There are various names and terms for chickens; pullets, point-of-lay, cockerels, roosters, hens...let’s take a look at male chickens and clear up some myths.
Are all male chickens roosters? Yes, all male chickens grow up to become roosters. When they are less than a year old they are called cockerels or cocks.
How Can You Tell If a Chick Is a Rooster?
This is one of the most confusing things when hatching and raising chicks.
There are some breeds, such as sex-linked chicks that have certain markings that make it possible to know the sex of a chick when they’re born.
For the most part, however, it’s difficult to tell what sex a chicken is when they’re firstborn.
There are some techniques hatcheries use to tell the sex of a chick, but it takes some practice and isn’t 100% accurate with most breeds.
If you want to be sure if your chickens are either male or female, you need to wait a few weeks for some physical developments.
For example, a roosters’ combs will develop quicker and be redder than hens. Their feathers also develop in a different way, and they typically have thicker legs.
This video runs through some of the physical differences between female and male chicks at around 4 weeks of age so you can see what I’m walking about.
You can see the difference in their legs, feathers, comb, and some other physical attributes:
What's the Difference Between a Cockerel and a Rooster?
The only difference between a cockerel and a rooster is the age of the chicken.
Both are males, it’s just that a cockerel is typically a year or younger, and a rooster is a fully mature male chicken that’s older than a year.
How Are Roosters Different to Hens?
Apart from the obvious - roosters are male and hens are female - here are the main physical and behavioral differences that separate them:
Eggs - Hens lay eggs, roosters do not. It’s an obvious one for anyone familiar with chickens, but it’s still something that comes as a surprise to people.
I still come across people who think that all chickens are female and capable of laying eggs from time to time. Chickens are a type of bird with both males and females.
Appearance - It depends on the breed, but typically there are loads of differences in the appearance of a hen vs a rooster.
The main difference is often the color and shape of their feathers. Like a lot of birds, the males are a lot more colorful than the females so they can attract mates in the wild.
Combs and Wattles - If you’re not familiar with chicken anatomy, I’m talking about those red dangly things on their chins and sticking up on their heads.
Roosters tend to have bigger, redder combs and wattles that develop at a younger age than a hen’s.
Noise - Another defining difference (with a caveat as I’ll explain) is that roosters crow loudly. They’re the ones that make that loud “cock-a-doodle-doo” at the crack of dawn.
The caveat is that some hens can actually crow too! It’s rare, but it’s possible. Either way, loud crowing is often the reason why roosters are not allowed in urban areas. It doesn’t go down well with the neighbors.
Related content - Are no crow collars cruel? The solution to loud crowing explained.
How Long Do Roosters Live?
As with all animals, the living conditions, nutrition, environment, etc all play a role in how long a rooster lives.
Do We Eat Roosters?
This is another interesting thing about male chickens. For the most part, in the poultry industry where chickens are bred for meat, male chicks are discarded.
There is a much greater demand for female chickens as they lay eggs and are used for meat. In the backyard setting, a flock will consist of several hens and just one rooster too.
So, there is much less demand for male chickens. It’s an unfortunate by-product of the industry, but millions of male chicks are simply discarded.
Roosters can be eaten though, I talked about what rooster meat is like in more detail in this post.
Male chicken meat is a bit tougher, more stringy, but a lot of people say it has a “fuller” flavor. It’s a delicacy if you like. Something you should try if you like chicken and the opportunity arises.
In Summary - Are All Male Chickens Roosters?
I hope this article has helped clear up the confusion around chicken terminology and what the differences between male and female chickens are.
All male chickens start as male chicks. They are then called cockerels or cocks while they are less than a year old.
When a male chicken matures and is a year or older they are officially called roosters.