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The Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus)

With news abound showing how the US is rolling back regulations that help improve conditions at chicken farms, it is good to know where these birds come from. What is the ancestry of the chicken and what are they like?

Physical Description and Behavior

The red junglefowl has a rather large gap in terms of sexual dimorphism. Males are far larger and have brightly colored feathers such as orange, red, brown, white, olive, and green, while the females are a dull gray color. They have 14 tailfeathers and can grow upwards of 11 inches long.

Fun fact: the Red Junglefowl is a direct ancestor of the domestic farm chicken. In fact, the farm chicken is a subspecies of Gallus gallus.

Their diet consists usually of fruits and seeds that fall on the ground, but they are also known to eat domestic grain, worms, bamboo, and even other mammal feces. Unlike the hyper-productivity of modern chickens, the red junglefowl only lays one egg a day.

Their mating rituals are also odd. The males will engage in what it called "tidbitting." Where they will cluck, walk back and forth, and place a piece of food on the ground before picking it up again. This ritual ends when the female picks up the food and eats it. Coitus may then commence.

Habitat and Location

This bird can be found throughout Asia, from Indonesia and China to India, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines.

The IUCN Red List considers this species to be of Least Concern but does mention that their numbers are on the decline. This seems to mainly be due to hybridization with domesticated chickens, which also live in the same areas.

You can see their beautiful plume up close by watching the video below:

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