Glossary of Poultry Terms

Abdomen – area between the keel and the pubic (hip) bones

Air cell – the air space between the two shell membranes, usually at the large end of the egg

Albumen – the white of the egg

Alektorophobia – the fear of chickens

Allantois – a sac connected to the embryo’s abdomen and involved in embryo respiration

Amnion – a sac surrounding the embry filled with amniotic fluid which protects the developing embryo from shock and provides a medium for the develop embryo to exercise their muscles

AOSB – any other standard breed

APA – American Poultry Association

Ascites – accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity

As hatched – description of a group of chicks that have not been sorted

Aves – a class of animals composed of birds

Avian – pertaining to birds

Aviary – a large enclosure for holding birds in confinement;

Aviculture – the science of birds

Axial feather – the short wing feather located between the primary and secondary flight feathers

Banding – putting a tag or band with identification on it to the wing or leg of a bird

Bantam – a chicken breed that is one third to one half the size of a standard breed.

Banti – a non-technical term sometimes used to mean ‘bantam’

Barbicels – tiny hooks that hold a feather’s web together

Barring – alternate markings of two distinct colors on a feather

Bay – light golden brown in color

Beak – the hard protruding mouth part of a bird consisting of an uper and a lower part

Beard – the feathers bunched together under the beak of some breeds of chickens; coarse hairs protruding from the breast of turkeys

Bedding – material scattered on the floor of a poultry house to absorb moisture and manure (also called litter)

Biddy – a non-technical term for a laying hen that is over one year of age

Bill – the ‘beak’ of waterfowl

Billing out – the act of chickens using their beaks to scoop feed out of a feeder and onto the floor

Biosecurity – disease prevention program

Blade – the lower, smooth part of a single comb

Bleaching – the disappearance of the color from the vent, face and shanks of yellow-skinned chickens

Blood spot – blood in an egg

Bloom – the moist protective coating on a freshly laid eggs that partially seals the pores of the egg shell to prevent penetration by bacteria (also called the cuticle)

Blowout – when there is vent damage, typically caused by laying a very large egg (also referred to as a prolapse)

Blue – slate gray feather color

Booted – having feathers on the shanks (legs) and toes

Breast blister – enlarged, discolored area on the breast or keel bone often seen in heavy birds

Breed – a group of chickens having a distinctive body shape and the same general features; aslo a term used when group male and female birds for mating

Broiler – a meat-type chicken

Brood – to care for a batch of chicks

Brooder – a devise used to provide warmth to young chicks

Broody – a hen that is sitting on eggs with the intent of hatching them

Buff – orange-yellow color in feathers that is not shiny or brassy

Candle – to examine the contents of an intact egg with the use of a light

Candler – light used to examine the contents of an egg without breaking it open

Candling – using a candler to check the contents of an egg

Cannibalism – when poultry eat the flesh of fellow flock mates

Cape – narrow feathers between a chicken’s neck and back

Capon – a castrated male chicken (requires surgery since the reproductive organs are internal

Caruncle – brightly colored growths on the throat region of turkeys and the face of muscovy ducks

Cecum – a blind pouch at the junction of the small and large intestines that hosts a community of microorganisms that can ferment (digest) fiber (plural = ceca)

Chalza – two white cords of tightly spun albumen (egg white) found on either side of the yolk and important in keeping the yolk properly positioned within the egg (plural = chalazae)

Chick – young (baby) chicken

Chicken tractor – a portable pen for chickens on pasture

Chick tooth – a tiny, hard projection on the beak of a newly hatched chick that was used by the chick to break the shell to hatch (also called an egg tooth)

Chook – an Australian term for chicken that has been used in the US for chickens in a small flock

Chorion – a membrane the surrounds the yolk sac and amnion

Clean legged – having no feathers on the shanks or toes

Cloaca – the portion of the avian anatomy where the intestinal, reproductive and urinary tracts end

Clubbed down – a condition where the down feathers do not erupt from their feather sheath resulting in a coil-like appearance

Cluck – sound a hen makes after laying an egg

Clutch – a group of eggs or chicks

Cock – adult male chicken (also referred to as a rooster) or an adult male pigeon

Cockerel – immature male chicken

Coccidia – protozoan intestinal parasite

Coccidiosis – a parasitic infection (coccidia) in the intestinal tract of poultry

Coccidiostat – a drug used to keep poultry from getting coccidiosis

Coliform – any bacteria resembling Escherichia coli

Comb – the fleshy red outgrowth on the top of a chicken’s head

Conformation – refers to the body structure of poultry

Conjunctiva – mucus membrane covering the eyeball

Conjunctivitis – infection of the conjunctiva

Coop – the house or cage in which poultry are housed

Coverts – feathers that cover the primary and secondary wing feathers

Crest – ball of feathers on the heads of some breeds of chickens and geese

Crop – enlarged part of the digestive tract of birds that serves as a temporary storage space of food

Crossbred – the offspring of parents from different varieties or breeds

Crumbles – a poultry feed that has been pelleted and then the pellets broken up

Cuckoo – a course and irregular barring pattern in feathers

Cull – to remove a bird from the flock because of productivity, age, health or personality issues

Cuticle – the moist protective coating on a freshly laid eggs that partially seals the pores of the egg shell to prevent penetration by bacteria (also called the bloom)

Cushion – mass of feathers that gives a round effect seen in female cochins

Cygnet – young (baby) swan

Dewlap – the flap of skin below the beak of turkeys and some geese

Down – a layer of feathers found under the tough exterior feathers

Drake – an adult male duck

Dressed – cleaned in preparation for eating (feathers and guts removed)

Droppings – another term for chicken manure

Dub – to surgically remove a bird’s comb and wattles close to the head

Duck foot – a disqualification of chickens where the hind toe is carried too far forward and touches the third toe or is carried too far back and touches the ground

Duckling – a young (baby) duck

Duodenal loop – the upper part of the small intestine (also referred to as the duodenum)

Dust bath – the habit of chickens to splash around in soft soil to clean their feathers and discourage external parasites

Ear lobes – the flesh patch of bare skin located below the ears of birds

Ectoparasite – an external parasite

Egg tooth – a tiny, hard projection on the beak of a newly hatched chick that was used by the chick to break the shell to hatch (also called a chick tooth)

Electrolytes – a mineral solution used to treat dehydration

Embryo – the developing cihick in an egg

Endoparasite – an internal parasite

Feather-legged – a description of those breeds of chickens with feathers growing down their shanks

Feral – wild, untamed

Fertile – an egg that is fertilized and thus capable of having a chick develop (under the right environmental conditions)

Fertility – percentage of eggs that are fertile

Finish – the amount of fat under the skin of a meat bird

Flock – a group of birds living together

Flight feathers – the large primary and secondary feathers of the wings

Fluff – downy feathers

Foie gras – French for ‘fatty liver’ and is a food product made from the liver of a duck or goose that has been specifically fattened for this purpose

Forage – to scratch the ground in search of food; also refers to the crops in a pasture

Forced-air incubator – an incubator that has a fan to circulate warm air

Fowl – domesticated birds raised for food or other similar purpose; also refers to a hen at the end of its productive life (a stewing hen)

Free-range – a term that does not have a legal definition but is typically used to refer to providing a flock with outdoor access

Frizzle – a feather that curls rather than laying flat

Fryer – a young meat-type chicken

Gander – a male goose

Giblets – the parts of a chicken carcass that consist of the heart, gizzard and liver.

Gizzard – a portion of the avian digestive tract with thick muscular walls that crushes and grinds food

Gobbler – an adult male turkey (also referred to as a ‘tom’)

Goose – a type of waterfowl; the female of the species is also referred to as a goose (the male is a gander)

Gosling – a young (baby) goose

Grit – small pebbles eaten by birds and used by the gizzard to grind up feed

Guinea hen – an adult female guinea fowl

Guinea pullet – a female guinea fowl under one year of age

Guinea cock – an adult male guinea fowl

Guinea cockerel – a young male guinea fowl under one year of age

Hackles – feathers over the back of a chicken which are pointed in males and rounded in females

Hatch – the process by which the chick comes out of the egg

Hatchability – the percentage of fertile eggs that hatch when incubated

Hatchery – a place where eggs are incubated and chicks hatched

Helminthes – a category of parasitic worms

Hen – adult female poultry including chicken, turkey, duck, pigeon, pheasant, etc.

Hen feathered- the characteristic of some breeds of chickens where the male has rounded feathers (rather than pointed) like those of a female

Hock – the ‘knee’ joint of a bird

Hybrid – offspring of parents from different breeds (also referred to as crossbred); the artificial crossing of two different species

Impaction – the blockage of a part of the digestive tract, typically the crop or cloaca

Inbred – offspring of closely related parents

Incubate – to apply the required conditions (heat and humidity) to eggs to allow embryos to develop and chicks to hatch out

Incubation period – the time it takes for an egg to hatch once incubation starts; also refers to the time from exposure to a disease causing agent to the time when the first symptoms of the disease appear

Incubator – a piece of equipment especially designed to incubate eggs

Infertile – an egg that is not fertilized and therefore will not hatch

Infertility – the inability to reproduce (can be with either the male or female and can be a temporary or permanent condition)

Infundibulum – The beginning of the oviduct that picks up the ovulated yolk when it is released from the ovary (also called the funnel)

Intensity of lay – how well a hen is laying right now

Isthmus – the part of the female reproductive tract where the inner and outer shell membranes are added

Jake – a young male turkey

Jejunum – a portion of the small intestine

Jenny – a young female turkey

Keel – the breast bone of birds

Keet – a young (baby) guinea fowl

Knob – protrusion from the skull

Lacing – border of contrast color around the entire web of a feather

Litter – material scattered on the floor of a poultry house to absorb moisture and manure (also called bedding)

Lopped comb – a comb that falls to one side

Magnum – the portion of the avian oviduct in which the thick white (albumen) is added

Mandible – upper or lower bony portion of the beak

Membrane – a thin, soft, pliable layer

Metabolism – the physical and chemical processes that produce and maintain a living body

Mite – a type of external parasite

Molt (Moult) – a part of the hen’s reproductive cycle when she stops laying and loses her body feathers

Mossy – indistinct, irregular, or messy-looking markings that break up or destroy the intended color pattern on feathers

Mottled – plumage where a percentage of feathers are tipped with white; a discoloration of egg yolk caused by damage to the yolk membrane

Muff – fluffy feathers on the face of chickens (tufts are feathers that protrude from the face)

Mounting – when the rooster mates with a hen

Necropsy – a postmortem (after death) examination of an animal (equivalent to a human autopsy)

Nest egg – artificial egg placed in a nest to encourage hens to lay there

Nest run – ungraded eggs

NPIP – National Poultry Improvement Plan

Oil sac – large oil gland on the back of birds at the base of the tail and used by the bird to preen or condition feathers (also called the uropygial or preen gland)

Organic – a legalized regulated term related to production of food products according to pre-set standards

Ova – female germ cells that become eggs

Ovary – a part of the female avian reproductive tract which holds the female genetic material and collects the yolk material normally associated with eggs

Oviduct – a part of the female avian reproductive tract where the egg white (albumen), shell membranes, shell and bloom (cuticle) are added to form a complete egg

Oviposition – the laying of an egg

Ovulation – the release of a yolk from the ovary

Ovum – the female germ cells in the ovary (plural = ova)

Pasting – loose droppings sticking to the vent area

Pecking order – the social rank of individuals within a flock

Peachick – a young (baby) peafowl

Peacock – an adult make peafowl

Peahen – an adult female peafowl

Peep – a term for chick sometimes used by small flock owners

Pellets – a form of feed where the contents are compressed into bite-sized morsels

Penicled – crosswise lines or bars on feathers that form a pattern

Pendulous crop – a crop that is impacted and enlarged and hangs down in an abnormal manner

Perch – the area above the ground where birds will sit, primarily for sleeping at night (also called roosts)

Pick out – vent damage caused by other chickens’ pecking

Pigeon milk – a cottage-cheese looking crop substance produced by both the male and female pigeon to feed the young from hatch till about 10 days of age

Pip – when a chick breaks through the shell

Pin bones – pubic bones

Pin feathers – a developing feather on a bird

Plumage – the total set of feathers covering a bird

Pope’s Nose – the fleshy part of the tail of a bird; the part on which the tail-feathers are borne. “The part that gets over the fence last.”

Poult – young (baby) turkey or pheasant

Preen gland – an oil sack on the back and near the base of the tail of birds providing oil used in preening (also called the oil or uropygial gland)

Preening – to straighten and clean feathers, typically with oil

Prolapse – when there is vent damage, typically caused by laying an very large egg (also referred to as a blowout)

Proventriculus – the true stomach of birds where pepsin and acid are produced

Pubic bones – two bones that end in front of the vent of birds

Pullet – immature female bird (used with several species of birds, but most commonly with chickens)

Purebred – offspring from a hen and rooster of the same breed

Rales – any abnormal sounds coming from the airways of birds

Ration – a combination of feed ingredients formulated to meet a bird’s nutritional requirements

Ratite – a type of domestic bird that does not have a keel bone and includes ostriches, emus and rheas

Render – the process by which slaughter by-product are treated to convert them into protein products for use in animal feeds

Rigor mortis – stiffness following death

Roach back – deformed, hunched back (a disqualification when showing poultry)

Roaster – a meat-type chicken raised to a size that makes them suitable for roasting

Roost – a place where chickens can get off the floor (also called a perch)

Rooster – adult male chicken (also referred to as a cock)

Rumpless – genetic trait in some chicken breeds where they have no tail

Saddle – a part of a bird’s back just before the tail

Scales – small, hard, overlapping plates that cover a chicken’s shanks and toes.

Scratch – the habit of chickens to scrape there claws against the ground to dig up food items; also a term used for any whole grains fed to chickens

Sexed chicks – day-old chicks that are separated into separate groups of male and female chicks

Sex-feather – the curled feather on the tail of male ducks

Sex feathers – rounded hackle, saddle, and tail feathers on a hen; pointed hackle, saddle and tail feathers on a rooster

Sex-linked – an inherited factor linked to the sex chromosomes and used in developing specific crosses to make sexing day-old chicks easier

Shaft – part of the feather where the barbs are attached

Shank – the part of a bird’s leg between the foot and the hock

Shell gland – the portion of the female avian reproductive tract where the shell is added to the egg (also called the ‘uterus’)

Sickles – long, curved tail feathers of some roosters

Side sprig – projection from the side of a single comb (a disqualification when showing single-comb breeds of chickens)

Spike – round extension found at the end of a rose comb

Splayed legs – the legs are positioned such that the bird is unable to stand up (also called ‘spraddle legs’)

Spur – the sharp horny protrusion from the back of a bird’s shank (typically larger in males than in females)

Squab – a young (baby) pigeon that has not yet left the nest; also refers to pigeon meat since pigeons are usually marketed before they leave the nest

Squeaker – a young pigeon still in the nest

Squirrel tail – tail that has more than a 90 degree angle

Snood – the flap of skin that hangs over the turkey’s beak

Straight-run (chicks) – day-old chicks that have not been sorted by sex (also called unsexed)

Strain – a group of birds within a variety of a breed that has been bred by one person or company for generations

Stub – down on the shank or toe of a clean-legged chcken

Tom – an adult male turkey (also referred to as a ‘gobbler’)

Torticollis – twisted or wry neck

Trio – a male with two females of the same species, breed and variety

Type – the size and shape of a chicken that tells you what breed it is

Unsexed – day-old chicks that have not been sorted by sex (also called straight-run)

Uropygial gland – large oil gland on the back and at the base of the tail of birds providing oil for the birds to preen their feathers (also called the preen or oil gland)

Uterus – the section of the female avian reproductive tract where the shell is added to the egg (also known as the ‘shell gland’)

Vagina – the section of the female avian reproductive tract where the bloom/cutlicle is added to the egg just prior to being laid

Vent – the common outside opening of the cloaca in birds through which the digestive, excretory and reproductive tracts empty

Vitelline membrane – the thin membrane that surrounds the yolk

Vulture hock – feather-legged breeds where the feathers grow off the shank and touch the ground

Wattles – the flap of skin under the chin of a chicken or turkey

Web – the network of interlocking parts that give a feather its smooth appearance; a part of the feet of waterfowl

Wing clipping – a procedure in which the primary wing feathers of one wing are cut to prevent flight

Wry tail – tail that lays to the left or gith side and is not symmetrical with the body line

Xanthophylls – the yellow pigments found in leaves, grasses and green plants that are added as pigment to avian skin as well as providing the yellow color of egg yolks

Yolk – the round yellow mass upon which the genetic material of the female (and male if the egg is fertilized) is located and that provides nutrients for the devloping embryo

Yolk sac – the membrane that surrounds the yolk in the incubating egg