Chicken is one of the best animals to raise in the backyard or keep as a pet in owners’ houses. Chickens are not picky about food and they can look beautiful if you are keeping a rooster.
But, you may notice that hens or chickens, in general, are very similar to birds. They are similar in overall body shapes, 2 wings, a beak, 2 legs with claws, though hens can’t fly as well as birds. So is hen a bird?
Is hen a bird?
A hen, or any chicken in general, is a bird since chicken, along with ducks, geese, etc. falls into the “poultry” category. “Poultry” is defined as domestic fowl and the classification of birds.
What is a chicken?
A chicken is a bird; the distinctive difference of a chicken from most other birds is that it has 2 wattles and a comb. The wattles are 2 appendages under the chin; the comb is an appendage that sits on top of the head.
The chicken evolved from the red jungle fowl. Chickens are originally raised for cockfighting or special ceremonies.
During the Hellenistic period, they can be kept for food. Now humans keep chickens mostly for their meat and eggs, or less commonly as pets.
In domestic animals, chickens are among the most common and widespread. The amount of chickens is more than any other bird.
Similar to most birds, a chicken has 2 wings and 2 legs. However, chickens have evolved to be bad at flying, especially those used for meat production. They can instead flap their wings and jump a bit higher or move more rapidly on the ground.
There are many terms to point out the ages, genders, or other specifications of a chicken. They are:
- Cock or rooster: an adult male chicken
- Hen: an adult female chicken
- Chick: a young chicken
- Capon: a caponized or neutered male chicken
- Cockerel: a young male chicken that is less than 1 year old
- Pullet: a young female chicken that is less than 1 year old. In the poultry industry, a pullet is a young female chicken that is less than 22 weeks old
There are also many other ways to call a chicken, such as a chook (informally in Australia), a yardbird (dialectically in the south of the United States), or fowl and domestic fowl (in the past).
Chickens’ general biology and habitat
Chickens are omnivorous animals. They usually scratch at the soil to look for seeds, insects, and small animals like lizards, young mice, or small snakes in the wild.
Depending on the breed, a chicken may live as long as 10 years on average. The oldest chicken to have lived in the past was a hen that died at the age of 16 due to heart failure.
Hens vs. roosters
Compared to hens, roosters, in general, have striking plumage of long flowing tails and pointed feathers on their hackles and saddles. Those feathers are brighter and have bolder colors than females from the same breeds.
There are also differences with the comb or the spurs on the males’ legs. The comb and the wattles are present on both male and female chickens, but they are more prominent on roosters than hens.
Chickens are not capable of long-range flight. Some lightweight chickens can fly far and high enough to leap over fences or onto a tree for roosting. They can briefly fly to explore the surroundings; but more commonly, they fly to avoid danger on the ground.
Chickens live together in flocks. They have a communal approach to egg incubation and young chick raising.
The chicken flocks establish something called “pecking order” where some chickens in the flock will dominate others. The dominant chickens will have a higher priority in nesting location and food access.
Removing chickens from a flock may cause a temporary disruption in the flock until there is a new pecking order while adding new chickens, especially younger hens, can lead to fighting and injury.
A rooster calls other chickens to let them know it has found food by clucking, picking up, and dropping the food. Mother hens can also perform those behaviors to call and encourage young chicks to eat.
Roosters start crowing before the age of 4 months. Crowing is one of the clearest signs of being a rooster, even though hens can crow as well.
A rooster usually crows to send territorial signals to other roosters. It also crows to alert other chickens and ward off predators. A hen clucks loudly after laying an egg, it also clucks to call its baby chicks.
Nesting and laying
Hens lay eggs in nests that already have eggs and can move eggs from neighboring nests to their own. This results in only a few preferred laying locations in the flock rather than a different nest for each chicken.
Roosters can dance in a circle around or near a hen to trigger a response in the hen. When the hen responds to the rooster’s call, the rooster may mount the hen and start mating with the hen.
Hens will try to lay eggs until a clutch is complete, then proceed to stop laying and incubate the eggs by sitting on the eggs and pecking or protesting if disturbed or removed. They will rarely leave the nest to eat, drink, or dust-bathe.
So, is hen a bird? A hen is a bird since hens are adult female chickens, chickens fall into the poultry category, and poultry is one of the classifications of birds.
Chickens are similar to birds. The distinction is that chickens have 2 wattles under their chin and a comb on the top of their heads.
However, unlike birds, chickens are bad at flying. They only use the wings for leaping higher and further and also for responding to threats from their surroundings.
Image credits – Photo by jilly007, drgndeveloper on www.flickr.com