A hen is a female chicken while a rooster is a male chicken. Hens vs roosters is an interesting topic to discuss. Some people are unable to tell the difference and wonder whether are chickens male or female?
Sexing in chickens especially when they are young can be a hard task to perform. When young, chicks look very similar because they are all tiny and covered with downy feathers.
Some people say they can even tell the difference by looking at the eggs before they are hatched. To me this is not easy and how they tell the difference I do not know.
Achieving 100% accuracy when sexing is not easy unless done using modern technology or by experienced experts. So, do you want to know more about hens vs roosters?
Hens vs roosters: What is the difference?
Well, there are notable differences between male and female chickens especially when both genders are mature. Many people often note the difference when their chickens are big enough to display male or female physical characteristics.
So, are are all chickens male or female? what is the difference between the two genders?
Here are some ways you can use to tell who the boy is and who the girl is in the hens vs roosters debate.
By looking at the body plumage of your chicken, you can easily tell whether the bird is male or female. Cocks develop long tail feathers that are more exuberant.
They are sometimes brightly colored and when the rooster is sun basking, they have more sheen.
Hens have tail feathers too. But for them, they are not as long as their male husbands are. They are shorter and pointed up. Additionally, looking at hens from the back, their tail feathers seem to form a triangular shape though for some chicken breeds like the Ameraucana hens the case may be different because they are rumpless and lack the tail feathers.
Hackle feathers are also another feature you may use to tell the difference. For the males, the hackle feathers are long and pointed falling on the crop area.
When roosters turn aggressive, they lower their heads and raise their hackle feathers forming an umbrella shape.
In hens, the hackle feathers are short and do not hang like they do in cocks. The hackle region is the area around the chicken’s neck.
Saddle feathers can also be another feature used to tell the difference when looking at the plumage. Saddle region is the area around the chickens back.
The feathers here are long and fall side by side like waterfalls. They are often colorful, thin and long in males.
For some breeds like silkies and sebright chickens, they are known to lack hackle and saddle feathers in cocks. This makes them referred as hen feathered chickens and it is not easy to tell the difference when you look at the feathers of these two regions.
However, you will only use feathers to tell the gender difference in chickens when they are mature. Baby chicks all hatch with a similar downy plumage that cannot be used to determine a hen vs a rooster.
Combs and wattles
In roosters, the combs are big and brightly colored with several marked peaks on them. Combs are the flesh red part on top of chickens head. For the hens, the comb is short and in some cases it is very small.
The wattles in cocks are long and often hang and in some chicken breeds like the dong tao there is a dewlap.
Rooster chicken wattles are brightly colored and they are two in number. In hens, the wattles are small and lack the bright color as they are in cocks. Wattles are two fleshy parts hanging under the lower jaw in chickens.
Laying in hens and crowing in cocks
When your chicken starts to lay, that is an enough proof that you have a hen. Whether she is mature or a pullet it is very possible to tell she is a hen or she is going to be a hen. Pullets are female chickens that are below the age of one year.
When pullets reach sexual maturity, one of the things they will do is start to lay. In males mature cocks will often crow. For teenage males or cockerels, they will try to crow but with a different voice from that of roosters.
But you should know that there are some females that will try to crow too. For this case, they will have a voice almost similar to that of cockerels or a softer than that. Cockerels are male chicken that are less than one year.
Males will mate or try to
Cocks have a tendency to mate with every female that crosses their path. Cocks have a way of luring hens to mate or sometimes act like terrorists by chasing hens and mate by force.
Cockerels will often try to mate with hens or pullets in the coop. This happens as they have high testerone levels during their teenage days.
When trying to mate with hens, they are sometimes punished by being pecked and shyly turn away.
Some hens when their progesterone levels are very high will often sit when you get close to them. This happens when they are ready to mate.
I have seen this with my birds especially when there are no males with them.
When do roosters start mating? Well most rooster breeds are ready to mate at the age of 4 to 5 months. However, there are some chicken breeds like the Jersey giant that will take longer than this.
This is the most modern method to determine gender difference in chicks. Most hatcheries now use this method but though achieving 100% accuracy is not easy but 95% turns out to be correct.
After chicks are hatched, trained professionals check the vent by squeezing it open to see the tiny sex organs.
How they tell the difference I do not know but what I know is that this method is very delicate and sometimes leads to death of the young birds or damage of vent tissues.
Sex links are those chicken breeds that you can tell the gender difference right after they hatch. Chickens like Black star and Cinnamon queens have different color feathers or certain marks in males.
In some chickens, male chicks will have thick legs at hatching than the female chicks.
Owning chickens is good as they can be a good income source. Having them also ensures that your protein needs are well taken care of by giving you eggs and white meat.
If by any chance the chicks you ordered turned out to be roosters instead of hens, no need to worry. Most hatcheries will refund your cash back and allow you keep the birds.
This may be profitable as you can easily convert them into cash. However, it is heart breaking too getting the undesired sex.
If they turn into hens and not roosters the same will happen too. Mistakes do occur but deciding what to do after is the most important thing.
To me, letting your chicks grow to maturity is the best and easiest way to tell the gender difference. This way you can tell the difference by the look of your own eyes.