day, go with a Turducken. Turducken is a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck that is stuffed into a deboned turkey, then roasted for pretty much a full day. The famous Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme trademarked the name Turducken in 1986, although the practice of “engastration” (the cooking term for stuffing one animal with another) dates back to at least the Middle Ages.
Purchase farm-fresh eggs
If you do not have your own backyard flock of laying hens, take a drive outside the city limits to a local co-op or family farm and purchase a dozen farm-fresh eggs. Once you taste the difference between freshly laid eggs and supermarket eggs, you will never want to buy store-bought again.
5 Ways Poultry Feathers Have Been Recycled
Before modern pens were invented, feather quills were trimmed at a slant with a razor and dipped in ink for use as writing instruments.
Bird feathers are very flammable when dry and can be used as tinder to get a campfire going quickly with just a small spark.
The decorative plumage of birds has been used by fly fishermen and women for years to tie the perfect lure for landing prized trophy fish like mackerel, bass, and trout.
Goose down bedding
Goose down is soft, fluffy and warm, and has become the most desirable stuffing for extremely comfortable – and expensive – pillows and comforters.
Since 1993 feathers have been used to make exquisite decorative papers.
Why We Love National Poultry Day
Chickens make great pets
If you are not a meat-eater, the next best thing about chickens is they make surprisingly good pets. Chickens are social creatures that love to strut around to see what the rest of the flock is up to. They enjoy being held and can even be taught a few tricks provided there is a delicious mealworm reward involved. Chickens are relatively inexpensive and easy to care for compared to other domestic pets but need at least two or three other birds around to be well-adjusted. If your community does not discriminate against poultry as pets, and you have room for a spacious coop, laying hens will pay for their upkeep in daily fresh eggs.
For beauty’s sake
Hens take special notice of the rooster with a colorful, nice-looking, healthy comb strutting his stuff around the barnyard. A healthy crown and wattle are indeed very good for the rooster looking to score in the barnyard. A stunning comb and wattle are good for us, too, because chicken combs, especially rooster combs, are an excellent source of Hyaluronic acid, or H/A, a naturally occurring body fluid that lubricates and cushions bone joints and plumps up skin cells. H/A has been used for decades to relieve arthritis joint pain and stimulate healing of athletic injuries. H/A has been injected into the knees of professional and collegiate athletes and racehorses for years as a bio-lubricant that allows bones to move easier. Hyaluronic Acid can also be taken orally as a supplement and is a sought-after ingredient in top-shelf cosmetics and natural skincare products.
Chicken jokes are a childhood tradition, a quirky rite of passage discovered sometime between kindergarten and first grade. We are not sure why other poultry have not been singled out as the subject of silly jokes and puns. Maybe chickens do not get their feathers ruffled as easily as other poultry over fowl jokes. We egg-spect it has something to do with a chicken being in just about every pot in America, or at least on the grill or in the oven.
National Poultry Day dates