Saturday, July 10, 2010

The great rooster lottery

From the day we brought our ten chicks home we have been asking the eternal question: how many hens and how many roosters?

Some chicken breeds produce chicks whose sex can easily be determined. Our neighbour bought some Red Rock Cross chicks (a cross between Rhode Island Red and Plymouth Rock) and it was easy to pick only pullets because the male chicks have a white spot on their heads. With the breed of our chicks, Buff Orpington, there is no way to tell other than waiting 4 or 5 weeks for the physical and behavioural differences between the genders to start appearing.

That hasn't stopped Kim. It's easy to tell she used to be a Science teacher because every day she has performed an in-depth comparative analysis of the chicks. At first she distinguished the larger chicks from the smaller chicks. But could she conclude the larger ones were male? Not necessarily. Then she distinguished the birds that were developing their feathers more quickly from those that matured more slowly. Then the more curious chicks from the more timid, and the more aggressive feeders from the ones that allowed themselves to be pushed out of the way. The problem was, we didn't know what any of these meant or whether they were even linked to the chicks' gender. So every day the verdict changed, ranging from 9 roosters and 1 hen to 9 hens and 1 rooster, with everything in between.

It looks like all we needed to make a more accurate assessment was a bit of patience. The chicks are now more than 4 weeks old, and regardless of their maturity (which we are judging by the completeness of their feathering) differences are becoming apparent in their tail feathers and their combs. It looks like the cockerels (the roosters to be) are developing bigger and redder combs, and have tail feathers that at this point look like a fluffy bunny tail, while the pullets' tail feathers are straighter.

We think this is a hen. What big feet.

We think these are roosters.

Today's count: 6 roosters and 4 hens. And I am absolutely sure of one thing: that the count tomorrow will be different than the one today.

I have learned through this process how hard it is to take a picture of a chicken. They will just not stay still long enough to zoom, focus and shoot. And if they're not running away from the camera they're making for my toes, which apparently are tasty (or maybe look like worms...)


The Words Crafter said...

Chickens are so comical, though I don't know if they mean to be. Good luck with determining male from female!

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

Another thing there is no question of, they sure are cute!! I'll be eager to hear what the final count is!

Natalie said...

lol... We are in this game too!
So funny.
Feather shapes are another clue.
Rooster feathers taper to a point- esp on the hackles and tails.
The hens keep more rounded feathers.

Paula said...

That's it; I'm paying extra for sexed chicks when the time comes!

When they're in that teen-aged stage between fluffy cute chick and resplendent adulthood, it's really easy to see the dinosaur in them!

Toni aka irishlas said...

What is it about the human foot and chickens? My hens are fascinated with my toes, too! And let me tell you, it hurts a heck of a lot more once they're grown and the start pecking at your toes!

Maybe you should post a shot of the chickens here and there and let us all get in on the guessing game to see who comes up with the closest count of roosters vs. hens.. it could be fun!
I can't offer any help on how to tell the difference. Sorry...
I guess you'll find out eventually.

Have a lovely evening, ladies!

Strange Angel said...

Oh how CUTE! They look like they're "grooming" you. lol

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Nicole Hitchcock said...

This makes me miss our chicken's awkward teenage stage! We bought from a hatchery and our Buffs were thankfully all females. We live in a city that doesn't allow roosters, so we were grateful.

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