Differences Between Rooster and Hen
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When it comes to chickens, the average person usually has a few questions. You may be wondering about the difference between chickens and roosters. While it is unmistakable when a rooster crowls and struts, it is sometimes difficult to tell which is which. But how can we know at 3 months of age if it is a rooster or a hen? At what age do you know if a chicken is a rooster or a hen? Keep reading to know the answers to these questions and more.
In this AnimalWised article, we will explain the difference between a rooster and a hen and the main characteristics of each one.
What is the difference between chicken and hen?
To know the difference between chicken and hen, we must first know that both belong to the order Galliformes. Galliformes is an order of heavy-bodied, ground-eating birds that are often bred by humans for their meat and eggs. These group include several common farm birds such:
- The chicken
- The turkey
- The peacock
- The pheasant
When we speak of chickens, we generally mean the domestic chicken Gallus gallus domesticus. There are a few terms you should familiarize yourself with.
In addition to the terms hen and rooster, you might also have heard other terms like cockerel and pullets. A rooster is a male chicken and a hen is a female chicken. A cockerel is a young chicken that is less than one year old. A pullet is a young hen that is less than one year old.
If you want to know more about chicken reproduction, do not hesitate to take a look at this other article on how do chickens reproduce?
How to know if a chicken is male or female?
Determining the sex of a chick is not always a simple task. There are several methods to determine whether a chicken is male or female in the early stages of life:
- Eggs: You may be able to determine the sex of your flock by looking at the eggs. Eggs with a pointed tip are generally considered chicken eggs, while eggs that are rounder are hen eggs. This is true regardless of the color of the egg. While checking the point is a proven method used by many farmers, it is not always foolproof, and human error and outliers can still come into play.
- Vent sexing: Also referred to as the Japanese sexing method. Those who practice vent-sexing must undergo extensive training and pass rigorous tests, as performing vent-sexing incorrectly can result in the death of the chicken. A professionally trained professional gently squeezes the chick so that it defecates and a vent opens. Depending on whether the lump inside is large or small, the expert can determine whether it is a hen or a rooster.
- Feather identification: a method of distinguishing a hen from a rooster by looking at the feathers of young chicks. Female chicks have longer wing feathers than male chicks.
- Physical characteristics: After 4 weeks have passed since birth, you may be able to tell if they are a male or female chicken by watching them closely. If male, they will have the largest body and head. Physical elements such as the comb, beard, and tail are more developed in roosters. If they are females, their physique is smaller and narrower.
To know more about this subject, do not hesitate to read this other article on how to tell if a chicken is male or female?
At what age does a chicken become a rooster or a hen?
In general, chickens are called adults when they reach sexual maturity and begin to lay eggs. This is usually when chickens are between 16 and 24 weeks old, depending on the breed, but even within a breed, some animals develop faster or slower than others. This difference depends on the breed of the rooster, the amount of light the chicken received as a chick, and its environment. The approximate age at which a young chicken is considered mature is 18 weeks.
Have you ever thought of keeping chickens as pets? If so, do not miss our guide on chickens as pets.
What is the difference between a rooster and a hen?
In this section, we will discuss all the important differences between roosters and hens, including how you can tell them apart and what to expect from the behaviors of these two types of birds:
- Size: as we mentioned earlier, the male chicken is larger than the female. So the first difference between a rooster and a hen is that once the rooster is an adult, it is twice the size of the hen.
- Crows: roosters almost always start crowing before they are four months old. Although a hen can also crow, crowing (along with the development of the hackles) is one of the clearest signs that it is a rooster.
- Plumage: the colors are much brighter and more striking in roosters, while hens have less iridescent and opaque feathers. The blue and greenish reflections stand out in the roosters.
- Crest: Roosters have a more pronounced crest on the head, while some hens have no crest at all. It should also be noted that the size and shape of the comb depends on the species of chicken.
- Function: another difference between rooster and hen is that the rooster is responsible for fertilizing the hens and protecting the family. In contrast, the hen is responsible for hatching and laying eggs and their subsequent care.
- Legs: Roosters have thicker legs compared to hens, and some specific breeds even have spurs or hooked claws on their legs. Hens often do not have spurs.
- Life expectancy: Roosters live an average of 2-8 years, while hens live 5-10 years.
If you have always wondered why roosters crow, do not miss this article on why do roosters crow in the morning?
Difference between laying hen and meat hen
Meat hens are a different breed than laying hens. A hundred years ago, laying hens were a true dual-purpose breed, and most people kept a flock of hens and roosters, killing older birds as needed for meat. However, these older chickens tended to be tough and sinewy, better suited for stew or soup than for a roast chicken.
Raising laying hens is different from raising chickens for meat, especially in terms of rearing and feeding. Let us take a look at some of the differences:
- Meat hen: as we mentioned earlier, they are bred for their meat, so they grow faster and get bigger. However, their life span is short, living only six to eight weeks. It is cruel for meat birds to let them live more than a few months, because they are heavy-breasted and can die of heart failure if they get too big.
- Laying hen: is only raised for her eggs. The growth rate of a laying hen is slower in comparison. Most laying hens live five to seven years and lay eggs almost every day for those three years. You can use laying hens for domestic use, but because they are genetically designed to produce eggs, their meat is tough and not as rich as a meat chicken.
To know more interesting facts about hens, do not miss our other article on why can't hens fly?
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- Musaum National d'Histoire Naturelle. (nd). Gallus gallus (Linnaeus, 1758) - Coq bankiva, Coq, Poule. Inventory National du Patrimoine Naturel. Available at: https://inpn.mnhn.fr/espece/cd_nom/199742/tab/taxo
- MrSerge, Chez. (nd). Chez MrSerge91. Available at: mrserge91.forumactif.org.