How to Tell if a Chicken Is a Rooster

How to Tell if a Chicken Is a Rooster (5 Key Differences)

Sometimes, it comes as a surprise to some that ‘chicken’ is the word for both males and females.

Female chickens are called hens, and male chickens are called roosters.

It’s important to note that roosters and hens are very different in the roles they play in a flock.

Although, it’s not always easy for the untrained eye to tell the difference – especially when a chick is young.

If you want to know if a chicken is male or female, here are some of the most obvious ways how to tell if a chicken is a rooster:

5 Ways – How to Tell if a Chicken Is a Rooster

There are a few different ways that you can tell the difference between a male and female chicken, or chick.

Some of these methods are more accurate than others, and some are only apparent when a chick reaches a certain age.

If you take into account all of these methods, however, I’m sure you’ll be able to tell if you have a rooster or a hen on your hands:

Methods of Sexing Chicks

Sexing a chick by inspecting it is something best left to poultry professionals.

To give you an overview, however, here are a couple of the most common ways to sex chicks:

The Vent Sexing Method

This is the most common way chicks are sexed in poultry operations. It’s not easy to do and still has about a 90-95% accuracy.

Vent sexing involves inspecting the chick and expelling poop to see how it looks – it’s not something I’ve done or would recommend!

The Wing Sexing Method

This method is based on the theory that male chicks have longer wing feathers than female chicks.

Although this method is not always accurate either, but it’s one of the ways poultry suppliers sex chicks to get an idea for what sex they are.

Related Reasons to get a rooster and what roosters do!

Look at the Comb and Wattle

The next way to tell if a chick is going to grow up to be a rooster or a hen is to keep an eye on how their comb and wattle is developing.

The age at which a chicken’s comb starts to develop varies a lot depending on the breed, so keep an eye on your chicks as they age.

Roosters will (almost) always have bigger, fuller, redder combs. It’s really only noticeable if you put a rooster next to a hen though.

Look at Their Feathers

As mature birds, you can tell a rooster from a hen by looking at various feather groups over their bodies.

Mature roosters will have longer, pointer (hackle) feathers on their necks and backs.

Only roosters have saddle feathers, too, which are the long, pointy feathers running down the middle of the backs.

Roosters also typically tend to have more colorful plumage than hens, if you have an adult rooster and hen from the same breed side-by-side you’ll see the difference for sure.

Look for Spurs on Their Legs

Roosters develop spurs on the back of their legs somewhere between the age of 6-12 months.

Spurs are sharp spikes that look a bit like an extra toe higher up on their legs. Roosters use them for fighting and can do some serious damage with their spurs.

Hens don’t have spurs (well, some do, actually, but it’s rare), so if you see a chicken with spurs and some of the other signs it’s a rooster – it’s likely a rooster.

Observe Their Behavior

Roosters behave very differently from hens, particularly when they’re mature in age.

For starters, roosters are way more vocal than hens and will crow (make a loud ‘cock-a-doodle-do’ noise) most famously at the break of dawn.

Roosters also tend to be more aggressive than hens, often fighting with other roosters and even being aggressive towards us.

Hens, on the other hand, are much more docile animals and get along with both roosters and hens just fine.

Related More about dubbing roosters and when they molt.

At What Age Can You Tell if a Chicken Is a Rooster?

The answer to this question depends on which method you’re using.

If you’re looking at their vents, experienced poultry handlers who know what they’re looking for can sex chicks with a good degree of accuracy as young as a day old.

For most other methods, however, you’ll need to wait until the chick is at least a few weeks old before you can tell for sure if it’s a rooster or a hen.

Don’t panic though, it is really easy to tell the difference with adult chickens once you know what you’re looking for, roosters and hens are very different.

In Summary

There are a few different ways you can tell if a chicken is a rooster or hen depending on the age of the bird.

It gets easier as chickens grow up, and once a chicken is mature it becomes very easy to tell the difference when you know what you’re looking for!

Resources

Image credits – Photo by Miroslav Matěcha on Unsplash

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