Because birds preceded man in the evolutionary chain, both eggs and birds have existed longer than historians. East Indian history indicates that wild jungle fowl were domesticated as early as 3200 BC. Historians also note that the fowl were eaten more often than the eggs, since the eggs were saved to hatch to keep the fowl in supply. Egyptian and Chinese records show that fowl were laying eggs for man in 1400 BC. Chinese described fowl as “the domestic animal who knows time”, probably due to the dependability of the rooster’s early morning call and the regularity of the hen’s egg production.
Although there is some evidence of native fowl in the Americas prior to his arrival, it is believed that Columbus’ ships carried to this country the first of the chickens related to those now in egg production. These strains originated in Asia.
While the fowl referred to in the earliest histories could include a vast assortment of avian representatives, most people of the world eat, and all information here refers to, the egg of the chicken (Gallus domesticas). Nearly 200 breeds and varieties of chickens have been established worldwide, but only a few are economically important as egg producers. Most laying hens in the U.S. are Single-Comb White Leghorns.