UPDATE 7/23/14: See bottom of this post for an update…
Just a quick post on something that has blown my mind. I didn’t grow up in the country and I don’t know much about livestock, chickens, etc. Everything I have learned about chickens I have either learned from experience or researching on the internet. Did you know that a hen (a girl chicken) can take on the traits of a rooster (a male chicken) in various situations?
Why am I writing about this? Why was I researching this? Yesterday morning I was going out to the truck at about 6:45am to head to the office and heard the crow of a chicken. It was a garbled, gravely kind of of crow. It sounded like it was coming from my neighbor’s house but I knew they didn’t have chickens. As I walked back to the coop, what I heard and saw blew my mind. Zsa Zsa our prissy hen was crowing. I stood there for a while but she….err I mean he…err possibly it…wouldn’t do it again. Later in the day I caught this….
[weaver_youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1swRJdEtH0 sd=0 percent=100 ratio=.5625 center=1 rel=0 https=0 privacy=0 see_help_for_others]
Here’s where it gets interesting. I turned to some of the various chicken guides that I use online and Zsa Zsa doesn’t have any of the signs of being a Silkie rooster. There are a few minor differences between a rooster and a hen in Silkies, with most of the differences having been bred out of them. I couldn’t locate any of the physical traits of a rooster on Zsa Zsa.
Why jump to the hypothesis of gender reversal? Zsa Zsa is a year old. It would be rare to have a rooster wait till they are a year old to start crowing and exhibiting other signs of being a male. The crow itself is a bit telling. It wasn’t the true crow of a rooster. It was little like that of a juvenile rooster. There of course is the idea that Zsa Zsa has been laying eggs too.
The egg thing is actually what I will be watching as a clear sign of what I am dealing with. We bought Zsa Zsa after four of our other chickens had been killed by a neighbor’s carelessness. Our lone survivor didn’t start laying again for a long time. In the mean time a new color and shape of egg started showing up. Oreo had always laid a tan color egg and these new eggs were narrower and cream in color. So the two possibilities are that Zsa Zsa is a crowing, egg laying hen or that I have been mistaken all this time and Oreo is actually laying two different color eggs, which is also possible.
The chicken cam is in the roost box waiting to watch a chicken lay an egg. Either Oreo will pop out two different eggs or Zsa Zsa will plop out an egg and then start crowing. You can watch for yourself at the end of this post.
Why do some hens take on traits of a rooster? Chickens, like many animals, can be very territorial. When their territory is threatened they can adapt and take on new traits. It is interesting to note that I had our new chicks out in the same area as the chickens on Sunday. This new trait appears on Wednesday. Could Zsa Zsa feel threatened by the addition of the new birds to the pecking order? Only time will tell.
There are any number of threads, comments, posts and documents about hens crowing that you can find on the internet. It is apparently not that unusual. Last night I mentioned this to a friend who lives in the country and he said, “Oh yeah, that happens all the time.” One of the better reads I have found, complete with reference material is this one – When A Hen Crows.
So, all that said, join along and watch to see what happens over the next few days…
See what my chickens are up to on my other site – www.LiveChickenCam.com
UPDATE: This post is generating a TON of traffic so I thought I would update it with the latest info. Our silkie chicken turned out to be a rooster. Over the years Silkies have had most of their gender differences bred out of them. They are among the most difficult chickens to sex. After watching camera footage I discovered that our other chicken was laying eggs. Zsa Zsa was indeed a boy. We are not allowed to have roosters so we made arrangements with our breeder to take Zsa Zsa back to the farm. They were happy to have her…I mean him. The chicken experts were able to peek in the vent and determine for sure he was a rooster. Gender reversal in chickens is not unheard of but it is VERY rare. If you have a crowing chicken it is most likely a rooster.