Essential Backyard Chicken Terminology

A glossary of terms for the chicken enthusiast
Chicken Terms

Chicken Terms

Learning the terms associated with backyard chickens can make any hobbyist sound like an expert.

Learning the terms associated with backyard chickens can make any hobbyist sound like an expert.

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Ever hear of molting? Where does the phrase “pecking order” come from? As the popularity of raising backyard chickens continues to grow, many words have crept into the vernacular, but for those new to raising backyard chickens or considering taking the plunge, the language can sometimes be confusing. Many of the terms used in raising chickens are self-evident or are easily understood when used in context, but a primer is useful when trying to learn more about this popular hobby or when answering questions from curious neighbors.

Check out our crash course in “talking the talk” of backyard chickens. Some are familiar, but learning the language will have even those new to the hobby sounding like experts in no time. Not only will it give you a better understanding of backyard chickens, it comes in handy when convincing the HOA that you know what you’re doing when you submit your plans to introduce a chicken coop to the neighborhood.

  • Bantam: A smaller breed of chicken, usually 1/4-1/2 the size of standard chickens.
  • Bloom: A protective coating found on freshly laid eggs hindering bacterial growth.
  • Broody: State in which a hen remains sitting on eggs to promote hatching.
  • Candle: To shine light through an egg to determine chick development.
  • Clutch: A batch of eggs found together in the nest.
  • Cockerel: A male chicken under one year of age.
  • Comb: The red, fleshy crown on top of a chicken's head.
  • Coop: A structure built for the purpose of housing chickens.
  • Crossbreed: A chicken hatched from a rooster and a hen of different breeds.
  • Down: Soft fluffy coat of baby chicks.
  • Dust Bath: Behavior in which chickens roll in loose dirt to dislodge or discourage mites from plumage.
  • Flock: A group of chickens residing in a single coop.
  • Free Range: Chickens given unfettered access to a pasture or yard.
  • Fryer: A chicken raised for its meat.
  • Frizzle: Curled feathers found on adult chickens of some breeds.
  • Layer: A hen kept for the purpose of egg production.
  • Molt: Natural loss of feathers allowing a new coat to grow.
  • Nesting Box: A secure location built for chickens to lay eggs.
  • Roost: A horizontal bar or branch where chickens perch to sleep or the act of perching.
  • Pecking Order: Social ranking of a flock based on size and temperament. The weakest or smallest are likeliest to be pecked by other chickens.
  • Pinfeathers: The tips of developing feathers.
  • Plumage: The feathered coat of a chicken.
  • Pullet: A female chicken under one year of age.
  • Run: Fenced area attached to a coop allowing chickens outside access.
  • Scratch: Whole grains fed to chickens or the act of a chicken disturbing the ground with its foot to expose food.
  • Starter: High protein crumbled feed given to new chicks.
  • Sexed: Newborn chicks that have been sorted by gender.
  • Wattle: Fleshy skin (usually red) under the chin of a chicken.
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