Air Cell. The empty space between the white and shell at the large end of the egg.
Albumen. Also known as egg white. Albumen accounts for most of an egg’s liquid weight, about 67%. It contains more than half the egg’s total protein, niacin, riboflavin, chlorine, magnesium, potassium, sodium and sulfur.
Blood spots. Also called meat spots. Occasionally found on an egg yolk. Contrary to popular opinion, these tiny spots do not indicate a fertilized egg. Rather, they are caused by the rupture of a blood vessel on the yolk surface during formation of the egg or by a similar accident in the wall of the oviduct. Less than 1% of all eggs produced have blood spots.
Bloom. The moist, protective coating on a freshly laid egg that dries so fast you rarely see it.
Broiler. A young, tender meat chicken; also called a “fryer.”
Brood. 1. To care for a batch of chicks. 2. 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.
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.
Cape. The narrow feathers between a chicken’s neck and back.
Chalazae. Two white cords on each side of a yolk that keep the yolk properly positioned within the egg white; singular: chalaza.
Clutch. 1. A batch of eggs that are hatched together, either in a nest or in an incubator (from the Old Norse word “klekja,” meaning to hatch), also called a “setting”. 2. All the eggs laid by a hen on consecutive days, before she skips a day and starts a new laying cycle.
Cock. A male chicken; also called a “rooster.”
Cockerel. A male chicken under 1 year old.
Comb. The fleshy, usually red, crown on top of a chicken’s head.
Coop. The house or cage in which a chicken lives.
Crest. A puff of feathers on the heads of breeds such, as Houdan, Silkie, or Polish; also called a “topknot.”
Crop. 1. A pouch at the base of a chicken’s neck that bulges after the bird has eaten.
Cull. To kill a non-productive or diseased chicken from a flock.
Debeak. To remove a portion of a bird’s top beak to prevent cannibalism in a factory setting.
Down. The soft, fur-like fluff covering a newly hatched chick; also, the fluffy part near the bottom of any feather.
Dustbathing. Thrashing around in the dirt to clean their feathers and prevent parasites.
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.
Flock. A group of chickens living together.
Free range. To allow chickens to roam a yard or pasture at will.
Hackles. A rooster’s cape feathers.
Hatch. 1. The process by which a chick comes out of the egg. 2. A group of chicks that come out of their shells at roughly the same time.
Hatchability. Percentage of fertilized eggs that hatch under incubation.
Molt (Moult). Annual process of feather loss and re-growth.
Muff. The feathers (always found in association with a beard) sticking out from both sides of the face, under the beak, of such breeds as Ameraucana, Faverolle, and Houdan; also called “whiskers.”
Oviduct. The tube inside a hen through which an egg travels when it is ready to be laid.
Pecking order. The social rank of chickens.
Pip. 1. The hole a newly formed chick makes in its shell when it is ready to hatch. 2. The act of making the hole.
Plumage. The total set of feathers covering a chicken.
Pullet. A female chicken under 1 year old.
Roost. The place where chickens spend the night; the act of resting on a roost; also called “perch.”
Rooster. A male chicken; also called a “cock.”
Saddle. The part of a chicken’s back just before the tail.
Scales. The small, hard, overlapping plates covering a chicken’s shanks and toes.
Scratch. 1. The habit chickens have of scraping their claws against the ground to dig up tasty things to eat. 2. Any grain fed to chickens.
Set. To keep eggs warm so they will hatch; also called “brood.”
Sexed. Newly hatched chicks that have been sorted into pullets and cockerels.
Shank. The part of a chicken’s leg between the claw and the first joint.
Sickles. The long, curved tail feathers of some roosters.
Spurs. The sharp pointed protrusions on a rooster’s shanks, i.e. what Colonel Sanders used to draw blood on visitors to the coop.
Straight run. Newly hatched chicks that have not been sexed; also called “unsexed” or “as hatched.” (Though by all accounts, these usually seem to have a few extra cockerels.)
Vent. The outside opening of the cloaca, through which a chicken emits eggs and droppings from separate channels.
Wattles. The two red or purplish flaps of flesh that dangle under a chicken’s chin.