Gender Bender: When Your Hen Thinks She's A He!

Photo of Kassandra Smith

Kassandra Smith

Senior Editor • Backyard Chicken Coops

Last Updated: 02 September 2020

in a flock with no roosters, the dominant hen can sometimes play his part

You have yourself a lovely flock of girls- they get along harmoniously, you collect their delicious fresh produce each and every morning- everything is going swimmingly. Until...’Caaa - Cawww’.

What on earth- was that a crow you just heard?! But it can’t be- they’re girls!

Next morning- same thing. Something is definitely not right…

On your morning egg collection you notice your lovely Rhode Island Red displaying some very uncharacteristic behaviour. She seems to be attempting to, ahem, mount the other birds, and is acting quite aggressively- help!

While a chicken displaying male-like behaviour may seem like a cause for concern, it is actually quite a common occurrence to see a hen take on these masculine traits. In a flock without a rooster, the hen at the top of the pecking order may try to take on the role of the rooster- and so will display the traits mentioned above such as crowing, and attempting to mount the other hens.

So, why do roosters crow?

Roosters are known for the loud, attention-grabbing crows and there are numerous reasons you'll hear them. Roosters crow because:

  • They are crowing at the sunrise
  • They want to declare their territory
  • They're sharing post-mating crows
  • There is competition with other roosters to show whose the boss.

If there are other roosters in your flock, there is a special etiquette that is followed. Firstly, the head rooster will crow before the others. It's a literal pecking order of who can crow when! If they crow out of turn, they'll quickly be put in their place by the head rooster. 

How do I stop my ladies acting like lads?

Sometimes the chicken will grow out of their rooster ways- especially if they are coming into lay. However if they do continue to display these behaviours, it can result in some innocent injured chickens, and some very unhappy neighbours- a 5am wake up call from a chicken crow is no one's idea of an idyllic Sunday morning!

To help your chicken ease out of her masculine ways, it is best to isolate her for a few days until you notice a change in behaviour- she should start to return back to her happy hen self! Once you re-introduce her to the flock, she will have lost her place in the pecking order, and so will no longer feel the need to reign dominant, and peace will be restored in your backyard flock once again!

Should your chicken continue with this act, despite isolation, you may also start to notice egg production slowing or stopping completely, and your girl beginning to grow male plumage- wattles and a more established comb. If this is the case, you’re in for a treat- your ‘hen’ has just gone through a ‘sex reversal’ and turned into a rooster!

As unfathomable as it may seem- it’s touted as having a 1-in-10,000 chance of occurring, a hen to rooster transformation is most definitely possible. It is due to a genetic condition, where the chickens only functioning ovary is damaged, and so the non-functioning ovary can start to develop, and will become what is known as an avo-testis, where male hormones are secreted.

The hen does not completely transform into a roo, however- it will just become phenotypically male. So while the hen will develop the physical characteristics of a rooster, and stop laying eggs, she will remain genetically female- so she won’t be fathering baby chicks anytime soon!

So if your little Henrietta seems to be acting very ‘rooster-like’, keep a close eye on her- you never know, she just might be a Henry soon enough!

Whether you end up with an egg-layer or a keeper of the flock, you'll want to help them integrate seamlessly into your flock. Introducing new chickens can cause tensions so finding ways to keep all your chickens healthy and happy is essential!

Cluckily, our friends over at Chickenpedia have created an amazing Chicken Breeds Course. This extensive online course shares useful advice on choosing the right chickens for you as well as size & frequency of eggs laid. You’ll even learn about their individual personalities, and be able to use their family-friendly compatibility scale through this well-structured program. It really is a great way to find your perfect backyard buddies which is why I highly recommend them to all of my readers! The courses are beginner-friendly and filled with vital information that help you raise a happy, healthy flock.

As chicken keepers, we want to do an eggcellent job when caring for our feathered friends, but many of us struggle to handle chicken health or behaviour issues, especially in the first few years of having a flock. Chickenpedia have a full range of comprehensive online courses that cover everything you didn’t know you need to know and then some more! From healthcare to raising baby chicks to feeding and behavior, that’ll give you the knowledge and confidence to successfully look after your chickens.

As a member, you will get access to ALL their fantastic courses. So, no need to wing it, become a confident chicken keeper. Click here to check out Chickenpedia today!

Hen or Rooster- all chickens need a safe and secure coop to call home. The Taj Mahal, Penthouse and Mansion coops will happily home your flock no matter the size (or gender!).

Sources and further reading