Homestead Chicken Terms – How to Speak Chicken

chicken termsAre you hearing people use chicken terms, and you have no idea what they mean? Take a minute to brush up on the lingo and learn the often used chicken terms, before you bring home your first flock of chicks. When you go to the store or call in an order to a hatchery, it will be helpful if you know the basic chicken terms and what the supplies you will need are called. And if you should have any problems or questions after you begin backyard chicken raising, it sure helps to know the correct chicken terms and types of birds that you have. Do you want to raise bantams, full size standard layers, or dual purpose chickens? Keep reading and add these chicken terms to your homestead vocabulary.

Chicken Terms – Form, Function, and Appearance

Chick – The beginning phase of a chicken’s life. Chick’s require special care to stay warm. Broody hens see to the needs of their chicks. The hen tucks the chicks under her wings for warmth. When chicks are hatched in an incubator, you will need to provide warmth, food and water, as they grow and develop.

Pullet – Female chickens under one year of age

chicken terms

Cockerel – Male chicken under one year of age

Hen – A full grown female chicken 

Started Pullet – Started pullets are immature hens that are nearing the egg laying stage. Buying started pullets is one way to ensure you are getting a hen and not a rooster. A started pullet will cost you a lot more than a chick.

Rooster – You do not need a rooster in order for hens to lay eggs. There are quite a few good reasons to own a rooster, but your hens will supply eggs on a regular basis, once they are fully mature. Having a rooster is necessary if you want to hatch out chicks from your own flock’s fertile eggs.

chicken terms

Types of Birds 

Bantams – Small chicken breeds, 1/2 to 1/3 the size of the full size breed. Some bantam chicken breeds are true bantams, meaning there is no full size version. Example – Olandsk Dwarf Other bantam breeds are miniatures of a larger breed. Example – Bantam Cochin

Dwarfs – Dwarf breeds of chickens are true bantam breeds

Heavy breeds – Cochin, Brahma, and other large breed chickens such as the Jersey Giant and some Wyandottes are considered heavy breeds

chicken terms

Production breed – Term often used for a strain of Rhode Island Red chickens. These chickens are bred for high egg production

Large breeds – Wyandotte, Jersey Giant, Brahmas, Cochin 

Heritage Breeds – Heritage breeds of chicken are the traditional breeds. The Livestock Conservancy defines a heritage breed , “A Heritage Chicken is hatched from a heritage egg sired by an American Poultry Association Standard breed established prior to the mid-20th century, is slow growing, naturally mated with a long productive outdoor life.”

Sex- linked Chickens – Chickens bred specifically for the high egg production. Examples would include the hybrid, sex linked breeds, often called black sex – linked or black star, red sex- linked or red star, Cinnamon Queen and Golden Comet.

chicken terms

Chicken Terms for the Coop and Run

Water Fount- the container that holds water and dispenses it at the bottom in a rim or tray.

Feeder – the container that holds the chicken feed. Most feeders are gravity fed, allowing the feeding tray to refill as the feed is eaten.

Brooder – The enclosed pen or container that houses chicks in a warm environment, mimicking the heat provided by a mother hen

chicken terms

Heat lamp – Normally a red heat light positioned over the chick brooder to provide heat for the developing chicks

Grit – Insoluble bits of granite and other hard particles ingested by birds. The gizzard  holds the grit that is used to help break up food for digestion.

Calcium or Egg shells  or Oyster Shell – Provided to laying hens to ensure they have enough calcium to make sturdy egg shells. Offer calcium as rinsed, dried and crushed egg shells, or oyster shell purchased from the feed store.

Perch – A board, tree limb or platform where chickens can rest off the ground.

Roost – What chickens do at night. Chickens sleep or roost at night while resting on a perch. The perch boards should be wide enough to comfortably allow the chicken’s foot to hold on with out much effort. A two by four board is a good choice for a perch. The chicken’s belly feathers should cover the feet when settled on the roost. The area under the roost can be outfitted with a dropping board. The dropping board makes cleanup easier.

chicken terms

Dust bath – An area of loose, sandy dirt that the chicken uses to clean it’s feathers by dusting them with dirt.

Enjoy Your New Backyard Chickens

Learn all you can about your new egg layers. Raising chickens will enrich your life and bring delicious fresh eggs to your table. As with any subject or hobby, there is a language to raising chickens. Now that you’ve read through this post, I hope you feel more confident about using homestead chicken terms.




Looking for DIY Ideas for Your Chicken Coop?

Chicken terms

Take a look at my book! 50 Do it Yourself Projects for Keeping Chickens will give you over plenty of ideas for building projects, supplement feeders, treats, health care, and entertainment for your feathered flock. Available at Tractor Supply stores,, Local feed stores and booksellers and right here on this website.