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Day 21 – What to Do When Your Backyard Hen is a “He”

It happened yesterday.

I was working in my office at dawn, when I heard a funny noise. {You know what’s coming, right?}

Backyard Chickens and Roosters

It sounded like a sick cat or a hurt animal. I immediately started walking from window to window trying to figure out if it was coming from the front or the backyard. I thought maybe a neighbor’s cat had been hit by a car or someone’s dog was sick somewhere near my house.

When suddenly…I heard it.

A pathetic “Cocka-Doodle-Doo” from an untrained voice. It was weak and shaky…but it was definitely coming from a juvenile rooster…in MY backyard.

NO!

One of my new darling baby silkie girls was in fact…A BOY.

Every backyard chicken owner worries when their little flock begins reaching maturity (about 4-5 months old). Up until this point, you have cared for these cute babies and it is inevitable that you fall in love with a few if not all of them. They each have different personalities and the sweet ones steal your heart every time. At 4-5 months old, any roosters in the bunch will begin to crow and it is at this crucial time that you may just discover that your favorite hen is really a “he”.

Blue Silkie Rooster

Sometimes it is easy to tell that a hen is really a rooster before any crowing starts.

A juvenile rooster :

  • Is usually larger than his sisters.
  • May have saddle feathers or a different plumage than the others of the same breed.
  • Might act protective of the others.

Even when exhibiting some of these characteristics, you can always hold out hope that they are all female. Until…the crowing begins. I have read that some females will crow (or try to), but these are usually the adult females who are acting as the top hen in the pecking order. A crowing juvenile, who also has other male characteristics…is sadly…a boy.

A Rooster Plan:

For city chickens, being male means an eviction notice to a new location. That is the case in my city. Most city ordinance that allow small chicken flocks restrict the keeping of roosters because of the noise. If you end up with a rooster, you either have to find it a new home or…something worse.

THIS is why I tell all backyard chicken owner wanna-be’s that you MUST have a rooster plan. You MUST. It is irresponsible not to. Getting a rooster is very common. Even when you buy “sexed” chicks, you have a 10% chance of getting a rooster. You need to know that it happens all the time.

But I find that most people just get all excited about the “idea” of keeping chickens in their urban backyard. They pick their breeds, bring home the baby chicks and just “don’t want to think about” what they will do when one, half or ALL of them end up being roosters. You need a backup plan of what to do if that happens or sadly, the rooster will lose out.

Did I Have a “Rooster Plan”?

Yes, I did.

My rooster is a Blue Silkie which is an unusual breed. I currently have a small farm and a suburban farmstead that want him. I will keep him another week to be absolutely sure it was him making the feeble attempt at being “manly” and then I will drive him to his new home to live out his life on a farm. I think he will be happy.

We are very sad that “Hazel” turned out to be “Hansel”. He was my son’s favorite and I too carried him around the garden everyday. He is just a cute ball of gray fluff. But we know we can’t keep him. We will just have to visit him on the farm every once in a while.

Sigh…Such is the reality of keeping chickens in the city.

This post is part of the 31 Days of Living Homegrown. Sign up for my newsletter (weekly or monthly) so you don’t miss any of the inspiration and resources I will be sharing for living local, fresh and homegrown!

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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy® and is the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two teenage boys and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.