They say chicken as food is non-count in English. In my native language, we simply count chicken as food. We go to a grocery store and ask for ONE, TWO, THREE frozen chickenS.

How do you count chicken as a whole (i.e. not having cut into pieces but without a head and feathers)?

Are these sentences right? If not, what's the right way to say them?

I bought three raw fat chickens today.

I roasted the three chickens for dinner.

I put all three roast chickens on the table and said, 'enjoy'.

  • 1
    It would be "chicken" when referring to a meal or individual different pieces. It would be chickens when referring to whole chickens. And when you count chickens (>1), it has to be plural.
    – user3169
    Feb 28, 2016 at 21:22

2 Answers 2


I cooked two chickens for dinner today.

I can say that, if I cooked this:

enter image description here

However, if I cooked different parts of chicken, I would treat the word chicken as an uncountable noun:

I cooked chicken for dinner today.

I would say that, if I had cooked something like this:

enter image description here

Interestingly enough, the uncountable expression works in either case. In other words, even if I cooked the two chickens in that top picture, I could still say:

I cooked chicken for dinner today.


Yes, those are all fine (though "raw fat chickens" sounds odd, but I'm not sure why. I think we'd probably say "uncooked" rather than "raw").

As you've worked out, if you are referring to whole cooked or uncooked chickens, and especially if you are counting them, you can treat them as a count noun. Even if there's only one, you can say "I served a roast chicken".

But if the wholeness and the number of them doesn't matter to you, you can treat it as a count noun "I bought some chicken"; "I served roast chicken".

There is not a difference in the circumstances you are describing, simply whether at that moment you are choosing to talk about the chickens as discrete objects, or as a manifestation of chicken meat.

  • 1
    I might even say in America, we wouldn't even necessarily specify whether or not the chicken was cooked. Usually context makes it clear. If I've been to the grocery store and not specified, you'd assume I meant raw/uncooked chicken. If I'd been to a restaurant, you'd assume I ordered cooked chicken. If you're reading a recipe that does not specify, you'd assume uncooked/raw.
    – nhgrif
    Feb 29, 2016 at 2:44
  • Excuse me, does this rule apply to fish and meat, too? i.e. can we say three grilled fishes, or three roast lambs?
    – Yuri
    Mar 2, 2016 at 16:00
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    @Azad: you could, but neither of these is very common for conventional reasons. The easier one to discuss is 'lamb': since we are not in the habit of roasting whole lambs, this is very unusual. "Fish" is more complicated. It seems to me that when we are talking about small fish, that might be served whole, then we can: "Three sardines" or "Three grilled herrings". For large fish where we don't tend to see the whole fish served, this is less common. When fish is served as food, we tend to refer to the kind of fish, not just to "fish".
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 2, 2016 at 16:11
  • I see. So it's possible though unusual. Then as you said nowadays roasting a whole lamb is not a common practice. We might want to put it say in a story that we're writing about a big feast in the Middle Ages. No problem with that, right?
    – Yuri
    Mar 2, 2016 at 20:45
  • @Azad: Yes. no problem.
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 3, 2016 at 20:20

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