Just like any hobby or fancy, chicken-keeping comes with its very own terminology that you should learn. After all, you want to be able to accurately talk about your flock and their health without embarrassing yourself!
Life Stage and Gender Terms
Chick: a young chicken that still has all or part of its down feathers
Juvenile: a young chicken that has its first set of regular feathers but is not sexually mature
Adult: a sexually mature chicken of any age
Cock: a male chicken over 1 year of age
Cockerel: a male chicken under 1 year of age
Rooster: a male chicken of any age; the most common name to call a male chicken
Stag: the same as a cockerel. Typically used with game breeds.
Hen: a female chicken over 1 year of age.
Pullet: a female chicken under 1 year of age.
Straight Run: an unsexed group of chicks.
Comb: a fleshy appendage on the top of a chicken’s head that shows health and sexual maturity. Combs can come in a wide variety of shapes with only one particular gene resulting in a combless chicken.
Wattles: a pair of fleshy appendages hanging beneath a chicken’s beak. Some genes make wattles nearly non-existent.
Earlobes: a fleshy area on each side of the chicken’s head. Earlobe colors are largely dependent on the breed. Colors are typically red, white, blue (white + melanizer), and mulberry (red + melanizer).
Hackles: The neck feathers. In most breeds, the hackles differ in shape, length, and shine between each gender.
Crop: A sack near the base of a chicken’s neck on the right side of the upper breast that holds the recently eaten food and starts the digestion process.
Keel: The long, curved bone running from the chicken’s breast to their “butt”.
Saddle: The feathers just in front of the tail. In most breeds, the saddle feathers differ in shape, length, and shine between each gender.
Sickles: Curved feathers in the tails of most breeds of roosters.
Henny-feathered: A male chicken without rooster feathers. Example breeds: Campine and Sebright.
Shanks: The scaled part of chicken legs.
Spurs: A hard, pointed growth on the shanks, towards the inner back. Most common on roosters, but hens can and do grow spurs as well.
Hatch: When a chick comes out of the egg. Also used as in “I had a good hatch in my new incubator.”
Pip: The first hole a chick chips into the shell.
Zip: When a chick starts chipping the shell around the circumference of the egg.
Lockdown: The final days of incubation when you should no longer open the incubator until hatching is complete.
Broody: A hen whose hormones have made her want to sit on eggs and raise chicks.
Candle/Candled/Candling: Shining a light into the air cell of an egg to check for embryo development or egg quality.
Clear: An egg that shows no embryo development when candled.
Blood ring: An egg that has a ring of blood when candled. This indicates the embryo died early in development.
DOS: Dead in shell. A chick that died before or during hatching.
Eggsong: A loud call made by a hen or pullet after she has laid an egg. Roosters will often join in.
Crowing: A loud call made by roosters at any time of the day… or night. Dominant hens may crow if no rooster is present.
Tidbitting: An excited sound alerting other chickens to tasty food. Typically made by a rooster to his harem or a broody hen to her chicks.
Alert: A loud, growling call alerting the flock to potential danger.
Purring: A quiet sound most commonly made by happy chicks. Also heard in broody hens and some chickens when roosting