Baby chickens are typically called chicks, though some people may call them peeps for the first few weeks. This fun nickname comes from the sound they make during that time. Female chickens less than one year old are often called pullets, while male chicks less than a year old are called cockerels. However, it’s difficult to determine if a chick is male or female when it first hatches from the egg, so it may take some time to make that determination. Most people can tell if a chick is a pullet or a cockerel by three months of age.
When many people buy chicks, they often want to know their gender. Reasons for this may include only wanting hens for egg laying, preventing too many roosters from joining a flock because they’re often territorial (and loud), and avoiding reproduction. Sexing a chick, or determining its sex, isn’t 100 percent accurate during the first few months of life, but there are some ways to do it. One is to look for rudimentary sex organs via the chick’s vent cavity or cloaca, which is set just below the tail and allows both waste and eggs to be expelled (digestive and reproductive tracts are separate). Other ways include taking a closer look at the wing feathers (cockerel feathers are similar in length among other differences), studying the size and color of the comb, the fleshy “crest” on top of a chick’s head (cockerels develop them earlier and they tend to be larger and brighter than pullets), watching the chick’s behavior, listening to its vocal sounds, and studying the color of the chick’s down.
What are Adult Chickens Called
Collectively, adult chickens are simply called chickens. Females over the age of one year are called hens. Males over the age of one year may be called roosters or cocks.
What are Groups of Chickens Called
A group of unhatched eggs is called a clutch. Once they hatch, chicks that have been separated by sex are called sexed chicks. A group of chicks that haven’t been separated are called a straight run. All groups of chicks that are raised together are called a brood. Once they grow up, a group of chickens that live together are called a flock. One brood may turn into a flock, or it may be introduced into a flock that has already formed.
Other Chicken Terms
Other terms related to identifying a chicken include:
- Bantam: Smaller version of a larger domestic chicken breed
- Broody hen: Hen that insists on sitting on eggs until they hatch
- Non-setter: Hen that refuses to sit on eggs
- Broiler: Chicken raised for meat and harvested between 7 and 12 weeks
- Layer: Chicken raised for egg production
What Happens After a Chick Hatches
If a chick hatches under a broody hen, it stays with the hen for the first few weeks of life. She keeps it warm and safe under her feathers, and she teaches it how to find food and water. If a human chooses to hatch eggs without a hen, the chicks will need a brooder to keep them safe and warm for the first few weeks of life. For the first two weeks of life, they should be kept at 95 to 100 degrees, reducing the temperature by five degrees each week until their feathers form.
Caring for Chicks
In addition to a brooder, humans who raise chicks need to provide bedding, such as straw or pine shavings. It should be changed daily as it’s soiled. They also need access to clean water and a starter feed that is made up of 20% protein. Handling chickens as babies may make them tamer as adults.
Interesting Facts About Chickens
Chickens are largely flightless birds, though they may attempt to fly short distances. Their scientific name is the Gallus gallus domesticus, and history suggests that the birds were initially raised for fighting rather than food. Most adult chickens eat seeds, insects, and commercial feed, though some also catch and eat small reptiles and rodents. Hens can mate with multiple roosters, but a rooster is not needed for a hen to lay eggs.