There are three distinct categories of domesticated chickens: meat, egg, and dual purpose. The meatproducing bird is referred to as the broiler breed, and it was developed to be a very fast-growing, quickly maturing, large-bodied bird. The purebred broiler breed chicken is usually crossbred with another breed of chicken to produce an even faster-growing bird. The broiler breed does not lay well and is seldom used as a farm flock bird for egg production. The egg production chicken is a very lightweight bird, for it was genetically developed to produce eggs and stayed away from any kind of meat characteristics. Most of the egg production breeds come fromthe Mediterranean region of the world. In general, they are very quick birds, easy to scare, and excellent converters of feed into white-shelled eggs. The Leghorn breed is probably the most well known of the Mediterranean breed of chicken. The dual purpose breed of chicken was primarily developed in the United States for the American farmer or the small flock owner. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, a bird was needed that had relatively good egg production value but also was large enough so a family could use extra birds for food. Most of the American dual purpose breeds have a calm demeanor,lay a good-sized brown-shelled egg, and are easy to keep. The two most common breeds are the Plymouth Rocks and the Rhode Island Reds. Chickens come in all different sizes and shapes. There are also enormous color and color pattern differences. Many chickens are solid colors, others are striped, splashed, dotted, tipped, or checked. In just about all cases, the rooster is more colorful than the hen. Since the hen sets on the eggs for hatching purposes, she needs to blend into the surrounding area so that a predator will have a harder time in finding her and the nest. The modern farmer, however, usually does not allow hens to set in the wild, and most chicks arenowhatched in an incubator. The chicken's comb varies in type: It may be single, or shaped like a rose, a vee, a pea, or a strawberry. The comb structure is the same for a rooster or a hen. The weight of chickens can vary also, with the rooster weighing anywhere fromsix to twelve pounds and the hen weighing about two pounds less, depending on the breed and age of the chicken itself. The Asiatic chicken breeds weigh the most, and the Mediterraneans the least. The incubation period of a chicken is twentyone days.
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