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Wild chickens, which are actually called junglefowl, are amazing egg-laying birds. Of the four types of junglefowl, the red junglefowl (native to Southern Asia) is the main ancestor of the domestic chicken.
The breeding season of the red junglefowl is spring and summer. During those two months, the junglefowl will lay an egg almost every day (Resource: University of Michigan, Museum of Zoology).
Red junglefowl will only lay eggs during these two seasons because chicks have more of a chance to survive when they start their lives in warm weather.
After a junglefowl lays her eggs, she’ll become extremely broody. This is a little bit different from chickens because only certain breeds of chickens have been known to get very broody (like my silkies).
Broodiness is when a bird constantly sits on a clutch of eggs to incubate them, which often stops them from doing other behaviors such as eating and drinking.
If you try to remove the eggs from under a broody hen, be prepared for some fluffing of her feathers, some clucking, and probably some aggressive pecking.
For twenty-one days, the junglefowl chick will develop inside of its egg. On the twenty-first day, the chick will start to break through the egg’s thin shell.
The hen will only spend about 12 weeks caring for her chicks and then she chases them off to survive on their own. This is a bit different from domesticated chickens because the latter tend to like spending time with her chicks and other chickens. Junglefowl are more indpendent.
Why Do the Domesticated Chickens Lay More Eggs?
The red junglefowl was first domesticated at least 5000 years ago in Asia. Its domestic form, which are the chickens we all know today, are now owned by people all over the world.
But natural evolution did not create chickens that are so meaty or lays so many unfertilized eggs. Human engineering, or more specifically selective breeding, created those types of chickens. All it takes is for a farmer to choose the chickens with the desired trait and using those chickens as parents for the next generation.
For example, a farmer could choose only the chickens that had desirable egg-laying capabilities to breed. Or he could choose only the heftier, meatier chickens to reproduce.
After many generations of selective breeding, today’s domesticated chickens have more and more of the desired traits. And that’s why some domesticated chickens can lay 300+ eggs a year!