A complete list of all the terms you neeed to know to start raising chickens.
More pictures coming soon!
The below list of terms is in alphabetical order.
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After lay call (see also Egg Song)
A series of calls a hen may make after she lays an egg.
American Poultry Association (APA)
The oldest livestock organization in North America with the mission to promote and protect the standard-bred poultry industry in part by publishing the American Standard of Perfection with breed and variety descriptions of all recognized/APA-approved purebred fowl.
Apron (AKA Hen Saddles)
Light added to a coop (usually during winter) meant to simulate longer days to stimulate egg laying.
Bedding (AKA Litter)
Before Lay Call (see also Egg Song)
Slang for a laying hen older than one year.
Bill Out/Beaking Out
Measures taken to prevent introduction and/or spread of harmful organisms (viruses, bacteria, bugs, etc.) to your flock. Efforts include washing your hands before and after handling your chickens, washing hands after handling eggs and other chicken items, separate “coop shoes,” raising food and water off the ground, enclosed runs, frequently cleaning and disinfecting the coop and all coop related items, properly introducing pullets/new chickens to your flock and farm (quarantining new flock members for two weeks) and paying attention to local news for outbreaks of avian diseases.
Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSL)
Bloom (AKA Cuticle)
A specific group of chickens with the same or similar appearance, behavior and characteristics that distinguish it from other chickens. Usually controlled by selective breeding.
A housing unit for raising baby chicks (until about three-four months old) which includes a heat source, water, food, bedding, and excludes drafts.
The action of a broody hen sitting and incubating eggs.
A hormone-induced behavior of a hen to sit on and incubate eggs. Hens typically do not eat or drink much in this state. This state will typically last for about 21 days if the behavior is not broken.
A wire-bottomed cage placed in a well-lit location, away from the chicken coop intended to interrupt a hen’s hormone-induced broody state for the benefit of her health and the welfare of the rest of the flock.
A bacterial infection in a chicken’s foot, usually in the pad or toes, characterized by swelling and redness, usually identifiable by a black or brown scab (aka corn) on the bottom of the foot. It can appear on toes but is most common to the pad of the foot. The infection is usually caused by Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli and Pseudomonas.
A mineral that chickens use to make eggshells. You must source an extra supply of available calcium for hens’ consumption, typically oyster shells or crushed up eggshells.
The act of holding a flashlight against an incubated eggs’ shell to see the contents inside. Typically, candling is performed on an egg before incubation to look for cracks that could allow bacteria into the egg, and after day 3 of incubation to check on chick development.
Photo credit to @dahliachicken on Instagram.
Ceca (Singular Cecum)
Two pouchlike places in a chicken’s small intestine filled with bacteria that help digest particularly woody, fibrous, or tough bits of food ingested by a chicken through fermentation. A great explanation of the ceca can be found here.
Soft, brown, usually very runny droppings with a strong odor from when a chicken empties its ceca. This type of poop is normal from a chicken and should occur daily.
A newly hatched chicken. Chickens are considered to be a “chick” until about 20 weeks old.
Feed for chickens up to 6 weeks old with a high protein content (between 20-24%) which helps chicks grow strong. It is important to phase out this feed after six weeks to prevent liver damage from excess protein.
A fenced, outdoor enclosure for chickens, usually attached to the chicken coop. Other common names include “pen,” “run,” and “yard.”
The area inside the vent through which digestive and reproductive tracts empty.
A group of eggs in a nest.
A male chicken that is under a year old.
The floppy part on the top of a chicken’s head extending down to its beak. Typically, combs are larger on roosters and can come in a variety of shapes and colors, largely dependent on bread. If a comb is paler than normal, it can indicate dehydration or sickness.
Part of chicken anatomy; a small pouch located on the lower right of the chicken’s breast (you can feel a bulge when full). First stop after the esophagus, food is stored and soaked in the crop before being further digested.
A cloth that hangs over the chicken’s vent to catch droppings. Diapers are good for house chickens but should be changed every 3-4 hours.
Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
Food grade DE is a chalk-like powder made of fossilized diatoms (single-celled alga with a cell wall made of silica, found in freshwater lakes and riverbeds). The powder acts as a mechanical insecticide (when dry) with microscopic razor-sharp edges that slice and dehydrate insects’ bodies. Only use if necessary to treat an illness (such as poultry lice), since regular exposure to DE is a health hazard to chickens (silica particles adhere to and scar lung tissue when inhaled). Safer alternatives to DE exist, such as First Saturday Lime and Sevin powder for treating poultry lice.
Drinker (AKA Waterer)
A container chickens drink water from.
A shelf/board/tarp or some other mechanism to catch and collect chicken droppings produced overnight for easy, next-day removal.
Chicken poop, typically made of solid digestive waste, water, and liquid waste.
Chickens do not take water baths commonly, but instead take baths in dust. They coat their feathers and skin in dirt to absorb extra moisture and soil, creating a hostile environment for bugs and parasites. Safe insecticide (such as First Saturday Lime) can be added to dust baths (usually holes in the ground chickens make themselves) to prevent mite, lice, and other bug infections.
Feathers that grow from a flap of skin just below the earlobe of some Araucana chickens. Caused by a mutation in the autosomal—not sex-linked—dominate gene. Two copies of this gene are lethal to chickens.
Egg Binding/Egg Bound
When an egg is stuck in a hen’s reproductive tract. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY. If your hen has not laid an egg or is having trouble laying, has a decreased appetite, is not drinking water, has a pale comb and is seen with her tail down, try feeling for an egg externally by feeling her lower abdomen (between her legs and up towards the vent) for an egg. Take your chicken to the vet immediately if you think she is eggbound as this can kill a chicken.
Found at the tip of a chick’s beak; the egg tooth is a hard, tooth-like structure used by a chick to break through its eggshell when hatching.
A homestead with the focus on growing and selling items popular at market, rather than just feeding the members of the homestead. The farmstead is considered the buildings and adjacent service areas of a farm.
A bird of the order Galliformes that is kept for its eggs and meat. Can include chickens, ducks, turkeys, pheasants and more.
A trait (genetically determined) in multiple breeds where feathers curls backward and away from a chicken’s body.
Small, hard materials (sand, small pebbles, or oyster shells are common) ingested by a chicken to help break down food in the gizzard.
Feed for chickens between 6 and 20 weeks old. Has a protein content around 16-18% but has less calcium than a layer feed to try and dissuade early egg laying.
The home and adjoining land occupied by a family.
A vernacular term for a lifestyle of self-sufficiency characterized by growing and preserving your own food, and small-scale crafting to sustain a household.
The act of filing a chicken’s own beak by wiping it on hard objects to maintain its shape and length.
A blockage inside the crop preventing food from traveling from the crop to the gizzard for further digestion. Usually caused by something long and stringy (grass, long strands of lettuce, hay, baling twine, etc.) which caused other food to become trapped. This is a serious condition and must be handled immediately.
The process of naturally hatching eggs under a chicken or with an incubator.
A young male or female bird.
The part of a chicken’s breastbone where the muscles attach. This can be felt by reaching your hand under your chicken (so do not be alarmed when collecting eggs!).
Feed for chickens 20 weeks and older. Contains a similar protein content to grower feed (16-20%) but a higher calcium and mineral content than chick starter and grower feed to support egg production. Should not be fed to chickens before 20 weeks or before their first egg, since early egg production can lead to health problems.
Little six-legged bugs that lay eggs on the feather shafts and infest chickens. These insects do not infest dogs and humans but stick to birds. Chickens may stop laying in their presence. Signs your chickens have poultry lice include pale combs and poop sticking to their feathers below the vent (stuck on egg-sacks). You can see the lice and eggs with your naked eye. Eggs will be attached to the base of the feather.
The regular shedding and growth of new feathers. Typically happens on a large scale in the fall after a chicken is a year old. Hens may stop laying to devote protein to feather production. It is a good idea to increase protein intake while a chicken is molting.
Short feathers on the sides of a chicken’s face. Muffs are often confused with ear tufts of Araucanas.
Nest Box Curtains
Material covering a nest box (like curtains) to give a laying or broody hen privacy. This discourages egg-eating and vent-picking.
Where chickens lay their eggs.
A water delivery system to chickens where instead of drinking from a troth/container, the chickens drink from a metal tube containing a ball bearing which releases water when pecked at. Although it requires a learning curve, the advantage to this kind of waterer is chickens do not contaminate water with droppings or litter.
Crushed up and fed to chickens as supplementary calcium to create eggshells. Chickens will eat this themselves if you just provide access to it.
Protruding flap of skin just below a chicken’s ear. Ear tuffs (a group of feathers) are found here on Ameraucana chickens.
Birds raised commercially or domestically for meat, eggs, and feathers. Includes chickens, ducks, turkeys, guinea fowl, geese, and more.
A chicken’s way of grooming themselves. This is usually a group activity, so chickens can be seen huddled in groups grooming themselves or each other. They pinch the preening gland, located at the base of their tail, which releases oil they then use to coat their feathers, making them water resistant. Feathers keep chickens insulated and dry when they are upkept, so chickens need to keep their feathers in good shape.
Preening Gland (AKA Uropygial Gland)
A gland located at the base of the chicken’s tail, in front of their tail feathers that secretes a thick, transparent oil when a chicken pinches it with their beak the bird then applies to its feathers through an act called preening.
A female chicken under a year old. Usually describes the period between when a female hen has molted into her adult feathers, but before she starts laying, typically between 15 and 22 weeks old.
A chicken trait that describes the absence of a tail bone and tail. Araucanas are a rumples breed.
Noun: Miscellaneous grains and seeds used as a treat for your flock. This is not the same as chicken feed. Scratch can give you flock a burst of energy and keep them warm in winter months as well as lets them utilize their scratching behavior when thrown on the ground in dirt or grass.
Verb: The action of a chicken using their feet to claw at the ground to look for food, such as worms and seeds.
Chicks that have been sorted by gender by anatomical examination within 24 hours after hatching. This is about 90% accurate within the first day (it is difficult to tell sex until chickens are older).
The process of identifying a chicken’s gender. There are many ways to do this but it is extremely difficult to be accurate after the first day after hatch until the chicken matures and shows developmental signs of gender.
The bottom part of a chicken’s leg, above the foot.
The pair of long, curving feathers on a full-grown rooster’s tail.
A yeast infection of the crop caused by Candida albicans.
Generally the way roosters approach a hen with whom they want to mate; a tall, proud gait.
The posture a mature hen takes when approached by a rooster or when approached by a person with their hand extended. She crouches down and spreads her wings to balance and lowers her tail for the rooster to “tread” her.
An abnormal behavior in chickens where one chicken will peck at another chicken’s vent, causing damage to the surrounding skin and underlying tissue. If your chicken is being picked on, isolate them, treat with an antibacterial spray or Blue-Kote and let them heal. Typically, with vent injuries you want to interrupt the hen’s egg laying cycle as not to worsen the vent’s condition. To do this, keep your chicken in a dark room for a couple days (bathrooms work great). To prevent vent pecking or other negative pecking behaviors, make sure your chickens are not crowded, have lots of enrichment activities to keep them busy, and remove hens from the flock with irritation or injury to the vent until they have healed.
The opening to the cloaca form which droppings and eggs emerge. Located under the chicken’s tail.
Red flaps of skin located under a chicken’s beak and chin.
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