I know fishes, birds, lizards, etc. lay and hatch from eggs (mostly), but apparently, they can also be born (out of eggs):

Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness.
Alejandro Jodorowsky

There are also such statements as:

No bird gives birth to live young.

Some birds are known to give live birth.

They sound like most/all birds give some kind of birth other than live birth to young, though I'm pretty sure it's not stillbirth or "dead birth".

But some owners of pets celebrate the hatchday instead of birthday. So, apparently, for them, their pets' lives begin with hatch, not birth.

Technically speaking, oviparous animals produce young by means of eggs. But I'm not sure if "this hen produced the chicks", for example, is idiomatic in everyday conversation.

So would you say "this hen gave birth to the chicks"?

2 Answers 2


I don't find it natural to speak of hens giving birth to chicks, or chicks being born.

Transitively, hens lay eggs and hens hatch chicks
Intransitively, hens lay and eggs hatch (hens don't hatch, and eggs don't lay)

In which context it's probably relevant to note the etymology of to be born, to bear young. Essentially, these usages derive from to bear = to carry, which particularly alludes to placental mammals "carrying" the developing young internally, in the womb, until they're delivered through the birth canal - fully-formed and ready to take a first breath.

I think Birds born in cages / a cage is something of a special case, because those birds tend to be pets - which encourages us to "anthropomorphize" them (or whatever the more general term might be for "refer to a non-mammalian creature as if it were a mammal").

  • Thank you for the answer! Could you elaborate on oviparous animals being born? Is it natural to say "birds are born to fly" and "the bird was born blind"? Also, do you think an oviparous animal can be born (in)to some kind of parent, family, colony, etc.?
    – Detaroit
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 18:56
  • 1
    Established idiomatic usages like The building was born to give a home to the works of the artist Felix Nussbaum are fine, but it's a matter of judgement how far you can "stretch" that. Personally, I don't like This bird was born blind, but that's because we simply don't say things like that with the sense of My parrot was blind from birth (which is a "truism" - parrots are "altricial" birds, so they're all born blind and helpless). Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 19:31
  • ..most songbirds and gamebirds are altricial. But they wouldn't survive if their sight didn't develop a few days after birth/hatching - no-one would keep a blind canary as a pet, would they? Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 19:33
  • Do hens (and other birds) not hatch? I would say they do. “The chicks hatch” doesn’t give an awful lot of hits in Google Books, but enough to show some real usage. Your own comment above (“after birth/hatching”) indirectly supports it as well. Obviously, in the strictest sense hens don’t hatch in the same way that women aren’t born: when they hatch/are born, they’re not yet hens/women, but chicks/girls. But that doesn’t seem to be the point you’re making here, and something like “after they hatch, the chicks are blind for a few days before their eyesight develops” sounds fine to me. Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 22:10
  • (Addition: Actually “the chicks hatch” give plenty of hits. I had accidentally written “the chickens hatch” instead, which gives far fewer hits.) Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 22:11

Yes, there are some animals, such as certain species of snakes and sharks, which are ovoviviparous: giving live birth to their young which hatched internally from eggs.

For some examples of these, THIS WEBSITE gives a nice variety.

It certainly would appear in these cases that the mother gave birth to the young, as they are born live--and this is likely the language used in such a case.

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