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Difference between Hens and Chickens

chicken rooster hen

Welcome to Hens vs. Chicken. All you need to know.

Mrs. Charles is a new poultry farmer who doesn’t know the distinction between hens and chickens. She visits the market and asks the chicken seller to give her a chicken. Unknown to her, the Chicken given to her is a rooster. Her reason for buying it is to get a chicken that lays eggs.

difference between a hen and a chicken

Mr. Charles represents many new poultry farmers who can’t differentiate between these birds. If you are one of them, then the article you’re able to read will hold you by the hand, showing you the distinctions between these birds.

But before we jump the line, let’s understand what a hen and a chicken mean.

So What is a Hen?

A hen refers to the female adult of a chicken. However, poultry farmers have different views on when a female chicken should be called a hen. Some believe that a female chicken becomes a hen once it’s 1 year old. (A female chicken under 1-year-old is known as a pullet.) 

In contrast, others, especially in egg-laying factories, believe that what makes a hen is when it starts laying eggs.

The human belief that a young adult female is only a woman after childbirth backs that.

So, what you should get here is that not all chickens are hens, but all hens are chickens. Read the following section to know what a chicken means.

What is a Chicken?

image of a cock and hen standing in the field difference between hens and chickens

While a hen refers to the female adult of a chicken, the latter refers to either gender. A chicken can be a

cockerel (young male Chicken), cock (adult male chicken), a puppet (young female Chicken), and a hen (adult female Chicken).

5 distinctions between a Hen and a Chicken

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Now, we’ve explained what a hen and a chicken mean. And we believe that, by now, you would have had a clear understanding of each.

But if you don’t, don’t panic. In this section of the article, for you to have a clearer understanding, we will highlight the five differences between hens and chickens:

Gender/ Sexual IdentityTo differentiate between a hen and a chicken, and you must pay attention to gender. While hens refer only to female adult chickens, chickens refer to either gender. That is, chickens can be a pullet, a hen, or a rooster.

  1. Number of years

Another distinction between a hen and a chicken is the number of years a chicken has used. As explained earlier, some poultry farmers feel that a female chicken becomes a hen once she reaches maturity – a year of age. (A female chicken under 1 year of age is known as a pullet.)

However, a chicken does not have to reach a certain age before you can call it a chicken. Be it pullet, hen, cockerel, and cock.

2. Ability to produce eggs

While some poultry farmers place the title of a ‘hen’ upon a female chicken a year of age, some do once she begins to lay eggs.

In fact, this is one of the popular reasons why adult female chickens are called hens. That is their ability to lay eggs. However, adult female chickens that haven’t laid eggs aren’t called hens even after they have been bred. 

3. Commercial uses of the birds

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Another striking distinction between these two birds is their commercial usage. While you can use hens for laying eggs and breeding baby chicks, chickens, on the other hand, are used for meat or egg production.

Since hens produce eggs and breed chicks, it affects their size and shape. That’s why chickens only bred for meat are larger than hens.

4. Sizes & Appearances

Another distinction to spot is the size and appearance of chickens. There is a trivial distinction between the size and appearance of hens compared to chickens.

Hens are naturally smaller than male chickens and the ones bred for meat production. Also, in terms of appearance, unlike cocks, hens likely have waddles or combs on their heads.

How to know if your Chicken is a Hen

If you’re starting as a poultry farmer, you might find it challenging to know whether your Chicken is a hen. Although knowing it can be very tricky, what you’re about to read will remove that veil of confusion.

So, how do you identify a hen? It’s straightforward to do when it is an adult. For example, roosters ( young or male chickens) have redder combs that are more prominent and rougher. At the same time, hens possess combs and wattles that are smaller and faded. In addition, while roosters have large spurs on their feet, hens do not. 

Another way to really check if your Chicken is a hen is by opening its genitals. For example, when a chick hatches, you know its genitals by opening the skin around the vent. You can also spot the distinction by spreading their wings. If the wing feathers are of equal length, it is a male. But if they are of varying length, that’s a female.

Where do the Differences between hens and chickens matter?

One must know where the distinction between hens and chickens matters. And that is if you are planning to raise your chickens.

You need hens if you plan to breed chickens that will provide you with eggs or meat. You will most likely not need roosters. Even if you do, you only need one or two, as they can be aggressive toward each other.


Lesser Prairie Chicken

Now, you’ve known the differences between a hen and a chicken. Not only that, but you’ve also learned how to tell if your Chicken is really a hen and where the distinctions between a hen and a chicken matter. What you have got to do now is visit an egg-laying factory, get many hens and start receiving as many eggs as possible.

If you’d like to learn more about your favorite animal or have a wildlife encounter, click here to read more. See you soon on another adventure.

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