Are you thinking of owning some chickens, or hens? Or if you already own them the thought might come across your mind, “Chicken vs hen.” Are they the same or different? How to tell them apart? Let’s find out.
Chicken is a collective term for chickens, if you did not get that, allow me to rephrase. Hens are the “women” of chickens and roosters are the “men” of chickens. What this means is that the term chicken refers to both hens and roosters, whereas hens are simply the females of the species.
So, if you have been having doubts about whether you own chickens or hens, you simply own chickens. Your flock will either comprise of just hens or hens and roosters. Here’s how to tell them apart.
Chicken Vs Hen – Everything You Need To Know
Chicken is the collective term for both male and female members of the species Gallus gallus Domesticus. They are usually well known for their eggs and most frequently used as a source of food.
Their meat is edible and has been used in dishes since the beginning of life. However, back in the day, they were rarely eaten. The fact that they lay eggs tipped the scales towards not killing them for meat.
The eggs of a chicken are filled with nutrients and since a chicken can lay more eggs than one, they were kept for their eggs. The only chickens that were used for meat were when they would grow old.
When a chicken grows old it loses the ability to lay eggs. This is why they were turned into food back in the day.
But, there are specific breeds of chickens that are primarily bred for their meat. Whereas certain breeds of chickens are primarily bred for the purpose of egg-laying.
We understand this got pretty confusing. But, we have got you covered. Here is everything that you need to know about chickens.
1) Where Is The Word Chicken Derived From?
To understand where the word chicken comes from, let’s go back to the old English. It is derived from the word “cicen”, which has a European background as well. Its European forms include:
- The German Küken
- The Dutch kiekijen
- The Swedish kyckling
Just by reading them, you can see the connection. Back in the day, domestic chicks and fowls were collectively referred to as chickens. From that day to today, it got stuck with hens and roosters.
Now that we understand what chickens are, let’s move on to the types or breeds of chickens:
2) What Are Pullets?
A young female chicken that has not yet laid an egg is called a pullet. They are essentially under the age of one. Keep in mind, you cannot call them chicks considering the fact that they have just come to the world.
Pullets, on the other hand, are primarily 12 to 16 weeks old. In simpler terms, they are the teens of chickens. Just like teenage humans, pullets too are grumpy. They may make noises and do all the moody stuff.
The grumpiness is essentially a sign of them laying their first egg. Once they lay their first egg, they become hens. At this point, the chicken flock successfully accepts them as a member of their flock.
3) What Are Hens?
When a pullet lays its first egg, it becomes a hen. Based on this, egg-laying female chickens are referred to as hens.
You cannot simply call a female chicken hen if she does not lay any eggs. At that point, it is a pullet. As soon as she lays an egg, it becomes a hen.
A healthy hen will lay eggs until the age of 3 or 4 years old. Their average life span varies from 8 to 10 years based on how you feed them.
Wondering how you can improve the quality and quantity of eggs your chicken lay? Feed them healthy treats like:
4) What Is A Cockerel?
Till now, we have only been talking about female chickens. Now it’s time to move to male chickens. When a rooster is under the age of one year old, it is referred to as a cockerel.
At the age of 1, it reaches sexual maturity. At this point, it becomes a healthy rooster. Wondering when they start crowing? Young roosters start crowing when they are 12 to 16 weeks old.
Some breeds may start crowing earlier as well. What’s interesting about cockerels is the fact that initially when they start crowing, they do not sound like a healthy rooster. Over time, their crowing sound improves.
Initially, it is new to crowing and with the passage of time, it improves, adapts, and becomes louder.
5) What Is A Rooster?
At roughly one year old, a cockerel turns into a rooster. This is when they start becoming dominant and show who’s the boss to the hens.
At this point, they are able to mate with hens. They also try being bold, and aggressive to show their dominance over hens just like an adult rooster would.
But, keep in mind, if you have more than one rooster in your flock, you need to be careful. When their number increases, they will fight each other.
This is why you need to separate them to ensure they do no harm to each other. What’s amazing about a rooster’s dominance is the fact that it leads its flock.
A rooster considers its flock its family. It will protect them at all costs and if he senses any danger, he will warn them. Moreover, it will also provide for the family and ensure every member of the flock is taken care of.
In the unfortunate event that the members of the flock fight over something, a rooster will step in. It will intervene and stop them. This way, a rooster takes care of the flock.
They live for over 5 – 8 years and always step up for their flock.
6) What Is A Capon?
Immature roosters are referred to as capons. They are essentially used for meat considering the fact that it is tender, flavorful, and juicier than other chickens. This makes their meat more favorite across Europe.
But, there’s a catch. The reason why their meat is tender is the fact that they go through a rigorous process. Their testicles are removed by surgery. Or, an estrogen implant is done on them.
Due to this, their meat becomes more tender and favorable to the people in Europe, Spain, and France. However, due to the risks involved in the surgery and the overall costs, it is now avoided.
7) What Are Cornish Hens?
Just like capons, Cornish hens serve the same purpose. What makes them different is the fact that they are female chickens specifically bred for meat. Unlike the capons, they do not go through any surgeries.
Instead, they are slaughtered at an early age, often when they are just 1 or 2 lbs. Their meat is also tender, and juicier, but due to their small size, they can only be served to a single person.
8) How To Tell A Hen From A Rooster Chick?
When it comes to figuring out the gender of your chickens, it plays a significant role in the well-being of your flock. As mentioned earlier, when a flock has more than one rooster, it will lead to issues.
They will fight and disturb the environment for your chicken flock. There are other reasons for this as well. With more than one rooster in your flock, they will face mating issues as well. So, you only need 1 or 2 roosters.
Additionally, with more hens in your flock, the number of eggs in your flock will be greater. So, how can you tell them apart? Here is how:
- The method that helps reveal the gender of a chick is essentially referred to as vent sexting. It also has a 10% failure rate so you need to be cautious.
- What farmers usually do is grab a chick and hold it firmly. We suggest you do the same. After you have a firm grip on your chick, gently expel the poop. This will reveal the sexual characteristics of the bird.
- If the cloaca of your chick reveals a penis, it is a male. If it does not, it is a hen.
- It might seem easy on paper, but there are certain risks involved as well. If not done properly, it will end up being fatal to your chicks.
However, this method only applies to young chicks and helps you differentiate between a hen and a rooster chick. For adult chickens, the process is slightly different.
Here is how you can tell them apart.
9) How Do You Tell The Gender Of Adult Chickens?
As important as determining the gender of young chicks is, identifying the gender of adult chickens is as important as well. This will allow you to separate them into different groups based on their needs.
This will allow you to figure out if you have egg-laying chickens (hens) or simply a rooster. Since you cannot have more than 1 or 2 roosters in your flock, figuring out their gender will help you maintain the balance.
More importantly, identifying the gender of an adult chicken can become quite complicated. This is due to the fact that they might have not developed their adult characters.
Moreover, the characters that they have had as young chicks, they too would have been disappeared.
The easiest signs to look for include:
- The first method to examine their wattles and combs.
- Spurs can also reveal the gender of a chicken. The spur size will allow you to differentiate between the two.
- There is a certain growth or part on a chicken’s leg. It is crucial since it allows roosters to grip the hen when they are mating.
A few details about birds to look for have already been covered in this piece, their wattles, and combs. However, spurs are also a vital tell-tale sign of telling the sex of a chicken. This growth on the back of a chicken’s
The above has been a simple explanation. Continue reading to get a better understanding of how you can differentiate between a male and a female adult chicken.
A) Examine The Feather Shape And Color:
Examine the feathers around the neck of your chicken. If you see rounded feathers, your chicken is a female. If you see pointy feathers, your chicken is a male (rooster).
An ideal way to examine their feather shape is to get a firm hold over your chicken. Grab a card and place it under the neck feathers. This will allow you to determine if they have pointy or rounded feathers.
Another way to reveal their gender is to look at the feather color. Female chickens will have a uniform color all across their plumage. Whereas male chickens will have a variety of colors in their plumage.
B) Notice The Behavior Of Your Flock:
It is another effective way to determine the gender of your flock. If your chicken is friendly towards you, it might be a hen. Hens are friendly and warm up to humans.
On the other hand, roosters are aggressive. They might turn their head away around humans and are not as warm as hens can be. This is why roosters often fight and are usually violent.
This can be an indication that your rooster is ready to mate. At this stage, if a rooster finds a hen that is ready to mate, it will perform a dance. First, a rooster will circle around the hen. Then dance with a drooping wing.
C) Look For The Wattles And Combs:
The red tissues that you see underneath the bills are referred to as wattles. They are essentially a fragment of your flock’s heat regulation system. As you might know, your chickens cannot sweat.
This is why, to help themselves on a hot summer day, they use their wattle. Blood passes through their wattle and allows them to cool down on a hot summer day.
The tissue that you see on the head of your chicken is referred to as a comb. Just like a wattle helps your chickens cool down, the comb serves the same purpose.
Initially, you will not see a wattle or a comb on your chickens. Once they grow a few weeks old (usually at the age of 3 weeks old), combs will start appearing.
If your chicks get their combs early, they will most likely turn out to be a rooster.
Coming to the wattles, they will start appearing and turn into a deep color at the age of 5 or 6 weeks. This is the time when a hen will lay an egg. The wattles of a hen are usually bright red or pink in color.
Fun Fact: The color of the wattle can also help you determine if your chicken is healthy. The brighter the color, the healthier will your chicken be and vice versa.
D) Examine The Legs And Spurs:
Hens have thin and short legs. Whereas roosters have thick and long legs. Additionally, they have sharp spurs as well. They appear like a bone in texture and are right above the toe of a rooster.
Old adult female chickens (hens) will have a soft and short spur.
The spurs are primarily used by a rooster to defend itself. Beware, it can be significantly dangerous. Due to this, some owners usually remove the spurs to ensure the safety of their flock.
Some Basic Facts About Chickens
Chickens – Gallus Gallus Domesticus originated from the wild Indian and SE-Asian Red Junglefowl. A group of chickens is referred to as a flock. If you thought chickens are only used for eggs and meat, you’re wrong.
They are just the two major uses of chickens but that’s not the end of the road. There are other uses as well. These include:
- Chickens are often kept as pets and many people love to own them, feed them, and take care of them.
- Chickens are also kept for breeding purposes out of sheer love for them.
- Their plumage is also widely used across the world. It is essentially used for the purpose of stuffing.
- Due to humanity’s sheer love for chickens, they are kept with love and fed with nice treats. Due to this, their feces can also be used as a fertilizer.
Frequently Asked Questions
1) What Is The Hen’s Song?
By now you probably know the gender of your chickens and to further strengthen your analysis you can listen to the crows of your hens. The hen’s song is another way to determine if your chicken is a female.
Hens crow. It is their way to spread the message. When a hen crows, it is either to alert her chicks that they may be unsafe. When it crows loudly, it will be trying to tell the family that she has laid an egg.
The sound that you might hear when your chicken lays an egg, is known as the hen’s song. Some hens will crow loudly whereas some will simply avoid crowing. So, if your chickens do not crow, you should not worry.
Not sure what the crow sound is? It is the “buck buck buck badaak” that you hear.
Apart from alerting and drawing danger away from its nest, there are other reasons too behind the crowing of a hen. These include:
- Crowing allows a hen to reveal its location.
- It allows a hen to express its heat. When this happens, a rooster will become aware that the hen is ready to mate.
- It is your hen’s way to take pride in itself.
- Sometimes a hen will walk away from its nest and crow loudly. They do this to trick predators into walking away from their nests by revealing a fake location to them.
2) Why Do Roosters Crow?
Just like hens, roosters crow too. You will hear them crowing when they think it is time for the sunrise. It is essentially clockwork. This helps them work their sleep schedules.
Wondering how? Many animals have everyday cycles. These are referred to as a circadian rhythm. It cycles between day and night, and the same applies to roosters.
Apart from telling that it is time to wake, it also shows a rooster’s strength. It allows them to reveal that they own the territory and should not be intruded on by other roosters.
Chicken is the collective term used for both hens and roosters. Hens are the females of the chicken species whereas roosters are the males of the species. It is crucial that you determine the gender of your chicken flock.
This is due to the fact that this will allow you to organize your flock better and remove the additional roosters. A flock can only have 1 or 2 roosters at max or else it will lead to complications and will create a disturbance.
The easiest way to determine the sex of a chicken is to look at its sexual characters. Other physical characters such as wattle, combs, spur, feather shape, and color can also help reveal the gender of your chickens.