The National Museum of Animals & Society (NMAS) is proud to present “Un-Cooped: Deconstructing the Domesticated Chicken.” This exhibit will explore the origins of and the cultural attitudes towards one of the most common—yet most often overlooked—of all domesticated animals: the chicken.
Homo sapiens and Gallus gallus domesticus share a long and complex history, from the jungles of Southeast Asia to the cockfighting pits of ancient Rome, from the Victorian show ring to the modern day factory farm. Human attitudes toward chickens are likewise vast, ranging from creation myths that revere chickens and the egg in the formulation of the world, to dismissals of chickens as dull and foolish.
Despite both positive and negative portrayals such as these throughout the ages, chickens have been consistently perceived and treated as consumable objects either metaphorically, through myths and religious iconography, or literally, as symbolic offerings and as a source of food.
Today, chickens have mostly disappeared from public view inside the long, windowless sheds of the factory farm, and the word “chicken” no longer invokes an animal, but rather a piece of meat. Popular perceptions of chickens are shaped from an early age by storybooks, cartoons, and toys; and are advanced later in life, by advertisements, the media, familial traditions, and fast food culture among others. The story of chickens has been overwhelmingly one-sided, and they are typically seen as a means to an end, rather than as individuals with a wide range of cognitive abilities and a rich family structure.
Our hope is that this exhibit will help facilitate a dialogue about the ways chickens are perceived and treated in society and offer an opportunity for people to “get to know” chickens and their little known charisma, complexity and charm. After viewing the exhibit we would love for you to come back here and give us your feedback, this will help us tremendously when planning future exhibits.
We hope you enjoy this exhibit!
Abbie Rogers & L.A. Watson