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What is the halachic source requiring us to ritually slaughter chicken specifically, and was there ever a time in history that Halachic Jews ate chicken without first performing ritual slaughter?

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do you mean specifically chicken or all fowl? Birds, as korbanot, required a different method steinsaltz.org/Melikah1.php – Danno Feb 28 '14 at 0:04
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See here the Rambam with the Gur Aryeh hebrewbooks.org/rambam.aspx?mfid=17036&rid=4977 – sam Feb 28 '14 at 6:33

There is a documented opinion among Tannaim that there is no biblical requirement for Shechita on fowl (eg. Chullin 27b - 28a). Accordingly it would seem likely that some time existed before the rabbinic requirement of Shechita on fowl was enacted when Halachic Jews ate fowl without Shechita. I note that we do not rule like this opinion, but rather that Shechita on fowl is a biblical requirement.

As with all the biblical laws of Shechita, the source is oral tradition from God via Moses, as it says regarding Shechita in the Torah (Deut 12:21):

וזבחת... כאשר צויתיך
And you shall slaughter it... as I commanded you

and there is no written record of that command.

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