Terms every chicken owner should know
Bantam: A miniature chicken, about one-fourth the size of a regular chicken.
Biddy: Another term for chicks or baby chickens.
Broiler: A young chicken, bred for its meat. Usually broilers are intended to be processed between nine and 12 weeks of age and weigh between 2.5 and 3.5 pounds. Also sometimes known as fryers.
Brooder or brooder box: A heated enclosure for raising chicks. Protects chicks from drafts and predators and provides access to food and water.
Brooding period: The stage of life between hatch and adulthood. Usually lasts from the first eight to 10 weeks of life.
Broody hen: A hen that wants to sit on eggs to hatch them and brood chicks.
Chick: A baby chicken.
Chick tooth: Sharp end of a chick's beak used to poke a hole in the egg's shell during hatching. Also known as an egg tooth.
Cloaca: The opening in chickens through which the intestinal, urinary and reproductive tracts empty.
Clutch: A group of eggs, usually about 12. Term is commonly used with a group of eggs being sat on, or incubated, by a brooding hen.
Coccidiosis: Disease of fowl caused by a microscopic protozoa that causes diarrhea, unthriftiness or death. Occurs most frequently in chicks older than three weeks and in young adults. Transmitted by chicken waste. Prevented by many commercially available coccidiostats that can be added to feed.
Cock: A male chicken over one year of age. Also called an old rooster.
Cockerel: A male chicken under one year of age. Also called a young rooster.
Comb: The fleshy, red-colored growth on top of a chicken's head.
CRD: Chronic Respiratory Disease, a common disease of chickens that is characterized by sneezing and difficulty breathing. Commonly controlled with antibiotics usually administered in feed or drinking water.
Down: Soft, fine feathers on chicks.
Dusting or dust bath: Common chicken behavior of bathing with dirt in a dusty shallow depression to rid themselves of mites and parasites.
Fount: A water fountain or watering device for chicken.
Gallus domesticus: The scientific name for a domestic chicken.
Gizzard: Internal chicken organ that crushes food with the help of pebbles or grit.
Grower feed: Commercially available feed formulated for adolescent, growing chickens. Usually used from nine to 20 weeks.
Hen: An adult female chicken over one year of age.
Incubator: An artificially heated container that simulates the environment for hatching eggs. Forced-air incubators have a fan to circulate the air. In a still-air incubator the air is not circulated mechanically. Incubator temperatures vary from 99 degrees to 103 degrees. According to University of Illinois poultry experts, 100.5 degrees is optimum for a still-air incubator.
Layers: Mature female chickens kept for egg production. Also known as laying hens.
Laying feed: Commercially available feed formulated for laying hens. Usually given to chickens beginning at 20 weeks of age.
Marek's disease: A viral disease common in chickens. Commonly prevented by a vaccination administered immediately after chicks hatch.
Newcastle disease: A viral respiratory disease common in chickens. Newcastle disease can spread very quickly within a flock. Commonly prevented with a series of vaccinations.
Picking: Detrimental activity of chickens picking at each other's feathers.
Pipping: The act of chicks pecking at their shells to break out.
Pullet: A female chicken under one year of age.
Rooster: An adult male chicken.
Scratch: A type of feed that can consist of cracked corn and different types of whole grains. Often fed as a treat for backyard chickens and not used as a main food source.
Starter feed: Pre-mixed commercial food for chicks, commonly available at feed or farm stores. According to University of Florida animal science experts, starter feeds usually contain about 20 percent crude protein and the vitamins and minerals needed by chicks. These feeds usually are also medicated. Should be fed to chicks for the first six to eight weeks of life.
Straight-run chicks: Chicks that have not been separated according to sexes. Chicks that have been separated are known as sexed chickens.
Turn: The act of turning incubated eggs to prevent the embryos from sticking to the shell membranes.
Unthrifty: Term often used when raising chickens to describe unhealthy individuals that are failing to thrive or won't put on weight.
Wattles: The fleshy, red-colored growths that hang from the side of a chicken's beak.
- “Definitions Relating to Poultry Incubation and Embryology Projects,” a Web page maintained by University of Illinois Extension. Compiled by S. F. Ridlen, Poultry Extension Specialist, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Accessed April 11, 2010 at:
- “Common Poultry Diseases.” A Web page maintained by the Mississippi State University Department of Poultry Science. Accessed April 11, 2010 at: http://www.poultry.msstate.edu/extension/pdf/diseases_poultry_common.pdf
- “Care of Baby Chicks.” Christopher DeCubellis. Extension Agent 11, 4-H Youth Development, Animal Science Department, Gilchrist County Cooperative Extension Service. Web page maintained by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Accessed April 10, 2010 at: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/an182