I feel like I just went through a right of passage for backyard urban chicken owners. If only one of two of the new chickens had been roosters It would have been very clear that something was not right earlier but because they were ALL ROOSTERS we had no chicken of the same age to compare them to.
The first thing I noticed was that their behavior was more aggressive. We got them at 3 months old and already they were fighting in the beak to beak style. They stick out their neck and make their neck feathers stand up like an open umbrella. Here is a picture of two mature roosters doing it:
It’s very obvious that those are males since they are full grown but i couldn’t find a pic of juvenile roosters doing it. When I saw them doing this I didn’t remember our other hens doing it but thought it was kind of cute and didn’t realize it was a male chicken behavior.
Their feather patterns can tell you a lot as they get older. Roosters have pointier neck feathers. Hens have neck feathers that have more rounded tips.
Saddle feathers – as roosters get older they begin to have more defined saddle feathers. in the picture above those adult roosters have really well defined saddle feathers, the feathers on their backs right before the tail starts, you can see how they sort of drape over the back like a saddle.
Here’s a pic of our three rooster at about 3 months. as you can see the saddle feathers are not particularly defined:
As roosters get older their tail feathers also change. in the above pic you see Flowers (the black one) just has a regular looking tail at 3 months but by 4 and a half months the tail started to change and had some longer feathers at the top that sort of looked separate and drooped over and down.
Another thing to look at is the base of the comb. Hens will have a more delicate and narrow comb base. Here’s a pic of all three roosters (kinda blurry) at 3 months old. Their combs are still pretty small.
I don’t have much to say about this except that combs vary quite a bit from breed to breed. If you’ve got two of the same breed and one has a wider comb base and is exhibiting some other signs then you might have a rooster.
One thing I remember from our hens when they were young is that around about 5 months old they started submitting if you hovered your hand over them. It’s a hen mating behavior. Their chest goes towards the ground and tail and haunches go up. Take the opportunity to rough them up a bit between the shoulder blades.
The most obvious sign of a rooster is the crowing. Only Eggy was crowing in the morning at 5 months old. He did the typical chest up and out, wings flapping and a nice loud oodle oodle oooooo! The day before we took them back to the farm Dizzy busted out with a pretty pathetic crow attempt.
When we got to the farm Dizzy was the only one that wasn’t obvious just by looking at it and he got to have a very undignified and intrusive upside down investigation. “Yep! No eggs in this pipe!” the dude declared.
There you have it! My first chicken sexing experience! Now we have three new hens a Delaware, a Black Star sex link, and a Barred Rock. All of them have brown eggs so I am a tiny bit disappointed about that but there will be other chickens eventually. They are all in-between 3-4 months old so we will have ot wait a bit for eggs from them.
Now we are all fighting about names for them. Jack wants to name them White-Black, Butterfly, and One of Three.
I want the black one to be named Xena and Vim wants the Barred Rock to be Mimi and the black one to be Homestar Chicken. These new chickens are already coming over to eat out of my hand and will allow themselves to be cuddled.
However, Mimi is sneezing and has some nasal discharge. GODDAMMIT.
What have I learned here? I think next time we will order baby chicks from a hatchery. Maybe all these will go in the pot in a year.
I found a picture Vim took of them fighting. So this is an easter egger and an australorp fighting at about 4-5 months old.
hhshahahah it’s just so totally obvious now that I know even the tiniest thing about it.