Hen vs. Chicken: What's the Difference?
A hen is a mature female chicken, while a chicken refers to the bird in general, regardless of age or gender.
When people talk about chickens, they could be referring to the bird as a species. Chickens are domesticated birds kept primarily for their eggs and meat. The term encompasses the entire species, which means it covers both males and females, young and old. A hen, on the other hand, has a specific gender and age reference; it describes an adult female chicken.
Hens are integral to the farming ecosystem, as they lay eggs. When someone mentions they're getting eggs from their chickens, it's the hens they're referring to. Chickens, in a broader sense, contribute to farms in numerous ways – roosters, for instance, might be used for breeding or even as guard animals, while hens are primarily valued for egg production.
When it comes to the poultry market, the term chicken is widely used to describe the meat you buy, be it from a rooster, a hen, or a younger bird. Hens, after their egg-producing years, might end up as meat, but in many commercial settings, broilers – chickens raised specifically for meat – are more commonly consumed.
In casual conversations, the word chicken is more common. If someone mentions they have chickens in their backyard, it doesn't provide specific information about the mix of roosters, hens, or chicks they might have. However, if someone specifically uses the term hen, it's clear they are discussing adult female chickens.
Any gender (male, female)
Any age (chick, juvenile, adult)
Primary Role on Farm
Egg production, meat, breeding
Usage in Meat Industry
Less common for meat
Commonly used for meat
Specific to adult females
General term for the bird species
Hen and Chicken Definitions
Can become broody.
The hen sat firmly on her eggs, showing signs of broodiness.
Can refer to any gender or age.
That chicken could be a rooster, hen, or even a chick.
An adult female chicken.
The hen laid an egg in the coop.
A domesticated bird raised for eggs and meat.
The farmer has a large flock of chickens.
Distinct from roosters.
Unlike the rooster, the hen doesn't crow at dawn.
Commonly consumed poultry meat.
She prepared a delicious chicken curry for dinner.
Known for egg production.
The farmer relies on the hen for consistent eggs.
A central figure in many jokes.
Why did the chicken cross the road?
A female bird, especially the adult female chicken.
A common domesticated fowl (Gallus domesticus) widely raised for meat and eggs and believed to be descended from the jungle fowl G. gallus.
The female of certain aquatic animals, such as an octopus or lobster.
Any of various similar or related birds.
Often Offensive Slang A usually older woman, especially one who is engaged in conversation with other women.
The flesh of the chicken, used as food.
A female chicken (Gallus gallus), particularly a sexually mature one kept for her eggs.
(Slang) A coward.
A female of other bird species, particularly a sexually mature female fowl.
Any of various foolhardy competitions in which the participants persist in a dangerous course of action until one loses nerve and stops.
(uncommon) A female fish (especially a salmon or trout) or crustacean.
Vulgar Slang A young gay male, especially as sought by an older man.
A woman, particularly
A bride-to-be, particularly in the context of her "hen night" festivities.
To act in a cowardly manner; lose one's nerve
Chickened out at the last moment.
A hen night.
(countable) A domesticated species of junglefowl (usually, Gallus gallus; sometimes, Gallus gallus domesticus or Gallus domesticus), especially so-called when young.
An affectionate term of address used to women or girls.
Don't cry, hen. Everything will be all right.
(uncountable) The meat from this bird eaten as food.
A henlike person of either sex.
(archaic) The young of any bird; a chick.
The hard clam (Mercenaria mercenaria), a bivalve shellfish.
A young or inexperienced person.
(dialectal) To throw.
A young, attractive, slim man, usually having little body hair; compare chickenhawk.
The female of the domestic fowl; also, the female of grouse, pheasants, or any kind of birds; as, the heath hen; the gray hen.
The game of dare.
Adult female chicken
A confrontational game in which the participants move toward each other at high speed (usually in automobiles); the player who turns first to avoid colliding into the other is the chicken (that is, the loser).
Don't play chicken with a freight train; you're guaranteed to lose.
Adult female bird
A simple dance in which the movements of a chicken are imitated.
Flesh of an older chicken suitable for stewing
A kilogram of cocaine.
Female of certain aquatic animals e.g. octopus or lobster
Plural of chick
Often protective of chicks.
The hen clucked protectively, gathering her chicks nearby.
Why do you refuse to fight? Huh, I guess you're just too chicken.
(intransitive) To avoid a situation one is afraid of.
A young bird or fowl, esp. a young barnyard fowl.
A young person; a child; esp. a young woman; a maiden; same as spring chicken.
The flesh of a chicken used for food
A domestic fowl bred for flesh or eggs; believed to have been developed from the red jungle fowl
A person who lacks confidence, is irresolute and wishy-washy
A foolhardy competition; a dangerous activity that is continued until one competitor becomes afraid and stops
Used in expressions to denote fear.
Don't be a chicken; it's just a small jump!
Which one lays eggs, hen or chicken?
Only hens lay eggs.
Is chicken meat always from hens?
No, chicken meat can come from roosters, hens, or broilers.
Is every chicken a hen?
No, only adult female chickens are hens.
Why might someone specify "hen" instead of "chicken"?
Using "hen" specifically denotes adult female chickens.
Do all chickens grow up to be hens?
No, only female chickens grow up to be hens; males become roosters.
Can a chick be called a chicken?
Yes, "chicken" can refer to birds of any age.
Which is more specific in terms of age and gender: hen or chicken?
Hen is more specific, referring only to adult females.
How can you differentiate a hen from a rooster?
Hens and roosters often have distinct physical features and behaviors, with roosters typically having more prominent combs and spurs.
Can both hens and roosters be called chickens?
Yes, the term "chicken" can refer to any gender or age.
Are all chickens kept for meat?
No, some are kept for egg production, breeding, or even as pets.
Do hens sing?
Hens can make a "cackling" sound, especially after laying an egg, but it's not singing in a human sense.
Are hens social animals?
Yes, both hens and other chickens are social and often establish a "pecking order" within their groups.
When does a chicken become a hen?
A female chicken becomes a hen when she reaches maturity.
Why do some farms keep more hens than roosters?
Hens lay eggs, so they are often kept in larger numbers for egg production.
Is "chicken" ever used to describe other poultry?
Typically, "chicken" specifically refers to this species, but it might be used colloquially for other birds.
Are all chickens on a farm hens?
No, a farm's chicken population can consist of roosters, hens, and chicks.
What do chickens eat?
Chickens are omnivores; they can eat grains, seeds, insects, and even small rodents or reptiles.
Can a chicken be both a hen and a broiler?
No, broilers are chickens raised specifically for meat, whereas hens are adult female chickens.
How long does a chicken live?
With proper care, a chicken can live 5-10 years, but it varies by breed and environment.
Why are some hens called "broody"?
A broody hen wants to hatch eggs and will sit on them consistently, often showing protective behavior.
Written bySawaira Riaz
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