A mother chicken is called a hen. The baby chick's life cycle starts when its mother hen lays an egg. This egg has a big yellow yolkthat contains all the food the chick needs while it grows inside the egg. The yolk floats in the egg white, which protects it and contains water for the chick. For about 21 days the hen sits on her eggs and covers them with her feathers to keep them warm. Several times a day she turns the eggs with her beak. She does this to keep the yolk from sinking down and crushing the chick against the shell.
When it is time for the chick to hatch, it pecks holes in the shell with a bump on its beak called an egg tooth. A few days after the chick has hatched, the egg tooth falls off because the chick doesn't need it any more. The chick in the picture still has its egg tooth. The chick has to take lots of breaks to rest, and when it finally gets out of the shell it doesn't get up and move right away — it's too tired! Its feathers are wet and stringy, but they soon dry and become fluffy.
Baby chicks grow up fast. Young girls are called pullets and young boys are called cockerels. Pretty soon they will be grown-up hens and roosters and start having their own babies!
All birds lay eggs, but they don't all do it in just the same way:
Eggs come in lots of different colors and sizes. A hummingbird egg is the size of a jelly bean. A robin egg is blue and about the size of a quarter. Ostrich eggs are the largest; they are bigger than a grapefruit!
There are lots of different names for baby birds! In general, they are called chicks or hatchlings, but some types of birds have special names. Here are a few:
Groups of hatchlings are sometimes called a brood or a clutch. Groups of grown-up birds can have different names, too. Usually they are a flock, but a group of geese is called a gaggle and a group of ducks is called a brace.
Print out this coloring sheet to help kids match the baby birds with their parents!
Down- tiny, soft, fluffy feathers that keep the chick warm.
Hen- a grown-up, mother (female) chicken.
Yolk- the yellow part of the inside of the egg. This gives the baby chick the food it needs to grow.
Egg Tooth- a bump on the chick's beak that it uses to crack the shell so it can hatch.