The Chicken Glossary;Want to better understand our "chicken language"?


I am actually a female!
9 Years
Jun 21, 2010
God placed me in this world
Want to better understand our "chicken language"? This is every word/word meaning that you need to know to help raise your chickens well.

Glossary A
Addled: Means that a fertile egg either didn't develop during the incubation process or the chick died before it hatched.
Alektorophobia: fear of chickens.
Avian Influenza: Bird flu. See the simple diseases and cures page for more details.
Axial feather: When the wing of a chicken is opened out, you will see along the edge, a single layer of feathers sticking out. Roughly in the middle is a shorter feather, and this is the axial feather. The axial feather shows where the primary and secondary feathers begin and end.

Bantam: A small chicken.
Banty (plural: banties): affectionate term for a bantam.
Beak: The hard bit on the front of the head through which they breath and eat.
Bedding: The stuff put in the bottom of a coop to absorb moisture and smell e.g. wood shavings, straw, hay.
Billing out: Using the beak to scoop food out of the feeder and therefore waste it.
Bloom: the moist, protective layer that, unless you see the hen lay the egg, you will never see because it dries so fast. If you wash the egg then you remove the bloom, which is why it is not recommended.
BLR: Abbreviation of blue laced red, a colour most often seen in wyandottes.
Booted: having feathers on the feet and legs.
Breed: 1. A group of chickens that all look alike - "a breed of chicken". 2. To put a cockeral (or rooster) together with a hen so that they mate and produce fertile eggs.
Breeders: 1. Chickens which are put together so that they will mate and produce fertile eggs. 2. A person who breeds chickens.
Broiler: A young, tender chicken destined to be eaten early on in life. Not to be confused with broiler house.
Broiler house: An extremely inhumane way of raising chickens for meat. The chickens (broilers) are put into a huge, overcrowded shed (often containing hundreds of thousands of chickens) with little thought for their welfare, and then slaughtered at around 6 weeks of age.
Brood: 1. A group of chicks, often hatched out together. 2. To care for chicks.
Brooder: A heated cage in which chicks live until they do not need the heat that a mother would normally give them.
Broody: A hen that wants to hatch out eggs.

Candle: To use a light to examine the contents of an egg without breaking the shell. Often used to see if embryos are still alive in the egg.
Candler: A device used to candle an egg. A torch (flashlight) is often used for the purpose.
Cannibalism: When a chicken eats 1. The eggs 2. The feathers 3. The flesh (of a living bird).
Cape: The feathers between the head and the body of the chickens.
Capon: A male chicken castrated when young to improve the quality of its flesh for food.
Carrier: 1. An outwardly healthy chicken that gives other chickens a disease. 2. A box in which chickens are transported.
Chick: a baby member of the chicken species, male or female. Used in UK and US.
Chicken: refers to the species.
Chooks: Australian term for chickens.
Clean Legged: To have no feathers on the legs or feet.
Clutch: 1. A batch of eggs that are incubated together. 2. All the eggs layed by a hen on consecutive days before she skips a day and starts a new laying cycle.
Coccidiosis: A parasitic protozoal infestation, usually occurring in damp, unclean housing conditions.
Coccidiostat: A drug used to keep chickens from getting coccidiosis
Cock: A male chicken over one year of age. UK term.
Cockeral: In theory, used to describe a male bird under 1 year of age on both sides of the Atlantic. In practice, it is used as a term for male chickens of any age in the UK.
Comb: The fleshy red bit on top of the head
Conformation: The shape of a chicken. Chickens are judged in shows on their conformation. The conformation is layed out in a book called the 'Standard of Perfection' which differs from country to country.
Coop: The house where the chickens live.
Crest: A puff of feathers on top of the head as seen in a Polish or Silkie. Also known as a topknot.
Crop: The bag at the bottom of the chickens neck which contains grit to grind up the food because chickens do not have teeth.
Crossbreed: 1. To put a hen and rooster of different breeds together with the intention of getting fertile eggs. 2. The offspring of a hen and rooster of different breeds.
Cull: 1. To remove (either by killing or selling) a bird that is of inferior quality from the flock. 2. A bird that is going to be culled from the flock.

Dam: Mother
Debeak: To remove part of the top half of the beak to reduce cannibalism. Only commonly done in intensive systems such as battery farms. Causes pain to the bird in question for weeks afterwards.
Down: 1. The fluffy feathers on a chick. 2. The feathers underneath the normal feathers on a full-grown chicken and around the vent area.
Droppings: Facaes, poo, poop, manure.
Dub: To remove the comb and wattles, often on a male bird. There are three reasons for this: 1. Fighting. When chickens were used for cockfighting, the comb and wattles were removed so that the opposing bird had less to hold onto. 2. Show. Some breeds, such as the Old English Game Bantam (OEGB) have to be dubbed to be shown. People who do not show usually don't dub. 3. Frostbite. In extreme climates, some people need to dub to prevent frostbite to the combs and wattles.
Dustbathe: When a chicken rolls around in earth-dust to rid herself of mites. Chickens find this activity very enjoyable.

Egg Tooth: A 'tooth' on the upper part of a chick that has just hatched. It is used to chip the way out of the eggshell and is lost after a few hours or days.
Embryo: The developing chick inside an egg.
Exhibition Breeds: A breed kept for it's beauty rather than it's capability to lay eggs.

Feather legged: To have feathers around the legs and feet.
Fecal: Related to feces.
Feces: Manure, droppings, poo, poop.
Fertile: 1. An egg that has been fertilized and is therefore capable of producing a chick. 2. A hen which has been mated with a rooster and is therefore capable of producing a fertile egg. Hen must also be in lay for this to happen. 3. A rooster that produces sperm.
Fertilised: Containing sperm.
Flock: A group of chickens living together.
Forced-air incubator: An incubator that has a fan for circulating hot air.
Fowl: Domesticated birds bred for food e.g. turkeys, chickens.
Free-range: To allow the birds access to the outdoors, sometimes restricted, sometimes unrestricted.
Frizzle: A breed of chicken.
Fryer: See broiler.

Gallus Domesticus: The scientific name for the domesticated chicken.
Gizzard: See crop.
GLW: Abbreviation of Gold Laced Wyandotte
Grade: To sort eggs according to any faults, inside or outside, that they may have.
Grit: The sand or small stones that all birds eat to go inside their crop and grind up the food.

H5N1: A particular strain of bird flu. See avian influenza.
Hackles: A roosters cape feathers.
Hatch: 1. The process of a chick emerging from the egg. 2. A group of chicks hatched at roughly the same time as each other.
Hatchability: Percentage of eggs that hatch when incubated for 21 days.
Hatchery: a place where thousands of chicks of different breeds are hatched out and then sent to people who have ordered them. I only know of them in the US, not the UK.
Hen: In show terms, a female chicken over 1 year of age. In normal terms, a female chicken that has started to lay. Used in UK and US.
Hybrid: A breed of chicken that has been produced by crossing many different breeds, with no attention to the look, only one aspect: either meat or eggs.

Immunity: To build up a resistance to a particular disease.
Impaction: The blockage of a particular part of the body. For information on crop impaction, please visit the 'Simple Diseases and Cures' page of this website.
Incubate: To maintain a good atmosphere (temperature and humidity) for embryos to develop inside an egg.
Incubation Period: 1. The period which it takes an egg to hatch. In chickens this is 21 days. 2. The period between contracting a disease and showing symtoms.
Infertility: The inablity to produce offspring.

Keel: Breastbone

Litter: See bedding
LS: Abbreviation of Light Sussex.

Mate: The act of reproduction between a male and female.
Mite: A tiny parasitic insect that lives upon the skin and feeds from the body.
Moult: The process of replacing new feathers. Happens every autumn (fall) in chickens.
Morbidity: The percentage affected by a disease:
Mortality: The percentage killed by a disease.
Muff: A puff of feathers on either side of the face. Always seen in conjunction with a beard. Seen in the Araucana amongst others.

Nest: The place where a hen leaves her eggs. Also, see broody.
Nest egg: A wooden, china or plastic egg placed in the nest box to encourage the chickens to lay there.
Nesting Box or Nest Box: A place, inside the coop, which is manmade and made to encourage the hens to leave the eggs where the owner can find them.

OEG: Abbreviation of Old English Game, a breed of chicken.
OEGB: Abbreviation of Old English Game Bantam, the bantam form of OEG.
Oviduct: The tube which an egg travels through when it is ready to be laid. In humans, it is called the fallopian tube.

Parasite: An animal (usually an insect) that lives on the body of a host, taking nutrition and shelter from the host without giving anything in return.
Pecking Order: The social hierachy of chickens.
Pen: 1. The outside area of a chicken's living quarters, also known as a run. 2. A group of chickens entered in a show together and judged together.
Perch: 1. A branch or other such object where a chicken goes to sleep. 2. The act of going to sleep, also called roosting.
Persistancy of lay: The ability to lay for a long period.
Pigmentation: The colour of a chicken's beak, legs and vent.
Pinfeathers: Feathers that are just beginning to emerge from a chicken's body. They look like pins.
Pip: 1. The hole a chick makes in the egg shell whilst it is trying to hatch. 2. The act of making a hole in the egg shell whilst hatching.
Plumage: All of the feathers on a chicken.
Point of lay: about to start laying, at anywhere between the ages of 18 to 22 weeks. Some hens will start laying later than this.
POL: Abbreviation of point of lay.
Post Mortem: An examination of a carcass to try and determine what the cause of death was.
Poultry: Chickens and other domesticated birds raised for food, eggs or pets.
PQ: Abbreviation of pet quality, a bird that is not close enough to the standard to be shown but can be kept as a pet.
Predator: An animal that hunts another food food.
Pullet: In show terms, a female chicken under 1 year of age. In normal terms, a female chicken that has not started to lay. Used in UK and US.
Purebred: The offspring of two purebred parents of the same breed.

Range-fed: To be allowed to eat grass and other greens at will.
Ration: All the feed consumed in one day.
Resistance: Immunity to infection.
RIR: Abbreviation of Rhode Island Red.
Roaster: A chicken that can easily be fitted into an over for roasting, and
Roost: See perch.
Rooster: In theory, it's used to describe a male chicken over 1 year of age. In practice, it is often used to describe and male chicken. US term.

Saddle: Part of the chicken's back just before the tail.
Scales: The covering on the legs and feet.
Scratch: 1. The act of a chicken scratching the dirt. 2. Grain fed to chickens.
Set: See: Incubate, brood.
Setting or sitting: The act of putting fertile eggs under a broody hen or putting them in the incubator so that they will hatch.
Sexed: Chickens sorted into two groups depending on gender.
Shank: The part of the leg between the claw and the first joint.
Sickles: Long, curved tail feathers that roosters get.
Sire: Father
SLW: Abbreviation of Silver Laced Wyandotte
Spent: No longer producing a good number of eggs ("a spent hen")
Spurs: The sharp protrusions on the back of a roosters legs. Spurs are used in fighting.
SQ: Show quality, a bird that is of a suitable standard as to be able to be shown.
Standard: 1. To conform to the standard: to be the perfect specimin of the breed as laid down in the Standard of Perfection, which differs from country to country. 2. Standard sized: large fowl as opposed to bantams.
Started pullets: Young female chickens that are coming to the stage where they will start to lay.
Starter: Food fed to young chicks, also called crumbles.
Starve-out: Failure of newly-hatched chicks to eat.
Sterile: The permanent inability to reproduce.
Sternum: Breastbone, Keel.
Straight-run: Newly hatched chicks that have not been sexed. Also called 'as hatched' or 'unsexed'.
Strain: A flock of chickens that have been selectively bred for so long that they all look alike.
Stress: Any physical or mental tension that reduces resistance.

Topknot: Crest.
Trachea: Windpipe.
Type: The shape and colour of a chicken that tells you what the breed is.

Vaccine: Product made from disease-causing organisms to increase immunity to that disease.
Vent: The hole at the back of the chicken that serves three purposes: pooing, egg laying and mating.

Wattles: The fleshy red bits below the head.
Whiskers: Muffs.

(This glossary was found at

Edited to include Capon.
Last edited by a moderator:
This is great... should be a sticky... and any additions that bycers come up with can be submitted and added. Thanks.
Just glanced thru this a little and found a mistake already......the crop and gizzard are not the same thing....and the crop is not where the grit grinds the food up....that takes place in the gizzard.
Saw the title and though you were going to list what THEY mean when "talking" to us!

I have too much cold medicine running through my system.

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