• Michelle Hunniford

Fowl Language: Part I

Updated: Jan 8, 2021

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 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. Layer Breeders are similar, but they are the parents of layers. These eggs are sold to a hatchery where they are hatched into chicks.

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 a number of molts (a natural process where they lose and re-grow feathers) before they get their adult feathers.

White pullets in an aviary housing system

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 (see below).

Brown mature laying hens on perches

If you are interested in learning more about what the parts of a chicken are called, check out Fowl Language: Part II!


Check out this great video by Poultry Hub Australia!

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