A is for Albumen - Decoding Chicken Terms

When you start raising chickens, you are bound to run into terms, abbreviations and phrases that might seem like a foreign language at first. Here is my non-scientific, layman's guide to some of the more common terms and their meanings:

Albumen - The thick, clear, viscous liquid inside an egg, basically the egg white

Apple Cider Vinegar (otherwise known as ACV) - Multipurpose general health elixir, used as an additive to chickens' water [Read more about ACV...]

Bantam - A miniature version of a standard breed, usually 1/4 to 1/2 the size of a standard

Bloom - The natural coating on the outside of an eggshell that provides a barrier and prevents air and bacteria from passing through the pores in the shell

Broody - A hen who's natural instinct to sit on eggs until they hatch and then raise the chicks has kicked in. Although the broody genes have been bred out of most modern breeds, many do still retain that hormonal urge [Read more about broody hens...]

Brooder - The heated box or other container that chicks are kept warm in and raised in before they are old enough to be outside [Read more on brooding chicks...]

Bumblefoot - A bacterial infection similar to a staph infection on the bottom of a hen's foot that is characterized by a black scab, often caused by a small cut or a hard landing off the roost [Read more about bumblefoot...]

Candling - Shining a light on a fertilized egg to determine if the embryo is developing correctly. The term originated from the olden practice of using an actual candle; now flashlights or commercial candlers are used.

Clutch - A collection of eggs that a hen 'hoards' in order to amass enough to start sitting on and ultimately hatching them

Coccidia - An intestinal parasite that infects chickens, causing bloody diarrhea and often death, mainly in young birds

Cockerel - A male chicken, usually less than a year old

Comb - The flexible, usually red, protuberence on top of a chicken's head which in part helps them regulate their body temperature

Coop - Chicken house, hen house; where the chickens spent the night

Crop - Holding area in the esophagus where food is deposited after eating, then ground up and softened before continuing on to the stomach

Diatomaceous Earth (otherwise known as DE) -Ground fossils that can be added to chickens' feed and dust bath area to control parasites [Read more about DE...]

Easter Egger (otherwise known as EE) - Mixed breed Ameraucana or Araucana chickens, who lay a colorful array of egg colors from bluish-green to green, pink to brown or cream, not being purebred blue-egg layers

Egg Bound - The state of a hen who is unable to lay an egg which can be life-threatening if not treated [Read more on egg bound hens...]

Egg tooth - The sharp knob at the tip of a chick's beak that it uses to crack through the eggshell in order to hatch

Frizzle - A chicken with curled or twisted feathers

Grit - Small stones, pebbles, coarse dirt or sand that chickens eat and store in their crop to assist in digesting their food

Hackles - A chicken's neck feathers

Incubate/incubator - To hatch eggs in an artificial environment instead of under a hen [Read about my very first experience hatching eggs in our incubator...]

Keel - The bony ridge along the breast bone

Molt - The annual process chickens go through in which they lose their old feathers and grow new ones in anticipation of the cold winter weather

Nesting Box - A wooden, metal or plastic box, usually in the coop, where hens are encouraged to lay their eggs

Pecking Order - The rigid social order within a flock that dictates hierarchy between each hen. Those higher in the pecking order can peck those below them and have first choice of treats, feed and a spot on the roosting bars. 

Pip - The initial hole a chick breaks in the eggshell as it begins to hatch so it can begin to breathe outside air

Point of Lay (otherwise known as POL) - A pullet of laying age, usually around 20-24 weeks old 

Pullet - Older than a chick, younger than a hen, pullet usually refers to a bird less than a year old

Roost - (n) The pole or branch in the coop where the chickens sleep; (v) the act of sleeping on the pole or branch

Run - Yard or outside area where the chickens spend their days if they aren't free range, normally attached to the coop or built around the coop

Saddle Feathers- A chicken's lower back feathers where the back meets the tail

Scratch - A grain/corn mix, either homemade or commercially mixed, fed as a cold weather treat to keep hens' warm overnight [Read more about scratch...]

Sex-Link/Sexing - Sex link chicks are able to be separated into males and females at birth by their coloring; sexing is the process used to determine the sex of a newly hatched chick

Sickles - A rooster's tail feathers which are longer and more of a plume than a hen's tail feathers

Spurs - Sharp talons on the back of a rooster's legs, mainly used for protection or fighting

Vent - The rear opening through which both excrement and eggs pass, although the egg travels down the oviduct to the vent, while excrement travels down the intestine
Wattles - The two rubbery red protusions under a chicken's beak which help in part to regulate a hen's body temperature

Zip - The crack a hatching chick makes in the blunt end of the egg/eggshell so it can push itself out of the egg

Now you can 'talk chicken' with the best of 'em!  

Are there any other terms you have learned since you began your chicken keeping journey?

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  1. Great list. Tell me about the "bloom". Sometimes the eggs get dirty so we wash them off. But, I've heard you say not to wash them until you are ready to eat them. Is this because they are protected by the "bloom"? Or is the bloom a protectant on the inside of the shell? I hate to put them in the fridge dirty.

    1. Good point ! I need to specify that the bloom is on the outside. The bloom really does a great job of keeping both air and bacteria out of the egg, so not washing is optimal. But dirty eggs do need to be washed, so I rinse those in warm water and then use them first.

  2. Small in stature, but large in personality, the Bantam is one of the oldest domestic animals and the miniature of the chicken family. Some Bantams were bred as a small variety of a standard size chicken, and true bantmas are small and always have been. The breed has many varieties--from Silkies, Sebrights, Rosecombs, Polish, and Beligans to mixed breeds. And, they are quite hardy, requiring little special care. Its brilliant plummage, and almost tame disposition have certainly added a splash of color and a sense of peace to life on the farm.


  3. what breed is the last rooster from the bottom?

    1. The white one is a Light Sussex and the black one is an Olive Egger.

  4. I have 3 chickens that I've had for 2 years. Lately 2 of the chickens have been picking on the other one and they chase her, stand on her back and pull her feathers out and they are just down right mean to her. What do I do? I have been letting her out of the coop during the day and then putting her in at night when it's dark and they roost. Any ideas?

  5. thats happening to one of my chickens to like when she tries to eat she gets bullied away