People might be more familiar with chickens grown domestically or those grown for their products like meat and egg. Chickens are also grown for show, breeding, and others. While these chickens are usually grown in backyards, houses, and farms, where do wild chickens live? Let’s find out.
What are Wild Chickens
Because humans have been domesticating chickens for centuries and can date back up to 7000 years ago, the concept of wild chickens can be foreign to many.
If you happen to be in a more rural area, it can be normal to see chickens wandering around, which could be owned by your neighbor or someone who keeps a flock nearby. On the other hand, people from the city rarely see chickens aside from seeing them in books or on the internet.
The many years of domestication have led to chickens being rarely pure wild. Many of them, however, have wild chickens as ancestors. In fact, the chickens you might know today are from a wild ancestor named wild red junglefowl.
Wild red jungle fowls originated in Southeast Asia but are also seen in different parts of the world. There are such things as wild chickens, but they are not the same as the chickens we are used to seeing in our homes. These types of chickens are usually known as junglefowl. They have no signs of being tamed or cared for by humans. To put it in a more general sense, they are far from tame.
However, there are some cases where a domesticated chicken ends up living and surviving in the wild. Humans can initially own these chickens but then happen to escape their flock or wherever they were kept.
Domesticated chickens have escaped their confines and are now living in wild flocks, referred to as feral chickens. These birds have reclaimed their wild state and have re-transitioned by doing the things wild chickens do to survive, like sleeping in low-hanging trees or bushes to protect themselves from potential enemies.
Wild Chicken Habitats
While domesticated chickens are cared for in an enclosure, a barn, or a secure place where they can comfortably live, wild chickens have a different way of life. Wild chickens are usually found in the jungle and are spread in other parts of the world.
As you may have known, chickens are known for their variety, and there are different chickens with different feather colors worldwide. While wild chickens’ vivid plumage can make them more appealing to potential enemies, they can make it on their own in the wild.
The red jungle fowl can also be found in Asia and Southeast Asia. The red jungle fowl is also termed “gallus gallus.” These are birds of the tropics seen in various locations all over Asia, the South, and the Southeast. Wild chickens in these areas are especially drawn to habitats that have been disturbed.
By disturbed, it can be either natural or artificial. One example is small regions that have been burned to encourage the development and growth of bamboo. Red junglefowl and other wild chickens are spread throughout China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.
Initially, true wild chickens can be specifically native to a place, but times have shifted, and they have been scattered worldwide by commerce and settlement. One example is the red junglefowl of Southeast Asia. They delight in these locations because they give the creatures free and easy access to bamboo seeds.
Wild Chickens In the United States
Like humans and other species, chickens also have preferences in where they want to reside. These places are usually places where they have enough food sources and, at the same time, are safe or with little to no predators. One of their favorite places to reside in the United States is Hawaii, specifically Kauai.
One of the best qualities in Hawaii for wild chickens to enjoy is the appropriate temperature for them to live in. Hawaii’s weather is perfect for letting wild chickens thrive and have the life they deserve.
A specific place in Hawaii called Kauai is a place where the majority of wild chickens reside. These chickens are everywhere when you visit the area, creating a safer space for them, resembling a community.
This place is also filled with feral chickens that may have been displaced. Wild chickens in this area are usually a genetic combination that comprises fighting birds, Jungle Fowl, and a variety of domestic breeds. Wild chickens are very prevalent in Kauai due to the absence of predators such as mongooses. These conditions allow wild chickens to keep their population up and stable.
In Los Angeles, a famous flock of chickens is called The Hollywood Freeway Chickens. The off-ramp of the Hollywood Freeway on Vineyard Avenue in Los Angeles has been their home.
This group of wild chickens may have been there since 1970 when a truck carrying chickens accidentally overturned. A significant number of the hens have been seized and sent to ranches but the chickens left are still free to roam and are doing a good job surviving.
A unique agent brings about the wild chicken population in Louisiana. Many of the chickens there are feral chickens displaced by Hurricane Katrina, and these hens are challenging to catch. Additionally, the officers responsible for animal control in the area frequently receive phone calls complaining about how noisy they are.
Florida has reported an increase in its chicken population. The ban on cockfighting led many poultry owners to let their birds go free. This region is home to the Key West chicken. Since they are well protected, killing them is prohibited.
Wild Chicken Characteristics: How They Survive in The Wild
When talking about chickens, you may already have a set of characteristics of what you expect them to look like. However, like many species, they have many differences, especially chickens with different breeds.
These characteristics are also crucial to the differences in their daily lives, like their favorite food, where they live, and how they mate. Like bears with different fur, types thrive in other locations; chickens also have specific differences. These characteristics contribute to their living conditions and help them succeed in a particular habitat.
Food in the wild is different from the food you feed domesticated chickens. Wild chickens have the opportunity and the need to roam freely and look for food out in the wild. This means they are attracted to places with ample food like the jungle.
Wild chickens in the wild scratch around on the ground and dig for food underground. The ground is where they find one of their favorites: worms. This is one of the reasons why the jungle is a good place for them, the ground is healthy, and worms are abundant.
The forests also offer a variety of bugs that wild chickens love to eat, including Caterpillars, Grasshoppers, Crickets, Ticks, Flies, Spiders, Grubs, and Beetles.
Wild Chicken Habitat Types
Wild chickens alternate between two habitat types in the wild, namely their feeding and roosting locations. Wild chickens’ feeding locations often consist of a dense ground cover of shrubs and an open covering.
On the other hand, their roosting place is where they rest and spend their night. Branches in the lower sections are the typical roosting locations for wild chickens and other related species. These locations offer wild chickens defense against potential enemies and act as shields that protect them from the effects of the environment.
Wild Chickens and Habitat Space
Because wild chickens have a broader space to roam and forage in, they have a bigger space to enjoy. In their native settings, wild chickens do not have many restrictions regarding their freedom of mobility.
This gives people who want to capture and take care of wild chickens an idea of how to make them more comfortable in a new environment. Chickens need enough space for them to do their natural behavior, including having an ample amount of exercise. While capturing wild chickens could sound exciting, you should remember some things.
Yes, domestic chickens came from wild chicken ancestors, but they differ in many ways. Wild chickens can be tamed, of course, but it should be challenging, and sometimes, it may depend on the chicken’s personality.
Having lived their whole lives in the wild, wild chickens may be hostile to other animals, particularly those they perceive to be potential threats to their survival. This includes humans. So it could be difficult for you to capture a wild chicken and domesticate it.
You would need to spend a reasonable amount of time and effort for them to get accustomed to a new life. Nevertheless, it’s always good to be careful about animals and learn more about them, including where they live, to treat them more appropriately.
Animals have different places where they feel safe and where they can thrive. And so, chickens have theirs too! People may forget, but there are undomesticated chickens or wild chickens. So, where do wild chickens live? They are spread in jungles worldwide and thrive incredibly in their respective habitats.
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch.