Poultry Terms

Birds are classified according to class, breed, variety, sex and age.

Breed - Each breed has a distinct shape and temperament of its own.

Brooding - The process of caring for newly hatched chicks.

Class - This refers to where the bird originated. Example: American Class -- Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, and New Hampshires.

Exhibition - Birds raised based on bread aesthetics or commercial standards.

Finish - Completion of growth, ideal weight, ideal size, and perfection of plumage.

Poultry - Any kind of domesticated bird.

Production - Birds solely raised on production capability

Sex - Sex means either male or female.

Symmetry - Perfection of proportion of shape in all sections of the fowl.

Variety - Feather pattern, feather color, feather composition, & comb determine the variety of a bird within a breed. Example: the White Leghorn and the Brown Leghorn are in separate varieties because of the difference in their feather pattern. The Single Comb Rhode Island Red and the Rose Comb Rhode Island are in separate varieties because their combs are different.

Structure / Body Parts

Axial Feathers (Key Feather) - Longer wing feathers growing from middle section (exposed when the wing is folded under)

Coverts - Feathers that cover primary and secondary wing and tail feathers.

Plume Feathers- Soft downy feathers located at the base of the shaft, lower thighs, and abdomen.

Hackle Feathers (Cape Feathers) - Neck plumage. Males exhibit thin, pointed feathers. Females exhibit thick, rounded feathers.

Hock - Joint between the thigh and shank.

Parti-colored - Fowl having feathers of two or more colors or shades of color. Example: Barred Plymouth Rock.

Primary Feathers - Longer wing feathers growing from the outer section (completely hidden when wing is folded under).

Quill - Hollow shaft of where feather is attached to the body.

Saddle Feathers - Long, pointed back plumage  at the base of tail feathers. Prominent on male fowl.

Secondary Feathers - Longer wing feathers growing from middle section (exposed when wing is folded under).

Shaft - Extension of quill through the entire length of feather.

Shank - The portion of fowl's leg below the hock, exclusive of foot and toes.

Sickle Feathers - Long tail feathers of male fowl.

Spur - Hard projectile on inner side of shanks mostly found on males but can be found on some female breeds.

Wattle - Thin growths of red colored flesh on the sides of the upper throat on fowl. More pronounced on mature males.

Chicken Terms

Baby Chick - Chick just hatched (usually 1 to 7 days old)

Broiler or Fryer - A young meat bird chicken of either sex under 16 weeks of age.

Capon - A castrated male chicken with soft skin or tender flesh.

Cock or Old Rooster - A mature male over 12 months of age.

Cockerel - A male chicken under 12 months of age.

Hen - A mature female chicken over 12 months of age.

Pullet - A female chicken under 12 months of age.

Roaster - A young chicken of either sex (usually under 8 months of age) that has tender meat with a soft, pliable, smooth textured skin.


Turkey Terms

Hen - A female turkey.

Poult - A young turkey before its sex can be determined.

Tom - A male turkey.

Snood - Red fleshy projection that hangs down the side of the beak.

Upper Caruncles - Red nodules located on the head and neck of the turkey.

Lower Caruncles - Red nodules located on the base of the turkey's neck.

Beard - A tuft of coarse hair located on the breast of male turkeys.

Waterfowl Terms

Bean - A hardened bean-like bulge on the upper portion of the bill.

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Duckling - A young duck.

Drake - A male duck.

Duck - A female duck.

Gosling - A young goose.

Gander - A male goose.

Goose - A female goose.

Scoop Bill - Depression located at the top of the bill - disqualification.

Sex Feathers - A feather that curls on the tail feathers of the duck that signifies it as a Drake.


Duck Foot - Condition where hind toe is carried upward off the ground instead of carried backward to touch the ground.

Frosting - Discoloration or faded area of tip of feather.

Lopped Comb - comb that falls over to one side (disqualification except in specific breeds).

Shafting - Feather color characteristic where shaft is lighter or darker than web of feather.

Side Spring - Projection growing from the side of a single comb.

Split Tail - Distinct gap between feathers at the center of the base of the tail.

Squirrel Tail - Any portion of tail that projects forward past a 90 degree angle.

Wry Tail - Tail permanently carried to one side.

Classes of Poultry (for Shows / Exhibition)


  • Game Bantam

  • Single Comb Clean Legged

  • Rose Comb Clean Legged

  • All Other Comb Clean Legged

  • Feather Legged Bantam


Standard poultry is the Large Fowl variation that one typically sees when they see a chicken. These large fowl posses many characteristics from ornamental, egg production, and meat production. They come in many different varieties and are broken up by breed into the six classes below.

  • American

  • Asiatic

  • English

  • Mediterranean

  • Continental

  • All other Standard Breeds


  • Heavy

  • Medium

  • Light


  • Heavy Weight

  • Medium Weight

  • Light Weight

  • Bantam