Hen vs Chicken - What is the main difference

 Hen vs Chicken - What is the main difference

Poultry terms can be confusing at times. You may find things labeled as hen, hen, Cornish game hen or more. The words chicken and hen are often used interchangeably, although this is not correct, nor is it correct.

Hen vs chicken

There are times when the two words can mean the same thing, but this is not always the case. Here, we will explain the difference between chicken and hen.


Chicken is a type of domestic animal, derived from a red-colored wild bird, native to Southeast Asia. Chickens are one of the most common domestic animals in the world, and are raised almost exclusively as food sources for any other purpose.
A chicken can be use in two ways. First, they can provide eggs that are a valuable source of food. In fact, for most of the history of domestic chickens, they were raised mainly for their eggs, because allowing chickens to live and lay eggs for many years provided far more food than killing and eating chickens. 

Chicken meat, commonly referred to as chicken, is another form that chicken provide food. For hundreds of years, almost all poultry eaten came from birds that were old enough to continue laying eggs. But today, that is no longer the case. In fact, there are even different types of chickens that are raised for eating, and other breeds that are raised for laying eggs. Raising chickens produces a large number of eggs that usually occur every year. Chickens for consumption, or broilers, grow quickly and lay few eggs.

 Chickens are also playful and intelligent birds, leading some people to keep them only as pets. Chickens are omnivores and eat a mixed diet of meat, insects, plants and seeds. As we said earlier, chickens are raised from the red jungle fowl, a bird from Southeast Asia. It may be one of the first domesticated animals, since they were already found in Europe (Greece) in the fifth century BC.

 Chickens can be found in almost every country in the world, and many cultures have their own varieties of chickens, although many of these heritage breeds are now rare and and belongs to the type of industrial breeds that is rapidly growing and expanding.
Male chickens over one year old are called roosters or cock, and male chickens under one year old are called cockerels. A castrated rooster is called a capon, and in some places it is usually a chicken sold for meat. Capons meat is considered very good, tender and tasty than most chickens.



A hen is a female chicken more than a year old. Female chickens less than a year old is pullet. All hens are chickens, but not all chickens are hens. A hen is a mature female and is bred for laying eggs. 

The age at which the hen begins to lay eggs depends on the breed. Some breeds can start laying eggs as early as 16 weeks, while others won't be ready to lay eggs until they are 20 weeks old. In a laying hen, a chicken is considered a hen when she is ready to lay eggs rather than when she is a year old.
Chicks hatched in the winter will take longer to develop the ability to lay eggs than chicks hatch in the summer months. Some chickens, once they start laying, will continue to lay every day, while others will only lay every other day. Since this is a natural process, there will be times when the hen will not follow this process and miss a day or two of laying. 

Young hens lay for less time than hens during their prime, as do older hens. Therefore, you will notice that as the chicken grows, the frequency of its laying will first increase, and then continue for a while, after about four years, it will use gradually decreases until it stops completely.

 A hen does not need a rooster to lay eggs. If you keep the chicken next to the rooster, there is a good chance that the eggs will hatch together and produce new chickens. Although this may be desirable if you are raising chickens, it is not good if you want to eat eggs.

The differences between chickens and hens
Simply put, a hen is a mature female chicken. The term chicken applied to both male and female birds, and affects birds of all ages. The hen is a term specifically for females who are old enough to grow eggs or who are one year old or older. 

If you use the word chicken, you may be referring to a pullet, cockerel, rooster or capon (or Cornish game bird, which is just an immature hen). Hen is a specific word. This is especially important to know if you are considering starting a poultry business because you want to be as specific as possible when ordering.

How to tell if your chicken is a hen

Among adult birds, it is very easy to distinguish a rooster from a chicken. Roosters, even if they are small, have a red comb and wattles, bigger and stronger than hens. They also have large spurs on their feet and large, long necks and tails. In most species, roosters are more attractive than hens.
Hens typically do not have spurs, and have duller coloration. They combs and their wattle are too small. Of course, the clear sign is the hen's mother when he starts laying eggs. 

Telling pullets and cockerels apart is much more difficult than than telling hens or roosters apart. At such a young age, the main physical characteristics that separate the two appart are not obvious. When the chicks hatch, you can determine the sex of each chick by removing the skin around the vents to view the genitals. You can also tell the difference by spreading their wings and looking at the wings. If the wings are the same length, it is a male. If the wing alternates between long and short wings, it is a female. This is a safer method so it is recommended to use the wing sexing method instead of the vent method.


What is a Cornish hen?

 Cornish hens are a type of chicken from England that is raised exclusively for meat. They are slaughtered young, so they are small, usually only a kilogram or two per serving. Most of the birds that are called "Cornish Hen" in the shops are not actually Cornish hens, but they are hens of wild animals that are usually slaughtered small. 

Are the differences important?
It is good to ask if the difference between hen and chicken is really important. The answer is that it depends on the context. You probably won't find processed chicken in stores labeled "hens." This is because they are most likely a mixture of chickens and rooster. Modern breeds of chickens are bred to gain weight quickly, so they gain weight well before the rooster male sex hormones can affect the taste of the meat, making it no different from hen. 

Differences are really important if you are planning to raise your own chickens. You'll usually want hen, but if you want a rooster, you won't want more than one, because roosters can be aggressive with each other. If you want chickens to lay eggs, you need chickens, not roosters. If you want to raise chickens for meat, you always want hens, not roosters. You only need a lot of rooster if you want to raise your own chickens.
Most people, when they talk about  backyard chicken, they are talking about hens. They raise them for their meat or for their eggs, but either way, they don't have roosters and only hens.
Therefore, in the supermarket, the word "hen" is not really important, but in the industrial sector, the word is very important, for those who want to raise their own chickens.

The easiest way to tell the difference between a hen and a chicken is that a hen is a mature female chickens. So all hen are chickens but not all chickens are hens. If you're trying to make sure you're buying good quality products at the grocery store, don't worry: Everything will be called chicken, but you don't need to know the difference between chicken and hen at this time.
If you are trying to start your own business or want to raise chickens for meat or eggs, you need to make sure that you are going to raise hen and not chickens. Chickens is a long and broad term and you may not get what you ask for.
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