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Glossary of Poultry Terms

This Glossary of Terms is meant to help our customers understand some of the terminology we use in our descriptions of our various breeds of poultry as well as terminology commonly used in the farming community. Learning some of the basic terminology can be beneficial and fun for beginners and backyard poultry enthusiasts who want to get a basic grasp on general poultry terminology as well as a better understanding of their particular breeds.

American Poultry Association (APA): The APA is in charge of setting the standard for pure bred poultry in the United States, and they are in charge of maintaining the publication of the American Standard of Perfection, outlining certain breed specification for the standard of exhibition poultry. We often refer to the year that a particular breed was accepted or admitted to the "Standard of Perfections", informing customers as to how long this breed has been recognized as a standard breed of poultry in the United States. The American Poultry Association is an extremely strong advocate for expanding the knowledge of poultry among breeders and the general public, as well as encouraging the raising and showing of poultry among youths throughout our country.


American Standard of Perfection: A book published by the American Poultry Association that closely outlines the standard of recognized breeds in the United States.


Bantam: Chicken or duck breeds that are distinguished by their exceptionally small size. Bantam Chickens are usually about 1/4 the size of a large medium or heavy breed. Many bantam chickens have full size counterparts, like the Cochin Bantam Chickens, but some are uniquely bantam. See the Sebright Chickens. Bantam ducks include the popular Call Ducks, Black East India Ducks, and variations of the Mallard Duck.


Banty or Banties: Another name for a bantam chicken(s).


Beak: The hard and pointed protrusion composing the mouth and the nose of the chicken.


Beard: The group of feathers bunched below a birds beak. See Ameraucana Chicken. The beard is usually also found in association with the muff.


Bedding: We use this term to describe the materials spread along the floor of a chicken coop or brooding area for young ducks or chicks. Typical bedding will include: straw, hay, alfalfa grass, wood chips or shavings, etc.


Biddy: An affectionate or slang word for a hen.


Booted: A term used to describe chicken breeds that have feathers on both the shanks and toes. See Mille Fluer D"Uccle Bantam Chicken.


Breed: A group of species with specific characteristics that distinguish them from other groups within that species. Pure breeds are breeds that will reproduce with others of their own kind will also produce pure breeds of that given species. Hybrids are non-standard poultry formed by cross breeding to produce animals with certain desired attributes. Within many breeds of chicken, there are different color varieties that set them apart from others of the same breed. See Gold Laced Wyandotte Chicken and Silver Laced Wyandotte Chickens.


Broiler: A young chicken that is usually less than 12 weeks of age and has been bred specifically for meat production. Also called a Fryer, see Black and Red Broilers. The Jumbo Cornish Cross is the most popular form of broiler chicken and is used for most commercial meat production in the United States.


Brood: to care for a batch of baby chicks, or a name for the actual chicks themselves.


Brooder: a heated enclosure that is used to emulate the warmth that a mother hen will give her baby chicks. We often refer to a brooding area as the enclosure you will use when raising your chicks for the first 4-6 weeks. The brooding area is normally a well bedded area with a heating lamp, food and water.

Candle: To examine the content inside of an intact egg, usually in attempt determine fertilization of the egg.


Cape: The few narrow feathers that fall between the neck and the back of the chicken.


Caruncle: Brightly colored skin growths on the throat area of a turkey that turns bright red during courtship or when it is upset or feels threatened.


Classification: A standard characterization of a chicken breed based on their region of origin. See Asiatic Breeds and North American Breeds


Clean Legged: Having no feathers from the Shanks to the toe.


Cloaca: The chamber just before the vent where the digestive, reproductive, and excretory channels come together.


Clutch: A group of eggs that are hatched together in a nest or in an incubator. Also used to refer to a group of eggs laid by a sole female bird in one laying cycle.


Cock: A male chicken or a rooster.


Cockerel: A male chicken under one year of age.


Comb: The fleshy and usually red outcrop of skin atop the chickens head. The comb, along with the beak and the wattles, help the chicken regulate body temperature helping them cool themselves. There are eight recognized varieties of combs among chickens:
  • Buttercup Comb: This comb is set on the top and middle of the head and looks like a cup-shaped crown with a circle of small and regularly spaced points. See the Sicilian Buttercup Chicken
  • Cushion Comb: A small comb that lies flat on top of the chicken's skull with no discernible pattern. See Chantecler Chickens
  • Pea Comb: A low comb (toward the forehead) with three wavy or "serrated" ridges, the middle point being the tallest of the three. See the Ameraucana Chicken and the Light Brahma Chickens.
  • Rose Comb: With a flat top, this comb is solid and broad set low on the chickens forehead. The shape of the rose comb varies in different breeds, and can sometimes be pointed more upwards than straight back. See the Rose Comb Brown Leghorn or the Silver Laced Wyandotte Chicken.
  • Silkis(Walnut) Comb: This comb is a roundish and lumpy comb that is usually wider than it is tall. These will vary from breed to breed, and some generally like to think of it as a rose comb plus a crest. See the Silkie Chickens.
  • Single Comb: This is the most commonly portrayed and recognized comb in most chicken images and artwork. The Single Comb is thin with a smooth textures, and it has a large base reaching from the base of the beak to the back of the head. The comb points upward is usually defined by five or six deeply serrated points. The male chickens typically have much thicker and larger combs. The combs always stand upright in males and can be upright or lopped over in females. See the Barred Plymouth Rock or the White Leghorn Chicken.
  • Strawberry Comb: A very low set comb hanging over the top of the beak. The shape and surface resemble the skin of a strawberry, and it is wider closer to the beak of the bird.
  • V-Shaped Comb: Made up of two well formed horns that are joined at the base to form a v-shape. This is one of the most unique and interesting of all comb shapes. See the Crevecoeur Chicken and the Gold Laced Polish Chicken.
Coop: A coop is the structure that houses the chickens, and it usually contains one or multiple roosts and nesting boxes for egg laying. Coops can be a wide variety of styles and sizes depending on the flock size and personal preference. We sell both Pre Made Chicken Coops as well as Chicken Coop Plans to help you build your own.


Crest: A large puff of feathers on the top of certain Crested Breeds' heads.


Crossbreed: Offspring of a hen and rooster of a different breed. This can also knows as a Hybrid.


Crusty Butt: A slang term for pasting.


Cygnet: A baby swan


Dewlap: The large flap of skin that hangs down from the neck of certain breeds of geese.


Down: The soft and fur-like feathers that cover a newly hatched duckling or chick. Many adult birds will also have small and soft down feathers on certain parts of the bird, usually near the bottom or under wings.


Dual Purpose: A chicken or duck breed that is recognized to have multiple utility traits such as egg laying, meat production, or foraging abilities.


Dub: The act of cutting of either the comb, wattles, or earlobes of a chicken. Usually, this is done for certain show breeds where it is actually required of that breed.


Dusting: When a chicken rolls around in the dirt, flinging it on themselves and in between their feathers as a method of cleaning the feathers and discouraging parasites.


Embryo: A fertilized egg at any stage before hatching.


Exhibition Breeds: A chicken or duck breed that is bred and raised primarily for showing and ornamental purposes rather than a utility such as egg laying or meat production. Often, most Fancy Breeds fit into the category of Exhibition Breeds.


Feather Legged: These chickens will have feathers on the chickens shanks, but not necessarily the toes. See Feather Footed Chicken Breeds.


Flock: A group of poultry. Generally, most poultry will flock together and forage or graze when left to free range.


Fowl: Domestic birds generally raised for food.


Free Range: A term used to describe birds that are allowed to roam a yard or pasture at will.


Frizzle: A plumage feature where the feathers curl out rather lying flat on the chickens body. Many breeds with these features are bred specifically for them and are called "Frizzles" or "Frizzle Chickens"


Fryer: A tender young meat chicken, usually a breed bred specifically for meat production.


Gamebirds: Several varieties of bird species including Pheasants, Quail, Partridge, or Grouse that have been hunted for food and sport. This term can also be used for various types of wild waterfowl and wild turkeys. These bird can be raised in captivity, but they are not considered domestic poultry and can be released onto their own after a certain number of weeks. For some examples, see Gamebirds,


Gander: A male goose.


Goose: The singular of Geese or a female goose. Geese are large waterfowl, and many have utility traits as sentinels or foraging for pests. Many also provide substantial amounts of quality fowl meat. See Geese.


Gosling: A baby Goose.


Guinea Fowl: A breed of poultry that originated in Africa that is raised for a variety of utilities. They are most commonly raised for their meat as well as pest control, specifically ticks. Their watchfulness and strong territorial instincts make them excellent natural sentinels. They do well when they are allowed to roam wide distances in a flock, and they are only partially domesticated. See Guinea Fowl.


Hackles: The rooster's cape feathers.


Hatchibility: The percentage of fertilized eggs that will hatch under the incubator.


Hen: A female chicken. Adult hens that are currently laying are usually referred to as Laying Hens.


Hybrid: A cross breed that is usually bred with the intended purpose of crossing desirable traits of the parent chickens to produce an offspring with unique characteristics. See Production Red Chicken.


Incubate: Establishing and maintaining hatchable conditions for a fertilized egg.


Incubation Period: The time in which a fertile egg will need to be incubated in order for the egg to hatch. This time varies depending on the type of poultry, and sometimes even the breed of many types of waterfowl.


Keet: A newly hatched Guinea Fowl chick.


Knob: A protrusion from the top of the bill of many different goose varieties.


Large Fowl: "Regular" sized chickens, as opposed to Bantam Chickens, that usually range between 4 and 13 pounds depending on breed and gender. Chickens are usually categorized into Light and Heavy Breeds. Most Light Breeds are going to be White Egg Layers.


Layer or Laying Hen: Refers to a female chicken that has begun laying eggs. See Egg Layer Chicken Breeds


Mate: Pairing a rooster with one or multiple hens, or the act of doing so. Often different types of fowl have different mating habits. Many domestic ducks and chickens will mate with many different females in a flock, but often a gander will only mate with between 1-4 specific geese. Many of the rarer wild adult ducks we sell are sold as "Mated Pairs" because in the wild they are generally monogamous for at least one mating season. Some ducks and geese are monogamous for life, and there are instances where the death of a mate can traumatize the other to the point where nothing can reasonably console them.


Meat Breeds: Usually in reference to a broiler or Fryer, these are breeds that have utility of good meat production as either their main or secondary utility trait.


Molt: When a bird sheds many of its primary feathers and regrows them. Often this leaves many ducks without the ability to fly for several weeks, and the males often lose their colorful feathers that make them stand out during the breeding season.


Muff: Usually associated with a beard, these are the tufts of feathers that stick out from the cheeks of the chickens. See Ameraucana and the Salmon Faverolle Chicken. Muffs are sometimes called "whiskers" and can give the chicken quite an amusing look.


Nest: A place with sufficient bedding that is secluded enough for a hen to feel safe laying and leaving an egg.


Pasting: Loose droppings that stick to the vent area. This can be dangerous for small chicks that cannot sufficiently clean themselves as it can dry and prevent them from being able to excrete feces. This occurs mostly in young chicks that are raised in confined area with many other chicks. It is important to keep an eye out for this condition when raising sufficient numbers of young chicks. We call this condition "crusty butt". If this occurs, be sure to clean the area with warm water to remove the excess feces from its bottom. And don't forget to wash your hands.


Pheasant: A gamebird that comes in many breeds and varieties that originated in many different regions of the world. Often they are raised and hunted for their food and sport (see Ringneck Pheasant), and many breeds of pheasants are raised for ornamental purposes (see Red Golden Pheasants).


Pecking Order: The social ranks within a flock of chickens. This is often determined when the chicks are juvenile and may consist of a few brief "squabbles", until a clear "alpha chick" is decided.


Perch: The elevated place for a chicken to sleep at night, also called a roost.


Plumage: The set of feathers on a bird. You will often see us referring to a bird's "plumage pattern" when describing a particular breed.


Poulty: A baby turkey.


Poultry: Domesticated birds that are raised for either meat, eggs, or pets.


Pullet: A female chicken under one year of age.


Purebred: A chick that comes from a hen and rooster of the same species.


Range Fed: Similar to free range, this describes poultry that are allowed to graze freely.


Roaster: A cockerel or a pullet that is suitable for cooking whole in the oven.


Roost: Same as a perch, this is usually an elevated area where the chickens will sleep at night.


Rooster: A male chicken. Same as a cock.


Saddle: The region on the back of a bird just before the tail. Sometimes Pomeranian Geese are called Saddle-backed geese because of the brown region of feathers that grow on the saddle of an otherwise white goose.


Set: To brood or sit on eggs to keep the warm for hatching.


Setting: The incubation of of the eggs by a hen, also called "sitting".


Sexed: A chick or duckling that has already been sorted according to its gender.




Shank: The part of the chickens leg between the toes and the first (knee) joint.


Sickles: The long and curved tail feathers of some roosters. See the Black Breasted Red Cubalaya Chicken.


Snood: The flap of skin that hangs over the turkey's beak, and similar to the caruncle, turns bright red when angered or during courtship.


Standard: A description of a chicken that fits the ideal characteristics of its breed, as specified by the American Standard of Perfection. This term is sometimes used incorrectly to describe a Large breed as opposed to a bantam variety.


Starter or Starter Feed: Feed for newly born poultry that has a higher protein concentration that normal grower or layer feed for adult chickens. Be sure to always consult your chick supplier or local feed store before purchasing feed for your chicks if you aren't sure exactly what to buy.


Straight Run: Newly hatched chicks that have not been sexed.


Tom: A male Turkey


Turkey: A large game bird that is native to North and South America. There are a few varieties of Wild Turkeys, Commercial Meat Turkeys, as well as domesticated Rare or Heritage Breed Turkeys.


Utility: For our purposes we use the word utility to describe a breed of poultry in terms of its production or value on a farm, such as egg, meat, or pest control.


Variety: A subdivision of a particular breed of poultry, usually differing in plumage pattern.


Vent: The outer opening of the cloaca through which the chicken passes both eggs and excrement (coming from separate channels).
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