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The Chicken in America

The European colonists brought their chickens with them when they arrived in North America. The chickens were a motley lot – barnyard birds and fighting cocks from England, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal. For the most part, these birds foraged for themselves, and bred at will.

Over the course of the next two centuries, American poultry keepers developed new breeds and varieties, driven by diverse interests and regional preferences. Small farmers and backyard flock owners selected for various traits such as egg production, body size, foraging ability, vigor, broodiness, and adaptation to local climates. Fanciers, who kept purebred chickens for poultry shows, selected for the specific physical characteristics and color patterns unique to the breeds they loved. The result was a richly diverse genetic pool.