The vexed question of whether the chicken or the egg came first isn't actually the most interesting one you can ask about the world's favorite poultry. Far more fascinating is the history of how the chicken came to be such a staple of the modern diet — with its popularity spreading everywhere from east London curry houses to service stations in Kentucky. Did you know, for example, that chicken was considered such a delicacy during the age of the Roman empire that its consumption had to be regulated? Or that certain breeds, like the Araucana and Ameraucana, lay eggs with naturally blue shells?

These fascinating and obscure details of the chicken's history are retold in a great essay in the Smithsonian Magazine, which also looks into the cultural and symbolic roles played by the bird over the centuries.