Determining if growing baby chickens are ultimately a hen (female) or a rooster (male) is an age old guessing game of any breeding chicken-keepers and farmers. (A game we’re going to let you play right here with us, today!!) Some are much better at it than others! Some could probably even be considered experts. But….that wouldn’t be us. We had our first go at the game when, after ordering and receiving our very first 8 vent-sexed chicks, in July 2014. We had ordered vent-sexed chicks, to be sure we only got females, because there was no-way, no-how, we could have a rooster around here. So the adorable chicks arrived, and we were having a great time caring for them.
But then some suspicious things came about. Like, what sounded very much like a little inexperienced crowing, at only 4 weeks old! That got us worried, and researching, to learn about how to identify very young chickens as a hen or rooster. So we had our suspicions, and in a little more time there was no doubt that ONE bird (blogged about here in “Our 8 Four Week Old Chicks, and One Sad Surprise”), and then a SECOND (just blabbed out on our Facebook Page), of our 8 vent-sexed birds (supposed hens) were indeed roosters. Two roosters, out of our 8 ordered chicks, vent-sexed to be assure females. Didn’t it figure?
What Became of the Roosters
Although it was definitely a plan to never have a rooster, since we live in fairly close proximity to neighbors, guess what? One of those roosters still lives here. It’s working out so far. He is a very big, beautiful, and traditional looking Welsummer. The other unfortunately had to go, and it broke my heart. It was my favorite. He was an Americauna Easter Egger, that very much looked and acted like the coolest hawk, ever. To see what a stunning bird he was, and find out why he had to go, you can check out this post called “Goodbye, Boston”. That was his name; Boston. I know. A cool name, too, right? And it was sentimental, as Boston is the big city where our triplets were born. I was so sad to let him go for all of those reasons, but I also knew I was also never going to get any beautiful blueish or blue-green eggs, from a rooster. And that’s why I wanted an Easter Egger in the first place.
Anyway, if you follow us, you know we let the hens sit on some eggs this past spring, instead of collecting them one day, to see what happened. This bright idea was spawn from how terrible I felt for my kids, because they were having an uneventful and unexciting spring, despite our grand plans after the longest-winter-ever, due to the fact that I went ahead and broke my ankle, in two places in April. My right ankle: The one I need for driving my 4 kids here and there. And walking for that matter! And it happened right when spring was really getting going! I wanted the kids to have some fun and excitement at home. That’s the gist of it. So yeah, let’s go ahead and let the kids have some fun waiting for eggs to hatch, and maybe one will! Won’t that be fun? Except 5 of 7 did! (Two broke from being stepped on by another hen trying to get in the only already-occupied nesting box, with the nesting hen and eggs.) You can see/read more about all of that, if you’d like, here at the post “Our First Natural Hatching of Chicks”. Be prepared for cuteness overload! And sorry for all of the post links but, we’ve got a back story to everything, you know!
Anyway, today I’ve got some photos of those 5 naturally hatched chicks of ours, who have grown into poultry teenagers. As of the date of these photos, they were about 11 weeks old. When male and female chickens are under a year old, they are called cockerels and pullets
And that brings us full circle back to the guessing game and necessary task, with generation two:
HEN or ROOSTER?
We thought we’d let you play along with us!
We realize some of you may not know anything, about identifying young chickens as hens or roosters. We’re no experts yet either! But we’ll share some tips with you of what we have learned so far, to keep the game fair. Keep in mind, it varies some with different breeds so, this is just general info.
Hens(Pullets)/Females Tend to….
– Have little, paler in color, sometimes yellowish, pea combs coming through, usually in 3 distinct little rows
– Most hen breeds grow wattles, but they are paler and smaller
(Exception examples to having wattles; Americaunas, Easter Eggers)
– Legs are thinner and shorter
– Feather out fuller, sooner
– Tails are usually broad, rounded tail feathers, that are straight
Roosters (Cockerels)/Males Tend to….
– Have early, bright red, comb and wattle development
– Legs are thicker and sturdier
– Feathers out later
– Tails feathers and back feathers are pointier, and tail arches down (later sickle-like feathers)
*And there is something to be said about their stance, stride, attitude, and behavior as well. Cockerels/Roosters kind of carry themselves and walk around like they are all that, and a bag of chips sometimes, and they may also bite a little when handling them.
So ready to take some guesses with us?
Here we go!
Now keep in mind, the new chickens you’ll see in these photos are all bred from the only rooster/male we have had: our Welsummer (named ‘Weymouth’), the traditional looking rooster. Here is a most recent photo of hi, for your reference:
Each of our other chickens, all hens, each are a different breed. Also, the guessing game usually begins much earlier than 11 weeks, as they are seen here, so, the clues are a bit more obvious. Still, it’ll be fun. So, that gives you some context, as you get guessing here.
O.k., first up……
This chicken is part Welsummer, of course, and part Rhode Island Red (our ‘Hanover‘).
Beautiful coloring. Sex guess, anyone? . . . . . .
It’s a rooster. Definitely male. Notice the pointy feather, thicker legs, and tail beginning to arch. And bright red comb and wattles.
Roos will have to GO!
How about this beauty? We love the variation in the coloring! It’s the blend of the Welsummer and our Red Star/Golden Comet (named ‘Westfield‘).
Rooster or hen? . . . . .
Hen! We get to keep her, and she has been named ‘Princeton‘.
Now check this brute out . . . . .
How cool are those iridescent colors in there? Like those oil puddles in the driveway, that you wanted to play in, as a kid. (Or I did, anyway.) This one is part Welsummer and part the Black Australorp (‘Pembroke‘). The sex of this one really mattered to us, because one of our boys, Shane, was very attached, before it even hatched!
Will his high hopes be dashed? . . . . . .
Yes, unfortunately. There is no denying this is a rooster! Thick legs, pointy saddle feathers, bright and big red comb and wattles, and that strut! Just look at the first frame there? I was having flashbacks of Foghorn Leghorn! Suuuuch attitude!
Anyone having fun yet? Moving on.
This lovely is a happy surprise for someone.
Our oldest girl badly wanted a Golden Laced Wyandotte hen. Well this one is a mix from the Welsummer roo with our Silver Laced Wyandotte (‘Duxbury’). Definitely the coloring and markings of a Golden Laced Wyandotte! We didn’t even know that could happen. Not a pure bred of course, but whatever. It can only stay anyway, if it is the right sex. Staying or going? . . . . . .
Staying! It’s a hen, and we have a happy child. The one that left us sad, and moved away to college. :/
Just kidding. We’re happy she is continuing her education. And she is lovin’ it there! She can visit her hen here at home now and then.
This feathered girl has been named ‘Tremont‘.
One more! Are you winning or losing?
We can’t imagine this would be a hard one, for anyone! Sickle tail feathers already, are a dead giveaway! If that wasn’t a clue, look at that center pic! Yikes!
Pretty cool/creepy feather coloring mixes happening though. Almost like two different animals put together. Yeah, he’s got to go, too.
So that concludes the game. But not our chat.
What do you think of our luck, getting 3 out of 5 chicks being roosters? After vent-sexed hens giving us two males, we could hardly be surprised.
This one is the hardest to let go. We were all hoping it would be a hen, so it could live here. But it’s saddest for our animal boy. He was afraid separating him from the mother chicken, ‘Pembroke’, who is his chicken, as he is very attached to her. He feels like Mamas and babies should stay together. (Right?!! Oh, do I hear you, boy! <Sniff-sniff-blow!> ) We’ve explained though, that animals are not like humans, and they forget very quickly. Our White Plymouth Rock, ‘Plymouth‘, was the residing hen anyway; the one who dedicated weeks of her life to sitting on the eggs and chicks. So….he’s fine about it now. No tears.
So What is the Fate of the Three New Roosters?
Yes, now comes the hard part. We knew if any roosters hatched, we wouldn’t be able to keep them. One is p l e n t y. Even two would be a huge, huge problem, not to mention the health and well-being of the hens. Four total would be impossible. But the truth and challenge of the matter is, it’s hard to get rid of ONE rooster. Never mind 3. It’s rare you find a happy farm that needs a rooster. They all already have one, or don’t want any with their hens! The remaining options range from concerning (Craigslist, where cock-fighting betters lurk), processing them ourselves for meat (we’re just not sure we’re ready for that yet, mentally or emotionally), letting them go in the woods? (probably not very humane but….it is nature. I was pushing for that one at one point, out of desperation, to finalize the problem, already.)….
The Alpha Roo a.k.a husband/Daddy, would ultimately have to decide. And he likes to let some hard decisions go……forever.
It was a ‘thing’ with us, every day, for too many weeks. He didn’t want to go with any of my ideas, but wouldn’t find a solution himself either.
Lil’ bit stressful! He makes the big decisions in this house so….
Be sure you are following us on Facebook, to find out just what we did do, with these 3 roosters that could not stay!
We’ll be sharing that news very soon.
Thanks so much for coming over, to play with us! How did you do? Let us know if you got any right, in the comments!
Hope you all had fun!