Basic Chicken Terms and Anatomy

If you’re new to raising chickens here are the most frequently used terms by chicken keepers everywhere. I hope it helps you better understand and care for your birds.

  • Bantam:  Diminutive breed of domestic fowl.
  • Boiler:  Chicken 6 to 9 months old.
  • Broiler:  Cockerel of 2 to 3 pounds at 8 to 12 weeks old.
  • Cock:  Male chicken, or rooster.
  • Cockerel:  Young rooster under 1 year old.
  • Fryer:  Chicken 3 to 4 pounds at 12 to 14 weeks old.
  • Hen:  Female chicken.
  • Point of Lay Pullet:  Young female chicken just about to lay, about 5 months old.
  • Pullet:  Young female chicken under 1 year old.
  • Roaster:  Chicken 4 to 6 pounds and over 12 to 14 weeks old.
  • Rooster:  Male chicken, also called a cock.
  • Sexed Chicks:  Separated by sex, pullets, and cockerels.
  • Straight Run:  Mix of pullets and cockerels.
  • Broody:  When the hen has the urge to sit on her eggs to try and hatch them.
  • Clutch:  Batch of eggs in a nest.
  • Comb: Red muscle on the head of chickens.
  • Coop: The place where your poultry live, is referred to as a poultry coop.
  • Crest:  Bunch of feathers on the head of certain breeds.
  • Crop:  Pre-digestive system of the chicken. Food collects at the base of the neck and is softened before going through the digestion process.
  • Cushion:  Area of the back in front of the tail on the female chicken.
  • Down:  Soft fine feathers on chicks.
  • Droppings:  Chicken manure.
  • Dust bath: To bathe in dry dust or sand, and it helps remove any mites from their feathers.
  • Flight feathers:  Biggest primary feathers on the final half of the wing.
  • Free range: To allow chickens to roam the pasture freely.
  • Frizzle:  Feathers that curl rather than laying flat also a breed of chicken.
  • Gizzard:  Internal organ of the chicken that collects grit and grinds food down.
  • Grit: A grinding agent used in digestion, added to a chicken’s diet if not allowed to free range.
  • Growers:  Growing chickens between 9 and 20 weeks.
  • Hackles:  Cape feathers of a rooster.
  • Hybrid:  Genetically bred from two different breeds of chicken for good characteristics from both.
  • Impaction:  Blockage of a body passage or cavity, such as the crop.
  • Keel:  Breast bone – which resembles the keel of a boat.
  • Layers:  Mature female chickens kept for egg production.
  • Mash:  Mixture of wet or dry coarse ground feed.
  • Molt:  Yearly shedding and replacement of poultry feathers.
  • Muff:  Feathers sticking out from both sides of the face under the beak of certain breeds such as Ameraucana.
  • Nest Box:  Secluded safe place where a hen feels she can leave her eggs.
  • Nest Egg:  Wooden or plastic egg put in the nest box to encourage hens to lay there.
  • Pecking order:  Social ranking of a flock.
  • Pellets:  Poultry pellets are formed from a fine mash bonded together.
  • Poultry:  Domestic fowls, such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, or geese, raised for meat or eggs.
  • Pure breed:  Not been crossed with another chicken breed is known as a pure bred.
  • Saddle:  Area of the back in front of the tail on the male.
  • Spurs:  Protrusions on the legs of roosters.
  • Utility:  Bred for meat or chickens bred for eggs rather than poultry shows.
  • Vent:  Orifice at the rear end of the chicken through which both eggs and feces are passed.
  • Wattles:  Fleshy appendages hanging either side of the lower beak of poultry.


Diagram of a chicken 1
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