Nov. 30, 2020

Fowl Language: Part I

Animal Welfare

Chickens are called so many different names!  Whether young or old, male or female, raised for eggs or meat, we call them something different. Here is a quick guide to chicken names:

Chicken: A domesticated bird that belongs to the sub-species Gallus gallus domesticus .  Modern domesticated chickens are descended from the Red Jungle Fowl, who can be traced back to the dinosaurs!  Some synonyms for chicken include “poultry” or “fowl” or even just “bird”!'

Broiler : A general term used to describe chickens raised for meat (not eggs).  They may be male or female.  Depending on their age and how big they are, they may be called a fryer (less than 10 weeks old) or a roaster (8-12 weeks old and weighing over 5 lb) according to updated guidelines by the USDA .

Broiler Breeder: The parents of the broiler chickens that we use for meat.  They are kept in mixed groups with both males and females so their eggs will be fertilized.  After the eggs are hatched, the chicks are transported to a broiler farm. Layer Breeders are similar, but they are the parents of layers.  These eggs are hatched at a hatchery and then transported to a layer pullet farm.

Chick : A young chicken, typically referred to as a chick from when they are hatched until when they get their first set of feathers, which usually happens between 14 - 21 days of age.

Pullet : A young female chicken that is fully feathered but has not yet reached sexual maturity (i.e. a female chicken between 14 days of age and approximately 18 weeks of age, or when they have started to lay eggs). Their comb and wattles will start to develop as they get closer to maturity.  They will also go through several molts (a natural process where they lose and re-grow feathers) before they get their adult feathers.

Cockerel: A young male chicken that is fully feathered but has not yet reached sexual maturity or a male chicken between 14 days and approximately 18 weeks.

Rooster: A sexually mature male chicken (i.e. they are attracted to the ladies).

Hen, Laying Hen or Layer : A female egg-laying chicken that has reached sexual maturity (i.e. has begun to lay eggs).  Notice the comb and wattles are red and developed.