Gallus gallus

Order: Galliformes


Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • If possible a shelf or branch above ground level for perching.

Diet Requirements

  • Left to their own devices, chickens eat insects and a variety of wild plants and seeds.
  • In zoos, chickens are fed pellets and chopped fruits and vegetables.

Veterinary Concerns

Notes on Enrichment & Training

  • Live crickets, pan with dirt for scratching, shiny bells or toys hung from enclosure, hanging food basket.


Colony or Breeding Management

Notes species is housed or managed socially or for breeding purposes.

Individual Identification

Dimorphism or practiced ways to individually mark species (such as those in colonies, like giant millipedes).

Programmatic Information


Temperature Guidelines



Tips on Presentation

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling

  • Identifying and offering treats while on programs keeps the programs a positive experience.
  • If handling indoors it is always a good idea to lay down a cloth or newspaper encase the chicken goes to the bathroom.


Potential Messaging

Acquisition Information


Comments from the Rating System

  • Buffalo Zoo: We use Bantam Leghorn and Dominique. Not touchable due to salmonella concerns.
  • Downtown Aquarium, Denver: Husbandry is the hardest part
  • Henry Vilas Zoo: Great to train!!
  • Maryland Zoo in Baltimore: We love Buff Orpingtons and Jersey Giants.
  • Natural Science Center of Greensboro: We use silkies. Very good, calm temperament.
  • Philadelphia Zoo: Super trainable, visitors are surprised when they see trained behaviors, otherwise may not be impressed
  • Seneca Park Zoo: Roosters have a great “wow” factor.

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat


Physical Description

Size, color, and feather design varies widely by breed.

Life Cycle

Hens will lay eggs regardless of if the eggs are fertile, or if they have even been bred, or even if there is a rooster around. A rooster is only needed to create new chickens – he’s not needed to make eggs.
Chicken eggs hatch 21 days after they are laid. Chicks inside the egg have an “egg tooth,” a sharp point on the tip of the beak that the chick uses to break through the eggshell. The egg tooth will fall off the beak after the chick has finished hatching.
Some breeds can live up to 13 years old.


  • Chickens bathe in dirt, which cleans them and frees them of insects.
  • Only roosters crow, and they will crow throughout the day, not just at sunrise.
  • Almost all breeds of chicken can fly, but they cannot fly long distances.

Threats and Conservation Status

As a domestic breed, chickens as a species are in no danger of extinction and in fact are quite common all over the world. They are predated upon by birds of prey, foxes, racoons, dogs, cats, and opossums.

Did you know…

  • Male chickens are called “roosters” or “cocks,” females are “hens,” and babies are “chicks.” Young (under one year old) females are “pullets” and young males are “cockerel.” A male rendered incapable of breeding is a “cockerel.” A small breed of chicken is a “bantam.”
  • Chickens lay the same color of egg as their ear lobes.
  • All existing breeds of chicken originated from the wild




Any Documents to attach, species spotlights, etc.

Contributors and Citations

  • The Philadelphia Zoo
  • Blank Park Zoo

Top photo credit: Taken by fir0002 |