Chicks 101: Terms You Need To Know

Decided to start raising your own backyard chickens? Raising chickens is an incredibly fun and rewarding experience that doesn’t require you to be a professional at farming. However, it can be challenging at first.

While doing your research and learning on how to raise chickens healthy & properly, you may come across some unfamiliar terms. For most beginners, some of these terms may be things you’ve never heard of before or may think of the wrong meaning for the word. This could cause confusion for yourself during the process of setting up your first coop and getting all the essentials you ‘ll need.

Listed below are chicken terms defined that beginners need to know first and foremost before starting:



Bantam– A miniature chicken; 1/4 to 1/2 the size of a Standard chicken breed.

Barnyard Chicken– A mixed breed chicken.

Beard– Feathers bunched underneath the beak; e.g. Ameraucana.

Bedding– Wood shavings, shredded paper or straw that is placed scattered on the floor of the coop to absorb moisture and manure.

Billing out– Chickens using their beak to scoop feed onto the floor from the feeder.

Blowout– Vent damage due to a laying of an over sized egg.

Breeders– 1.Fertile eggs  that are collected from mature chickens. 2. Someone who raises  and take cares of chickens.

Brood– 1. A hen who desires to care for the batch of chicks . 2. Another name used for baby chicks.

Brooder– A heated enclosed house for chicks that recreates the same warm and protection that a hen gives.

Broody–  1. When a hen sits on her eggs to keep them warm and tries to hatch them. 2. Also, refers to when a hen stays in the nest without producing eggs for an extended period of time.


Candling–  1. A process that is used to determine whether or not the egg is fertilized  by shinning a candle light over it.  2. Done with a candle, not with a normal light.

Cannibalism– When chicks pecks, tears and/ or eats  on another flock mate’s feathers, skin, organs and/or eggs.

Cape– Feathers that cover the neck and the top & back of the head on a chicken.

Clean Legged– Without feathers  on the chicken’s shanks, i.e. legs.

Clutch– A group of fertilized eggs in a nest that are hatched together.

Cockerel–  Male chicken under a year old.

Comb– Rubbery and red flesh that is on top of the chicken’s head.

Complete Feed– A feed that contains everything needed to maintain proper health for the chickens.

Coop– A house or cage used for the chicken’s to live in.

Crest–  A bunch of feathers on top of the head of certain breeds; e.g. Polish and Houdan.

Crop– 1. Part of pre- digestive system.  2. Location of where the food is collected at the base of the neck on the chicken and is softened before entering the stomach.


Droppings–  Manure of chickens.

Droppings Tray– An area located underneath the roosting poles to collect the droppings for an easy disposal.

Dual Purpose– A hen is used for both egg laying and meat qualities.

Dust Bath– 1. A behavioral pattern.  2. When chickens dig a hole in the ground and thrash around in the dirt to get themselves dirty.  3. An important defense mechanism that chickens must do in order to protect themselves against lice and mites.


Egg Tooth– A horny cap located on the chick’s upper beak that is used to break through the shell.

Exhibition Breeds– Chickens that are used to show off their beauty instead of for laying or meat qualities.


Feather Legged– When feathers grow down the shanks; e.g., Brahmas.

Feeder– Where the feed for the chickens is hold and delivered to them.

Fowl– Domesticated birds that are raised for food only.


Grit– Small pebbles or sand that chickens eat to be used by their gizzard to help with their digestion.


Hackles– Feathers around the chicken’s neck.

Hen– A mature, female chicken.


Incubation– 1. A process that when the fertilized eggs  undergo to be hatch. 2.Takes about 21 days to happen.

Intensity of Lay– Number of eggs that a hen lay’s during a given time.


Keel– The breastbone on a chicken.


Layer Feed– The complete feed made only for laying hens.


Molt– 1. A annual process of when chickens shed and renew  their feathers 2. Hens do not lay during this process.

Muff– 1. When the feathers stick out on both sides of the face and underneath the beak; e.g. Ameraucana and Houdan. 2. Also, known as ‘whiskers’.


Nest– A secluded area where a hen feels secure to leave her eggs.

Nest Box– This is a man-made box that is created to help encourage hens to lay their eggs in.


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


Pecking Order–  1.The social rank that the flock of chickens create themselves.  2. Where a chicken with a higher rank may peck another chicken with a lower rank but a lower rank chicken may not peck a chicken with a higher rank.

Perch– An area in the coop where the chickens sleep at night.

Persistence of Lay– The act of a hen that can lay steadily over a long period of time.

Pickout– Vent damage happened by cannibalism.

Pinfeathers– Newly emerging feathers tips.

Production Breed– Type of chicken breed that is valued for egg laying qualities only.

Pullet– Female chicken under a year old.


Ration– Combination of all feed consumed during a day.

Roost– A pole that is used by chickens to perch on during their sleep.

Roosting Pole– A man-made pole located inside the coop that is created for the chickens to sleep on.

Run– The outdoor area located by the coop that is used for chickens to roam freely.


Saddle– Area of feathers located on the chicken’s lower back just before the tail.

Scratch– 1. A treat made up of various grains that chickens love to eat.  2. An instinctual behavior for chickens.  3. Chickens use their claws to dig up worms, tiny rocks and bugs in the soil.

Setter– When a chicken or breed of chickens have the desire to incubate a batch of fertilized eggs.

Sexed– Assorting newly hatched chicks  into pullets or cockerels.

Sex Feather– The tail feather is rounded on a hen but pointed on a rooster.

Shank– Bottom part of the chicken’s legs.

Spent– A hen that is no longer laying well.

Stag– When a cockerel’s spurs and comb begin to develop and shows that they’re about to enter sexual maturity.

Started Pullet– A pullet that has begun to start laying eggs.

Starter Feed– A complete feed made especially for baby chicks.



Unthrifty– The appearance of a chicken is unhealthy and fail to grow at the normal rate.


Vent– The external opening on a chicken where they pass all waste matter and eggs.


Waterer– A container that contains and delivers water to the chickens.

Wattles– Two, red & rubbery flaps of flesh located on the chicken’s neck.

Wheezer– Chicken’s butt.



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