Chicken Glossary

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Chicken Keeping Glossary Terms


A variety of chicken that is 1/4 to 1/2 the size of a Standard chicken breed, kept mainly for ornamental purposes. Some chickens come in both Standard and Bantam varieties; some come in just Bantam and some in just Standard.


A material, usually wood shavings, added to the coop floor and nest box in order to absorb odor and droppings and provide a soft surface for chickens to walk on.


The delicate, invisible membrane outside an egg's shell that protects the contents from bacteria and other foreign matter.


1. The desire of hens incubate and be a good mother to baby chicks.
2. A group of baby chicks.


The desire of some hens to sit on eggs (whether fertilized or unfertilized) in order to incubate and hatch them. 


The process of shining a light on an egg to see inside and determine whether the it is fertilized. (Used to be done with a candle; now done with normal lights!)


A castrated rooster.


"Chicken" to Brits, Aussies and Kiwis. (Hey, if they can call chickens chooks, we can call them by their nicknames too, right?)


A group of fertilized eggs that a hen incubates.


A juvenile rooster.


The red, rubbery flesh on top of a chicken's head.


A chicken house.

Complete Feed

A feed that contains everything your chickens need to maintain proper health.

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Crested Breed

A breed of chicken that has feathers on top of its head, such as a Polish or Sultan.


A part of the esophagus where food is digested and softened before it enters the stomach.

Droppings Tray

A collection unit located underneath roosting poles that collects droppings for easy disposal.

Dual Purpose

A hen that is bred for both egg-laying and meat qualities. Dual-purpose breeds are valued for their good nature and cold-hardiness.

Dust Bath

A behavior pattern whereby chickens dig themselves a hole in the ground and immerse themselves in the loosened earth, rolling around and trying to get as dirty as possible. Dust bathing is an important defense against mites and lice, and if they don't have access to a dust bath, they need an artificial dust bath set up indoors.

Dusting Powder

A solution that allows chickens confined to the indoors (or without access to dry earth) to take a dust bath.


The container that holds and delivers feed to your chickens.

Fertilized Egg

An egg laid by a hen that has mated with a rooster and is capable of becoming a baby chick. (Only possible when roosters are present!)


The soft, profuse feathering on a chicken's butt.

Gallus gallus domesticus

The species name (in Latin) of chickens.


Sand or bits of crushed rock which chickens eat and store in their crop. Essential for proper digestion of food.

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The feathers around a chicken's neck.


A female chicken.


The process of hatching a fertilized egg via the application of a constant heat source, frequent turning and the maintenance of a humid environment. Incubating baby chicks takes 21 days.

Layer Feed

A complete feed made especially for laying hens.


The chickens' yearly process of shedding its' feathers and re-growing new ones. During the molt, hens will not lay eggs.

Nest Box

A man-made box designed to encourage hens to lay eggs in it. Common wisdom is that one nest box is required for every 4-5 hens.


A chicken or breed of chicken that does not have a tendency or desire to incubate fertilized eggs or care for baby chicks.

Ornamental Breed

A type of chicken bred mainly for its appearance and for show, not for egg production value or meat.

Pecking Order

The social organization created by a flock of chickens whereby a bird with a higher rank may peck a bird with a lower rank, but those with a lower rank may not peck those with a higher rank. (The bird with the highest rank can peck all the other birds; the one with the lowest rank can peck none.)

Poultry Show

Much like dog shows organized by the American Kennel Association, Poultry Shows are venues for judging poultry according to breed standards, organized by the American Poultry Association. They include chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and other poultry. (Unlike dog shows, you don't have to take your bird out and make it trot, sit, stand etc.) your bird

Production Breed

A type of chicken bred specifically for its value as an egg layer.


A juvenile hen.


1. When chickens perch on a pole or branch, as in when they sleep.
2. A pole or branch that chickens perch on.


A male chicken.

Roosting Pole

A man-made perch, usually constructed of wood and located inside the chicken coop, that chickens perch on while they sleep.


A breed that does not have tail feathers like normal chickens (such as the Araucana).


An outdoor area where chickens can roam freely, usually attached to the chicken coop.


The feathers on the lower part of a chicken's back.


1. A special treat that chickens love made of various grains. (Not to be substituted for feed.)
2. An instinctual behavior chickens perform with their claws to dig up bugs, worms, tiny rocks and other goodies they find in the soil.


A chicken or breed of chickens that has a tendency or desire to incubate a batch of fertilized eggs


A process by which the sex of a baby chick is determined.

Sex Link

A relatively new type of chicken whose sex is indicated as soon as they hatch by the color of their feathers. Sex Link females are known for excellent egg production and males as good "fryers".


The bottom part of a chicken's legs.


The tail feathers on a rooster.


An additional appendage-like protrusion on a rooster's shanks. (Used for fighting.)

Started Pullet

A juvenile hen between that has already started laying eggs.

Starter Feed

A complete feed formulated specifically for baby chicks.

Straight Run

Straight run chicks are an "as hatched" mix of males and females--they are not sexed first and then separated out into each order. Over large numbers (hundreds or thousands), the hatching ratio of straight run orders averages out to be a 50-50 mix, but with small orders the ratio can vary considerably. For instance, if you were to order eight straight run chicks, you will get between zero and eight roosters and between zero and eight hens--there is no way to tell. Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst! You might order 8 straight run chicks and end up with 8 males.


The exernal opening of a chicken through which all waste matter and eggs pass.


The container that holds and delivers water for your chickens.


The two red, rubbery flaps of flesh on a chicken's neck.


A chicken's butt (colloquial).


A medicine or treatment that rids animals of intestinal worms.