Lesson 508 – how you can tell you’ve got a rooster

We’ve had to harvest a total of 3 roosters this winter. All from the eggs that we had incubated during the summer and while we had our suspicions, we waited until the last minute (or the neighbors complained) before we took action.

Baby chickens all look alike (except of course for sex-linked birds) you really can’t tell if a bird is male or female until they get older.

Oh, for sure, there are some clues along the way. For example, for the most part males have bigger, thicker, legs and feet than the hens do.

Here is a rooster’s feet:

And here is a lovely lady checking out those feet.

Although roosters will have a larger comb than the ladies, hens can and do develop impressive combs, so – at least initially – the presence of a comb is not a reliable way to tell if you have a bad boy in your flock.

Same thing with aggression, the males tend to be more aggressive than the females, but don’t tell that to Zelda who will challenge even the tallest giant who steps foot into the coop.

Roosters have tails. Males develop that beautiful plumage for which they are well known. But then there are some hens out there sporting impressive butt bling (in fact our Black Copper Maran chick; Charlie has enough tail feathers that she made me initially fear she was a rooster.)

Are you starting to see why it’s so difficult to detect a rooster? You don’t want to cull a bird if there is even a remote chance that he could actually be a she.

So what do you do?

You wait for this:

The cock crowing.

And you wait for the inevitable knock on the door from your neighbors asking you if there is anything you can do about the noise.

Then you know.


Filed under Backyard Chickens, chicken care, Chicks, Roosters

17 responses to “Lesson 508 – how you can tell you’ve got a rooster

  1. Jenn

    Yep. 6 of the 13 bantam chicks my broody hatched in January are now sporting some pretty red combs and crowing. Luckily, none of the neighbors are complaining… yet. I’m not looking forward to the day that they do, tho. 😦

    • Wendy Thomas


      Ouch, 6 out of 13. As more and more towns are allowing chickens, it’s going to become more and more important that people know how to handle the problem (and yes, it’s a BIG problem in an urban setting) of roosters.

      I love our chickens and it’s because I want to keep on having chickens that I do what needs to be done.

      Good luck with your decision.


  2. Great post, Wendy, as always!

  3. Hens can crow also if there is no rooster around. If it lays an egg, it’s a hen!

    • Wendy Thomas


      Good point, a hen can crow if she has become the alpha chicken (and in some cases, she will even stop laying eggs)

      If you let a rooster live long enough, however, there’s just no denying that that’s what you’ve got.


  4. Elaine McManness


    What do you do with the “excess” roosters when they become a problem?

    • Wendy Thomas


      We’ve learned how to harvest (cull, kill) our roosters using a Killing Cone. It’s what I recommend now as a way to harvest any chicken (whether it be sick or for meat or because it’s a rooster)

      I have in the past found some homes for our roosters but so many people are now starting to get chickens (as well they should) that I wanted to be able to talk about a method of killing chickens and teach a technique that I’m familiar with in my classes.


  5. Love your blog! I sure know about the waiting period of hoping a bird ISN’T a rooster. So I thought I’d pass on a little trick I learned a few years back that might help you… a lot. Sexing day old chicks is easy if you just look at the wing. Spread the wing and you’ll find 2 rows of feathers, the two rows of feathers are the same length on females, on males one row is longer. I re-posted a sexing chicks video on my blog – maybe it will help understand the technique. ae

    • Wendy Thomas

      I’m going to go check that out, thanks.

      I had actually heard of that technique but by the time I checked Charlie’s wings she was way over the “few day” period and the results were invalid.

      What is the accuracy of this method? Have you ever sexed one the wrong way by looking at the wing?


  6. Amy

    Oh, man. One of our chicks has significantly larger legs and feet than all the others. “She’s” my favorite one, of course! I came across your blog when looking to see if that meant that “she” was actually a “he!” I hope it really is a hen and she just has big feet!

    • Wendy Thomas

      Yeah, well good luck with that! 🙂


      On Sun, Mar 30, 2014 at 5:22 PM, Lessons Learned from the Flock wrote:


  7. Denise

    Do you know of someone in the Milford/Merrimack/Amherst area that will process a suspected rooster for me? It is a very large bird, but only 5 months old, crowing, and one of my friendliest in the flock. No complaints from my neighbors (yet), but certainly don’t like all of the fuss in the mornings! I was hoping that this bird would be a roast. Possible?

    • Wendy Thomas

      No complaints yet, but trust me – complaints will be coming.

      I don’t know of anyone who will come to your house and process the bird (you usually have to have the entire flock done or a large number) If you are okay with the thought that he will be eaten, you can advertise him on Craigslist. Many people look for unwanted roosters at this time of year specifically to invite him to Sunday dinner.

      I have a killing cone and if you are up to it, I could come to your house and kill him for you so that you could then process (remove feathers, etc) him (that part, I’m not ready to do yet – maybe someday.) I’m not keen about killing anything but I realize that in many cases, it is the most merciful option.

      Let me know what you decide.

      On Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 1:07 PM, Lessons Learned from the Flock wrote:


      • Denise

        Thank you for your offer and I think that is what I will do. In the meantime, I have put a ‘no crow’ collar on him, but I don’t notice much of a difference. I tightened it a ‘smidge’ more last night, so we will see how he sounds this morning. I would like to learn how to kill a chicken in a merciful way. Would you be available sometime during Columbus Day weekend??

      • Denise

        Hello Wendy,
        I received an email last Friday from Granite State Poultry processing in Milford. I was able to bring my rooster to them early Saturday morning for processing. They were very helpful explaining the process and I was able to pick up my processed chicken on Sunday morning, vacuum sealed in a clear package — quite like we would purchase at the grocery store. I too, don’t like the idea of killing, but I dislike more the idea of being wasteful with good food. Overall, having someone else ‘process’ the chicken made it a much easier experience. Thank you again for your offer of assistance. I truly appreciate it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s