Healthy hens will lay eggs as often as her cycle tells her to. A hen has no control over this. She will lay through the first year and then stop laying as her first molt starts.
If you think of chicken as the species name like human, dog, cat, etc., it will make better sense. The ancestors of todays chickens were first domesticated and raised for cockfighting purposes.
Another definition you will hear is that a female chicken is a pullet until her first molt. Since pullets can start laying eggs at 16 weeks and avoid a molt until almost 18 months old, that definition is slightly off. It is the time in a pullets life when she is preparing to lay her first egg.
Once she has laid that egg, she will become a hen and be accepted by the older ladies as a fully-fledged member of the flock, and she will settle into her routine after a few weeks. A boy chick is known as a cockerel until he is 1 year old; at this point, he becomes a cock or rooster, depending on where you live. Those first crows are rather pathetic, sounding like a squeaky toy or someone gargling.
If the cockerels are wise, they will watch and imitate the head rooster of the flock. The cockerel will be busy growing his hackles and sickles his finery to attract the girls and strutting his stuff even though he is unlikely to mate just yet. Once a cockerel is over one year old or has started mating with the ladies, he is considered a rooster.
Since this doesnt happen so much with our boys, we must find homes, cull them or create a group area. Like a rooster, he is expected to guard his flock, provide food for them, warn them and take care of things for them. If he lost the challenge because he was sick, he will usually re-challenge the new rooster and try to reclaim his girls back when he is well again.
Occasionally, immature roosters are caponized. This means they are surgically altered by removing their testicles which are situated internally. Caponizing had fallen out of favor for many people because it was a high-risk surgery for the bird, not to mention expensive. Chooks: A general term for all chickens regardless of sex or age.
Broody: A hen that is sitting on eggs with intent to hatch.
Are a chicken and a hen the same thing?
Just as we humans are a particular species within mammals. And just as humans are divided into male and female and children and adults, chickens are likewise. In this context, a man equals a “rooster” and a woman equals a “hen”. Both are generally chickens, but the names indicate their gender and that they are adults.
How do you tell a chicken from a hen?
It’s easiest to differentiate poultry gender when they’ve reached adulthood, which occurs between 16-24 weeks. Generally, roosters are much larger than hens. Their combs (on top of their heads) and wattles (hanging down from cheek area) are more noticeable and redder. Finally, only hens lay eggs.
Animal husbandry is not a topic commonly taught in most schools. In fact, on most farms it is not something that is discussed in terms of learning husbandry. You just grow up on a farm knowing it.
You can see how some of these different hens and their life stages may have nicknames, but no formal or scientific names are attached. Any eggs that have not hatched after that you should throw away because they are either not fertile or the chicks inside are dead.
However, you can easily see how the French word could be read in English as pull-it. Hence, pullet is the name given to another life stage of the chicken. This is when the first feathers begin appearing and the chick fuzz disappears. Roosters are fully grown male chickens capable of mating with the hens and fertilizing the eggs so that there will be chicks in the coop, and subsequently, more chickens which will turn into more hens and more roosters.
This is why male chickens are sometimes called cocks because it is a shortened form of cockerel. All three names mean the same thing; a male rooster that is capable of breeding and reproducing with hens. When you examine other farm fowl, hen vs. chicken is only possible when you are talking about other types of barnyard fowl raised for food that are also female birds known as hens, or other female birds that are not chickens at all.
Understanding all of the above terminology is important when and if you decide to buy and raise chickens in your backyard.
Most Americans only know that chickens are the white meat wrapped in plastic that they see displayed at the supermarket. This is not surprising considering only two percent live on farms in the United States, leaving the other ninety-eight percent to remain in the dark about the different breeds and habitats of chickens.
If roosters arent culled (separated), they will injure each other using their sharp hackles and sickles located on their legs and feet. A rooster is expected to guard his flock, warn them of danger, provide food for them, and make sure they are taken care of.
These procedures cause a lowered aggression in the animals and the meat to become more tender, flavorful, and juicy. In Europe, Spain, and France, capon meat was once considered a luxurious delicacy fit for only the rich and powerful. We
keep them as pets We
raise them for breeding We
also enjoy their plumage and use it to as stuffing Their
feces are used as fertilizer
Roosters will fight and even kill each other to establish a flock of hens, and their hackles can cause enormous damage. With
vent sexing, a farmer holds the chick and gently expels poop from the cloaca in
order to see the sexual characteristics of the bird. This growth on the back of a chickens leg is necessary for reproduction as it allows the rooster to cling to the hen during mating.
Comparing the spur sizes of a female and male will help determine which sex has what in a new flock of chicks. To
examine a bird, pick up the bird, hold it securely under one arm, then take a
sturdy piece of an index card or credit card and place it under a row of
feathers If the neck feathers have pointed ends it is most likely a male if
they are rounded then it is probably a female. This method, like all looking at other body parts on a chicken, is not foolproof, so a farmer shouldnt be too surprised if they get it wrong.
When hens lived in the wild, they developed plumage that is subdued in color, appearing in browns, yellows, and whites to make it a smaller target for predators. They also use their feathers to puff themselves up when intimidating other
roosters, hopefully, to hold their harem while avoiding a bloody fight. Roosters also have feathers that are iridescent and capture the light to show off a beautiful blue and green plumage.
chickens become mature, roosters become bolder and friendlier to humans when
they are young but become cantankerous as they age. Wattles
are the red tissues that hang beneath the bills that are part of a chickens
heat regulation system. Americans eat, on average eighty-nine pounds of chicken each year and in 2018 it was reported that the consumed 95.3 billion eggs.
This is done
by using conventional caged environments that promote overcrowding, diseases,
unsanitary conditions, and cruelty to the birds. In recent years, an attempt is being made to transition to cage-free production of chickens with some smaller producers using range feeding where the animals are allowed to roam free of extraneous restraints. The
song is a repeated buck-buck-badaack sound, and it is thought she sings to
draw predators away from her nest, to aid in mating, and to locate her flock.
The reasons hens choose to sing rather than be silent and avoid predators is unknown, but there are some thoughts about the matter, including: The rooster, upon hearing the hen singing, will respond to her song quite
loudly then rush over to do his mating dance for her. Although this thought might be attributing human emotions to a chicken, many believe the hen sings because she is proud of the brood she has just laid.
In fact, they have over thirty different vocalizations they sound depending on what they are feeling, trying to communicate, or are alarmed by. Roosters have a cry for danger from a predator, a call showing he is concerned about a hen, and a number of other crows, clucks, and many other sounds. If a hen wanders away while pecking at the
ground, the rooster will give a worried crow, and she will quickly return to
If a predator is approaching, the rooster gives off a different
warning cry, depending on whether the danger is on the ground or from the air. If a hen is frightened, she
will cluck an alarm sound causing the rooster to immediately crow to her in
reassurance. A rooster crows because his internal clock helps him to anticipate when the sun will rise, like a number of other birds.
can be fooled, though, by such things as solar eclipses, and the changes of
seasons when the days lengthen and shorten. It is nearly impossible to look at chickens in a grocery store meat locker and tell which one is male or female. There again, without knowing before processing, which is a hen or a rooster, it would be impossible to tell by taste or looking at the meat packed in plastic.
roosters and hens raised on a farm on grain have enormous differences in the
size of their bodies and the taste of their meat. If a predator comes near, the rooster will try first
to lure the beast away from his flock, and if that does not work he will use
his hackles to give it a good fight. Hens
love to peck and scratch at the ground in search of grubs, a behavior leftover
from the time before they were domesticated.
If chickens are offered a habitat
that allows for litter full of small grains of food, this behavior will be
reinforced, and they will be much less likely to build up nervous energy and
peck one another. Both hens and roosters will peck at impaired, injured, or dead birds in their pens due to their natural curiosity and social order.
What Is A Hen?
After a chicken lays their first egg, it will be considered a hen.She will now be noticeable to the rooster’s eyes, and he may well start to woo and court her.Healthy hens will lay eggs as often as her cycle tells her to. A hen has no control over this. She will lay through the first year and then stop laying as her first molt starts.She will start laying once her feathers are grown in and continue to lay for several more years until ‘old age.’When does she stop laying? That depends on the breed and the individual hen.Most heritage hens will lay into their 3Of course, they do lay sporadically after that time, but not very reliably.
What Is A Chicken?
The dictionary defines a chicken as a common domestic fowl (Many people use the term chicken to talk about a hen or rooster. The word chicken is not gendered specific.If you think of chicken as the species name – like human, dog, cat, etc., it will make better sense.The ancestors of todays’ chickens were first domesticated and raised for cockfighting purposes. It was not until the Greek period that they were actually used as a food source.The ancient Egyptians even built special rooms in which to hatch chicken eggs.
What Is A Cockerel?
A pullet is a young female chicken that has not started laying eggs yet; a female chicken is under one year of age.Some folks say that a female chick is a pullet. Whilst that is technically true, the generally understood definition of a pullet is a female chicken at around the ‘teenage’ time of 12-16 weeks old.Another definition you will hear is that a female chicken is a pullet until her first molt.Since pullets can start laying eggs at 16 weeks and avoid a molt until almost 18 months old, that definition is slightly off. Sometimes you can buy started pulletsWhat is the point of lay? It is the time in a pullets’ life when she is preparing to lay her first egg.She will be fidgety, going from nest to nest, even making a new nest, talkative, and perhaps a bit grumpy.This time of life is unsettling for her since she doesn’t know what is happening to her.Once she has laid that egg, she will become a hen and be accepted by the older ladies as a fully-fledged member of the flock, and she will settle into her routine after a few weeks.
What Is A Rooster?
Once a cockerel is over one year old or has started mating with the ladies, he is considered a rooster. However, he must still defer to the older rooster if there is one.In the wild, groups of young cockerels hang out together until they find a flock of their own, and then they leave the group.Since this doesn’t happen so much with our boys, we must find homes, cull them or create a group area.Like a rooster, he is expected to guard his flock, provide food for them, warn them and take care of things for them. He will intervene in squabbles so that no one gets hurt.He has to be constantly watching for challenges from the younger roosters. If they fight and he is beaten, the new rooster will claim the flock.The old rooster may hang around on the periphery of the flock or move away altogether.If he lost the challenge because he was sick, he will usually re-challenge the new rooster and try to reclaim his girls back when he is well again.
What Is A Capon?
Occasionally, immature roosters are ‘caponized.’ This means they are surgically altered by removing their testicles which are situated internally.Estrogen implants can also be used to apply the same effect.This has the effect of reducing aggression in the birds. The head and wattles will be smaller also. This is usually done for meat purposes.The meat of a caponized rooster is said to be much more tender, juicy, and flavorful.The practice of caponization is still widely practiced on the Continent, especially in France and Spain, where capon meat is considered a delicacy.Caponizing had fallen out of favor for many people because it was a high-risk surgery for the bird, not to mention expensive.
Other Commonly Used Chicken Words
While we are on the subject of interesting terms for chickens, here are a few you might hear or use yourself:
What are Pullets?
Point of lay pullets is those that are approaching their first laying of eggs.Like human teenagers, pullets approaching her first lay will be moody, grumpy, talkative, and go from nest to nest as if looking for something. Pullets are outcasts in the hierarchy of chicken society until they become hens, and the flock accepts them into the flock.
What are Hens?
Until her first lay, a female chicken is called a pullet.As stated, female chickens before they lay their first eggs are not considered hens, but afterward, she will lay eggs as often as her nature will allow and continue until old age at between three and four years old.Hens have no control over when they will lay eggs and are wooed by roosters in courting, not so subtle and very noisy mating rituals.
What is a Cockerel?
On average, cockerels begin to crow between the ages of twelve to sixteen weeks old, although some breeds to begin earlier. At first, cockerels crows are squeaky or gargled, much like male humans go through a voice change.With practice, a cockerel learns to crow and becomes louder with a definitive message; “This is my territory, stay out.”However, cockerels have little power over hens who will not tolerate them asserting dominance over them and let him know it.
What is a Rooster
After a cockerel reaches maturity, at about one year old, he becomes a rooster and starts mating with the hens.Roosters constantly are on the lookout for challenges from other younger roosters, and if they fight and he loses, there will be a new leader of the flock. The old rooster might hang about on the area around the flock or move away and live an isolated life.If the older rooster lost the fight due to illness or injury as opposed to old age, he may return to the flock and challenge the new rooster for his position.
What is a Capon?
In Europe, Spain, and France, capon meat was once considered a luxurious delicacy fit for only the rich and powerful.In other places, caponization has fallen out of favor as it is a high-risk surgery and too expensive to make it profitable.
Feather Shape and Color
The best way to determine the sex of an adolescent bird is by looking closely at the feathers of the neck of the bird.To examine a bird, pick up the bird, hold it securely under one arm, then take a sturdy piece of an index card or credit card and place it under a row of feathers If the neck feathers have pointed ends it is most likely a male if they are rounded then it is probably a female.
Normally, in birds that have multiple feather colors, pullets will be a dull color with uniformity of the color throughout their plumage. Cockerels, on the other hand, will have a wide range of colors to their feathers and will not be just one solid color all over.
There are many other differences between hens and roosters other than their sex. They have different
As chickens become mature, roosters become bolder and friendlier to humans when they are young but become cantankerous as they age. Hens, on the other hand, tend to warm up to each other and humans.Hens roost in nests among other females and, after laying eggs, will remain there until either the eggs hatch or the eggs are removed for food.
Wattles and Combs
Wattles are the red tissues that hang beneath the bills that are part of a chicken’s heat regulation system. Chickens are unable to sweat and instead cool themselves using passing his blood through the wattles.Wattles will begin to redden around five or six weeks of age about the beginning of the time pullets begin their first laying. A hen’s wattles and comb will turn bright red or pink.Wattles are part of a rooster’s mating allure, with hens becoming attracted to extremely upright wattles being the most preferred by hens. Roosters with floppy or missing wattles will not be as successful at finding a mate if they can at all.
Legs and Spurs
Spurs are used as a defense and are dangerous if the rooster is aggressive. When necessary, owners of particularly feisty roosters will remove their spurs to protect both the rooster and the rest of the flock from injury.
The Industry that Feeds America’s Obsession with Chicken and EggsTo produce enough meat and eggs to feed the ravenous stomachs of Americans,Americans consume an enormous amount of meat and eggs from chickens.Apparently, chickens for consumption, along with their eggs, to feed an entire nation fixated on chickens must be grown on an enormous industrial scale. This is done by using conventional caged environments that promote overcrowding, diseases, unsanitary conditions, and cruelty to the birds.In recent years,American egg and meat producers have discovered that by not using cages, their birds are happier, and that translates into higher egg production and healthier, bigger birds.
Telling Her Location
Hens have a crow of sorts. They let out a loud scream of sorts to alert her chicks to hide, and if she sees someone she doesn’t feel safe being around, she cackles loudly.The song is a repeated “buck-buck-badaack” sound, and it is thought she sings to draw predators away from her nest, to aid in mating, and to locate her flock. It is also a warning sound to other hens to stay away from her nest.
For Future Mating
A hen might sing to let her rooster know she is ready for mating to excite him. The rooster, upon hearing the hen singing, will respond to her song quite loudly then rush over to do his mating dance for her.
Although this thought might be attributing human emotions to a chicken,
As a Distraction
Sometimes a hen is singing to fool predators into believing the nest isn’t where it is actually located.
Do Roosters Cluck Like Hens?
Roosters can and do cluck like a hen.The main thrust of a rooster’s life is to watch over his flock and make sure they are all safe and accounted for. If a hen wanders away while pecking at the ground, the rooster will give a worried crow, and she will quickly return to the fold. If a predator is approaching, the rooster gives off a different warning cry, depending on whether the danger is on the ground or from the air.It isn’t only the rooster who will instigate a crow. If a hen is frightened, she will cluck an alarm sound causing the rooster to immediately crow to her in reassurance.
Why Do Roosters Crow?
Most animals have daily cycles known as a circadian rhythm that follows the day/night cycle when the animal sleeps and is awake. Roosters are no different, choosing to awaken early when he believes it is time to awaken.Roosters can be fooled, though, by such things as solar eclipses, and the changes of seasons when the days lengthen and shorten. This confusion only lasts a short while though, as the bird readjusts his wake/sleep pattern to compensate.A rooster crows on a perch above his flock and territory to make other roosters aware of his presence so they will not intrude. Also, a roosters crow is highly reassuring to the hens in his harem.
Are Roosters and Chickens Mean?
Predators will have a hard time facing down a rooster as well. The entire existence of a rooster is to mate with and protect his hens. If a predator comes near, the rooster will try first to lure the beast away from his flock, and if that does not work he will use his hackles to give it a good fight.Hens aren’t mean if they are acclimated to humans from hatching. However, if they are not used to humans, touching them, gathering eggs will be a challenge.Hens can become aggressive with other hens if they feel their neighbor is intruding into their nesting area. While hens love to be in the same close vicinity, having a hen try to take over the nesting box of another can and will cause a cackling, clucking, disagreement.