It has come to the attention of JFA that there are many terms used in Poultry that many of you are not familiar with. I've spent some time compiling a list of the most common terms and combined effort with bro to come up with definitions of those terms. They may not be professional definitions, but they are definitions we've come up with that we hope are clear and understandable for everyone.
Chicken Coop Chatter©
Air cell/Air Sac - the air space between the shell membrane, this is usually at the large end of the egg.
Ag Lime/Agriculture Lime-A substance used under the litter to help keep odors and parasites under control. This is a product used on farms to sweeten soil and will not harm if used in the compost pile. The term used in the industry is *Hydrated Lime*. This is available in farm and garden stores.
Albumen - is the clear substance of the egg, called the "white" of the egg.
Alektorophobia- This is the fear of chickens or similar feathered creatures. The phobia is usually caused by an early trauma or bad experience with a chicken, causing fear of anything related to chickens.
Auto-Sexing- This method of breeding was developed in the early to mid 20th century. These are pure-bred chickens, crossed to produce a chick that has distinct markings at hatch so it is easier to determine the sex of those chicks. These are not hybrid chickens and the term is not the same as a *Sex-Link*. Refer to the definition of Sex link categorized under *sex-link*.
Avian Flu-This is a type of flu that affects only fowl, but is carried from one species of fowl to another. Out-breaks have been reported around the world and is typically rapidly spread by migrating birds. This affects chickens, turkey, pheasants and guinea, and is incurable. Protect your chickens and other domestic fowl from any contact with wild fowl. A necropsy is performed by the state lab to determine the disease. The entire area is placed under strict quarantine by the state if the disease is detected in an effort to prevent the spread. Currently this is happening in backyard flocks because of their close proximity to wild fowl. Flocks that test positive for Avian flu are euthanized by the state, and no birds or equipment are allowed to enter or leave the premises.
Banding or Leg Banding:-The process of putting a tag or band on the lower leg of a bird. This may or may not have an ID letter or number. Or may be color-coded.
Barnie: A name we fondly give to a mixed flock of chickens. Our barnies are culls from our pure breed flocks, but allowed to breed by natural selection. Others may refer to these as "mutts", but we think they are special and get some interesting colors and patterns. Ours are a combination of great layers and meat birds.
Broody Hen: A hen that has reached maturity and has the maternal instincts to set, hatch and raise chicks. Silkies typically make great Broody Hens and have been used to hatch chicken, duck and goose eggs. The eggs do not have to be her own eggs. She will typically set on any eggs and raise those babies.
Bedding - is the material spread on the floor of the coop to absorb moisture and manure (also called litter). Bedding can be Wood Shavings, Sand, Straw, Alfalfa or paper pellet type bedding.
Biddy -is an old term used for a laying hen that is over a year old.
Blood spot - Is blood in an egg. This is harmless, but can be removed and the egg cooked as usual. These are just spots, if there is a lot of blood in the egg, you may have a pullet or hen in danger and will need to be examined for infection or serious issues within the reproductive system. Take the egg with you if you are having the bird examined by a vet.
Bloom - Is the term used for the protective coating on freshly laid eggs that partially seals the pores of the egg shell to prevent bacteria from entering the interior of the egg. ( This may also called the cuticle)
Booted or Feather-legged - Means a chicken with feathers on the shanks (legs) and toes.
Breech Hatch: When a chick has turned itself around in the shell and is trying to hatch at the wrong end (narrow end) of the egg. Intervention will always be necessary when this happens.
Broiler -Is the term used for a meat-type chicken
Brood - Is what it's called when a hen takes care for a batch of chicks or ducklings or goslings.
Brooder - is a pen or container, with bedding and heat lamps or other heating device used to provide warmth to young chicks
Broody -is a hen that is sitting on eggs with the intention of hatching them. Broody Hen: A hen that has reached maturity and has the maternal instincts to set, hatch and raise chicks. Silkies typically make great Broody Hens and have been used to hatch chicken, duck and goose eggs. The eggs do not have to be her own eggs. She will typically set on any eggs and raise those babies. There can't be anything cuter than seeing a little silkie hen with a clutch of goslings or ducklings following behind.
Candle - The process to view the contents of an egg inside the shell, with the use of a bright light. Prior to electricity and flashlights or batteries, candles were used to see the development of a fertile egg. Eggs were placed in a covered box with a small viewing hole on one side and a candle was placed inside the box with the eggs to illuminate them to check for development.
Candler - Is the light used to view the contents of an egg within the shell. This can be a strong light from flashlight, or a fancy device sold for the purpose of candling.
Candling - The process of using a candler to check the contents of an intact egg. This must be done in a dark room (closet) with a strong light.. Candling is not an exact science. Dark eggs, like Maran and Welsummer are virtually impossible to candle. Spotted eggs can reflect to appear as an embryo. Mark eggs that you thought were not fertile. Incubate and see how many of those assumed non-fertile eggs hatch. We've done this, and those have hatched. So don't always assume if you see nothing on specific candling days, that nothing is happening. If you do try candling it is typically done on day 3 and day 8 and possibly day 14 for chicks. We have candled, but it is not a routine practice of ours. If you want to use it as a learning moment, that is beneficial.
Cannibalism - when chickens or chicks peck and eat other chicks or chickens. This is usually caused by the sight of blood, or over-crowding.
Cape - feathers that are between a chicken's neck and back.
Capon - an altered male chicken (requires special Caponizing equipment). These are used as meat birds and fattened up for processing.
Carrier -An assumed healthy bird that may be immune, but can transmit a disease to others in a flock; This may also refer to a container used to transport birds to poultry shows or for veterinary care.
Class - describes chicken breeds that were developed in a particular areas of the world (Examples:. American, Asiatic, Mediterranean, European)
Clean legged - Describing birds that do not display any feathers on the shanks(legs) or toes
Cock: a male that has finished one season as a breeder. Usually refers to older birds. (a common term is Rooster)
Cockerel: a young male from day old to the end of it’s first year of breeding. Often used to refer to young males up to 6 months of age.
Crest - Tuft of feathers on the heads of some breeds of chickens, ducks and geese. Silkies, Tolbunt Polish, and Swedish Flower Hens are examples of chicken breeds with Crests.
Crop - Is the enlarged part of the digestive tract of birds that serves as a temporary storage area for food. This can become impacted, so the food is not broken down properly. An impacted crop needs medical attention.
Crossbred - the offspring of parents from two different varieties or breeds. A common crossbreed is Rhode Island Red Crossed with a Barred or White Plymouth rock. However this is also considered a "sex-link".
Crumbles - Is a poultry feed that has been pelleted and then broken up into crumbled pieces.
Culling - The removal of a bird from the flock because of poor productivity, advanced age, poor health or behavioral issues or non-acceptance of other birds within the flock. In the case of breeding stock, they may be culled for poor color, or poor pattern that does nothing to perfect the breed. Culling can also refer to the removal of excess roosters from a flock.
Curled Toes : Curled toes of chicks is commonly caused by wire flooring, such as a cage floor. Always put down non-slick paper, RV shelving material or cardboard to prevent this.
Cuticle - Is a term that may refer to the protective coating on freshly laid eggs that partially seals the pores of the egg shell to prevent bacteria from entering the interior of the egg (This is also called the *bloom*)
De-beaking-This is a process of making the beak blunt to prevent pecking issues that can lead to cannibalism. This is not a common procedure except in large commercial poultry farms. De-beaking does not mean removal of the beak, the usual procedure is similar to a dremil tool that quickly flattens the point of the beak. Birds of all types hone their beaks on rocks, cement and pavement to keep them sharp so they do not become blunt.
Deep litter: Is a system of layering a chosen litter material on the floor of the coop. This is often used in winter when it is more difficult to clean the coops. This helps to keep bacteria and odors down in the coop. As this breaks down more is added until time for cleaning. It's made up of organic materials and can be composted .
Dust bath - Is the practice of chickens squatting and moving around in soft, dry soil to clean their feathers and discourage external parasites. Sand or DE-Diatomaceous Earth or wood ash if kept in a dry area, may also be used for this purpose.
Egg bound: an afflicted hen is one that is unable to complete the egg formation and laying process and retains the partially or fully formed egg in the oviduct. This is often a problem with pullets that are just starting to lay. Since a female chick is born with all the eggs she will ever lay during her productive years, the eggs may get jammed up and she will not be able to lay. Typically a warm bath will help relax as well as allow any discharge to be removed that may be preventing the natural egg laying ability. It is possible to have a hen with a chronic issue that will need medical intervention or she may need to be culled from the flock.
Egg tooth - Is the tiny, hard hook-like portion on the beak of a newly hatched chick that is used by the chick to break or *pip* the shell preparing to hatch (This may also be called a *chick tooth*). This Egg tooth drops off after a couple of days.
Feather-legged - This describes breeds of chickens with feathers growing down their leg or *shanks*. Blue Breda, Silkies, Brahmas and French Black Copper Marans are examples of chickens with feathered legs.
Feather sexing: A process used to determine boys from girls. This will not work for a lot of chicken breeds. The Salmon Faverolles is an example of feathers that display a difference between boy and girl. Most chicks cannot be sexed before 4 to 6 weeks except by trained experts.
Flighty: This refers to a bird or flock that is apt to fly if disturbed. Leghorns are good examples of a *flighty" chicken.
Flight feathers - are the large primary and secondary feathers of the wings.
Fluff - is a term used for the downy feathers of chicks or the under feathers of chickens. (also referred to as *down*)
Food conversion ratio: Is determined between the amount of food consumed and the production of eggs, growth or meat. An example would be the Cornish X that are veracious eaters until they reach a proper broiler weight. Breeders use a ratio to determine the economical value of certain breeds, whether that is number of eggs laid, or amount of weight gained.
Forage/Foraging-Free-Ranging - The process of Chickens searching for bugs, seeds and worms, by scratching the ground; The term *forage* also refers to crops in a pasture.
Forced-air incubator - an incubator with a fan that evenly distributes warm air during the incubation process.
Fowl - domesticated birds raised for food or other similar purpose; also refers to a hen at the end of its productive life (a stewing hen)
Fowl Cholera-One of a variety of water borne diseases that affect chickens and other fowl. Caused by feces infested water. Prevent standing water in your coops and runs to prevent an outbreak of Cholera.
Fowl Pox-This is caused by mosquitoes. Prevent standing water in your coops, runs and on your property to prevent mosquito infestation. This is primarily an issue in Southern States, but it can be a problem anywhere there is standing water.
Free-range - is a term used to refer to a flock that is allowed into a yard or pasture rather than confined to a coop or run.
Frizzle - Is feathering that curls rather than lays flat The most common example would be the Frizzled or Sizzled Silkies. A few other breeds may display this type of feather curling as well. And some cross breeding has been done with the frizzled silkies and other breeds to introduce the unique feathering.
Fryer - is a young meat-type chicken.
Gizzard - Is a portion of the digestive tract with thick muscular walls that crushes and grinds the food
Grit: The hard, insoluble materials that are fed to birds to provide a grinding material in the gizzard.
Growers: the term is used to describe all fowl, between the end of the brooding stage and the time they reach sexual maturity. (A term also referred to as Growing out)
Hackles - feathers over the back of a chicken which are typically pointed in males and rounded in females unless it is a breed where males are 'hen-feathered".
Hatch - the process by which the chick works it's way out of the egg
Hatchability - Refers to the percentage of fertile eggs that hatch when incubated.
Hen - The adult female fowl including chicken, turkey, duck, pigeon, pheasant, grouse, etc.
Hen feathered- is a term used for some breeds of chickens where the male has rounded feathers (rather than pointed) like those of a female
Hock - Is the 'knee' joint of a bird
Hybrid - offspring from parents of different breeds (also referred to as crossbred); An example of a Hybrid would be 'Freedom Rangers" or Production Red birds.This can also refer to the artificial crossing of two different varieties in an attempt to perfect the parent stock. Hybrids in the plant world have been with us since the 1800s. Hybridizing chickens has been used since the early 1900s
Incubate - to produce the required conditions (heat and humidity) to eggs to allow the embryos to develop and for chicks to hatch out. This term is used for incubator appliances and for a broody hen when she is sitting on the eggs.
Incubation: Is the process of having hatching eggs in a controlled environment. Temperature and humidity are controlled from day 1 through the completion of the hatch.
Incubation period - the time it takes for an egg to hatch once incubation starts; also refers to the time from exposure to a disease or illness causing virus or bacteria to the time when the first symptoms of that disease or illness appears.
Incubator - a device specifically designed to incubate eggs. Early incubators operated by kerosene prior to electrical devices.
Juvenile: Is male or female chick to the age of 6 months.
Lacing - The border of contrast color around the entire edge of a feather. Each feather will have a contrasting border. Example are the Gold Laced and Silver Laced Wyandottes.
Lash Eggs-A mass laid by a hen that is typically caused by infection of the reproductive system. See Salpingitis
Landrace- is a breed of chickens that is little known out of their region of origin. They live off the land and breed by natural selection rather than human intervention. We have several rare landrace breeds. Altsterier, Swedish Flower Hens, Icelandics, Basque and Blue Breda. All from different regions of the world.
Litter - Is the material spread on the floor of a coop or brooder to absorb moisture and manure (This is also referred to as bedding)
Lockdown: When the egg turners are turned off and you no longer manually turn the eggs. This is day 18 for chicks. A broody hen will not turn the eggs from that day on through hatch, and stays virtually still the last 3 or so days until the chicklets hatch. In lock down, you remove eggs from the egg turner, lay on their sides so the chick can make final preparations for hatch, chicks eat the yoke sac, turn into position, etc. the last 3 days prior to hatch. At this point, increase humidity and then lock down, but lock down means you do NOT touch the incubator again until they start to hatch, you "lock" the incubator
Lopped comb - a comb that tends to fall to one side. Because of the large single comb, Leghorns will often have a *lopped comb*
Membrane - is a thin, soft, pliable layer between the egg shell and the yolk or chick
Molt (Moult) - a part of the hen's reproductive cycle when she stops laying and loses her body feathers. Moult: the process whereby the bird sheds it’s feathers and ceases egg production. It is usually initiated by hormonal influences but is often triggered by stress.Molting: A mature hen goes through an annual cycle, where she stops laying and will loose her feathers. This is also a rest period for the hens. Some breeds will become quite featherless, while others may lose some feathers showing bare areas. A molt time can be several weeks and can happen at any time of the year but is typically in summer or fall.
Muff - fluffy feathers on the face of chickens, such as the Salmon Faverolles and Ameraucana chickens (tufts are feathers that protrude from the face, Araucana is an example)
Natural Selection- A term used to describe a method of random breeding without human intervention.
Necropsy-Similar to an autopsy, a vet or lab tests fowl and other animals for cause of death and to determine illness and disease. Any time a chicken dies of no known cause a necropsy should be performed to determine cause of death, in order to protect your other birds from contracting a possible disease or illness.
Nest Egg - This is an artificial egg placed in a nest to encourage hens to lay there. The nest egg may be ceramic, wood or even plastic. Some have used golf balls as nest eggs.
Oviduct-This is a tube the egg passes through for completion of the egg laying process.
Pasting/Pasty Butt - are loose droppings that stick to the feathers around the vent area. This must be cleaned off or the chick or chicken could die. A warm bath will make the process of cleaning easier. For chickens with a lot of feathering in this area such as Orpingtons, you can trim those feathers to prevent a repeat episode. This is a common ailment in shipped chicks. The main cause in the case of shipped chicks is stress. Plain yogurt with live bacteria will help with this, or add Pure Apple cider vinegar to their water. 1 Tablespoon to a gallon of water.
Peep - is a term used by many for a chick. Or in my case I use the term *chicklet*. It can also refer to the sound a chick makes.
Pecking order: Is the social order or ranking of a flock of chickens. The pecking order is very serious ordering of each chicken. This can definitely affect integration of new birds into a flock and some may not be accepted, or are bullied beyond ability to stay with the flock. Always monitor the integration of new birds to make sure the bullying is not carried too far or the new bird can and will be injured.
Pip/Pipped/Pipping: A chick uses it's egg tooth to poke a hole in the egg shell (at approximately the 21st day) through which it breathes while working its way out of the shell. This is called pipping.
Pellets - a type of feed or formulation of food that is compressed into bite-sized pieces.
Perch - is a place where chickens can get off the ground to sleep. However they may use the roosts in cold weather as well, whether that is night or day. (This is also called a roost). A perch can be limbs, dowels, or thin boards that are above the ground. Chickens like to roost on the highest perch, so when installing perches, allow enough head room for the highest rung.
Poultry - Is a term used for domestic fowl that are raised for meat, eggs, feathers, pets and for exhibition.
Preen gland - an oil sack on the back and near the base of the tail of birds providing oil used in preening (also called the oil or uropygial gland)
Preening - to straighten and clean feathers, typically with oil. All Avians/Poultry preen.
Prolapse - Is when there is vent damage, which is most often caused by a hen laying a very large egg (also referred to as a blowout). This will require medical intervention to prevent infection and possible death. This may be a chronic issue and the hen may need to be culled.
Pullet - is a young immature female chicken.a pullet is a female that has not had her first molt, once she has the first molt, she is no longer a pullet but a hen.
Purebred - Refers to the offspring from a hen and rooster of the same *pure* breed
Quarantine: We highly recommend quarantine of any new birds brought in to an existing flock. It does not matter where the birds come from, whether a hatchery, neighbor, respected breeder, or poultry swap meet. Chickens and poultry in general carry many diseases that can and will run rampant through an otherwise healthy flock if an ill or diseased bird is introduced without quarantine. We recommend no less than two weeks and advise up to a month quarantine, to be assured the new bird (s) are healthy and allow them time to adjust to the pathogens in your environment. It takes up to 14 days for illnesses/diseases to manifest from day of exposure. Do NOT risk your flock by omitting the quarantine step. We hear way too many stories of people not quarantining and they have introduced pathogens that not only have killed their birds, but has also permeated the soil that is difficult at best to get under control.
Respiratory Illness: These are very common in chickens. If caught early, you can treat and they will usually get over the illness. Watch for Lethargy, sneezing, runny nose, wheezing and/or runny eyes.
Roaster - Is a meat-type chicken that is raised to a size that makes them suitable for roasting
Roost - a place where chickens can get off the ground for sleeping or resting. (also referred to as a perch)
Rooster - Is the adult male chicken (They are also referred to as a cock)
Rumpless - Is the trait in some chicken breeds where they have no tail. Araucana is an example of this trait.
Saddle - Is the part of a Roosters back just before the tail
Salpingitis & Lash Eggs- This is a small to fairly large mass consisting of shell, yolk and internal sluffing, that may be laid by a hen, caused by an infection in the reproductive system. If caught early this can be treated with anti-biotics. Unfortunately by the time a problem is diagnosed it is too late to prevent the spread of the infection and the hen will either die or need to be euthanized.
Scales - Are small, hard, overlapping plates that cover a chicken's shanks and toes. This can also refer to a parasite, Such as "scale mites".
Scratch: Is a mixture of various grains. Commercial scratch usually consists of cracked corn, wheat and oats. The protein content of most scratch grains is approximately 9 to 10 percent. (This term also refers to chickens as they forage for food by *scratching* with their feet to dig up worms, bugs and seeds.)
Sexed chicks - day-old chicks that are sorted into groups of male and female chicks
Sex-linked - Are two breeds crossed to produce chicks that are easy to sex at hatch. A sex link example is Golden Comet and Black Star or Black links.
Shrink Wrapped: When the membrane in the shell becomes too dry and sticks to the chick, sometimes making it impossible for the chick to move or complete the hatching process. Intervention may be necessary if a chick is so tightly enclosed in the membrane that it cannot move or complete the hatching process.
Spent (as in a spent hen) - a hen that is no longer productively laying eggs. We call this *henopause*. This can also refer to a rooster that has reached his prime and is sporadically fertile or is no longer fertile.
Splayed legs - the legs are positioned such that the bird is unable to stand up (also called 'spraddle legs'). This often happens because of a slick surface in the incubator or in the brooder. To prevent this, put down a bedding material, or non stick surface during hatching and brooding. Paper towel, Newspaper or RV shelf lining will work to protect the chicks from slipping. Some cases of Splayed legs can be splinted until the chicks legs are strong enough to get around on its own. In severe cases, the chick may need to be culled.
Spur - is the sharp bony protrusion extending from the back of a bird's shank (typically larger in males than in females). Some Roosters develop a very long and wicked spur. This spur is for self -defense, however an aggressive rooster may use those spurs on their care-taker. If this happens, that rooster should be removed and either re-homed or readied for the next stew pot. Aggression should never be tolerated for your own safety and the safety of others that may be near the coop. Never allow a rooster to have the upper hand. The spur can be kept trimmed or it can be removed, however be aware when the spur is removed that rooster is defenseless and unable to protect his flock.
Started Pullets - This refers to a female chicken 15-22 weeks old, that has not reached the point of lay. These are past the juvenile stage, but not yet hens of laying age.
Straight-run (chicks) - are day-old chicks that have not been sorted by sex (also called unsexed). These are typically cheaper than sexed chicks. It takes a trained individual to sex chicks, so hatcheries often offer Straight run chicks rather than pay an expert.
Strain - Is a group of birds within a variety of a breed that have been bred by one breeder or company for generations.
Unsexed - Are day-old chicks that have not been sorted by sex (these are also called straight-run chicks)
Variety - subdivision of a breed, according to plumage color, comb type, etc. An example would be the breed of Wyandottes. The varieties would be the gold laced, silver laced, Columbian etc.
Vent - the common outside opening of the cloaca in birds through which the digestive, excretory and reproductive tracts empty (Cloaca: the common external opening for the digestive, urinary and reproductive tracts of the fowl.)
Wattles - the flap of skin under the chin/beak of a chicken or turkey. This is almost always larger in a male than female. Blue Breda have very small wattles in males and nearly non existent in females.
Wind Egg- This term refers to a tiny egg usually laid by a young pullet. The egg will rarely have a yolk. This is nothing to be concerned about. As the pullet continues to lay, her eggs will develop into normal sized eggs for her breed. This may also be witnessed in an aging hen that is reaching the end of her productive years.
Wing clipping - is a procedure where the primary wing feathers of one wing are clipped to prevent flying. Some breeds are very adept at flying. For their protection and to keep them confined to your own property, wing clipping may be necessary. Leghorns are a good example of birds apt to fly. Heavier birds such as Orpingtons and Brahmas do not tend to fly.
Yolk sac - Is the membrane that surrounds the yolk in the incubating egg. The Chick eats this yolk which is why they do not need a food supply and can be shipped long distance without food for 3 days.
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