If you are new to owning chickens and have cared enough to do an internet search on the topic, you might have been left feeling a little bit bewildered.
Chances are you saw enough lingo being thrown around conversationally that it looked like a different language. Have no fear, because we are here with this hopeful guide on chicken lingo to get you up to speed and talking like an old pro.
But first, we need to start at the beginning and find out what a male chicken is called, and what a female chicken is called.
A male chicken is called a rooster once it reaches sexual maturity, while a female chicken is called a hen when it reaches sexual maturity. An adolescent male is a cockerel, while an adolescent female is a pullet.
Easy enough, but as you might expect there is a lot more to know when it comes to chicken lingo. If you want to sound like a seasoned hand in the poultry game, keep reading.
What Is a Male Chicken Called?
A male chicken is called a rooster when it reaches sexual maturity. Roosters are bigger and stronger than females with more impressive plumage, larger combs, and wattles, and most importantly spurs on their legs for fighting and defense of the flock.
Males, of course, also famously crow or “cock-a-doodle-do” in the early hours of the morning while you are sleeping!
What Is a Female Chicken Called?
A female chicken is called a hen when it reaches sexual maturity. Hens are smaller than roosters and have less impressive plumage. They also have smaller, paler combs and wattles.
Hens do not have spurs on their legs for fighting, but they do have something far cooler: they lay eggs! Hens might be vocal but are rarely if ever as noisy as roosters.
What is a Young Male Chicken Called?
An adolescent male chicken is called a cockerel. A cockerel looks like a miniature rooster and shares many of the same characteristics, just not as prominent and on a smaller scale.
He will have the beginnings of his adult plumage, combs, wattles, and spurs. Depending on the breed, a cockerel can start to grow anywhere from 4 to 12 months old.
What is a Young Female Chicken Called?
An adolescent female chicken is called a pullet. A pullet shares many of the same characteristics as an adult hen, and potentially even an adolescent male.
She will not yet be laying eggs. Depending on the breed, a pullet can start to lay eggs anywhere from 18 to 22 weeks old.
Notably, some people stick to the convention of calling young female chickens a pullet until she has reached at least a year in age, at what point she officially becomes a hen!
What Are Newborn Chickens Called?
No matter the sex, all newborn chickens are called chicks. Just chicks. Chicks are blind, featherless, and totally dependent on their mother hens (or a heat lamp if they are incubator-raised) at first.
Chicks develop rapidly, gaining fuzzy feathers and growing at an impressive rate. By 6 weeks old most chicks will have all their feathers and look like miniature versions of their adult selves.
Isn’t “Chick” the Singular Form of Chickens?
No, but it is a common mistake. Without delving into the etymology of the word “chicken”, chick or chicks refers to newborn and very young chickens only.
“Chicken” is the singular form of the word for an adult member of the species and also refers to their meat.
“Chickens” is the plural form of the same, and of course “rooster” and “hen” refer to male or female adults as we just learned.
What is a Castrated Male Chicken Called?
A castrated male chicken is called a capon. Capons are castrated very young, typically between 4 and 8 weeks old.
The process, which is called “caponizing” involves removing the male reproductive organs of the cockerel so that he cannot produce testosterone and become a rooster. Since his organs are entirely internal this requires a surgical operation.
This makes capons meat tenderer than their intact male counterparts, and the birds themselves less aggressive and noisy on average.
You might see capon referred to in grocery stores and on menus to give distinction meat taken from one of these males.
Other Terms used for Chickens
There are plenty of other chicken-centric terms in common usage on the net and in various publications. You can familiarize yourself with the most common one below.
An informal term for any bantam-type chicken.
A chicken raised specifically for meat production. These birds are typically younger than 22 weeks old and have had their feed specially formulated to maximize meat growth.
A hen that is sitting on a clutch of eggs in an attempt to hatch them. Broody hens are usually possessive and can be aggressive if approached.
An informal term used in some english-speaking countries, typically Australia and New Zealand, for a chicken of either sex; a chicken.
Another term for rooster. In some cases, may refer to an adolescent male chicken as well. In some countries used to specifically refer to a fighting rooster.
The fleshy, red crest on a chicken’s head. Used to help regulate body temperature. Larger, brighter, and more prominent in males.
A sac located at the base of a chicken’s throat is used to store food prior to digestion.
The soft, fluffy, initial feathers that cover a chick’s body. These are replaced with adult feathers as the chick grows.
A general term used to describe any member of the bird family that includes chickens, ducks, and geese. The word can also refer to the meat of these birds.
The feathers are located on the back of a chicken’s neck.
The process by which chickens replace their feathers. This usually occurs once a year, typically in the fall, and can leave chickens looking a bit scruffy as they regrow their plumage.
A type of feed made up of grains, typically corn, that is used to supplement a chicken’s diet.
Denotes a chicken bred and raised for egg laying, e.g. “That hen is a layer”.
The process by which a chicken sheds its old feathers and grows new ones. This happens once a year, typically in the fall, and can leave chickens looking a bit scruffy as they regrow their plumage.
An informal term for a chick. Now you know how those marshmallow candies got their name.
Fleshy, pendulous lobes of skin that hang down from the lower side of a chicken’s head, just behind the ears. Larger and more prominent in males.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.