Thursday, 8 January 2015

Red Jungle Fowl and descendant breeds

A handsome Red Jungle Fowl in his true colours

Other shots I took while at Taronga zoo in Sydney included these of Red Jungle Fowl Gallus gallus, the wild ancestors of the familiar farmyard chickens. The roosters are spectacular birds with rich golden napes and large red wattles. They are quickly recognisable as related to the farmyard birds.

A hen Red Jungle Fowl with chicks - like domestic hens, she scratches up leaf litter for the chicks to snatch food for themselves, she does not feed them.

The hens are less like their farmyard relatives however, with dull sleek plumage and stiff upright tails. These are perfect adaptations for life in thick forest - their natural habitat in Asia. I reflected on the colours and shape of chicken breeds currently reared in captivity. So, below, I have a dded some examples for comparison and study of how far some have departed from the original wild type. These were all photographed in my own backyard.

A hen Red Jungle fowl crosses a road with her brood - showing off her stiff upright tail. Note how the chicks are all of the same colour, with a broad dark stripe down their backs for camouflage on the forest floor. Domestic chicks usually have a wide variety of colouring, based on this wild type, but very diverse.

A Golden Wyandotte pullet - she has a similar shape as her ancestors,
 with a stiff upright tail and bolder contrasting black and brown feathering

A grey Plymouth Rock hen - similar to the wild type but with grey rather than brown plumage (there are brown varieties of this breed) and a smaller tail

A Light Sussex pullet - she has a heavier build and less flamboyant tail than a wild hen,
and her colour has been selected out to mostly white

A black Pekin bantam - she has an exaggerated tail, much broader than a wild hen,
and her colour has been selectively bred to a dark type.

A white Silkie hen - the colour of the wild type has been lost, her feathers are all fluffy rather than lying tight over her body, and her wings and tail feathers are much reduced

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