Singapore Trivia – The Red Junglefowl of Singapore

The red junglefowls (gallus gallus) are frequently mistaken as domestic chicken, although they are truly the chicken’s wild ancestors. They belong to the pheasant family, which includes pheasant, peacock, quail and partridge. Native to most of Southeast Asia and East Asia, the red junglefowl, however, is listed as an endangered animal in Singapore.

There have not been many records of the red junglefowls until the eighties, when they were first observed at Pulau Ubin by some bird-watchers. Nowadays, the red junglefowls have found home at mainland Singapore, where they can sometimes be spotted wandering out of the dense vegetation at the Western Water Catchment area, Fort Canning Hill and Seletar West Farmway.

While they may look very alike, there are several noticeable differences between a red junglefowl and domestic chicken. A male red junglefowl has two obvious white patches on its body – below its eyes and at its rump, near its tail. It also has grey legs, while a domestic rooster has yellow or pink ones. A rooster also has a long crowing, whereas the male red junglefowl’s call is strangled at the end. The most glaring difference is perhaps the flying ability of a male red junglefowl.

An adult male red junglefowl can grow up to 75cm long. Polygynous by nature, a red junglefowl family typically consists of a rooster, several hens and many chicks, roaming around and pecking insects and seeds for food. Due to their occasional contacts with domestic chicken, it is not unusual to find hybrid descendants of red junglefowls and their domestic relatives.

In 2017, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and National Parks Board carried out culling of the free roaming chicken found around Sin Ming and Thomson View for several reasons, including noise pollution, bird flu risk and to reduce the possible dilution of the genetic stock of purebred red junglefowls.

Published: 24 November 2019

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1 Response to Singapore Trivia – The Red Junglefowl of Singapore

  1. Some chickens in Sin Ming HDB estate to be relocated to Seletar farm after concerns raised

    8 October 2020
    The Straits Times

    Some free-roaming chickens in Sin Ming Court are getting a new home.

    On Wednesday (Oct 7), residents living in the Housing Board estate received a circular notifying them of the relocation, which is due to overpopulation of the chickens and concerns about the noise the birds make.

    This was in spite of a poll in June last year to decide the fate of the fowls. The survey showed that more than 90 per cent of the residents wanted them to stay. The circular explained that residents can visit the relocated chickens, which will be kept as pets.

    In a Facebook post on Thursday afternoon, Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Chong Kee Hiong clarified that only eight to 10 chickens were being moved to a landscaping nursery at 80 Seletar West Farmway 5, where they will be fed and taken care of.

    Without citing a specific figure, Mr Chong wrote in the post that a few residents had expressed concerns about the excessive noise made by the chickens while people were working from home or studying for examinations.

    Many people have been working from home because of the coronavirus outbreak, which started here in January. Since the 2019 poll, the Sin Ming chicken population has increased to around 40 to 50 birds, said Mr Chong. But it is unclear how much this rise was.

    “The chickens which will be relocated are mainly roosters,” he said. “They do not belong to the junglefowl breed and the relocation is carefully carried out by a licensed animal management company engaged by the town council.”

    The Thomson Sin Ming Court residents’ committee and Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council are working together on the relocation. When contacted about the matter, the National Parks Board said it “provided advice on how to tell the difference between a domestic chicken and the red junglefowl”.

    On Thursday at around 1.30pm, contractors were seen trying to lure the free-roaming chickens with cages at Block 450. Curious residents were seen taking photographs of the sight. Several residents expressed disappointment about the relocation of the chickens, which they see as a part of the estate.

    “When I found out that they were relocating a few, I wondered why they were detaching them from their families. (The chickens) feel like family for the people here too,” said Mr Suresh M.J., 52, a leadership coach.

    Many unanswered questions remain about the rationale for the decision, said resident Jun Chong.

    The 29-year-old film-maker previously shot the short film New Resident about the chickens and residents in the estate. The story was inspired by the public outcry against the then Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority for its culling of 24 free-roaming chickens after receiving only 20 complaints about noise and concerns about bird flu in 2017.

    “It feels as if they are neglecting the 90 per cent (who voted earlier) and acting upon the wishes of a vocal minority,” said Mr Chong.

    He was puzzled about how feedback was gathered from the estate comprising 15 HDB blocks with around 1,200 units and why residents were not consulted in a similar poll.

    “This will not be a one-off incident, the chicken population will continue to grow and this will come back. I think we need to learn how to co-exist with wildlife,” he added.

    Other residents cheered the decision to move several of the chickens.

    “I think it’s good that some chickens are being relocated without having to cull them,” said Mr Chin Kok Lung, 73, a retiree, who is also worried that the birds could be carriers of diseases. “They cause a lot of disruption for the gardeners by digging up flowers and grass,” he added.

    Another 81-year-old woman, who did not want to be named, said that she was elated that some of the animals are being relocated.

    “They are cute but they are dirty. They pee and poop everywhere,” she said. The estate’s MP, Mr Chong, has been contacted for further comment.

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