When we first started learning about chickens, I remember being downright fascinated with all the chicken terms and vocabulary that comes along with this fun hobby!
Now that we’ve been raising them for close to a decade, these terms are all so commonplace I hardly think of them at all. That is, until I realized some of YOU might be beginners and want to learn them too!
I created this fun, cheeky guide to common chicken terms, so you can bone up on your chicken vocab and chat chickens with the best of them!
Chicken Terms? What Does it All Mean?
Farm Store- The place you’ll be signing all your paychecks over to. They sell everything on this list, and you’re going to want it all.
Hatchery– A company that specializes in hatching chicks and sending them to future crazy chicken ladies.
Trying to figure out where is the best place to buy healthy chicks? Here’s our guide to help you decide!
Pullet- A female chicken that’s not quite a chick and not yet laying eggs, basically a teenager
Chick- A baby chicken
Rooster- A male, fully grown chicken
Cock- Another term for a male, fully grown chicken
Hen- A lady chicken that’s old enough to lay eggs
Cockerel- A young roo
Bantam- Adorable mini chickens, roughly 1/2 the size of regular chickens, or smaller!
Production Layer- Chicken breeds that lay an abundance of eggs consistently. Often used on egg farms.
Broiler- A chicken that’s bred and raised for meat production
Layers- Hens that lay eggs
Straight Run- A batch of chicks that is unsexed and contains both male and female
Sexed- *Female chicks that have been checked for gender at a hatchery or farm store. Keyword: Checked. Not determined. This process is nowhere near perfect and mistakes happen all the damn time.
Chicken Terms for Anatomy
Feather- You don’t know what a feather is? Come on, now.
Shaft – The dangly hard thing that the feather grows out of
Comb- The fleshy bits on top of the chicken’s beak, come in many shapes and sizes
Vent/Cloaca- The omni-hole that chicken poop and eggs come out of
Gizzard- A hard muscular stomach that grinds the chicken’s food
Crop- An organ in the chicken’s chest that stores food ready to be processed by the gizzard
Leg Scales- Those weird lizardy things on your chickens feet
Pea Comb- Tiny itty bitty combs, hardly noticeable at all
Buttercup Comb- Weirdo double comb, very rare and magical
Cushion Comb- like a little skin pillow
Single Comb- Classic chicken comb, looks like an actual comb, but on a chickens head
Rose Comb- A wanna-be single comb, but not quite there in the majesty
V-Comb- The most badass of combs, looks like crazy flesh horns
Strawberry Comb- Looks like a strawberry, but on a chicken’s head
Spur- Scary and giant growth on a roosters leg, used like a dagger to attack fellow chickens and the hand that feeds him.
Wattle- The droopy appendages that swing back and forth from under your chickens beak.
Hackles- The neck feathers, often raised up in anticipation of a fight. Fight! Fight! Fight!
Saddle Feathers- The sweet, long, droopy feathers around a rooster’s bum.
Chick Tooth- The adorable appendage on a one day old chick’s beak. She used it to help her out of her shell and it will fall off eventually.
Down- The fluffiest fluff on the planet, found on newly hatched chicks
Chicken Health Terminology:
Mite- Blood sucking insects that live in your chicken coop and feast on your chickens at night. Literal tiny vampires.
Lice- Straw colored, irritating insects that live on your chickens and feast on their flesh
Coccidiosis- Nasty ass parasites of the digestive tract. The ultimate horror chicken disease
Marek’s Disease- Horrid contagious virus that causes freaky symptons like eyes changing color, paralysis, and lesions
Electrolytes- Hydrating super juice that you add to chicken’s water to combat heat and/or stress
Blu-Kote- Blue germicidal stuff that you spray on your chickens wounds so they won’t peck each other to death
Fly Predators- Little bugs that love to feast on the pupa of nasty flies. A great way to prevent fly infestations in your coop
Bumblefoot- an infection on the bottom of the chicken’s foot
Egg Bound- When a hen has an egg stuck in her hoo-hah
Dust Bath- The way your chickens get clean by rolling around in the dirt and flapping their wings
Molt- Chickens shed some to most of their feathers and grow new ones. Highly embarrassing times for your birds.
Quarantine- Keeping certain chickens separate for a set amount of time. Do this if they’re sick or new to the flock
Newcastle Disease- Gross contagious poultry virus that can be passed to humans
Diatomaceous Earth (DE)- The fossilized remains of old ass plankton. It’s a super dust that’s great for dust baths and treating chickens for parasites like lice.
Chicken Terms for Eggs:
Eggs- If you don’t know what an egg is, I’m not sure I can help you. Okay I’ll try. The product of chicken ovulation that we love to eat for breakfast. Hens lay eggs almost daily regardless of whether or not they’re getting laid in the mating sense.
Fertilized Egg- When a rooster loves a hen very much, or even just happens to be in the same vicinity as her and she’s willing, he will mount her and mate with her. This usually results in a fertilized egg developing in the hen. The fertilized egg is laid and will only result in a chick if it is incubated.
Lash Egg- One of the most horrifying things you can find in the nesting box. Not really an egg, but kind of looks like one. A lump of tissue released by the body, usually due to illness or infection.
Colored Eggs- Different chicken breeds lay different colored eggs, dontcha know? Chickens can lay brown, white, cream, green, tan, blue, and even pinkish eggs!
Clutch- A cluster of eggs laid by one or many chickens in a nest.
Bloom- The weird outer coating on a chicken egg that’s mostly invisible, but sometimes looks whitish. This protects the egg innards from bacteria. The bloom can be washed off with water.
Chicken Coop Terms:
Coop- The place where your hens eat, sleep, and poop. A lot. Check out these 20 free chicken coop plans.
Roost- A horizontal bar that chickens perch on, like a tree branch, 2×4, or dowel
Nesting Box- The private place your hens go to lay their eggs. Give them a whole bunch, but they’ll all fight over the best one, and there’s no telling which one the chosen best one will be.
Feeder- The place to dump the chicken feed so the chickens can eat it without spreading it all over the floor like a bunch of dummies.
Fount- The thing that dispenses your chickens water
Litter- Not cat litter silly! The absorbent organic matter that you choose to put on the floor of the chicken coop to soak up the poops
Bedding- Same as litter
Chicken Wire- Wire fencing that’s usually used to enclose the chicken run. Keeps chickens in, but doesn’t do a good job of keeping predators out
Hardware Cloth- High quality wire mesh fencing with small holes. Keeps out all sorts of predators and pests, but expensive as all get out
Ventilation– Air circulation in the chicken coop. Absolutely essential to get the bad smells, dust, and ammonia out, and let glorious fresh air in
Drafts– Different than ventilation, drafts are constantly blowing air from windows and doors that can chill your chickens in cold weather
Shavings– Little chips of wood, a by-product of the lumber industry that they so graciously sell to us for our chickens to poop on
Straw– Dried stalks of grain, another thing for your chickens to poop on
Run– The outdoor enclosure for your chickens to frolic in
Free-Range– Opening the door the the chicken coop and letting your flock out into the big world to run, scratch, jump, fly, spread their wings, catch bugs, destroy your garden, and poop all over your patio. A great time for everyone.
Livestock Guardian– An animal you hire to protect your flock. You give them a place to live and food for their belly, they scare off big nasty predators, or alert your flock of threats. Usually dogs, geese, or guinea hens
Chicken Garden- A lovely addition to your backyard, a garden grown specially for your hens
Feed and Water:
Grit- tiny bits of stone your chickens swallow to help them digest their food in the gizzard
Oyster Shell- Crushed up, well, oyster shells, that your chickens eat if they need more calcium in their diet
Calcium- A mineral necessary for life and strong egg shells
Scratch– a mixture of grains and cracked corn, often seen in old timey photographs of crazy chicken ladies, being tossed from an apron to an army of fluffy butts
Mealworms- Beetle larva that is ruthlessly killed, dehydrated, and fed to hungry chickens. A favorite treat!
Layer Feed- The perfect source of nutrition for egg laying hens
Crumbles– One form that chicken feed comes in, usually 90% dust and 10% food. Chickens love to kick it all over the place with the goal of wasting your money
Pellets– Tiny little logs of chicken food that chickens swallow hole in a voracious feeding frenzy. Wastes much less of your money than crumbles.
Grower Feed- Chicken feed specially formulated for chicks and adolescent chickens that need a lot of energy to build those little bodies!
Chicks & Hatching:
Broody– A hen that has up and decided she wants to be a mom. She’ll sit on a clutch of eggs and scream like a banshee at anyone who comes within ten feet of her for an undetermined amount of time.
Pip/Pipping- The first hole that a chick pecks in their egg on their big journey to the outside world. A ray of hope and the first sign of much struggle to join the living breathing creatures on the earth.
Zip/Unzip– The act of a hatching chick pecking all the way around her egg from the inside in an attempt to break free
Heat Lamp- The super hot light that you point at your chicks to warm them up
Brooder– The thing that you use to attempt to control and contain baby and adolescent chickens. They’ll quickly foil all your attempts and escape at every chance
Candling– Shining a bright shiny light through an egg to see the wonders inside
Incubator- The hot, moist box that you put your fertilized eggs into so they turn into chicks
Egg Turner- The machine or person that turns the eggs inside the incubator several times a day. This annoying process keeps the developing chick from sticking to the egg shell.
Chicken Terms for Behavior:
Pecking Order– The brutal act of dominance and bossiness in a chicken flock. Everyone pecks each other to show who’s boss. The one that does the most pecking is the boss babe, the one that gets pecked the most is the loser.
Egg Eating– A terrible chicken habit in which they eat their own eggs and those of their flock mates. Highly irritating for the chicken keeper who would much rather eat those butt nuggets herself.