New chicken owner

chicken_ingenue(7)August 7, 2005

hello, to everyone or Hey which is what everyone says where I come from S. I am the new proud owner of three chickens. I have always wanted some and finally talked my hubbie into them. I am very new and know absolutely nothing but I thought that would be the fun in this little adventure. a friend of at my husbands work gave us three "hens", he says he thought they were about three months old, now let me say again we know NOTHING about chickens, but I had a sneaky suspesion that they might not all be hens and after three weeks it was becoming boldly apparent. (chuckling) anyway we had another guy come look and he said yep roosters, WHAT a waste of laying mash three weeks worth for noting. MAN I was bound and determined to get an egg outta them chickens but it wasn't to be. They were very healthy though. We had two roosters and one hen. Hubbies friend came back and took away the roosters and left us with two more chickens which he said he was 70% sure were hens. but they were starting to molt and didn't have any tail feathers seems as they were kept in a hot crowded pen. It has been a few days and I am wondering if I have at least one rooster again. We live inside the city limits and I am afraid that the neighbors will complain once the crowing starts also I have heard that roosters get mean when they mature. My question is how can I tell sooner rather then later if I have a rooster. I have a rhode island red which I am really wondering about and a dominiques which I am not sure about either although it is smaller. both of these types have a larger comb then the buff orpington that I have and I guess that is what is really making me nervous. the red is starting to get skin around the side of his face but maybe that is just the type of breed. Any help you could give me would be very helpful.


Chicken ingenue

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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Welcome to the wonderful world of chickens, enjoy! :) If you click on my 'My Page' link, there is tons of chicken info there that may help you, including how to tame down roosters. :)

Young roos will usually have a redder comb than hens, and sometimes it is larger also. In young birds, roos are more friendly and forthcoming, hens are shyer and more retiring. When you approach your birds, usually the roos will come forward and be curious, the hens will keep their distance. Also look for hackle feathers (the long, sickle-shaped feathers at the base of the tail), long, thin cape feathers on the neck and long, curving sickle-shaped tail feathers. All are signs of a rooster.

Roos don't always get mean as they mature, it depends on the breed and the individual bird. If you DO end up with a mean roo that attacks you, get rid of him. Life is too short and roosters can hurt you seriously, especially children who are down at their level.

Buff Orps are generally a very quiet, calm breed. Rhode Island Reds are fiestier and can sometimes be aggressive. If you check out and look up the individual breeds you can read more about them and see lots of pics of birds at all ages that might help you ID your hens vs. roos. :)

Good luck and have fun!


    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 3:56PM
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Oh, thanks you so much. That was very informative. I can't wait to go look at the web page you gave me. my buff has a much smaller comb then the Red which is one thing that made me wonder and the red is molting, kinda funny looking actually and it has two tail feathers sticking straight up and then bare skin. i have to say this is a real adventure for me. I am enjoying them immensely though. If these work out well maybe we can get a bunny S

see you soon

chicken ingenue

    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 4:28PM
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Try Googling "Chickens" and you'll get all kinds of helpful web sites and exchanges and chatrooms. ANy question you have will be answered there. As far as having chickens in your area, if you can't have a rooster, it may be a problem having any fowl at all. Check your ordinances.

I've only had chickens for three years and I started out just like you, I knew nothing about them at all. I've learned a lot of things in a short time.

They aren't stupid, in fact they are quite intelligent, they remember things and people for a very long time. They have a very strict code of behavior and hierarchy in the flock. Any chicken who forgets his or her place is reminded of it by the others.

They can be gluttons, but if they are a "provider" like a rooster or mother hen, they won't eat anything all day until all the others have gone to roost at sundown. Given food, the rooster will cluck in a certain way and pick the food up and put it down over and over until one of the hens comes and eats it. But he won't eat it, and niether will the mother hen.

If you don't have a rooster, one of the hens will assume responsibility for the rest of the flock and will act like a rooster. She will become the protector and provider for the rest. She may or may not lay eggs.

Hens can generally only count to three. If they have more chicks than that, they have trouble keeping track of them.

Chickens love grass, worms and bugs and will prefer those things over store-bought food. But if they can't have enough of those foods, they will resort to corn and seeds from a bag. They also don't get enough calcium from foods so you need to provide them oyster shell chips to eat so their eggs won't break when they are laying them.

Chickens can't keep themselves clean, so you have to provide them with a very clean place to roost and live. I try to sweep out my henhouse a couple times a week, sanitize with chlorine bleach, and water the yard regularly so grass stays fresh and free of droppings. I also give them fresh hay for their nest boxes and when it gets soiled it goes to the compost bin.

Some roosters are mean. They need to be supper, but if you want chicks you just gotta have one. If you don't want chicks to replenish your flock, you'll need to plan to get new hens about every three years. They won't lay much after that age and may not be very good to eat either.

All chickens, roosters and hens, have their own personalities. Some are friendly, some shy, some curious, some cranky. I have one hen I call Martha who is usually very friendly and has jumped up in my lap so I could pet her. But at times she gets grumpy and will peck my leg or foot. So I guess even a chicken can have a bad feather day.

Beware, after you have chickens in your yard for three years, you won't have the heart to butcher and eat them. All my hens have names, and although I had planned to raise them for food, all we get from them is eggs, and I give most of those away to my family. I couldn't bear to kill and eat one of my sweet little hens. The roosters don't endear themselves the same way though and I have eaten a few of them.

Chickens are fun and interesting. I hope I will always be able to keep them in my yard.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 5:28PM
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undercover_owl(8 Pac.NW)

At just 3 months, it can be pretty hard to tell for sure. With some breeds, roosters don't have much of a comb, and in other breeds, even the hens have fairly large combs.

"Dorothy" had almost no comb at all, and very little red on his face, so imagine our surprise when Dorothy crowed! (We overlooked his long, muscular legs).

With Barred Rocks, the baby chicks have differently shaped white-dots on their heads, and gradually the males get lighter, and the females get darker in color.

Some people are skilled at checking out what's going on between their legs, but for most people, it's difficult with all those feathers in the way. Even the pros make a lot of mistakes in sexing baby chicks.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 8:13PM
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thanks for all the help, I checked the feathersite and I believe I have hens. The Rhode Island Red breeds seems to have a bigger comb even in the females, so I think I'm alright.

I Like to eat chicken but know I could never eat anythig I have raised L. but i can't wait to get eggs. these chickens like to forage for food and we have a big place for them to do that. but I am feeding them both scratch and laying mash also.

I think I only have a few more weeks before they lay an egg. *crossing fingers*

thanks again
chicken ingenue

    Bookmark   August 13, 2005 at 10:56AM
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I've found the first easy indicator of sex, and more accurate than combs, since they can differ with breed, is the appearance of the knob or bud where a cockerel's spurs shall grow. Hens don't have spurs, and cockerels do. I don't know why I've not had mean roosters, but aside from a territorial bantum, all my standard roosters are more gentle than the hens. They are especially tolerant of the chicks, stepping back to let them eat first as chicken ingenue says. The hens have no mercy and peck them away until they have their fill.

I have grown several breeds over the years but my favs for gentleness and reliability have been the golden comets. I always have at least one Rhode island red rooster. Unlike Chicken ingenue, my roosters are my pets and that's a good thing. You only need one for every twenty or so hens and all mine get along with each other as well. When I have a broody hen who hatches chicks or adopts incubated chicks, I generally have a rooster volunteer to place himself in front of the hen who keeps them warm with her outstretched wings. It's endearing actually and makes one appreciate the dedication and caring for helpless young isn't just a "human" thing.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2005 at 5:33PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Actually, if you look closely at the legs of both young hens and roos...both have spur buds! I don't know if it applies to every single breed, but I have quite an assortment of breeds in my back yard and all my adult hens have spur buds. I even had one little banty hen that had tiny, rubbery spurs about 1/4 inch long. Her daughter also has them. There are even adult hens that, in the absence of a rooster, take over the crowing and mating duties.

Wierd!!! :)

    Bookmark   August 14, 2005 at 1:33AM
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That's it.......if they're a cockerel, you seldom have to look closely, the spur starts developing early and by three months should be noticeable. The secondary sexual characteristics vary not only breed by breed, but by individual. I've had hens with rather pronounced combs, and roosters whos combs were occasionally very undeveloped. The secondary characterisitcs all pretty much develop at the same time, just like in human adolescents. I still find watching spur development easier than looking at combs or waddles... You can also age a rooster pretty easily by eyeballing his spurs. I don't band my roosters because I've had them so large I couldn't find bands to accomodate their legs, but one look at the spurs tells me what generation they came from.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2005 at 8:13AM
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CHFarm(z6 OH)

Chickens are good fun, rewarding, and at times heartbreaking. The predator factor! I thought I'd mention there are a lot of great books out there to help you, but the poultry web is a great resource, much like garden web, but for poultry! As questions arise, log on and ask!
Enjoy your hens, and rooster. I like having a rooster around, but he must be gentle, and I've had roosters hide and then jump in to attack. Those aren't the best pets.
The sexual organs of the chickens are interior to the cloaca, so inverting the cloaca to check is a difficult task. I've found my breeds to be varied in the characteristics of the roosters, so mostly I wait until I have one look very different from the others (large comb, wattle, spurs) and crow before deciding he's a boy.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2005 at 5:55PM
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ceresone(missouri ozarks)

nice to know i'm not alone! mine will be 4 months old on sept 16, banties are 2 weeks younger- and i can tell them easily. but--the pullets? think i have at least 5 roosters--but one day i decide yes, next day no. none of the full sized ones crow--but i've got the bantie roosters to crow on demand!! so absolutely adorable!i had chickens--years ago--but never enjoyed as much as now--kinda like being grandma-or great-grandma-lol

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 8:14AM
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ceresone, You sound like me I waffle back a forth from day to day L. today I'm 80% sure I have hens LOL I can't wait for some eggs S.

chicken ingenue

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 6:51PM
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