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Difference Between Chicken and Hen

The difference between a chicken and a hen is in their gender.  Chickens are members of the fowl family of birds.  They are a subspecies of the red and the grey jungle fowl. It is correct to call a hen a chicken, but to be more specific the chicken can only be called a hen if it is female and of egg laying age.  Therefore outwardly a chicken can look and sound like a hen, but the hen is a female chicken and one that is ready to lay eggs.  A person who is not knowledgeable in the ages and stages of poultry might call a hen a chicken or a chicken a hen.

What is a Chicken?

A chicken is defined as a common domestic fowl.  The term chicken does not specify the gender of the bird.  Chicken is the name of the species like cat or dog.  Before a chicken becomes a hen it is called a pullet.  A pullet has not quite reached the point of lay.  That is the time the female chicken is ready to start laying eggs.  During this time it is correct to call the bird a chicken or a pullet.

What is a Hen?

A hen is a mature chicken ready to lay eggs.  A fully grown female chicken, of egg laying age is a hen.  The female chicken or hen can reach this stage at different times, but it is usually when she reaches a year of age.  Once the first egg has been laid the pullet graduates to being a hen.  She is accepted by the rest of the more mature hens in the coop. There are some differences of opinion with regard to the maturity of the chicken and some say the transition takes place at one year of age and not when the first egg is laid.  Another way of gauging if the chicken is a hen is through the cartilage or breast bone.  If this bone is still soft the chicken is not yet mature enough to be called a hen.  A hen will get to egg laying age and lay eggs regardless of the presence of a rooster.  Basically a hen is a mature adult female chicken capable of laying eggs.

Chart to compare a Chicken and a Hen: 

Summary of the differences and similarities between a hen and a chicken.

  • A chicken and a hen belong to the same family of birds, fowls.  They have become domesticated and are kept for egg laying predominantly.
  • The female variety of this family group is called a hen when she is ready to lay eggs.
  • The rooster is the mature male capable of fertilizing the eggs but he is also a member of the chicken family.
  • Throughout the world you find many types or breeds of chicken.  There tiny bantams, fighting cocks, ornamental chickens and chickens destined for the supermarket.
  • It is correct to say that all hens can be called chickens, but not all chickens can be called hens.  In the supermarket the chicken you buy for your table is called chicken and it is not affected by gender it is just chicken.
  • If you are planning to go into farming you would need to be specific and choose hens for egg laying.

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References :


[0]O’Brien James. 03.05.2017. www.LCB.co.uk. Chicken or Hen – What’s the difference? Pub. Global.

[1]Avery Theophanes. 31.01.2020. www.delishably.com. Everything you want to know about eggs. FAQS. Pub – Maven Media.

[2]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Norwegian_hen.jpg

[3]Image credit: https://live.staticflickr.com/3465/3217378769_225cfc6646_b.jpg

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