Chicken Vernacular

Barred Plymouth Rock Chicken
Barred Plymouth Rock Hen, “Barbara”

After owning chickens for only a few months, recognizing the prevalence of chicken vernacular in everyday language is easy to do. It’s fascinating how much chicken-related vernacular remains in everyday language despite that most persons have never raised chickens like was done 100 years ago. For example:

  • Chicken – meaning scared, as chickens are scared of and run from nearly everything
  • Chicken run – meaning the farming term for the area outside a cool where chickens can go as chickens love to run around
  • Chickenshit, meaning stupid like chickens that poop all over everything including their coop
  • Choke your chicken – meaning what you learned in middle school (or ask your dad if you don’t know)
  • Cock – meaning an arrogant man or a penis, similar to the behavior of a rooster, especially as he stands tall with his head high to look for predators in order to protect his flock
  • Cooped up – meaning when you’re stuck at home and want to go out, like chickens when there’s wet weather or you forget to let your chickens out of the coop and they really want out
  • Crow – meaning continuing and unnecessarily annoying talk, like a rooster making noise from sunrise to sunset
  • Cuckold- meaning (don’t ask Google or your dad) like a dominant rooster mating with a hen while a subservient rooster is present
  • Flighty – meaning a person who is aloof or skittish, and the farming term for a chicken that likes to fly up to high perches or that prefers to sleep in trees instead of the coop
  • Fox in the henhouse – meaning a dishonest person taking advantage of a vulnerable group of others, like a fox (or raccoon, etc.) getting into the coop and easily killing all of the chickens
  • Free range chicken – the farming term for the movement of chickens as they scratch around for food is amazing
  • Looking for a handout – meaning to want something for free or welfare, similar to how chickens quickly learn to look at your hands to see if they are flat and you have food or treats
  • Pecking order – meaning a social hierarchy similar to how chickens peck each other to determine rank in the flock
  • Pull your feathers out – meaning to act distressed similar to how hens turn their heads onto their own bodies and pull out their own feathers and then shake their heads
  • Range around – meaning to wander with seemingly little deliberate purpose like free range chickens seem to do
  • Running around like a chicken with its head cut off – meaning to act without purpose or direction like a chicken runs after its head has been severed
  • Scratch around – meaning to work hard for very little like chickens scratching in the ground for worms and small insects
  • Stick your neck out – meaning to risk yourself similar to how chickens risk one of their most delicate body parts when they eat, look around, explore, and walk

Here’s Barbara looking for a handout:

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