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Transgender Chicken or Hermaphrodite?

 
pollinator
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Location: North Carolina, USA Zone 7b
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Somewhere in my reading I learned that a chick's gender might end up not being what you thought it was by the time they mature.   But after more than a year of laying - one of my Swedish Flower hens (Sonya is 18 mths old)  just started crowing!    She's been a consistent layer, and was part of a flock of 3 hens.   This change coincides with the death of her two sisters this week (a fox I think)   and she's left alone with a new group of 4 week old chicks.  Her appearance is that of a hen although she's taller and has bigger feet than her sibling hens, but no spurs,  and has been less friendly and more flighty and was at the bottom of the pecking order (discrimination? haha).     Sonya has not bonded with the young chicks - avoids them, seemed depressed, and after 2 days of making occasional sounds like a young rooster learning to crow,  she's crowing full blast as I write this at 6:20 am.    I live in a city that does not allow roosters and Sonya is my only layer at this point....aaarrrrggghhhh!   I just began chicken keeping Jan 2016 - something new every day so I thought I'd share for newbies, and look forward to hearing more stories along these lines :)
 
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Location: Stone Garden Farm Richfield Twp., Ohio
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Oh for pete's sake, sometimes females just want to make "noise". Doesn't make them male or even different. I can only speak for mammals, because I am one and I only raise them (not reptiles etc.) but, we all herd. We all establish a pecking order. When something drastic happens to the order, esp. when a alpha is removed or gets weak, everybody else rearranges and new alpha/betas emerge. Doesn't change their sex, it just gives them new standing/rights/responsibilities/roles to play. And, sometimes a new "song" to sing. ....So go out and have a talk with Sonya and tell her that you are the boss and you say no crowing. She can be the boss of the rest of the chickens, but you are the boss of her. P.S. For folks just getting into raising animals, esp. large animals, you can never let them get over on you. Once a horse or cow or even goat pushes you around, you can have a devil of a time getting authority back. And if they think they are the "boss of the herd" you can get hurt real fast. As a farmer you must always be the top alpha. Animals need to know the order of the group. You need to be safe.
 
gardener
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There's something you can make or get called a 'crow strap' or 'crow collar'. It is put on the chicken's neck and set so it constricts their throat slightly. Just enough they can't crow. I've never used one, but sometimes urban chicken keepers will resort to them for the sanity of their neighbors.
 
pollinator
Posts: 111
Location: South Central Indiana
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Like Jim says, she's just in a different place in the pecking order.  I've had several hens over the years try to become the "rooster" when there are no actual roosters around.  This can take many forms although I've never had one crow as excessively as your hen seems to be doing.  Since the former dominant birds are not there, she is taking their place, although for her, she's not only acting as the sentinel, she's actually calling to the other area chickens and filling the roosters spot.  Now, you  might be asking why your other hens didn't do it, but dominant birds don't always do everything that a rooster would do.  Crowing is the least common, usually they just stand watch more, eat less, stop laying eggs, lead the group to new grazing areas, and mount other chickens.  In my experience crowing is the rarest behavior for a hen.  

I think you are accurate in your observation that this behavior coincides with the death of the other two hens.  She's the boss now and she is trying to fill all the roles of the rooster.  Unless you get a rooster, which you can't, she will probably continue to act this way unless another hen becomes dominant.  As the chicks get older, some of them will test her and if they "win" (usually this is just mock fighting), she will stop behaving this way.  

The chances that she is a hermaphrodite is very rare.  More likely she has just a bit more testosterone (even hens make a certain amount of it) than the average hen and the sudden change in social climate has her thinking she needs to be the boss and act like a rooster.

Nature abhors a vacuum and chickens seem to need leaders.
 
Susan Pruitt
pollinator
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Location: North Carolina, USA Zone 7b
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Fun and useful responses folks - thank you :)   I love the "freaky hen" link from Tyler, especially the quote "a whistling woman and a crowing hen are neither fit for God nor man."  That's my single old woman urban homesteading life - haha!   Seriously though,   Sonya is amazing - she crows a few times first thing in the morning until I let them out of the coop, then she's silent for the rest of the day and continues to lay an egg for me dailyish.   I think you're right Marcus, about her calling out to a chicken I hear far off in the neighborhood.  And Jim, I'm supervising mealtimes and "being the boss" when Sonya tries to run over and bully the babies I "peck" her with my finger to push her away.   So I think she respects me because she's much less aggressive and completely ignoring the babies as she did before the broody mama died.    Now I wonder if I can get her to go broody......... :)   She didn't in April when her sister was, but I think I'll keep some fake eggs in the nest for the next month or so.  I'll post again if she does!
 
gardener
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[quote=Susan Pruitt]Somewhere in my reading I learned that a chick's gender might end up not being what you thought it was by the time they mature.   But after more than a year of laying - one of my Swedish Flower hens (Sonya is 18 mths old)  just started crowing!    She's been a consistent layer, and was part of a flock of 3 hens.   This change coincides with the death of her two sisters this week (a fox I think)   and she's left alone with a new group of 4 week old chicks.  Her appearance is that of a hen although she's taller and has bigger feet than her sibling hens, but no spurs,  and has been less friendly and more flighty and was at the bottom of the pecking order (discrimination? haha).     Sonya has not bonded with the young chicks - avoids them, seemed depressed, and after 2 days of making occasional sounds like a young rooster learning to crow,  she's crowing full blast as I write this at 6:20 am.    I live in a city that does not allow roosters and Sonya is my only layer at this point....aaarrrrggghhhh!   I just began chicken keeping Jan 2016 - something new every day so I thought I'd share for newbies, and look forward to hearing more stories along these lines :)[/quote]

Do you have a Rooster? if you don't have one that is the role she has taken on.  

Redhawk
 
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Location: Ozark Border
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Sometimes with social organisms it's not so much a "gender" issue as a dominance one.  The hen may not be morphologically shifting to a biologically male state, but because she's the largest, most fecund, or otherwise most "dominant" individual, she may be functioning in a more "masculine" role.  Not so much a male, as a dominant adult.
 
pollinator
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I just hope that he or she never opens a YouTube account and starts crowing about the change. Private parts are private.
 
Susan Pruitt
pollinator
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Location: North Carolina, USA Zone 7b
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Yes I think you're all correct.   I don't have a rooster and Sonya is now the oldest and biggest in the coop.   She's still just crowing a few times in the morning before I let her out, and then quiet.   She is still a good layer so all is well here :)
 
Posts: 157
Location: 54 North BC Canada
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I think I read this in an earlier thread . I made a note of it:

"In a normal female bird only the left ovary is active. Due to infections or other problems, this ovary may cease to function.
In that case the right ovary becomes active, but for some reason produces more testosterone and causes the bird to develop
male plumage and secondary sex characteristics, although it will never become fully male. Hens may begin to crow and usually stop laying."
 
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