They key to discovering if you have a rooster among your hens can be difficult.
There are two key ages we feel give the most hints. Two weeks old and ten weeks old. At these ages they are starting to roost and their feathers are coming in! What makes these ages a primary age to discern male or female traits are their specific growth patterns and characteristics.
Here are 5 key traits to look for when looking for a rooster in your flock!
Breed: It is important to know the type of bird you have. What we have learned is that some breeds grow at different rates than other breeds. Some breeds feathers are more pronounced than other breeds. And some combs and wattles will be smaller or larger depending on the breed. So what is true for one is not true for all. So knowing your breed is your first key to determining the gender of your bird.
Combs & Wattles: A chicken’s comb & wattle is going to grow. But a rooster’s comb & wattle grows at a faster rate than a hens. Their combs and wattles tend to be more pronounced, and color faster. If you have a two week old chick whose comb is already pinking up it is likely a boy. Most hens won’t have pink or red combs until they are much older. If you have a chick whose wattle is larger and floppier than the others, it is likely you have a roo on your hands.
Legs: A hen’s legs are going to be smaller. Not necessarily in length, but around. The circumference of rooster’s legs is larger than that of a hen. So if you have a young bird with large feet it is likely a roo. Some roosters will even have nubs where spurs will eventually grow, but this is not always a reliable way to tell a rooster from a hen because some hens have this too.
Feathers: A female bird’s feathers generally will come in before a male bird. At two weeks their wings tend to be longer as well as their tail feathers. A hen’s feathers are rounded and shorter than a rooster’s. You won’t be able to tell much by their feathers between two and ten weeks of age. At twelve weeks the bird’s saddle feathers will come in. A rooster has long, pointy, and shiny feathers across their back. They hang down like saddle stirrups. A hen has rounder, shorter and less shiny saddle feathers. Once these come in you can be certain whether you have a girl or a boy on your hands.
Crow or Lay: The ultimate key to knowing whether you’ve got a boy or girl is when they start crowing or laying. By this time there’s no doubt about the gender of your bird. Most pullets lay around the ages of 20 weeks to 26 weeks. Most cockerels will start to crow anywhere from 12-18 weeks. While it is not unheard of for a hen to crow, if you have one that is crowing it is unlikely you’ve got an egg laying hen, you probably have a roo!
Remember, there is no sure fire way to tell the girls from the boys, but these key elements will help you. After a few seasons of watching birds grow you’ll be an expert in no time!
Do you have difficulty telling the hens from the roos in your new flock? What do you look for to distinguish between the two?