When it comes to raising chickens, the average person typically has a few questions. Whether you are keeping chickens as pets or incorporating them as part of your farm, you may be wondering the difference between hens vs roosters. Granted, the crow and the strut of a rooster is unmistakable. However, even still, there are times when noticing the difference can be a challenge.
Hen vs Rooster
When it comes to raising chickens, there are a few terms that you should become familiar with. Apart from the terms hen and rooster, there are also the terms cockerels and pullets. While these terms refer to different birds, they are all chickens.
A rooster is a male chicken and a hen is a female chicken. A cockerel is a young rooster who is less than one year of age. A pullet is a young hen who is less than one year of age. Although these terms can be confusing, hens and roosters are still both chickens.
From The Egg
You may be able to identify the gender of your flock from simply looking at their eggs. This only applies if you are hatching your flock from eggs and not purchasing chicks. You or the farmer may be able to inspect the egg to determine if it is a hen vs rooster. This can be done by examining the shape of the egg.
Eggs that have a sharp pointed tip are generally regarded as being rooster eggs, while eggs that are rounder are hen eggs. This applies regardless of the color of the egg. While checking the tips is a tried and true method that is utilized by many farmers, it is not always foolproof and human error, as well as outliers, can still come into play.
What is Vent Sexing?
Vent sexing began in Japan in the 1920s. For this reason, it is also referred to as the Japanese sexing method. Those who practice the art of vent sexing have to go through extensive training and complete rigorous testing.
Performing vent sexing incorrectly can lead to the death of a baby chicken. In order to properly vent sex, and expertly trained professional will gently squeeze the baby chick, causing it to defecate and also open a vent.
The sexing expert will then be able to check to see whether the chick is a hen vs rooster depending on whether the lump inside is large or small. Sexual organs will also be able to be examined during this time. Vent sexing is not recommended for anyone other than experts. We have a complete guide to sex chickens if you are wanting something more specific.
What is Feather Sexing?
Feather sexing involves observation in order to identify a hen vs rooster. Young chicks could be able to be identified according to their feathers. Chicks that are female will have longer wing feathers than the male chicks.
However, male chicks will have longer tail feathers. Comparing the lengths of the feathers could help someone determine whether or not they have a hen or a rooster chick.
What are Auto-Sexed Breeds?
There are some breeds that are easier to distinguish between male and female chicks than others. These breeds are known as auto-sexed breeds. Typically, these chicks can be separated between males and females right after they hatch due to their distinctively different markings.
For instance, a female may have a different colored spot on her head than a male chick. In other cases, males may have slightly different colored legs than the female. Breeds that are easy to identify include Rhode Island Reds and New Hampshire chickens.
How Do I Know if My Chicken is a Pullet or a Cockerel?
When someone gets chicks, which are baby chickens, there is never for sure certainty on what sex they are. It is very difficult to determine the gender of chicks, especially if you are purchasing chicks from a local chicken breeder.
This is what is known as straight run chickens, which means that the farmer does not determine gender. If you prefer to know the gender of the chicks you are buying, you will have to obtain your chicks from a hatchery.
However, even their trained professionals will not be accurate all of the time when sexing their baby chicks. It is never advised for a backyard breeder to attempt to vent sex their chicks on their own, as this could lead to issues including death for the chick. Instead, it is best to identify chicks by observation or by utilizing auto-sexed breeds.
One of the best methods to find out whether or not you have a pullet or a cockerel is to wait around and see. Depending on the breed of chicken, you may have to wait longer than others to find out if it is a pullet or a cockerel.
This age range is typically around three to six months. However, cockerels may start crowing earlier than that. As they age, you may be able to start identifying certain traits that will help in determining a hen vs rooster.
Combs and Wattles
You may also be able to tell hens vs roosters by their combs and wattles. The comb is the area of the chicken that is on the top of the chicken’s head. This can appear on either the head of a rooster or a hen.
However, when a rooster grows a comb, it is generally larger and brighter than that of a hen’s. Wattles are the fleshy parts of skin that are located under a chicken’s neck or beak area. In roosters, wattles are larger and more brightly colored.
Wattles on a rooster generally hang down longer than that of a hen’s wattle. A young chick may start to develop a larger or brighter wattle or comb than the other chickens in the flock. This may be a good indicator as to its gender. However, this is not always accurate.
There are three main types of feathers on a chicken. These types of feathers are known as hackle feathers, saddle feathers, and tail feathers. Hackle feathers are the feathers that can be found around a chicken’s neck.
Hackle feathers can be found on both hens and roosters. Hen’s will generally have shorter hackle feathers than that of a rooster. A rooster has longer hackle feathers that are typically more pointed.
Saddle feathers are the feathers that grow on the backs of roosters. Saddle feathers are not found on a hen. If you need a helpful tip on how to remember what saddle feathers are, thinking about where you put a saddle on a horse – the back. So, that is where the saddle feathers are located. Once a rooster and a hen mature, it is easy to notice the difference in saddle feathering.
You may also be able to determine hens vs roosters by looking at their tail feathers. Tail feathers are found at the end of a chicken and are found on both hens and roosters. However, a rooster’s tail feathers are generally more exuberant. They may be longer and more colorful than a hen’s.
Another way you may be able to distinguish hens vs roosters is by observing their behavior. Roosters may become a bit rowdier than hens, as well as be more vocal. You may start to hear a young rooster begin to crow or show its dominance to the flock. As roosters mature, they may also challenge one another or cause some disagreements within the flock.
However, this is not always the case and hens can be trouble makers as well. Roosters may stand up taller on their legs or seemingly puff out their chests. While hens can be rowdy too, this is most common among roosters.
What to do If Your Hen is a Rooster
It could happen to any chicken farmer. However, there are some measures you can take if your hen turns out to be a rooster. If you ordered pullets from a breeder, then you contact the breeder when it turns out to be a rooster. Hatcheries will most likely not be taking back your rooster, but you may be able to secure a refund.
Purchasing from a tractor supply store or similar will mean that you probably will not get a refund, as these will be straight run chickens. However, there are advantages to owning a rooster as long as there are no laws where you live against keeping one.
Advantages of Owning a Rooster
Roosters can help to keep your flock in order, especially if your hens are known for wandering off at night. A rooster is generally fiercely protective over his flock and will do anything to protect them.
This helps to keep your hens safe from any lingering predators. If your hens are having difficulty finding some grub, a rooster will help to provide for them and go on the search for some bugs. Roosters can also provide you with fertilized eggs, allowing you to sell to potential buyers that want to raise their own chicks.
Owning a flock of chickens can be a memorable experience. However, it is important for many chicken owners to recognize the difference between hens vs roosters. Knowing these differences will help chicken owners maintain an optimal flock and provide the best environment for their chickens.