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The Red Junglefowl, formally known as Gallus gallus, is one of four species in the genus Gallus. Its significance arises from the fact that it is the wild ancestor of the domestic chicken. This species is found in Singapore only on the island of Pulau Ubin.
All members of the Gallus are known as Junglefowl in English. This genus belongs to the family Phasianidae. Other commonly known members of the Phasianidae include the turkey, the peacock, pheasants, grouse, partridges, and quail. The domestic chicken is believed to have descended from the Red Junglefowl and hence shares the scientific name Gallus gallus. Having been domesticated for over 4,000 years, there are now 200 breeds of domestic chickens on record. Mass production of chicken eggs and meat began in the 1800s.
Adults are between 43 to 76 cm long. The head of the cock has ear-wattles and a red comb. The neck is yellow and it has a brightly reddish back. The under parts are dark with grey feet. The arched tail and wing feathers are a glossy green. The distinguishing features of a wild Red Junglefowl is a white patch at the upper base of the tail (the rump). In Singapore and Malaysia, another distinguishing feature is the white ear-wattles. Hens are dull brown with streaked pale yellow necks and light brown vents. Hen tails are erect and fan-shaped. Unlike its domestic counterpart, the junglefowl is a wary creature. The cock's call is similar to the domestic chicken with the last note missing: a "ka ka deedl". The hen's cackle is higher in pitch than the domesticated variety.
Junglefowls are polygynous with a typical family consisting of one cock with his hens and young. However, hens incubate and brood their young alone. The eggs are creamy white in colour laid in a shallow depression scraped in the ground. A typical clutch has between five to seven eggs. In Malaysia, mating and the raising of young apparently does not take place in December. Cocks begin their crowing in January while chicks have been recorded as late as November. Red Junglefowl can interbreed with the other Junglefowl species as well as domestic chickens.
Junglefowls are omnivorous by nature. The staple diet is insects, especially termites and winged ants which emerge at dawn and dusk. It also rakes the ground in search for invertebrates and seeds. They forage in large parties which may consist of more than a single family group.
Habitat and Range
The Red Junglefowl lives in areas where a mix of both open ground and dense vegetation can be found. Such places can found around villages, plantations and the edges of towns and cities. It will also travel through forests to other clearings or food sources. The natural range of the species is from India eastward to southern China on the continent and down Indochina to Sumatra, Java and Bali. It was probably introduced to the Philippines, spread by humans throughout the Polynesian islands. In Singapore, it is found only on Pulau Ubin.
Domestic chickens are commonly raised for their eggs and meat while feather-dusters were commonly made of chicken feathers. The blood of chickens is used in medicinal and magical preparations. Black chickens are reputed to have curative properties. Cock fighting used to be a popular sport worldwide.
Common English name: Red Junglefowl.
Scientific name: Gallus gallus.
Malay name: Ayam Hutan (Forest Chicken).
Chinese name: yuan ji (Original Chicken).
Burkill, I. H. (1935). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. I, A-H). London: Crown Agents.
(Call no.: RCLOS 634.909595 BUR)
Lim, K. S. (1997). Birds: An illustrated field guide to the birds of Singapore. Singapore: Sun Tree Publishing.
(Call no.: RSING 598.095957 LIM)
Wells, D. R. (1999). The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1: Non-Passerines). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
(Call no.: RSING 598.0959 WEL)
Fowl. (1998). In the New Encyclopaedia Britannica (Vol. 4, p. 908). Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica.
(Call no.: R 031 NEW)
The information in this article is valid as at 2001 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.