Chicken Talk 

A boy holding a family chicken

Chicken Talk, What Are You Talking About? A brief introduction to the chicken's anatomy.

When it comes to dealing with Chickens, it is helpful to speak the language or to “talk the talk”... in our case Chicken Talk. Were going to talk about a chicken's anatomy (body parts)

I have to warn you, the chicken's anatomy is very different from that of people as well as most domestic pets’ that people might be familiar with.

I do think this stuff is worth covering and is worth reading to the end, especially if you're new to raising chickens. You'll definitely learn some new stuff.

For example, Chickens have combs, a crop, saddles, wattles, hackles, spurs, and beaks. They molt, they’re broody, cockerels, roosters, hens, or chicks. They lay eggs in six different sizes from Peewee to Jumbo and they have a pecking order.

But what does it all mean?

To answer that great question, we're going  teach you some basic chicken terminology that describes some of the chicken's anatomical parts so that you too can begin to “Chicken talk”

The Chicken or the Egg?

No discussion on chicken talk would be complete without addressing the proverbial question, which came first?

No one really knows for sure and there are arguments for both, some even say that all birds are the direct descendants of dinosaurs (Hazel the hen may well be related to the mighty T-Rex!), but what we do know is that chickens lay eggs and those eggs come in a variety of colors and sizes.

Egg colors are mostly determined by breed although breeding and feeding can also play a role. Common egg colors include; White, Off White, Cream/Tinted, Light Blue, Blue Green, and Light and Dark Brown eggs.

Occasionally you may hear someone refer to an egg as yellow or orange. The “yellow” are normally the cream/tinted ones and “orange” are normally the light brown type.

For the purpose of sales, chicken egg size is determined by weight per dozen by The United States Department of Agriculture. The six sizes used in the USA are Jumbo, Extra Large, Large, Medium, Small, and Peewee.

The large size egg is the most common and is generally used in recipes. It has about 70 calories and 6 grams of protein.


His, Hers and Theirs

Baby chickens are referred to as chicks. Females less than a year are called pullets and mature females over a year old are called hens.

Males less than a year are known as cockerels and mature males over a year old are called cocks or roosters.

Some possible signs to look for in differences between the sexes are that often time’s hens have smaller tails and roosters have longer necks and are taller, have bigger combs and wattles.

Males will have spurs, whereas most females won't. These are just “rules of thumb” and in some breeds these don’t hold true.

It can be difficult to identify the sex (sexing) of your chicken even by experienced owners until they mature and actually lay an egg or begin to strut about crowing, Rooster’s crow (any time of day, not just at dawn) and hens lay eggs.

Chicken talk also occurs within the flock to indicate emotion. Chickens talk to each other through their clucks. Chickens have a different cluck for different predators as well as for for events like when a hen lays an egg.

See, I told you chicken talk was important!


Body Parts

OK, now we're really going to get into some chicken talk. We all know what a chicken looks like… right? So what are some of the parts of the chickens anatomy that are important to know? Why would you want to know? What do those parts do any way?


Let’s start with the “comb

Combs are the fleshy growth located on the top of your chickens head.

These serve a couple of purposes. First they act as a way to cool your chicken since they can’t sweat. Warm blood flows through the comb, is cooled by the outside air and is returned to the body much like a radiator.

They also serve as a way for the rooster to attract a hen. Hens appear to find a rooster with a large bright red comb quite attractive! A large comb in a cold area can be a problem, so that’s a good thing to know.

There are 9 comb types that are recognized by the American Poultry Association.

  • The Single
  • V-Shaped
  • Rose
  • Pea
  • Buttercup
  • Strawberry
  • Silkie
  • Walnut
  • Cushion

Whew, there’s a lot to know about combs.

Time to move on to another important part, wattles.

Wattles hang on each side of the head and are also used for cooling as well as attracting hens by roosters.

Next, let’s tackle the hackle. Hackle along with Saddle is a type of feather.

Hackles are the feathers along the neck of chickens, both hens and roosters have them although hen hackles tend to be rounded whereas rooster hackles tend to be pointed. 

When angry or ready to fight, Roosters will ruffle and raise their hackles.

Saddle feathers are the feathers in the area right behind the dip that looks like a saddle and above the rump.

These types of feathers are often used in high end fishing lures and some people raise chickens for just this purpose.

Now, let’s move on to spurs.

Spurs are sharp protrusions that can grow on chicken’s legs. It is used for self defense as well as fighting.

Most all chickens have the potential to grow spurs although the really large, sharp spurs are most common on roosters and can take up to a year to get to that stage.

Hens can and do occasionally have large spurs although it isn't common with hens.

Rooster spurs can be a danger to you and your family as well as other chickens so often time’s people will remove the spurs.

This must be done carefully and with great care as it can lead to severe blood loss and even death of your chicken.

Next up, chicken beaks.

Chicken beaks are always growing just like people’s hair and nails. This is a good thing because chickens are constantly pecking and scratching at things that wear their beaks down.

If they have access to a hard surface like concrete or a rock they will often sharpen and maintain their beak length by wiping them against the hard rough surface.

Unfortunately chickens, like people are all a little different and some chickens may have beaks that grow faster or are harder requiring that their beaks be trimmed to achieve a lightly rounded point.

Good beak care is important because a chicken with a deformed or damaged beak may not be able to properly feed itself leading to starvation.

Well there you have it, an informal introduction to "chicken talk", some of the things you as a chicken owner may be talking about when it comes to your chickens. We hope you learned something new and had some fun in the process!

Return from Chicken Talk to Raising Chickens For Beginners

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