Female Chickens are called Hens; males are called “Roosters” or “Cocks.” A castrated male is called a “Capon.” Young males are called “cockerels.” A chicken raised for just meat, as opposed to also eggs, is called a “Broiler.”Hens between the ages of 5 months and 1 ½ years will lay eggs. The older the hen, the bigger the eggs. To hatch, eggs need 21 days at a temperature between 100 and 102 F (38 and 39 C.)
In general, hens with red or brown earlobes will lay brown eggs, and those with white earlobes will lay white eggs. Exceptions are the penedesenca breed, the Silky breed and the araucana breed. The egg shell colour has no bearing on the nutritional quality of the egg. Brown eggs are no more healthier than white eggs than a polka-dot egg would be.
On average, Hens today (2004) lay more than 22 ½ dozen eggs a year. After a hen’s laying useful life has past, it is sold as food.
When sold on as food, a Chicken will generally weigh anywhere from 2 ½ to 10 pounds. When a Chicken is cut up at the supermarket or butcher, it’s generally cut into 8 pieces:
- two breasts
- two thighs
- two legs (drumsticks)
- two wings
The neck, gizzard, liver and heart are rarely sold with whole birds anymore, though they used to always be included inside a whole bird. Most people threw them out, anyway: though those who would boil them separately to make stock for gravy lament their passing.
As of 2012, almost half of all the meat eaten in Britain is chicken, where an average of 50 pounds (23kg) per person is consumed annually.
More than half the chickens raised in the world are the “Cobb 500s” breed, developed in America in the 1970s by the Cobb Breeding Company. 98% of all chickens in the world come from breeds developed by three American companies, of which one is Cobb.
One-fifth of the world’s chickens are raised in China.
Chickens eat by swallowing their food whole, or by using their beaks to tear small pieces from softer food. Chickens also need to eat grit as well: though their stomachs will produce digestive juice, they can’t fully digest food without grit to help their gizzards grind it up.
The colour of a chicken’s skin does not indicate anything about a chicken except what they were fed. If they were fed corn, the skin will be yellow (from the xanthophyll in the corn.) If the chickens are fed barley, oats or wheat, the skin will be creamy-white.
Chicken in Canada
In Canada, where the Chicken supply is government-controlled, Chicken farmers must belong to a government-approved Chicken bureau, must have approval by that association to be in business, must buy the right to produce and sell up to a certain number of Chickens each year, and must pay yearly levies to that association. Selling a Chicken or an egg without having met the above conditions can bring the police and government authorities to the barnyard and land that Canadian farmer in jail. The system is enforced by high tariffs and import restrictions to keep foreign competition out, especially from America, where Chicken prices to the consumer are 125 to 150% less. With the costs of buying the right to be in business so high, the system appears to encourage large, high-volume factory conglomerates and discourage smaller artisinal farmers who might want to revive a particular breed of Chicken or create a farm with an all-organic environment. Canadian consumers simply don’t have the option of purchasing a heritage chicken breed such as a Plymouth Barred Rock, a New Hampshire or a Jersey Giant, or any eggs other than factory produced.
Frying Chickens (also called Broiling Chickens or Fryers)
These Chickens are ideal for roasting, frying, barbequing, grilling or broiling. They are generally young, about 2 ½ months old, quite small, anywhere from 2 ½ to 3 ½ pounds (1 to 1 ½ kilos.) They are sold whole or in pieces. They were raised specifically for meat.
These are larger “frying Chickens.” They are better for roasting as they have more fat. They will range in weight from 3 ½ to 5 pounds or more (1 ½ to 2 ¼ kilos.) Usually sold whole.
Sometimes these are referred to as just “fowl.” These are older, tougher birds used for soups, stews, boiled dinners or braising. Though the meat is tough, the flavour is excellent. They will weigh 3 to 6 pounds (1.4 to 2.8 kilos.) They are pretty hard to come by anymore in shops, because consumers stopped buying them.
The small piece of dark meat in a hollow of the back of the Chicken, between the shoulder blades. It’s about ⅓ inch deep (1cm.)
When buying a roasting chicken, allow ¾ pound (350g) per person.
With starting to cook with Chicken, the first thing that you are told to do, or the first thing that you do by instinct, is to rinse it under cold running water. It is not strictly necessary to do this, because cooking will destroy any bacteria (Food Safety and Inspection Service:United States Department of Agriculture. Focus on Chicken, Feb 2003). Still, there’s no harm if you want to keep on doing this.
Don’t fuss about removing any visible clumps of fat; in fact, you need the fat there. It will render during cooking and baste the bird.
A quick and thorough way to coat Chicken pieces in flour or another coating is to put the pieces in a plastic bag with flour and shake.
When marinating, 20 to 30 minutes will probably do it, but certainly don’t go longer than 2 hours or marinades can make Chicken flesh mooshy.
When barbequing chicken, don’t worry about warming the meat to room temperature before it goes on the grill, as you would with beef. In fact, it’s safer if you don’t, transferring it instead straight from fridge to grill.
Roasting a Chicken
- A 5 pound (2 ¼ kilo) Chicken at 350 F (175 C) should take from 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 ½ hours
- A 3 ½ pound (1 ½ kilo) Chicken at 350 F (175 C) should take about 1 hour
Chicken cooking temperatures (internal)
Chicken in the following forms should reach the following internal temperatures.
- Whole, stuffed, instant-read thermometer inserted into stuffing: 165F (74 C)
- Whole, unstuffed, instant-read thermometer inserted into thick next to body: 180F (82 C)
- Breasts: 180 F (82 C)
- Thighs: 170 F (76 C)
Without a meat thermometer to help you, look for the juices to run clear with no trace of blood. Chicken breasts should have no sign of pink, and be thoroughly white. In the case of a whole Chicken, the meat and juice near large bones may still be a tinge pink, but not too much.
Note: See the entry on Safe Cooking Temperatures to see how recommendations vary by jurisdiction. You may wish to consult the Health Authorities where you live to learn what they think is appropriate.
Per 100mg: 190 Calories, 7.4mg fat, 89mg cholesterol, 1.2mg iron.
Don’t take it for granted that chicken is necessarily leaner than beef or pork. It certainly would have been in the past, when chickens exercised in barnyards, but modern rearing methods keep them relatively stationary to fatten them quickly, so the meat may not be as lean as past nutritional data indicated. It also depends greatly what part of the chicken is being discussed. Dark meat is higher in fat, but far more flavourful.
Perhaps the most important nutritional advice regarding Chicken is to be especially mindful of the raw juices. Don’t place raw Chicken on a shelf in the fridge above other food, where it might drip onto that food. Sterilize any counters or cutting boards that raw Chicken might have touched, and wash well any utensils that have been used to prepare. Wash your hands very well after handling raw Chicken or any wrappings that were on it.
A study conducted by Birmingham (England) Food Safety officials in 2011 found that 40% of packaged chicken in supermarkets had significant levels of bacteria on the outside of the packaging which could cause food poisoning. They advised shoppers to be aware after picking up packaged chicken that their hands could be contaminated and to act accordingly, knowing that it could then be passed onto the handles of shopping carts, other foods such as lettuce which might not get cooked, etc. They also advised consumers to bear the possibility of contaminated packaging in mind when storing packaged raw chicken in the fridge at home, to avoid possible cross-contamination.
Most government food safety agencies now advise against washing raw chicken before cooking. They say washing it causes health issues because germs get splashed around. 
1 pound of boneless Chicken (usually breasts) = 450g = 3 cups of cubed meat
A 3 ½ pound whole Chicken = 1.5 kg = 3 cups of cooked, cubed meat
300g (10.5 oz) shredded chicken = 2 ½ cups loosely packed shredded chicken
Store fresh Chicken in fridge wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 2 days. Wrap well for freezing; don’t rely on the plastic wrap it might have come in from the store. That wrap is very porous and will allow freezer burn, for sure.
Chicken seems to take longer to thaw than beef or pork. To thaw:
- in fridge allow 3 to 4 hours per pound (450g);
- in very cold water, but change the water a lot to keep the Chicken cold. Cook as soon as thawed;
- in microwave, but be careful as the extremities may dry out or start to cook before rest of bird is actually thawed;
Basically, you just don’t want to thaw Chicken at room temperature, either with warm water or air, as bacterial growth will be encouraged. Never start roasting a Chicken that isn’t completely thawed all the way through, because the centre of the Chicken may not reach a safe temperature during cooking.
If fresh chicken, either whole or in pieces, ends up being stored in your fridge a day or two longer than you intended, a slimy appearance and ammonia smell can be an indicator that it’s going off. Be way of cooked chicken stored in the fridge past its use-by date, as preservatives can mask the smell of spoilage. 
Genetic analysis of one subspecies of pheasant found in Thailand, the Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus gallus Indochina), points to it probably being the ancestor of today’s domesticated chicken.
Chicken was likely brought to Britain by migrating tribes during the Iron Age.
The Egyptians did not have Chickens until after the Roman conquest, when the Romans introduced the birds. The Romans in Britain found that the Britons were breeding chickens as fighting birds, rather than eating birds.
Chicken used to be considered a seasonal food, with only young Chickens being eaten in the spring (thus term “spring Chickens”.)
Chickens were historically a food for the upper classes. In the Medieval view of everything in the world having a pre-ordained place, chicken (as indeed other birds) had a higher place in the world because birds were creatures of the air, and so were suited for the upper classes. Never mind that chickens can’t actually fly. Medieval doctors actually believed that if you were a peasant, such “elevated” meat wouldn’t be appropriate for your constitution. That was all pretty much by the by, though, as far as peasants would be concerned: chickens were far more valuable alive for the eggs that they would produce.
Larger-scale production of chickens for meat and eggs to be marketed started in England in the 1800s.
Literature & Lore
“There is nothing like roast chicken. It is helpful and agreeable, the perfect dish no matter what the circumstances. Elegant or homey, a dish for a dinner party or a family supper, it will not let you down.” — Laurie Colwin. More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen HarperCollins. 2021 edition. P. 4.
The Chickens and Hormones Myth
It is a myth that Chickens are injected with hormones. They certainly were prior to 1960, as the industry experimented with them. But the use of hormones was banned in America in the late 1950s. Both hormones and steroids have been banned in Canada since the 1960s. In the UK, they are banned under the Animals and Animal Products Regulations. The EU also banned them Europe-wide in 1988.
When people advertise “hormone free” chicken, they’re telling the truth, just not the whole truth. Their chickens are hormone free because they have to be — it’s the law.
The Herbert Hoover Chicken Myth
It’s a myth that Herbert Hoover, the 1928 American Presidential candidate, promised a “chicken in every pot.” The phrase instead came from a Republican National Committee advertisement during the campaign. The ad, which ran in newspapers, was attempting to convince voters that previous Republican administrations had brought prosperity — a chicken in every pot — to the country, and that a vote for Hoover, the Republican candidate at the time, would continue that prosperity.
A “chicken in every pot” was in fact a slogan that had been around centuries, and not just in English. Henri IV, when he was crowned King of France in 1598, is reputed to have said “Je veux que chaque laboureur de mon royaume puisse mettre la poule au pot le dimanche.” (I want every worker in my realm to be able to put a chicken in the pot on Sundays.”) Having enough other Chickens to supply eggs that you could sacrifice one to cook would indeed have symbolized a certain level of prosperity to ordinary people.
That the slogan could still be used in the early 1900s to symbolize prosperity is a sign of just how recent it is that Chicken became an everyday food for ordinary people.
“The current piece of gastronomical voodoo is a whole young broiler trussed, tenderly backed, and packed in a tall tin in its own rich essence. Open the can and place it for a few minutes in a pot of hot water until the gravy comes to pouring consistency. Plunge in the fork, lift the chicken to a baking dish, pour in the sauce, now oven-heat. There is roast chicken for dinner in a leisurely twenty minutes.” — Paddleford, Clementine (1898 – 1967). Food Flashes Column. Gourmet Magazine. June 1946.
The Roman word for hen was “gallina”; the word for rooster was “gallus”.
The Italian and Spanish words for hen is “gallina”; the word for rooster is “pollo”. Despite that, a Frying Chicken is called a “pollo de leche” in Spanish.
“Hindl” in Yiddish.
What Chickens say: Danish, “gok gok”; Dutch, “tok tok”; Finnish and Hungarian, “kot kot”; French, “cotcotcodet”; German, “gok gok”; Thai, “gook gook.”
 Taylor, Lesley Ciarula.Stop washing raw chicken, food agency advises. Toronto Star. 4 August 2010.
 Dr Lisa Ackerley, Hygiene Audit Systems and visiting professor of environmental health at Salford University as cited in: Foster, Jill. The best before myth: The spaghetti with a use by date of 2013 that could actually be eaten in 2023! London: Daily Mail. 7 May 2011.
Oldfield, Molly and John Mitchinson. Quite interesting facts about chickens. London: Daily Telegraph. 25 August 2011.
Raymond, Francine. How to keep hens happy. London: Daily Telegraph. 12 April 2011.
Schatzker, Mark. Why you can’t find heritage poultry. Toronto, Canada: The Globe and Mail. 3 January 2012.
Ward, Victoria. Outer packaging of chicken ‘covered in bacteria’ study finds. London: Daily Telegraph. 24 January 2011.
- Bresse Chickens
- Chantecler Chickens
- Chicken Backs
- Chicken Breast Strips
- Chicken Breasts
- Chicken Cutlets
- Chicken Drumsticks
- Chicken Fillets
- Chicken Legs
- Chicken Necks
- Chicken Pieces
- Chicken Tenders
- Chicken Thighs
- Chicken Wings
- Goosnargh Chicken
- Ground Chicken
- Lauragais Capon
- New York Dressed Chicken
- Plymouth Rock Chickens