Things I Didn’t Know a Year Ago: Chicken Edition

Rooster and laying hens in the chicken coopIn a few weeks, 26 chicks will invade our house. I have never personally raised chickens before and I’m getting a little nervous. Today I thought I would spout out some random chicken facts so that I feel prepared for the invasion. Um, right.

So, here are some things about chickens that I didn’t know a year ago.

  • Bantam: a mini chicken. Usually a breed of chicken has a full sized and a bantam size.
  • Wattle: the little red flap of skin that hangs under a chicken’s chin. (I always think of Allie McBeal. Does anyone else remember the guy on that show who had a wattle obsession?)
  • Girl chickens (hens) do not require a boy chicken (rooster) to lay eggs. They can lay without him around – the eggs just aren’t fertile and can’t turn into baby chicks.
  • People at the feed store look at you funny if you refer to hens and roosters as girl and boy chickens.
  • Some birds are better at laying eggs so they are referred to as egg layers. Others taste better so they are called meat birds. Some do both jobs pretty well and are given the title dual purpose. And yet others just stand around looking pretty so they are called exhibition or show birds.
  • Hens eating in the chicken coopHeritage chickens are breeds of chickens that are older and usually haven’t been specifically bred to increase egg laying or meat production. Often they are considered dual purpose.
  • Meat birds have different labels depending on when they are butchered. Broilers or fryers are usually butchered younger (the age depends on the breed) and typically weigh less than 3.5 pounds. Roasters are 4 or 5 pounds while stewing chickens are the oldest and weigh the most. They are usually laying hens who are done laying. They need to be cooked for a long time to soften up their tough meat.
  • An old biddy is an affectionate name for an old laying hen. It is NOT a good nickname for your wife. It CAN be used when talking about crabby women – as long as you are a woman yourself and the person you’re talking about isn’t around.
  • The term “sexed” does not mean what you might think. (And I’m not telling you what I thought it meant.) It means getting the gender of chicken that you want when you order from a hatchery (typically females if you want laying hens).
  • Ordering chicks “straight run” means getting both males and females. You can usually do this with meat birds because you will butcher them before the hens start laying eggs or the rooster get too, well, rooster-y.

So now that I’ve proven my abilities for listing random chicken facts, I feel much better about my poultry-raising skills.

Um, right.

Hens in the chicken coop

Thanks to my dad for the chicken pictures and for fielding all my chicken-related questions!

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4 Responses to Things I Didn’t Know a Year Ago: Chicken Edition

  1. Hi Mandy, I wanted to pop to your blog too! How fun! You’ve got all sorts of that white stuff for sure ;) I got a big kick out of this post on Chickens. I have to admit that since we are getting them for the first time in just a few weeks, I had to laugh! I love the fact that you are learning all sorts of new stuff too. Looking forward to keeping up with you!

  2. lol! I remember learning all those things too. The other one I have to tell people a lot is, “no, brown eggs do not taste different than white eggs.” Most people don’t know that the chicken’s diet is what affects the flavor is the eggs.

    Will remember the old biddy one. How cute.

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