Chickens: Their Natural and Unnatural Histories

Chickens: Their Natural and Unnatural Histories

by Janet Lembke


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Framed by the author’s personal experience with backyard hens, Chickens: Their Natural and Unnatural Histories explores the history of the chicken from its descent from the dinosaurs to the space-age present. En route, Lembke surveys chickens in ancient Greece, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the nineteenth century, and modern times, including the role of chickens in Jewish and Muslim practices. She also investigates the birds’ contributions to science and their jaunty appearances in literature. Eggs receive a chapter of their own, as does chicken cuisine, comprising recipes from the Roman Empire to today’s favorites. Stories about chickens appear, too, often written by those who keep them, including the painter Grandma Moses, the man who holds Cleveland’s Farm Animal Permit No. 17, and Brenda, who had to give her young roosters a talking-to for behaving like sheep.   

Chickens have only recently come to a sorry pass in the Western world, where broilers and laying hens are factory-farmed. Lembke investigates the fate of such birds and explores the sustainable, humane alternatives to raising birds for meat and eggs.   

A celebration of the chicken in its every aspect, Chickens is sure to delight the chicken fancier, the backyard chicken keeper, and everyone concerned about where our food comes from and how we can treat animals more compassionately.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620870556
Publisher: Skyhorse
Publication date: 11/01/2012
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 7.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Janet Lembke is the author of many highly-praised books of natural history, gardening, and cooking, and numerous translations from Greek and Latin, including her recent version of Virgil's Georgics. Her essays have appeared in Audubon, Sierra, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. She lives Staunton, Virginia.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

1 Chicken Dreams 1

2 The Ur-Chicken 8

3 The Classical Chicken 18

4 The Medieval Chicken 35

5 The Renaissance Chicken 39

6 The Medicinal Chicken 48

7 The Transitional Chicken 56

8 The Modern Chicken 65

9 The Resurrected Chicken 85

10 The Conquering Chicken 94

11 Eggs 103

12 The Scientific Chicken 115

13 The Storied Chicken 131

14 Chicken People 148

15 Chicken Cuisine 166

16 Hen Music 193

Appendix: The Blessing of the Hens 211

Notes 214

Bibliography 220

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