To the uninitiated, the chicken world and its terminology can be confusing. As always, English never fails to disappoint in the wide array and complexity of words that can be used to discuss a subject – even poultry. You may have heard the terms chicken, rooster, hen, and a few others. It is helpful to know the difference between these terms to avoid embarrassing yourself.
Chickens is the collective name used to refer to male, female, and baby poultry with the Latin name Gallus gallus domesticus. Roosters are male chickens. They have brighter colored feathers and are larger than hens. Hens are female chickens with duller plumage, and they lay eggs.
Welcome to the wonderful world of chickens. If you are interested in chickens or are just curious, expect to learn some interesting facts about this type of poultry.
What Are Chickens?
Chickens is the collective term used to refer to poultry birds from the Latin name Gallus gallus domesticus. Chickens have been domesticated for centuries. There are clear references to them in Egypt from the mid-fifteenth century BC.
They are descended from jungle fowl and were selectively bred for their egg-laying ability, fast growth for meat, and cooperative temperaments. In modern times, chicken breeds have been refined to produce a species that lays eggs daily and can grow to full weight in six to eight weeks.
In older times, chickens were often referred to as fowl. In Australia and New Zealand, chickens are often called chooks. This term is thought to have come from British migrants to Australia and New Zealand. They used the word ‘chuck’ as a term of endearment. They began using it for chickens due to their reliability in laying eggs. This term morphed over time to become chooks.
There are a great many types of chicken breeds. Giant breeds such as Jersey Giants and Brahmas can reach almost three feet tall and weigh thirteen pounds. The smallest chicken breed is the Malaysian Serama bantam, which weighs just over a pound and stands five to nine inches tall.
Bantams are miniature versions of chickens. They can be a separate breed or a miniaturized version of a large breed chicken.
Baby chickens are generally referred to as chicks. However, in some cultures, chickens may also be used as a collective for a clutch of baby chicks.
What Is A Rooster?
A rooster is a male chicken. They are also sometimes known as cocks, but this use is falling out of popularity due to its slang usage referring to genitalia. Cockerels is the term given to roosters younger than one year.
Initially, it isn’t easy to differentiate roosters and hens when newly hatched. However, after a few weeks, experienced chicken keepers may be able to tell which are roosters and hens. Even then, mistakes can be made, especially on large or giant breeds that grow and mature slowly.
By six to ten weeks, the chick attains its adult plumage. This makes it much easier to identify roosters. They have brighter-colored feathers and often longer wing primaries, although these can take longer to grow in.
The plumage of roosters can be stunning, with many displaying iridescent colors on the wings and tail feathers. The colorful plumage is used to attract females.
Roosters usually have thicker legs and are built along sturdier lines than hens. As a result, they grow larger and can weigh a few pounds more than their female counterparts.
Do Roosters Crow?
True to the confusion of the English language, roosters crow, but crows caw. Just to blur the picture for anyone trying to learn English!
Roosters typically crow early in the morning. They are the only bird to make this particular sound, and hearing a chick crow confirms it is a rooster.
It is believed that roosters crow in the morning to chase away nocturnal predators that may still be lurking. They also rouse the flock, telling them to prepare for a new day of foraging for food.
Roosters may crow at other times of the day. Crowing establishes territory and can be used to attract a mate. Roosters may also crow to warn of approaching predators.
This sound is usually different from a crow communicating social information. Roosters crow very loudly.
The typical range is 90 dB to 134 dB. This is as loud as an aircraft taking off. Fortunately, crowing lasts only a few seconds. Some people are gluttons for punishments and breed chickens known as long-crowing chickens.
These roosters can crow for sixty seconds. These are not good breeds to keep in quiet suburban areas.
Roosters have protective mechanisms which cover their eardrums and partially collapse the ear canal. As a result, the rooster does not suffer noise-induced hearing loss from his high decibel noise.
In some areas within city limits, roosters may not be kept due to their crowing, disturbing the neighborhood.
What Is A Hen?
Hens are female chickens, generally over one year old. Pullets are young hens under one year old. Some farmers make the distinction that pullets are hens that have not yet laid an egg.
Hens mature sexually at about six to eight months, depending on the breed. Bantams and other small chickens may mature earlier, at around four to five months. This time of sexual maturity is when hens begin laying their first eggs.
Initially, the eggs may be very small, but they increase in size as the hen gets older. Tiny eggs laid by young hens or occasionally randomly produced by older hens are often referred to as fairy eggs.
Hens generally have diluted feather coloring compared to the roosters. Their drab coats help them avoid detection by predators when they brood a clutch of eggs. Broody hens lay one egg a day until they are happy with the quantity, and then they begin incubating the eggs.
Hens sit on their eggs for twenty-one days. During this time, they carefully rotate the eggs, which is essential for the healthy development of the chicks. Hens brooding eggs only leave their nest for a quick foray to get food before hurrying back to sit on the nest.
As the incubation time proceeds, the hen may lose substantial weight due to her limited feeding practices. Therefore, she may not leave the nest during the last few days.
Chickens is the collective term for a specific type of fowl reared for poultry. Roosters are male chickens, and hens are female chickens. Roosters are brightly feathered and crow. Hens have plainer plumage and lay eggs.
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