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Hen turned into rooster

 
Hester Winterbourne
Posts: 126
Location: West Midlands UK (zone 8b)
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Last autumn we rescued a hen we found stray by the roadside (long way from any house and looking very sad) and gave her to my son's childminder who already had one old hen.  This worked out fine, until last week I went to pick up the boy and the childminder said, rather embarrassed, that the hen has turned out to be a rooster.  Now in my experience it is fairly obvious once their feathers have grown which are the roosters.  This was a young bird when we found her, but definitely fully feathered and "hen shaped" iyswim.  Now she has started crowing and has suddenly grown wattles and spurs.  She has a Light Sussex appearance.

What do you think?  I've read that hens can turn into roosters, but is there any hope for her?  They live in a suburban neighbourhood and sooner or later the neighbours are going to complain.  There is a population of feral roosters in the churchyard (something to do with St Peter) so "she" may have to go and live there...
 
David Livingston
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Location: Anjou ,France
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Maybe if she is placed into a macho atmosphere she may revert
You cannot have many foxes living in your area if you have a group of feral cockerels

David
 
Liz Hoxie
Posts: 147
Location: Ellisforde, WA
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"She" is probably a rooster. As long as he doesn't get aggressive and there's no problems with his crowing, let him stay. That hen needs another chicken.
For future reference, if the bird's feathers are rounded, it's a female. We can't depend on spurs, combs, and wattles- that's genetic.
I've heard that hens can become "roosters". The reasonis that a rooster will watch for predators, help the hens find food, and if needed, will lead the predator away and get killed. One rooster we had fathered chicks after he died. The fertilized eggs hadn't been laid yet.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Chickens after the first true feathers grow in all look pretty much the same, in the "teenage" phase.  They may even look "full grown" but until the adult feathers grow in, it may be difficult to tell the sex.  Runt or stunted young chickens can take a long time to grow in the adult feathers.
 
Olga Booker
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Location: Pyrenees Mountains, South of France
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Spontaneous sex reversal occurs in hens when the left ovary is somehow damaged and can no longer produce the necessary levels of oestrogen in the hen’s body.  As oestrogen levels drop to critically low levels, the hen’s testosterone levels rise.  A hen whose body is testosterone "addled" will actually physically transform to take on male characteristics.  Such a hen will grow a larger comb, longer wattles, male patterned plumage and spurs.  The hen will also adopt rooster-like behaviour such as crowing.  Once sufficient testosterone levels are reached, the hen’s dormant gonad on the right side of her body is, for lack of a better term, “activated.”  When the dormant, right-side gonad is switched on, it develops into a male sex organ called an ovotestis.  Scientists have found that an ovotestis will produce sperm and this sexually reversed hen will try to mate with other hens in the flock.  It is however, unknown whether a hen that has undergone a spontaneous sex reversal and developed an ovotestis can sire offspring.
 
R Ranson
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I've had several transgendered and a couple of transsexed hens/roos.

Gender being a social role.
Sex being more biological male/female aspect of things.

A transgendered hen will adapt a male role in my flock if she is unhappy with the current rooster.  Rooster originally meant "ruler of the roost" and could be male or female.  She'll crow, take on the defence role, keep the other hens in line and the like.  All the things a rooster is supposed to do to keep the flock healthy and safe.  Once I replace the weakling cockerel with a strong one, he'll take the rooster role and the hen will go back to being a hen.

Of the ones that were transsexed, I had one fella called hobble foot (I use the male pronoun with this guy because that's what he liked).  When he was a young hen, he escaped into the bachelor yard.  They were very excited to see a sexy young girl and poor old hobble foot was very badly injured and could not walk for many weeks.  We kept him in isolation and for the first few weeks he remained a hen, lay eggs, was henshaped, hen behaviour, all that.  But after about a month, he stopped laying eggs and became cock shaped, had a beautiful deep crow, and once he could walk again, took on the full role as second cock in the flock - including mating with the girls.  I had hoped to experiment to see if the eggs were viable but alas, he only lived a couple of years and I never got around to it. 


 
Les Van Valkenburgh
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Never heard of this roosters turn into hens, hens turn into roosters, have to look into it I guess.

Anytime you have just hens there will always be a 'boss hen' the whole 'pecking order'.  I've seen newly introduced young cockerels into all hen flocks, boss hen will fight that cockerel just like a rooster, she will submit though eventually, cockerel always wins, then back to a happy hen house with the cockerel in charge playing his role.

Hester Winterbourne, more likely your rescued hen was just what looked like a young pullet that was actually a immature cockerel. Some breeds it is hard to tell until they start crowing.

If you want to keep the boy, there is a product out there called the 'No-Crow Rooster Collar'. I have no experience with them but hear they work.

"collar designed to dramatically reduce both the volume and the frequency of crowing. It has been tested and adjusted for maximum, safety, comfort, and effectiveness" " The collar prevents roosters expelling the contents of their air sacs all at once, preventing them from unleashing a full-powered crow. While wearing the collar, they can still vocalize in all their normal ways--but the volume is limited. The collar is made to bend and flex with the rooster's neck so he can do everything he always does (eat, drink, dust bath, other vocalizations). It isn't tight enough to bother them, and it allows their necks total freedom and flexibility to expand."
 
R Ranson
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cockerel always wins, 


Not in my flock.  Hens usually take the rooster role.  Very few cocks can hold their own, most get henpecked and sent to the stewpot.
 
Maureen Atsali
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Location: Western Kenya
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I love this site. I learn something new every day. While I have had some gender confusion in my flock, I had no idea it was actually possible to spontaneously change sex!

I once bought a huge, beautiful rooster from a neighbor... And my mother in law automatically said,  "no one sells a rooster like that unless something is wrong with it."   Sure enough, he was completely hen like. And while he never laid an egg, he had a compulsion to sit on them.  And then get off after a couple days, spoiling the nest.  His vocalizations were hen, his behavior was hen... And in the end he made a fine stew.

And on the other hand, my absolute BEST ever brooder is "Henzilla" who has one nasty spur, looks a bit roosterish and will attack anyone or anything that approaches eggs or chicks.  She has fought off dogs, hawks, cows and nosy children.  Mean as hell, but her chicks have the best survival rate.  And she's four and still laying like a champ.

Thanks for teaching me something new.
 
Les Van Valkenburgh
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R Ranson wrote:
cockerel always wins, 


Not in my flock.  Hens usually take the rooster role.  Very few cocks can hold their own, most get henpecked and sent to the stewpot.

What breed do you have WOW!
I like to hatch my own, don't like relying on hatchery birds to replenish the flock, no way would I put up with that. I don't even like a aggressive cock, usually the product of hatchery stock also, they hatch for #s not for temperament, probably never even observe the birds. No nasty birds here.
 
R Ranson
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My main criteria in chickens is personality.  I want them to be gentle with each other and with humans, but I encourage them to defend themselves.  (woebetide the fool who brings a dog into my yard off leash - That did not end well... for the dog.  Henny Penny saw to that.  Then there was the poor hawk that Mona defeated, and oh, don't even start on what Eric did to that eagle that tried to eat her.  Do you think they can still hunt with one eye?).  But as for everyday interaction, I cull heavily for personality.  If a chicken is perpetually mean, attacks a human, or just not flock focused, then she gets a quick trip to the stew pot. As my flock is now, there are even members who can show compassion for injured ones.  

But what they do demand is that the head of the roost (rooster) be strong, alert, healthy, always vigilant, and does all the things that a rooster needs to do to keep the flock healthy.   At the moment I have this fantastic Copper Maran roo who's the most docile fella.  Like most good roos I've had, he doesn't like being touched by humans if the hens can see, as I think he feels it lowers his status in their eyes.  I did hug him once last week because he was disciplining the second cock (who deserved it for sneaking a quicky with alpha hen) a bit vigorously, but once I swept him in my arms, he just sat there like a lump waiting to be put back with the girls.  If the hens start squabbling, he sorts them out.  If there is a threat, he stands between the hens and the threat (not cowering in the back of the henhouse like some of the cocktails I've had). 

I guess you would call what I have now something like a landrace.  I have a mixed flock descended from the Murry McMurry large breed heritage mix.  The are the gentlest girls I've ever met, but sometimes mischievous.  Not like those skittle chickens that I started with - you know the kind, the ones that lay 300 eggs in 299 days then keel over.  But if my gals aren't happy with the current roster, they take matters into their own beaks and one of the girls (usually fourth or fith in the pecking order) will take on the rooster role until I bring in a better fella. 

Transsexed chickens are quite rare and I've only seen or heard of this happening due to injury or certain problems with feed - a mould or mildew in some local organic feed changed a good chunk of my friend's layer flock into cocks.  I don't know if it stuck, as it was only a month before Christmas dinner and... well.  you know.

Transgenered chickens seem to be more frequent than people realise.  I've had both partial change and full transgendered chickens but always, it seems, to be with the intent of keeping the flock safe and happy. 

 
No prison can hold Chairface Chippendale. And on a totally different topic ... my stuff:
2017 Permaculture Design Course and Appropriate Technology Course at Wheaton Labs
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