A History of Chicken Gifts and Decorations
Here at ilikechickens.co.uk, we have all the chicken themed gifts that you could shake a stick at; then we went and got the chicken wellies to wear while you're out in the garden stick shaking. However, we aren't alone in our love of all things poultry, the question in our household isn't so much which came first; the chicken or the egg? But rather is it possible to work out which we love more, our chickens or their fresh eggs?
All through history, our favourite backyard birds have been revered as sacred, important, and occasionally even given as gifts (image shows Ganymede, the ancient Greek hero, with a rooster on his arm). In Ancient Greece, the brave nature of the cockerel was associated with gods as wide ranging as Ares to Athena, gods of war. The gift of a rooster from one man to another was also a way of indicating affection (although I’m not sure if one of our rooster ornaments would have the same result, perhaps a nice dinner would be better).
To the Chinese, the Rooster (cockerel) was one of the zodiacal symbols and it is believed in many cultures that the first crow of a rooster in the morning can scare away devils. The crowing of a cockerel in the Bible is a key moment also; Jesus telling Peter that before the cockerel crows he will deny knowing him.
To the Romans they were the best animal to use in augury and so important that a frustrated Consul threw his collection of sacred chickens overboard as they refused to eat their corn (a terrible omen for the upcoming sea battle in the long war against Carthage) declaring that “if they will not eat, perhaps they will drink”. As a result, he lost the battle, was tried for impiety and heavily fined. Ancient Rome loved their chickens just as much as we do; although unfortunately, we have no record of them wearing togas made out of fabrics decorated with chickens.
As far back as the 7th Century in Ancient Greece, there is a history of chickens adorning their pots and vases, which isn't really that different from the chicken decorated ceramic jug I have on my worktop, nor the tea pot next to it.
Medieval tapestries often displayed cockerels and hens around the borders of the central piece. Possibly the most famous of all, the Bayeux Tapestry depicts chickens and hens, as both border decoration all the way along its considerable 68m length and rather cruelly being roasted for dinner. Seeing poultry gracing everything from kitchen linens to cushions on the sofa really isn't so different.
Perhaps the country most often associated with poultry is France, with its national symbol of the Gallic Rooster gracing everything from rugby shirts to gate posts. It was originally highlighted by the Ancient Romans that the Latin for rooster and for the Gauls (the Roman name for what is now modern France) was the word “gallus”.
In the middle ages, this became an insult used by the enemies of France to belittle the French. It was quickly adopted, due to its Christian connotations (and the idea of the Rooster crowing at the triumph of light over dark) as the French national symbol and can be seen nowadays gracing everything from sports brands and a television company’s logo through to the kitchen clock and weathervanes.
The rise of urban living in the Victorian towns and cities of the industrial age and the yearning for the traditional rural life of the countryside continued to show in tableware and textiles. It didn’t matter how fancy the dinner service or the quality of China on the Victorian table, there are often chickens, ducks, pheasants and countryside settings adorning them.
The abolition of cockfighting around this time led to competitions based on the physical features of poultry as opposed to fighting prowess and it isn’t hard to see the link between admiring the looks of poultry and exhibiting them, to chicken shaped egg crocks in the kitchen.
Julius Caesar, in his book The Gallic War, wrote that the Ancient Britons did not view it as lawful to eat cockerels or geese and rather that they were bred for amusement and pleasure.
Two thousand years later we ourselves have contributed to this continued popularity in poultry keeping and gifts based around chickens, geese and ducks. Whether you have half an acre or three hens scratching around the flower beds in your garden, the rise in small chicken keepers has seen the demand for everything from chicken rise exponentially.
Today we still love chickens in our gardens and here at The I Like Chickens Webstore we offer a huge range of Gifts and Homewares so you can always find that special somebody the perfect chicken themed gift.