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Hen or Rooster? The Great Chicken Confusion 

In the wild world of chicken identification, distinguishing between a hen and a rooster is one of the everlasting challenges.  

Luckily, we’re going to clear up this confusion in a way that’s more fun than finding an extra nugget in your chicken box.

Twins? Almost, But Not Quite 

Imagine you’re at a family reunion. From a distance, Uncle Bob and Aunt Barbara look remarkably similar, especially with their matching festive sweaters. But get a little closer, and the differences are clear. It’s the same with our barnyard companions, the hen and the rooster. 

1. Physical Characteristics 

First thing first, roosters are the show-offs in the chicken world. They own a glorious set of tail feathers that can rival any bird of paradise. These feathers are long, colourful, and often extravagantly curved. Hens, while often just as colourful, have more modest and shorter tail feather arrangements.  

As we mentioned in our previous article about chickens’ red crest (link, you’re welcome!), both hens and roosters have the so-called comb. However, roosters will often have larger combs and wattles than hens. The colours of their appendixes and faces will also be more vibrant than a hen’s facial features (except when a hen is in peak production, then her facial features can also appear quite vibrant).  

Finally, adult roosters often sport spurs—sharp bony protrusions on the backs of their legs. These are their tools for duelling over pecking order fights and impressing the ladies. Hens typically don’t have spurs, showing thinner legs.  

2. Behavioral characteristics  

You can also identify a rooster or a hen based on characteristic behaviours. In roosters, these include courting, guarding, sparring and other aggressive attitudes. In fact, watching a rooster move around the coop is quite a show. They walk like they own the place because, in their minds, they do. Being typically larger and more muscular, roosters carry themselves with undeniable confidence. Hens, on the other side, mostly care about seeds and eggs, are more reserved, quiet and with a walk that’s practical and purpose-driven.  

When it comes to vocalizations, roosters have a reputation for being the morning alarm system of nature. If you’ve ever heard a loud, proud “cock-a-doodle-doo” disrupting the dawn, you’ve met a rooster. They don’t just sing at dawn, though; roosters can belt out a tune all day long, just to remind everyone they’re around. Hens prefer the art of gentle clucking and soft pecking sounds – more lady-like!   

One thing to keep in mind when determining the gender of an adult chicken is that things can get a little complicated with some specific breeds. There are some types of chickens in which both sexes have spurs or in which feathers are often similar – so you will simply have to wait to hear them sing or lay an egg to recognize who’s who.  

To wrap it up, while you may not be 100% sure about the sex of a chicken, these tips can still give you a good idea based on distinguishing features.  

And if you still can’t tell? Our heartfelt advice is: just enjoy the chicken’s company.