Updated: Jun 9, 2020
If you are new to the hobby of raising chickens, chances are you may have encountered a few vocabulary words you either don't recognize or words familiar to you having dual meaning in other facets of life. At Happy Hen Haven we believe in educating and supporting fellow chicken lovers. We are going to list the top 10 chicken vocabulary words we feel will be most helpful to newbies in the world of backyard chicken hobbyists. If all of you seasoned enthusiasts have some words you feel we left out feel free drop us a note in the comments. We plan to do a series of vocabulary blogs in the future to continually help educate. As always please do share our blogs throughout all of your social media platforms.
So, without further ado our top 10!
Broody - a hen's natural instinct to sit on and incubate eggs. Often times hen's will even sit on other chickens eggs. It's usually quite obvious when you have a broody hen. She will seclude herself from the other flock, and go extended periods of time without eating or drinking. It's also not recommended you interfere with a broody hen, she will likely defend her eggs with an unmatched fervor. Often times pecking or biting at anyone who dares come close.
Pip - pipping is one of the most exciting events as a chicken owner, particularly when hatching or incubating eggs. Pipping is the early stages of an unborn chick beginning to chip away at and emerge from her shell.
Zip - the zip is what happens when the baby chick has chipped and worked around the circumference of it's shell. Once the zip has occurred the chicken can fully begin to emerge from her shell.
Cockerel & Roo - a cockerel is a young rooster who's hormones haven't yet kicked in. A cockerel will often be hard to decipher from a hen for the first couple months. A roo, short for rooster is a mature male chicken. A male chicken entering adulthood will first start to crow, and shortly after begin attempting to mate with hens. Roosters following a very strict strong pecking order. It's important to keep a low rooster count in comparison to your hens. We recommend at the very least having eight hens for every rooster. It's been our experience even this is a low number, as roosters can often times be mean to humans and other chickens of there is too much aggression within the flock. It is especially important to be mindful of this if you have young children. Roosters can see toddlers and young children as a threat and can attack. We've even experienced roosters attacking adults. An angst rooster has no bounds for who or what it may be aggressive towards.
Pullet & Hen - a pullet is a young female chicken, often considered to be less than one year old. A hen is a mature female chicken of laying age. When purchasing baby chickens if you see "pullets" these are determined by the hatcheries to be "sexted" in other words, the female have all been separated from the males for resale. All though this has often proved itself to not be foolproof. We have on multiple occasions bought pullets from hatcheries only months later to find we had a rooster in the bunch. Many independent breeders have return policies on roosters allowing you to bring them back if they grow out to be a rooster. Some cities have ordinances against owning roosters. Some even have ordinances against owning chickens all together. We do not support these cities of course. :)
Straight Run - straight run is the term hatcheries and farm supply stores use for a batch of chickens whom haven't been sexted. If you are purchasing chickens for pets and you already have roosters, you may want to think twice about purchasing from a straight run batch. We would equate it to playing the lottery or slot machines. It's failure by design. You may get lucky occasionally but chances are you will end up with a rooster, or in the world of gambling, a big fat zero.
Vent - The vent is the opening in which the chicken expels waste and also the canal in which hens lay eggs. The reproductive organs are inside the vent. Vent sexting is how hatcheries determine the sex of a chicken prior to releasing them to customers and distributors. If you are planning to hatch your own flock we do not recommend attempting to vent sext your chicks. If the process is not done with cautionary perfection it can be deadly to the chicks. It is for this reason we have made the choice not to ever attempt to vent sext our hatches.
Molt - Molting is the process in which all chickens will go through. Baby chicks will go through an initial molt at 20-22 weeks. Chickens will then typically molt two times a year. Once in the spring and the fall. Their molt frequency can depend on several factors, primarily the amount of light they are exposed to. Our birds are uncaged during the day so they see lots of natural light, subsequently going through two natural molts each year.
Hackle Feathers - The hackles are the feathers around the neck of chickens. On roosters the hackles tend to be longer and thin and often more iridescent or colorful. When roosters face off or attempt to ward off a threat they will poof up their hackles.
Saddle Feathers - The saddle feathers are the feathers in front of the tail. Roosters and hens both have saddle feathers. On roosters the saddle feathers tend to be softer, longer and more pointy.
Clutch of Eggs - A clutch is a group of eggs on which hens will sit. If you have a broody hen, she will sit on about any egg. The hens will gather up eggs when they are broody and sit on them until they hatch. Many chicken lines have had the broodiness bred out of them. So you may notice your chickens laying eggs and walking away from them. We have a mixed flock so we have some hens who lay and leave and some who will lay eggs and not leave.
Bantam - The term Bantam has dual meaning. A true Bantam is a naturally small chickens with no larger counterpart. With the advent of designer breeding the term Bantam has taken on an additional meaning. A bantam chicken is essentially a miniature breed of a larger chicken. Most breeds have Bantams counterparts. Bantams are 1/5 to 1/4 the size of their larger origins. Our mixed flock consists largely of Bamtam Silkies.