Chicken Terminology 101






If you are just getting started raising chickens, you might be coming across numerous terms and jargon with which you are unfamiliar. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! See below for a great list of common chicken terms and their definitions. Feel free to click on the button at the bottom to download a copy to keep handy!

Chicken Development

Term Definition
Chick Newly Hatched Chicken
Cockerel Male that is under a year old
Pullet Female that is under a year old
Juvenile A young male or female bird
Cock Male that is a year or older
Hen Female that is a year or older
Rooster A male chicken (includes cock and cockerel)
Bantam Refers to small breeds of chicken (AKA Miniature Chicken)
Layer Breed Breed of chicken that is raised primarily for egg collection
Dual Purpose Breed Breed of chicken that is raised for both eggs and meat
Ornamental Breed Breed of chicken that is raised primarily for show or exhibition
Production Breed Breed of chicken that is raised for high egg production or meat production

 Chicken Environment

Term Definition
Nesting Box A cubicle where a chicken can privately lay eggs
Bedding/Litter A material used to cover the floor/ground in confined spaces
Hardware Cloth A sturdy mesh product made of metal or plastic used generally on the coop to keep them contained
Chicken Wire Light wire netting with a hexagonal mesh
Brooder A type of heated enclosure for raising chicks
Roosting A chicken or group of chickens resting, likely on an elevated perch
Chicken Tractor A movable chicken coop lacking a floor allowing flock access to the earth beneath them
Coop An enclosure where chickens are kept safe and secure
Run A fenced or enclosed outdoor space for your chickens

Feather Types/Terms


Molting Loss of feathers due to change in season followed by re-growth


A genetically programmed ornamental feather type causing the curling of feathers


Fine layer of feathers that covers young birds and is found under the tough exterior feathers of older birds


Short feathers on the sides of a chicken's face and below the chin area


Feathers in front of the tail


The pair of long curving feathers on a cock's tail


The elongated feathers below the beak area that created a puffy look to some birds


A developing feather seen on maturing birds as well as after molt

Chicken Health



Wry Neck

Typically seen in chicks causing them to twist their neck, stare upwards and have trouble standing likely caused by a Vitamin E or selenium deficiency


Medication used as an aid to prevent and treat coccidiosis and can be found in some medicated chick feeds


Bugs that live on the skin of chickens

Poultry Lice

Insects that live only on chickens and their feathers

Dust Bath

Bathing in dirt or other substances to help remove external parasites and groom plumage


Intestinal disease that occurs when a microscopic parasitic organism attaches itself to the intestinal lining

Avian Influenza

A naturally occurring virus that effects chickens and other species of poultry

Fowl Pox

Viral disease in chickens and other species of poultry that causes lesions on skin (cutaneous form) and can affect respiratory tract and upper GI (diphtheritic form)

Newcastle Disease

An extremely contagious disease affecting birds, including domestic poultry


Intestinal bacteria that is typically heard about when discussing food poisoning


A bacterial infection and inflammatory reaction on the feet of birds

Pasty Butt

Describes the condition that occurs when a chicks vent is covered in feces and becomes clogged
Mycoplasma Upper respiratory disease affecting backyard poultry 
Conjunctivitis Eye infection in chickens
Torticollis Describes the abnormal head and neck position of a chicken infected with this disease; also known as wry neck, crookneck and stargazing
Paralysis When a chicken is paralyzed, preventing them from moving normally
Helicopter Wings Broken or twisted feathers, a sign of disease or sickness in chickens
Wry Neck See "Torticollis"
Crookneck See "Torticollis"
Stargazing See "Torticollis"

Chicken Feed Types



Starter Grower Feed

A feed formulated for growing chicks up to laying age or 16 weeks for hens

Layer Feed

A feed formulated for hens at laying age to support healthy and strong egg production

All Flock Feed

A feed specifically formulated for mixed flocks of poultry

Gamebird Showbird Feed

A feed with higher protein for to promote growth in gamebirds, showbirds and meatbirds


Blended and whole unfortified grains that commonly includes corn


Crushed rock that helps break down food in the gizzard

 Chicken Anatomy




Flesh under the beak of a chicken that is used as a heat regulating mechanism


Part of the digestive system on chickens that stores food before continuing on to be fully digested


An all-in-one urinating, defecating and mating mechanism located on the hind end of the chicken


A sharp appendage that can grow on the legs of chickens


A featherless crest at the top of a chickens head


An opening in chickens where waste and eggs are expelled


The feathers protruding from the top of a chickens head

Chicken Reproduction




A chicken that has decided to sit on and hatch a clutch of eggs


A thin coating that covers an egg and prevents bacteria from effecting the egg


Shining a light on the backside of an egg to examine its contents

Internal Pip

During the hatching process, when the chick breaches the membrane into the aircell of the egg, it is called the internal pip

External Pip

During the hatching process, the chick's first small crack or hole in the shell is called the external pip


A group of 12 to 15 eggs gathered for hatching


A small white bullseye on the egg yolk indicating a fertile egg


A small white disc on the egg yolk indicating an infertile egg


A machine that maintains the perfect temperatures to hatch an egg

Chicken Behavior

Term Definition
Tidbitting When a rooster drops food or treats at the feet of hens, then dances around excitedly; it is a way to attract a mate
Zipping When a baby chick picks at its shell, creating a ring around the shell that it can escape from

Chicken Keeping

Term Definition
Culling Identifying and removing non-laying or diseased birds
Biosecurity Process for protecting backyard chickens from infectious diseases and spreading them

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Sherry Klaus

Hi, my name is Sherry. I am a mother, wife, business owner and have a small farm in East Central Missouri. I have always had a passion for animals. I have horses, dogs, goats and chickens. I have a particular fondness for chickens. Chickens are entertaining, beautiful and I just find them to be all around wonderful creatures. I got into showing and breeding chickens shortly after rescuing my first rooster. I now breed and show both Silkies and Ameraucana (Paint, Self-Blue and Blue) chicken breeds. I now ship my birds all over the Country. My daughter shares my love of chickens and shows the Bantam Ameraucana breed. Other than my affinity for chickens, I also have many hobbies. I enjoy gardening, 4wheeling, fishing, horseback riding and playing with my adorable fainting goats. When I am not enjoying my animals I am helping my husband manage our Masonry business. It is a full life and it is just the way I like it.