Chicken Raising Glossary

by Jennifer Behm – Chicken farmer| Last Updated   17 December 2020

Air Cell:     The empty space between the egg white and shell at the broad end of an egg.

Albumen:  The white of an egg, consisting of outer thin, firm, inner thin and chalaziferous layers.

Alektorophobia: Fear of chickens.

American Standard of Perfection. A book published by the American Poultry Association describing each breed recognized by that organization.

Aspergillosis: A fungal infectious disease, caused by Aspergillus fumigatus, in which the typical sign is gasping for breath, especially in young chicks.

Avian encephalomyelitis (AE):  This is primarily a viral infection of  young poultry in particular chickens, turkey and pheasants.

Autosexing: When pure bred day old chicks can be sexed by their different appearances when they have hatched. This is a characteristic that is highly desirable so that chicks can be raised as guaranteed pullets, keeping food costs down. There are a number of birds (these are pure bred birds) that will autosex, the Cream Legbar is an example.


Bantam. A miniature chicken, about one-fourth to one-half the size of a regular-sized chicken.

Bantam standard. A book published by the American Bantam Association describing each of the bantam breeds recognized by that organization.

Banty. (plural, banties) Affectionate word for bantam.

Barnyard chicken: A chicken of mixed breed.

Beak. The hard, protruding portion of a bird’s mouth, consisting of an upper beak and a lower beak.

Beard. The feathers (always found in association with a muff) bunched under the beaks of such breeds as Ameraucana, Faverolle, and Houdan.

Bedding. Straw, wood shavings, shredded paper, or anything else scattered on the floor of a chicken coop to absorb moisture and manure.

Biddy. Affectionate word for a hen.

Billing out. Use of the beak to scoop feed out of a feeder onto the floor.

Bleaching. The fading of colour from the beak, shanks, and vent of a yellow-skinned laying hen.

Bloom.  a) The moist, protective coating on a freshly laid egg that dries almost immidiately. b) The peak condition in an exhibition bird.

Blowout. Vent damage caused by laying an oversize egg.

Booted. Having feathers on the shanks and toes.

Break up. To discourage a hen from setting.

Breed. a) A group of chickens with similar characteristics and different from other groups. b) Pairing a rooster and hen for the purpose of obtaining fertile eggs.

Breeders. a)  Mature chickens from which fertile eggs are collected. b) A person who manages chickens.

Breed true. The characteristic of purebred chicks whereby they resemble both parents.

Broiler; broiler bird: Any chicken of a breed known or developed for meat; usually with deeper, larger breasts, a larger frame, and fast growth.

Brood. a). To care for a batch of chicks. b). The chicks themselves.

Brooder. A heated enclosure used to imitate the warmth and protection a mother hen gives her chicks.

Broody. A hen that covers eggs to warm and hatch them. Sometimes refers to a hen that stays in the nest for an extended period without producing eggs.

Bumblefoot: A bacterial infection of the feet caused by small cuts and pressure to the foot pads. Also known as plantar pododermatitis.


Candle. To examine the contents of an intact egg with a strong light source.

Candler. A device which uses strong light to examine the contents of the egg.

Cannibalism. The bad habit chickens have of eating each other’s flesh, feathers or eggs.

Cape. The narrow feathers between a chicken’s neck and back.

Capon: A castrated male chicken used for meat.

Chick:  A newly hatched chicken.

Chiggers: A common external parasite of chickens (and humans) that feed on blood while injecting an irritant into the skin.

Clipping:  Cutting of primary flight feathers to prevent flying.

Coccidia: An internal parasite of chickens that lines the digestive tract and may cause serious problems.

Coccidiosis: An infection by Coccidia.

Coccidiostats: A medicine that controls the disease coccidiosis; often added to commercial chicken feed.

Cock. A male chicken; also called a ‘rooster.’

Cockerel: A young male chicken.

Comb. The fleshy, usually red, crown on top of a chicken’s head.

Coop. The house or cage in which a chicken lives.

Crop: a) A pouch at the base of a chicken’s neck that holds food and water before moving it further down the digetive tract. b) To trim a bird’s wattles.

Crumbles: Medium-sized pieces of feed, actually broken-up pellets.


Dead In Shell (DIS): Embryo dies while developing in the shell.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE):  Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is the fossilized remains of microscopic one-celled plants (phytoplankton) called diatoms that lived in the world’s oceans and lakes. Used for controlling internal and external parasites and for keeping coops clean.

Double Yolker:  Egg with two yolks and even if fertilised will not hatch successfully.

Droppings: Chicken manure, pooh or poop.

Dub:  To trim the comb.

Dust Bath: See Dusting

Dusting:  The act of thrashing around in the dirt to clean their feathers and discourage body parasites.


Egg bound: The condition that occurs when a hen has an egg that she can’t pass from the oviduct for some reason.

Egg Drop Syndrome:  Egg drop syndrome (EDS) is caused by hemagglutinating adenovirus infection in laying hens, resulting in shell-less or soft-shell eggs.

Egg tooth. A horny cap on a chick’s upper beak that helps the chick pip through the shell.

Embryo. A fertilized egg at any stage of development prior to hatching.

Enteritis. Inflammation of the intestine.

Eversion. Turned inside out.

Exhibition breeds. Chickens kept and shown for their looks rather than their ability to lay eggs or produce meat.


Feather legged. Having feathers growing down the shanks, e.g  Cochins and Brahmas.

Faecal. Pertaining to feces.

Faeces. Droppings or body waste – chicken manure or “poop”.

Fertile. Capable of producing a chick.

Fertilized. Containing sperm.

Finish. The amount of fat beneath the skin of a meat bird.

Flock. A group of chickens living together.

Forced-air incubator  A mechanical device for hatching fertile eggs that has a fan to circulate warm air.

Fowl. a) Domesticated birds raised for food. b) A stewing hen.

Fowl tick.  An external parasite of chickens, common in the U.S. South, that feed on the chicken’s blood but do not stay attached.

Free range. To allow chickens to roam a yard or pasture at will.

Frizzle. a) Feathers that curl rather than laying flat. b) A breed of chicken.

Fryer. A tender young meat chicken; also see ‘broiler’.


Gapeworm: A common internal parasite of free-range or pastured chickens, usually found in the trachea; may cause serious breathing problems.

Grit: Small rocks or gravel; aids digestion for chickens. Chicken feed supplement, made of crushed limestone and granite, available for purchase in feed stores for chickens requiring extra grit.


Hen: A female chicken more than a year old.

Hybrid: A cross between two chicken breeds, usually created to take advantage of specific qualities such as increased breast meat.

I – J

Impacted Crop:  or Crop Bound is when the crop does not empty and becomes hard and swollen.

Infectious Bronchitis (IB)  Infectious Bronchitis (IB) is an acute highly contagious viral respiratory disease of chickens.

Incubate. To maintain favorable conditions for hatching fertile eggs.


Keel. The breastbone, which resembles the keel of a boat.


Layer: Laying hen: Any chicken of a breed known or developed for laying eggs; will not sit on their own eggs.

Lice: A common external parasite of chickens that feeds on feathers or shedding skin cells.


Mash: Finely ground feed.

Marek’s Disease: A disease from a herpes virus causing paralysis in chickens and turkeys.

Mite: A common external parasite of chickens that burrows into the chicken’s skin and feeds on chicken blood.

Moult:  Loss and renewal of feathers usually annually.

Mycoplasma gallisepticum or M.g: Is a respiratory infection which can affect chickens, turkeys, game birds, pigeons and other wild birds.


Nest egg. A wooden or plastic egg placed in a nest to encourage hens to lay there.

Northern Fowl Mite:  An aggressive form of mite which lives on chickens and other poultry.


Oocysts: Immature Coccidia that are passed in fecal matter. Coccidia is an internal parasite of chickens that lines the digestive tract.

Oviduct.: The tube inside a hen through which an egg travels when it is ready to be laid.


Parasite: Things that feed on a chicken’s blood, other body secretions, or its feathers; may be internal or external.

Pecking order: The social rank of chickens.

Pellets: Long, narrow, cylinder-shaped pieces of compressed feed.

Pendulous Crop: This is where the crop hangs down lower than it should do and often swings ‘like a pendulum’ as the bird moves around, usually due to overfilling.

Plantar pododermatitis: see Bumblefoot.

Pullet: A young female chicken who has not started laying eggs.


Red Mite: A blood sucking mite which feeds on roosing birds at night.

Roost:  (noun) Any above-floor structure provided for a bird to perch on.  (verb) The act of perching on such a structure.

Rooster: A more than a year old male chicken.

Roundworm: A common internal parasite of chickens, usually found in the intestines but occasionally in the oviduct or even an egg.


Saddle: The part of a chicken’s back just before the tail.

Shelter-and-run unit: A form of chicken housing that combines an indoor, protected area with an outside enclosure.

Sour Crop:  Sour crop is caused when the crop doesn’t empty properly and as a result the food inside ferments within the crop causing a fungal infection

Styptic:  Blood-stopping.


Tapeworm: A common internal parasite of chickens, usually found in the intestines and usually considered harmless.


Vent; vent area:  The common opening for eggs and faeces in chickens.


Wattles: The two red or purplish flaps of flesh that dangle under a chicken’s chin.

Whiskers:  Muffs.

Worms:  A range of common parasites to be found internally in chickens

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