Common Poultry Terms and what they mean…

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Hybrids: Hybrids are generally larger sized chickens that lay lots of eggs over a short period of time. Their parents are different breeds to one another and they combine the best features of both…in theory! They come in a wide range of colours, are great for beginners, robust and healthy thanks to their large gene pool. Bred predominately for laying.

Pure Breeds: These are birds that are always bred from the same breed parent birds. Breeders get very passionate about their breeds and purity of the blood lines is essential. Pure breeds have very distinctive appearance, egg colour and characteristics. The ones that best meet the breed standards are often described as ‘show birds’ while the remainder are often sold as ‘pet quality’.

Bantams: Bantams are small breed chickens. Some are miniature versions of ‘pure breeds’ like Wyandotte, Orpington, Silkie etc. These have been refined over generations by breeding smaller versions of birds together. There are also TRUE bantams such as Pekins, Sebrights, Seramas and many more who are just a naturally small chicken without a ‘full size’ version.

Chickens/Cocks/Cockerels/Hens/Capons: Chickens are a SPECIES, like ducks or dogs. Cocks or roosters are the male of the species and they don’t lay eggs. Cockerels are cocks younger than 12 months old. Hens are the female of the species. You don’t need a cock for a hen to lay eggs. Capons are castrated cockerels/cocks reared for it’s meat.

Pullets and POL: Pullets are HENS that are less than a year old. POL stands for Point of Lay and it’s a rather loose term that means any hen aged from 16-26 weeks of age. They are ‘at the point when they could lay’. There is a way of testing for POL (without sticking your hands where you shouldn’t). Approach the hen and if she is POL she should hunker down as if a cockerel is about to mount her. Works very well with hybrids, bantams can be random!

Moulting: All chickens generally moult once a year usually when the days get shorter. Hens that are less than a year old going into the autumn often don’t moult at all. During a moult, all the chickens feathers fall out, they stop laying eggs. Feathers regrow in the same order that they fell out and start as pin feathers. Chickens need lots of access to calcium and good quality feed during this time.

Crumb/Growers/Layers/Pellets/Mash: When chickens are still chicks they eat chick crumb. As they get older this changes to growers mash or growers pellets. Mash is like a chunky powder, pellets are shaped and are formed from mash. Most people feed their chickens layers pellets or mash from 16 weeks of age. Layers feed contains everything a hen needs to grow, maintain good health and produce an egg.

Chick Grit/Mixed Hen Grit/Oyster Shell/Grit: Chick grit should be fed to all chickens from birth. From 16 weeks onwards feed mixed hen grit. It consists of oyster shell and small angular pieces of stone, also known as grit. The shell is absorbed by the bird for feather, bone and egg development. The grit sits in the gizzard and grinds up the food the bird eats, so the maximum nutrition can be extracted from it. Don’t forget chickens don’t have teeth, hence the phrase ‘rare as hen’s teeth’!

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