Chicken Dictionary: Common Chicken Terms

BANTAM: a miniature variety of a standard breed of chicken. A bantam is not a breed. For example, Leghorn and Leghorn Bantam. 

BLOODLINE: also known as strains; a bird’s pedigree or ancestors, resulting in desired characteristics

BROODY; BROODINESS: or ‘clucky’ — a broody hen stops laying and sits on her nest all day to hatch eggs, even if there are no eggs under her

CHOOK: Australian term for chicken

CLUCKY: See Broody; Broodiness

CROP: An expandable pouch near the chicken’s throat in which food is pre-digested and ground up. A bird should have a full crop, bulging but soft, at dusk. The food is then digested overnight.

CROSSBREDS: a cross between two pure breeds of chickens. If hatched in a commercial hatchery, they are likely to be good layers. See hybrid layer.

DAY-OLD CHICKS: newly hatched chicks (up to 3-4 days old). 

FLIGHTY: excitable birds who will fly if at all startled

HYBRID LAYER: chicken specially cross-bred for her egg laying ability

HYLINE BIRD: genetically created prolific layer

ISA BROWN: genetically created prolific layer. In Australia we often (incorrectly) use the term "Isa Brown" to describe any red or brown commercial layer. The name, ISA Brown, is trademarked to the "Institut de Sélection Animale" and breeders have to be officially licensed to sell ISA Brown Chickens. In Australia, many people buy and sell "ISA Browns" that may in fact be Hy-Line Brown, Lohmann Browns or another commercial red or brown layer; but true ISA Brown chicken genetics are available in Australia. 

MOULTING: annual shedding and renewal of feathers

PERCH: Chickens sleep up off the ground; a chicken coop must have a raised perch on which they will roost and sleep at night

POINT OF LAY (POL): birds typically over 15 weeks old who will shortly begin laying

PULLET: female chicken less than a year old

PUREBRED: A bird belonging to a specific named breed, such as Leghorn, Australorp, Silkies. Often very attractive but less prolific layers than crossbred or hybrid birds

PREDATORS: any other bird or animal that will attack and kill your chickens, from eagles to foxes to snakes

SEX-LINKED: crossbred birds that have different male and female colours at hatching

STRAINS: see bloodlines

VENT: the chicken’s backside, under its tail. A healthy bird has a clean vent. If the vent is soiled or bloody, something’s wrong.

WING-TRIMMING: cutting off the ends of the flight feathers (it’s painless) to prevent a bird from flying


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Want your chickens to be the healthiest and happiest they can be? I offer backyard chicken workshopsonline programsphone coaching, and in-person support to families, schools, and free-range egg farmers. Visit my online shop for natural, tried-and-tested poultry supplies in Australia.

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Elise McNamara, Chicken Consultant & Educator.

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