Many people have commented about our Zelda story. If you have chickens, you’ve probably heard stories of hens turning into roosters, but like Big Foot, you’ve probably never actually seen one.
Here are some more before and after shots of Zelda (and we know it’s Zelda because she has a metal ID crimp that has never been removed.)
This is Zelda *before* the winter:
And here she is after the winter:
Here are some closeups of her neck which are the most dramatic part of this change:
To answer a few questions:
Come on, really? She’s now a he? Zelda is not *really* a rooster, she’s more like a transgender chicken. When we got her she laid eggs, which means that she obviously has female organs. We have not seen a blue/green egg (she’s the only one that laid that color) since early-winter. She will not be able to fertilize any of our hen’s eggs, although in her heightened state of maleness, I’m sure she’s going to try.
Does this mean you have a gay chicken? Nope, it means I have a chicken.
What’s her breed? Her breed is Easter Egger but I’m not sure that has anything to do with anything, I think this can happen to virtually any breed although I’m willing to bet that in order for it to happen two conditions need to exist: there have to be no roosters in the flock and the hen who is turning must be the leader.
Does she crow? I have not seen her crow, but this winter I did hear a few strange sounds coming from the hen house and upon reflection, I think it was Zelda trying to crow with what she had. It’s a softer strangled kind of crow and not one that will upset our neighbors (I hope.)
If she turned male, can she turn back? Ah, that’s a question I can’t answer. Will she revert to more feminine traits once the chickens have more room when they start free-ranging in the yard, or is this a permanent condition? I don’t know, but you can bet that I’ll be keeping an eye on her and will report back with any news.
I have some friends who are chicken vets, I’m going to send pictures of Zelda to them to see what they have to say.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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10 responses to “Lesson 1002 – More on our rooster/hen Zelda”
This reminds me of the dinosaurs that changed gender in Jurassic Park. When can we expect them to break loose and terrorize New Hampshire?
I read that this occurs when there is damage to the chicken’s ovary and it can no longer produce the necessary estrogen. It will develop secondary sex characteristics (longer comb, male plumage) but will not be able to actually fertilize a female chicken.
” That’s because the mechanics of this biological phenomenon seem to work in only one direction. Normally, female chickens have just one functional ovary, on their left side. Although two sex organs are present during the embryonic stages of all birds, once a chicken’s female genes kick in, it typically develops only the left ovary. The right gonad, which has yet to be defined as an ovary, testes, or both (called an ovotestis), typically remains dormant.
Certain medical conditions—such as an ovarian cyst, tumor or diseased adrenal gland—can cause a chicken’s left ovary to regress. In the absence of a functional left ovary, the dormant right sex organ may begin to grow, according to Mike Hulet, an associate professor at Penn State University’s department of poultry science.
“If the activated right gonad is an ovotestis or testes, it will begin secreting androgens,” Hulet told Life’s Little Mysteries. Androgens are the class of hormones that are largely responsible for male characteristics and are normally secreted by the testes. “The production of androgen would cause the hen to undergo behavioral changes and make it act more like a rooster.”
The hen does not completely change into a rooster, however. This transition is limited to making the bird phenotypically male, meaning that although the hen will develop physical characteristics that will make her look male, she will remain genetically female. So while the hen will no longer lay eggs, she won’t be fathering any offspring, either.” Taken from: This article was provided by Life’s Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience.com.
Thank you for finding that information. I’ll be including it in future posts about Zelda.
On Wed, Apr 9, 2014 at 9:33 AM, Lessons Learned from the Flock wrote:
Interesting. I have a female dog that is kind of like this. She pees like a male, and has other “male dog traits”….
I have one hen in a group of 8 who has little spur nubbins and attempts to crow. It sounds like she is being mangled. I am sure that when she is incorporated into the main flock with a rooster that she will revert, or at least I hope she does. I think, in the absence of a male, one tries to compensate for the role – much like the Jurassic Park comment says.
We had a hen turn into a rooster as well. His/her name was Lonesome. Mutt chicken from all my inbred chickens back in the day. We had 4 hens just show up one day and then a week later a rooster and they proceeded to lay eggs, hide them and raise babies for 2 seasons. I only have one hen from that same batch of babies as Lonesome. Sugar will be 9 this May and she is still laying eggs everyday (when she wants babies).
I befriend feral chickens at the plant nursery I work at here in hawaii. We had one hen who seemed to start changing into a rooster. (Her name is Road Runner). I noticed her crowing a few times. Nothing visually stunning in her change. But then the rooster Bruce took over the flock and she seemed to go back to being a hen. She is just one of his flock now. The owner of the nursery said when she was younger they had a hen “turn” into a rooster before also.
It’s easier to break an egg than to make one. Or something like that. Once human females figure out how to reproduce with parthenogenesis, us human “drones” can kiss our ******* good bye. We were just a passing fad.
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