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Name: Emily
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Question:
Is there any evolutionary or selective advantage for hatched chicks to be yellow in color?


Replies:
The first thing you need to know is that yellow chick turn into white hens.

There is probably no evolutionary advantage for a hen that lives in the wild - in fact I think it would be a disadvantage. It would make that hen stand out too easily and it would become hawk lunch very quickly. The white hens we see are all bred in captivity, and the breeding has been selected, not by nature, but by man. Egg farmers want hens that lay lots of eggs, over a long period of time, and do it with the least amount of wasted food and energy.

In the past, the farmer with the chooks running around the barnyard, would have removed coloured birds from the flock, simply because they can hide more easily, and that can make it hard to collect the eggs if you have wandering chooks. The human selection is working in exactly the opposite direction to the natural.

We do the same with many other domesticated animals. A domestic cow is nowhere near as aggressive as a wild ox, and would not be able to defend itself against a wolf or a lion. A domestic pig would be too fat to put up a good fight the way a wild boar can.

Many times we find that what we want in the animal is quite the opposite of what is needed to survive in the wild, so we choose the quiet and placid animals to breed.

Nigel Skelton


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