From dinosaur to dinner plate, Sally Coulthard tells the fascinating – and sometimes shocking – story of the domestic chicken. Earth is home to 23 billion chickens, at least ten times more than any other bird. For every human on the planet, there are three chickens. Despite being capable of flying only a few metres, this most adaptable animal has somehow managed to conquer the world.
In Fowl Play, Sally Coulthard probes every aspect of the genus Gallus: the evolution and domestication of the chicken; its social behaviour and array of physically striking varieties, from Rhode Island Reds to Belgian d’Uccles and from Buff Orpingtons to White Leghorns; its importance in ancient Egyptian religion, Roman augury and Christian theology; its role as egg-providing companion on farms and smallholdings and in suburban back gardens; and the darker reality of modern poultry farming and society’s insatiable appetite for chicken breasts, wings and nuggets. This is a story of evolutionary change, epic global travel, and exploitation, as well as biophilia, companionship and human ingenuity.