Health & Environment

What You Need To Know About The Year Of The Rooster

January 18, 2017


It’s the Chinese Year of the Rooster starting on Jan. 28, and that means it’s time for a refresher course on the familiar birds, which are of course male chickens.  They are one of the most interesting of all flying creatures, they have unique mannerisms that some might describe as poultry in motion, and when it comes to intelligence, they may be the Einsteins of the bird world.

For starters, says Christine Alvarado, an expert in the Department of Poultry Science at Texas A&M University, roosters and chickens have a strong evolutionary pattern that goes back millions of years. It’s believed they are the closest living relative to the ferocious and most feared dinosaur of all, Tyrannosaurus Rex, who no doubt could gobble up his share of McNuggets if still around today.

Legend has it that the rooster is one of the signs of the Chinese zodiac because it is associated with loyalty and keen observation. And in Greek mythology, it was believed that roosters could foretell the future.

Chickens and roosters have also developed a sense of social order among themselves, and sometimes one of them must be put in his or her place in chickendom – a literal pecking order.

And it might be handy to know that more chickens are raised for food than all other land animals combined.

Other notable chicken-rooster facts:

  • They have an excellent memory, and studies show they can recognize up to 100 faces of humans around them.
  • A rooster has a bright red bit under his beak called a wattle, and the more attractive it is, the more females will like him. In other words, it is used to – you guessed it – pick up chicks.
  • Chickens communicate with other chickens using up to 30 different vocalization sounds.
  • Female hens are among the most protective of all animals and will fiercely defend their young from any size predator.
  • Studies show that chickens and roosters display rapid eye movement, meaning they dream just like humans.
  • There are lots of chickens and roosters out there – an estimated 25 billion at least, more than any bird species and more than 3 to 1 to people.
  • Chickens lay different colors of eggs depending on their breed. Colors include white, cream, brown, blue, pink and green.
  • A hen can lay up to 300 eggs per year.
  • Although they prefer seeds and grains, chickens will eat lizards and mice.

“Some people often ask, why does a chicken have white and dark meat? It’s because different muscles do different jobs.  Muscles that are used a lot have dark meat, and muscles that are used for short periods of time are white,” explains Alvarado.

“We do know that since the beginning of time, chickens were regarded as something special, that they had powers of divination, and it was believed they could foretell the future, they were considered good luck, could aid humans in making choices, etc.

“Not that long ago in many parts of the world, poultry was expensive and eaten only on special occasions,” she adds.  “But today’s poultry industry is able to produce inexpensive products that are a great source of protein, and as a result, poultry is eaten quite often.”

And why do roosters alert us at every sunrise?  They have a unique biological clock that tells them the sun is coming up, no doubt proving they are early birds and not night owls.


Contact: Christine Alvarado at (979) 847-7345 or or Keith Randall, News & Information Services, at (979) 845-4644 or

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