Fowl Play: A History of the Chicken from Dinosaur to Dinner Plate (Hardcover)

Fowl Play: A History of the Chicken from Dinosaur to Dinner Plate By Sally Coulthard Cover Image
On Our Shelves Now
Book Culture (112th St)
2 on hand, as of Jul 13 10:22am
Book Culture Pittsford
2 on hand, as of Jul 13 11:22am


The chicken can fly only a few metres but – somehow – this unlikely evolutionary descendant of Tyrannosaurus Rex has conquered the world. Earth is now home to more than twenty billion chickens, at least ten times more than any other bird. For every human on the planet, there are three chickens.

In Fowl Play, Sally Coulthard charts the chicken's fascinating journey from dinosaur to domestication to exploitation, exploring every aspect of the history of Gallus gallus domesticus: its importance to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans as food source and fighting bird; its symbolic roles in religion and folklore and metaphorical function in the language we use; its homely place as egg-providing companion on farms, smallholdings and in suburban back gardens; and its darker modern-day fate as battery bird raised to satisfy society's unquenchable addiction to wings and nuggets.

Of all animals, chickens perhaps best represent the contradictory way we humans treat other species; both beloved pet and cheap commodity, symbol of a sustainable good life and brutalised object of factory farming. The chicken is also a bird we feel deeply familiar with and yet know very little about. As informative as it is entertaining, Fowl Play tells a remarkable tale of evolutionary change, epic global travel and ruthless exploitation – as well as of companionship, ingenuity and the folly of human nature.

About the Author

Sally Coulthard is a bestselling author of books about natural history and rural life including The Barn, A Short History of the World According to Sheep, The Book of the Earthworm, The Hedgehog Handbook and over twenty more titles. She lives on a Yorkshire smallholding which she shares with her husband, three girls and an assortment of unruly animals.

Praise For…

“Charming and illuminating... A fascinating history, light on moralising but rich in fancythat details. It may put you off your capon nuggets, but it will give you a good story to share with the parson's nose” —Mail on Sunday

“Wonderfully entertaining and informative” —Tim Birkhead, author of Birds and Us

“[A] marvellously complete and utter history of chickens... Hen-like herself, Ms Coulthard, a smallholder, has left no stone unturned in a book as well-researched and wide-ranging as it is written. From the first page to the last, Fowl Play is as smooth as chicken supreme” —Country Life

“In this extremely well-researched book, author Sally Coulthard traces the arc of the chicken from its ancestors among the dinosaurs through domestication by humans.” —Scientific American

“My first reaction was that this was an extraordinary book to have been written, but then I came to wonder how it had not been written before, so interesting is the subject” —Michael Portillo

“A playful, entertaining and satisfyingly informative study of this humble bird and the integral and varied roles it played thoughout human history accross the world... Thoroughly researched and engagingly written... A great read” —Archaeology Worldwide Magazine


'Full of fascinating social history' Independent.

'Global in scope, with fascinating vignettes from the ancient world to the present day' BBC History Magazine.

'A snappy, stimulating book' Mail on Sunday.

'Many wonderful tales unearthed by Coulthard... A smart little book' BBC Countryfile Magazine.

'One of our favourite books of the year'” —Yorkshire Post

“...a beautifully written and accessible interdisciplinary synthesis on this most remarkable bird” —Professor Bob Davis, University of Glasgow

“A fascinating read” —This England

“I always look forward to reading Coulthard's work. Not only is she exceptionally well-read, but she communicates extremely well. Fowl Play is no exception” —Get History

“A beautifully written and accessible interdisciplinary synthesis on this most remarkable bird” —Professor Bob Davis, University of Glasgow

“Sally Coulthard's fascinating new book…charts humanity's relationship with the chicken down the centuries” —Yorkshire Post

Product Details
ISBN: 9781801104470
ISBN-10: 1801104476
Publisher: Apollo
Publication Date: April 2nd, 2024
Pages: 288
Language: English