How to Tell a Rooster from a Hen

Differences Between Roosters and Hens

People new to the chicken business sometimes have a hard time telling their hens from a rooster. It’s not quite as cut-and-dried as it is with many other animals. There are several methods for determining the gender of chickens, though.

Roosters have certain behavioral differences than hens. More dramatically, they look different than their female counterparts. Here’s a few of the differences in chicken genders.

The Comb and the Wattle

The comb is the crest or tuft of flesh on a chicken’s head. The rooster has a bigger and brighter comb than hens. Their combs tend to be red, while hen combs tend to be small and pale. Just remember that roosters want to attract the attention of female chickens, so they need brightly colored plumes on their heads.

The wattle is a lobe of flesh on the chin of a chicken. Like the comb, a rooster’s wattle is brighter and bigger than that of a hen.

Colors and Sizes

Feather colors tend to be brighter on a rooster. Hens tend to have less colorful feathers in shades of pale white, or simply a brown earthy color. Roosters, on the other hand, have bolder colors.

Roosters are larger than hens. Hens tend to be fat and short compared to roosters.

Tail and Neck Feathers

The tail feathers of a rooster tend to be longer and brighter than those of a hen. Along with the plume, these feathers tend to be the most outstanding feature on a rooster.

The neck feathers are different on hens and roosters, too. Rooster neck feathers are longer, thinner and more pointed. Hen neck feathers are short and rounded on the end.

The Crow

Another good rule of thumb is that roosters crow and hens do not. I have heard of hens that crow when no roosters are around, but for the most part, it is the rooster which crows. If your chicks are starting to grow up and one of them starts crowing, you most likely have a rooster on your hands.


Hens are more retiring and less animated than roosters. Roosters tend to be more sociable and friendly around humans. Also, roosters will be more aggressive among their own kind than hens are.

The Egg

In the end, the proof is in the pudding. The final determiner of a chicken’s gender is whether it produces eggs. This is rather elementary, but if you’re the sort who can’t decide on these things, just wait. If your chicken starts laying eggs, it’s a hen. If your chicken never lays eggs, there’s a pretty good chance it’s a rooster.

Go Down the Checklist

For whatever reason, any one of these characteristics may not be a good determiner for your particular chicken. I would suggest going down the checklist of characteristics, instead of settling on any one of them to make the call. The weight of the evidence will point one way or another.

One Final Note

Experts can determine the difference in chicks from an early age. This requires internal knowledge of a chicken. For the rest of us, we’re going to have to wait until a chicken grows up a bit.

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