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When you are Raising Chickens, you need to get to know all of the specific chicken terminology that is used. Without this knowledge, it will sometimes be difficult to understand how to care for them, supplies they need or what their health issues are.
Chicken terminology is the collection of words that are used when talking about chickens and their care. Some of the terms may be well known like rooster, while some may be much more obscure (for non-chicken keepers) like cloaca. It is essential to understand what the words used mean so that you can successfully take care of your flock.
We have put together a fairly comprehensive list of important words used when talking about chickens. In an effort to make it a bit easier to scan through and digest, we have grouped the terms into buckets like chicken anatomy, chicken breeding and chicken health issues. Then, within each bucket, the terms are sorted in alphabetical order.
So, without further ado, here are the must know chicken terms for every chicken keeper.
Basic Chicken Terms
Bantam – a small or miniature breed of chicken, usually about one quarter the size of a regular or standard breed chicken.
Autosexing – breeds of chickens which you can tell their sex based soley on their color.
Broiler – a chicken which is raised for meat.
Chick – a young, baby chicken.
Chicken – a type of domesticated fowl, scientific name Gallus domesticus.
Cock – Any male chicken that is under a year old.
Cockrel – Any male chicken that is over a year old.
Cull – to eliminate a bird from the flock, whether by killing it or by rehoming it.
Flock – a group of chickens.
Free Range – this technically means that chickens have access to outside during all or just part of the day.
Hen – this refers to a mature female chicken.
Pasture Raised – allowing chickens to live as they would naturally. They have freedom to go wherever and do whatever they wish.
Pecking Order – this is the hierarchy within the flock. Chickens will often times literally peck one another to establish their dominance.
Pullet – this refers to a young female chicken.
Rooster – this refers to a mature male chicken.
Sex-linked breed – like a Sapphire Gem, is a breed which you can tell the sex of day old chicks by their color. This is similar to autosexing breeds, the difference is that sex-linked breeds are hybrids (multiple breeds mating for a specific purpose) while autosexing breeds are purebred.
Straight Run – this refers to chicks that are not sexed, meaning they could be boys or girls.
Vent Sexing – a method of sexing young chicks by looking in their vent to determine if they are male or female. It should only be done by people who are well trained.
Wing Sexing – also known as feather sexing is a way to determine the sex of a chick based on how fast the wing feathers grow. It is only accurate in the chicks first few days of age and only for certain breeds.
Need some help keeping your chickens health and care taken care of? Check out the Organized Chicken Keeper for an easy to follow system.
Chicken Anatomy Terms
Beak – this is essentially the chickens mouth, it is hard and sticks out from their face.
Beard – a protrusion of feathers under the chickens chin.
Clean legged – chicken breeds that do not have feathers down their legs and instead have scales (this is the most common leg type). An example would be Buff Orpingtons, Sapphire Gems and Rhode Island Reds.
Cloaca – it is an opening on the chickens rear end where they poop, pee, mate and lay eggs.
Comb – growths on the top of a chickens head. There are many types of combs including single, double, walnut, pea and crown.
Crest – a protrusion of a grouping of longer feathers on top of a chickens head. Not all chickens have crests, the Polish Chicken would be an example of a crested breed.
Crop – a round pouch that can be felt on the front of a chickens lower neck/upper breast area. It is part of the chickens digestive system.
Down – a soft layer of feathers found under the harder primary feathers.
Frizzle – a chicken with an almost crinkled texture feather. Like a cartoon’s hair after touching a light socket.
Hackle feathers – feathers that go over the back and shoulders in a chicken. In Hens they are more round and in Roosters they are pointer and more brightly colored.
Muff – protrusions of feathers coming out the sides of a chickens face. Not all breeds have these, Easter Eggers and Silkies are examples of two breeds which do.
Pin Feathers – the newly growing feathers on a chicken which are wrapped in a hard covering.
Primary Feathers – the hard, long feathers that are used for flight.
Saddle Feathers – these are pointy, colorful feathers that roosters get over their back by their tail.
Spurs – these are sharp growths that roosters have on their legs.
Vent – this is found on a chickens backside and is where they use the bathroom as well as lay their eggs from.
Wattles – these are growths/sections of skin that hang down off the sides of chickens beak
Chicken Breeding Terms
Air Cell – space in the large end of the egg where air is. This gets larger during incubation.
Albumen – commonly known or referred to as the egg white.
Blood Ring – a ring of blood in a hatching egg indicating that the chick inside has died and is no longer developing.
Broody – this refers to a hen that is sitting on eggs (or sometimes still sits even if eggs are removed) in an attempt to hatch them.
Candling – his is the act of using a high power flash light to check to see if an egg has a developing chick inside.
Clutch – a group of eggs that a hen collects as she gets ready to go broody and sit on them to hatch them.
Hatch – when a chick comes out of the egg.
Hatching Eggs – eggs which are fertilized and to be used in an incubator.
Incubating – this is the act of keeping fertilized eggs at a temperature and humidity in order to hatch chicks.
Pipping – this is when a chick first starts to hatch and uses it’s beak to break a small hole first in the internal egg membranes (internal pip) and then through the egg shell (external pip).
Yolk – the yellow area in an egg. It is where a chick develops and gets it’s nutrition.
Zipping – the process during hatch when a chick breaks a line around the top of the shell so that it can come out of the egg.
Quickly and easily assess your flocks health without missing a step by using this free download: The Chicken Care Checklist.
Chicken Health Terms
AI – also know as Avian Influenza or bird flu. It is a highly contagious viral infection.
Bumblefoot – a bacterial infection, usually on the bottom of the chickens foot.
Coccidiosis/Coccidia – this is an internal parasite that can kill chickens if not treated properly.
Fowl Pox – a viral disease that causes lesions on your chickens skin.
Lice – external parasites, similar to mites, which feed on skin and blood on a chicken.
Mareks Disease – a viral herpes based disease that causes tumors to grow inside chickens. It is highly contagious and can be deadly for chickens.
Mites – little pests or bugs that live on chickens skin.
Molt – seasonal process chickens experience when they loose all or most of their feathers and grow new ones.
NewCastle Disease – an extremely contagious viral respiratory disease that chickens can catch.
NPIP – stands for National Poultry Improvement Program and is a testing program for pullorum.
Pasty Butt – this is the build up of poop that sometimes happens over a young chicks vent.
Scaly Leg Mites – a type of mite that buries itself under the scales of a chickens feet and legs. They will have a raised and often red appearance.
Splay leg – also known as spraddle leg. It is a condition where the chicks legs will go straight out to the sides (looks like it is doing a split) due to tendon issues.
Wry Neck – a condition typically caused by vitamin e deficiency where the chickens head and neck twists around and then look upside down towards the sky
Chicken Supply Terms
Bedding – also called litter, is the material used on the brooder and coop floor such as straw or pine shavings.
Brooder – this is the area or container that holds baby chicks until they are big enough to go outside to a coop.
Chicken Tractor – a chicken enclosure/shelter that is able to easily been moved and has no flooring. This allows you to move the chickens to fresh ground regularly while still being enclosed.
Coop – a shelter or structure used to house chickens.
Dust Bath – a sand or dirt pit/area where chickens will lay and roll around in It helps to keep them clean and free of external parasites.
Grit – small pieces of rock, sand or other hard substance used by chickens in their gizzard to grind and digest food.
Heat Lamp – a metal dome with a red infared bulb inside which produces heat and is used for raising baby chicks.
Nesting Box – these are semi enclosed, private spaces where chickens will go to lay their eggs.
Roost – also known as a perch. This is a raised area where chickens can go to especially at night to sleep.
Run – a chicken run is a fenced in area where the chickens can be on the ground, but are still enclosed and cannot roam free.
Scratch – type of chicken feed used as a treat (not a main feed) that is made up of corn and grains.
If you need more help with taking care of your chickens, check out The Organized Chicken Keeper for a complete system for managing their health through keeping their supplies stocked and coop clean.