1 Ever Heard of a Flock?
Even though you can informally refer to any group of chickens as a flock, the term is most accurate for referring to groups of chickens which live together. When chickens are kept in the same coop and raised together, a flock is maintained. If you are raising two different groups of chickens which do not interact with each other, you have two flocks of chickens. ‘Flock’ is a term used for most groups of birds. You can also call a group of chickens a brood. Even though brood is a word more specifically used for a group of female chickens or hens. Unlike a gaggle of geese or a murder of crows, chickens do not have a clever collective name to refer to their group.
2 Other Collective Nouns and Chicken Terminology
Let’s go through the technical jargons and collective nouns for baby, male and female chickens. Mature female chickens are called hens. Immature female chickens are known as pullets. Mature male chickens are called cocks or roosters while immature male chickens are known as cockerels. A capon is a neutered rooster. Baby chickens are known as chicks. A group of chicken eggs is known as a peep or clutch. A hen that is about to lay is known as a point-of-lay chicken.
A group of chicks that hatch together is known as a brood. ‘Chook’ is a slang term used for a chicken. This term is popular in Australia as well as some regions of the United Kingdom. Poultry can be considered as an umbrella term for every domestic fowl, including geese, ducks, turkeys, and of course, chickens, which are raised as livestock for their meat and eggs. The colloquial term for any hen, especially an older hen, is biddy.
3 Difference Between a Hen and a Pullet
As mentioned above, the term ‘pullet’ is used for an immature hen. The main way of defining whether or not a chicken is a hen or pullet is solely based on their age as well as if they are laying. Pullets are hens that are less than a year old. They are yet to start laying eggs. Once they are ready for laying or are about to start laying, these chickens are then called ‘point-of-lay chickens’. Typically, a chicken does not remain a pullet for long as it starts laying right after 16-20 weeks of its birth.
4 Let’s Talk of Point-of-Lay Chickens
Chickens that are about or ready to lay eggs are called POL (point-of-lay) chickens for letting the potential owners know they are going to buy a hen that is on the verge of starting producing eggs. It indicates that a window of short time frame exists for hens before being classified as POL. This window is usually between 17-20 weeks after their birth. Chickens of this age are not fully developed. They are yet to get their wattles of the comb as well. It is another way of telling the hen is still young. (See What meanings and symbolism do birds have?)
5 ‘Chicken’ is Gender-Neutral
A tiny caveat which often confuses us is we don’t realize that the term ‘chicken’ is actually gender-neutral. Both male (roosters) and female (hens) chickens are known as chickens independently. This way, it is easier to refer to these birds and talk about them. However, one needs to specify if they are referring to females or males while buying backyard chickens.