Bollith Bred Poultry
Specialising in quality, free range poultry, perfect for your backyard
All about the boys!
Roosters: Do I need to keep one?
Am I allowed to have them?
How do I know if it's a rooster?
What do I do with unwanted roosters?
Getting roosters is a part of buying unsexed chicks.
If you can't handle this idea then buying unsexed chicks is definitely not for you.
Chickens, like most animals, typically hatch somewhere around 50% boys and 50% girls. There is nothing we can do to alter this at all. Altering the incubating temperature works for certain reptiles and NOT for chickens. Certain shaped eggs is not an indicator of sex either, neither is hanging your wedding ring over the egg to see which way the ring swings (yes, some people truly believe this!). Occasionally people may believe their pet rooster always gives baby hens/roosters every hatch (just like some people have only girl or only boy children) - and this may sometimes be the case, however there is no official studies on this and it may be nothing more than a coincidence.
Most of our customers buy at least 50% more unsexed chicks than they're wanting. For example, if you want 6 hens to join your flock, than consider buying at least 10-15 chicks - the more you buy the greater the chance of getting your 6 girls. If you end up with too many hens you can always give them away or even sell them - usually making a pretty profit for your efforts too!
What if I get roosters which I cannot keep?
If you have brought unsexed chicks from us and one (or more) have turned out to be a rooster you have a few options:
* Keep him
* Sell him - try Gumtree (add LOTS of photos, and don't forget to mentioned that he is vaccinated against Marek's Disease). You can also add him on our Facebook page dedicated to roosters - www.facebook.com/groups/RoostersWA/
* Eat him. Okay okay, I know it’s not for everyone. But unless you’re vegetarian you probably eat a lot of chicken. And where do you think chicken comes from? If you can’t butcher him yourself, try somewhere like Prestige Poultry in Wangara. We haven’t used these services ourselves so we have no experience with them first hand, however some of our customers have used them before and have been happy. Deliver your (alive) rooster to them in the morning and pick him up all boxed up the same afternoon – for just a few dollars per bird.
* If none of the above work, you can return him to us – just make an appointment (just like you had to do when you purchased from us). We usually prefer roosters to be delivered to us on a weekend, however we can work with you to find the best suitable time. Due to our biosecurity any birds which have left our premises cannot be kept long term on our premises – meaning we are unable to keep him forever here. We try to find a home each and every one of them, however roosters are very difficult to rehome and those which cannot find a feather-ever home typically go to good use to feed a small community in the country. Rest assured, all roosters live their remaining life happy, healthy and free ranging; and all are dispatched quickly and humanly.
I want my hens to be happy - do I need to keep a rooster?
Roosters can have their benefits, however you do not NEED to keep a rooster in order to keep your hens happy, safe or continuing to lay eggs. Some people come to me with the impression a rooster is needed for a hen to produce eggs. Of course this is not correct and it's important to note a rooster will have absolutely no impact on the quality or quantity of eggs a hen lays, nor the age she begins laying at.
Roosters are thought to help keep a flock safe. A protective rooster should be able to keep away (if he so chooses) small animals such as small domestic cats; small birds such as pigeons, crows or kookaburras; and any other animal which is typically smaller than him that he can scare away. When it comes to the bigger predators - wild cats, threatening dogs, foxes, eagles etc he may attempt to fend them off - particularly if the flock has no where else to run to safety. The success rate of a Rooster VS Fox isn't great, and it's usually thought to be more of a 'sacrificial' fight. IF the flock has somewhere else to run to safety than he may be able to tell the hens there is danger before the predator gets the chance to get too close, but again this would depend on what type of predator has come to visit.
Roosters aren't considered necessary to keep a flock 'happy' in general. Chickens don't feel emotions quite like people and they wont miss or long for a rooster if one is not present.
A rooster WILL, however, keep the girls in moderate safety (in his mind, anyway). He'll crow in the morning to tell the girls its time to start the day, likewise he'll crow when it's time for bed. He'll also tell the girls when there is food and he'll usually offer the tasty treats to his hens before he eats any himself. He can also help 'keep the peace' if any dominance fights break out within the hens. These type of behaviours are lovely to watch and offer people a good "warm fuzzy" feelings, but keep in mind the hens wont starve without a rooster and those dominance fights will soon sort themselves out in time anyway.
When you DO need a rooster is when you want your own baby chicks. As mentioned, a rooster will have no impact on a hen laying eggs, however, you do need a "mummy" and a "daddy" to make babies. ;)
Am I allowed to keep roosters where I live?
Unfortunately I can't answer that here. This depends on where you live and what zoning your land is. Every Shire/Council is different in Perth, however if you live in the suburbs in a residential block than NO, you're probably not allowed roosters.
When people live in the country then it gets complicated. Even though you may live on 5 or 10 acres that doesn't automatically mean you can have roosters, especially if you're still zoned Residential or even Rural-Residential. You may be allowed roosters with an appropriate permit, or you could be allowed up to 2 roosters without a permit.
If you're zoned Rural (country, usually more than 40-50 acres) than it usually means you can have roosters.
ALWAYS check with your local Shire/Council, your Planning Officer will be able to give you more information.
I’m not sure if my chickens are hens or roosters?
Enjoy your time watching your baby chicks grow. You’ll notice they all have their own personality and soon they’ll establish a pecking order within their flock, although it's normal for this to change several times. As they age, you may notice they begin to look different from their siblings, however the first thing you need to remember that each breed matures and grows differently, so only ever compare the same breed with the same breed – don’t try comparing apples and oranges. Remember sexing chicks is a skill which can also be open to interpretation, there's lots of 'tick boxes' you need to check off, it's not as straight forward as sexing a cat or dog.
A few things to look for includes: (see photos at the bottom of this page)
Comb and wattle development – when young boys develop their comb it will usually be instantly be red, or at least a shade of red or pink. (excluding Silkies and mulberry coloured chickens). Girls will also grow a comb, but they will always be smaller and will be pale/skin colour , at least until they’re Point of Lay.
Face – likewise as above, some breeds will also become very red skinned around the face. Look closely around their eye/cheek area. If this skin is red, it may be a sign of roosters. (Usually applicable when they’re quite young as hens will also redden up as they age and reach maturity).
Saddle and Hackle Feathers – good to look for around 3 months of age (depending on breed, excluding Silkies). These feathers will be glossy and shiny. (if it’s a black chicken they may have a ‘beetle green sheen’ to them – this has nothing to do with sexing so don’t get confused). Often these feathers are slightly different colour/shade to the rest of the feathers, sometimes appearing to be darker. The Saddle Feathers are found on the back (think of a saddle going on a horse) and once fully mature these feathers are long, skinny, and point down to the ground. Hackle feathers are also long, skinny and shiny which grow around a roosters neck, usually growing around his chest (a bit like a lion’s mane!). Both Saddle and Hackle feathers are exclusively a ‘rooster-thing’ and hens do not have them.
Legs – roosters legs are bigger and thicker than a hens, but this may be hard to compare in some breeds.
Spurs – 99% of the time hens do not have spurs although we have 1 adult hen here who has a nice pair of spurs, but it’s usually a rooster thing. Spurs are slow to mature and both young pullets and cockerels have small spur bumps or ‘pimples’ at a young age so often not a good way to sex.
Tail - A lot of people look at how the tail grows - whether it sticks up or not - to be a sign of a specific gender. Personally I don't like this method as my birds disprove that theory regularly.
Size - A rooster is typically bigger in general, but size alone is not enough to sex chickens on - its just one check box in a long list.
Age - All the above is only applicable when you take their individual age in to consideration. An adult hen will have a bright red comb and wattles, and they can be moderately large (depending on breed). Their face can also redden up, and in rare cases they may grow spurs - and even crow!
Colouring - It's important to note this doesn't work on all breeds but this is my personal favourite. Whatever breed you're trying to sex - find a photo of a mature hen and a mature rooster - OF THE SAME BREED. Look for colouring differences. For example the Silver Laced Wyandotte hen looks completely different to the SLW Rooster. However, for single colouring birds like the Rhode Island or Buff Orpingtons (and even some dual colours like the Light Sussex) this method wont work. Look at your photos side by side and work out what is different between them, and why. Then look at your chick and see if anything looks the same as either one of your photos.
I find, In our Buff lines the roosters have darker coloured Saddle Feathers. Araucana roosters can have colour 'leakage' however we don't usually see it often in hens. Speckled Sussex roosters are typically a lot more whiter than hens, although not always. Barred Plymouth Rock roosters are lighter in colour than the hens, which appear to be dark barred. These are just some examples I personally use, and will not necessarily work with all bloodlines.
Maturity - A hen or rooster has reached their sexual maturity by around 6 months - this is when they are either crowing or laying an egg. Roosters will never lay an egg, however, in some very rare cases a hen may begin to crow. I usually tell my customers that if your chicken is crowing then it is definitely a rooster because the chances are - it is! If a rooster is not present than a hen may take it on herself the be the dominate and look after the rest of the flock - and this means an occasional crow. Even when a hen does crow, it mostly isn't as loud or as often as a typical rooster although that will also depend on the individual hen. Again, if your chicken is crowing, it's a 99.9% chance its a rooster.
Wing Sexing / Fast Feathering VS Slow Feathering - Wing Sexing (looking at the growth pattern of wing feathers when the chicks are less than 48 hours old) is unreliable in most breeds. Wing Sexing will only work when you breed a slow feathering breed/gene over a fast feathering breed/gene. For example most commercial breeds in Australia use this technique, but it does not work on most pure bred heritage breeds. We allow customers to attempt to wing sex chicks when purchasing from us if they choose - you can expect around a 50% success rate.
Vent Sexing – Some commercial farms still vent sex - that is - looking at the chicks vent (bottom) to determine sex. This isn't practiced a lot in Australia anymore as we prefer other methods of sexing and vent sexing is very difficult which can be open to interpretation. It is a very specialised skill and not something which can be learnt at home or via the internet. When a professional sexes a chick using this method they hold the chick in one hand and squeezes the chicks’ abdomen to clean the vent (pushes out any poo). They then look inside to see any chicks ‘genitalia’ which appears a bit like a pimple sitting inside the vent. The difficult part is both hens and roosters can appear very similar and there are plenty of variations for both genders. If vent sexing is performed incorrect it can cause major internal damage to the chick and for this reason we will not allow any customer to perform this on our birds unless you can show documentation of relevant qualifications and training
Auto Sexing – Some pure breeds are amazing and do all the hard work for us. This means when certain breeds hatch the hens and roosters hatch with different colours or different markings so we can tell the girls and boys apart almost immediately. Our Silver Grey Dorkings are our only Auto Sexed breed. Unfortunately there are not many Auto Sexed breeds in Australia.
Sexed Link – When you pair a specific breed of rooster to mate with a specific breed of hen, this will produce a Cross Bred chick however, the chicks will be auto sexed – so you will be able to tell the hens and roosters apart from 1 day old.
See below photos for more information
Still totally confused?
If you’re still not 100% sure or just need confirmation before you consider rehoming you’re welcome to email me photos of your chicks ONCE THEY’RE 3 MONTHS OLD (or more). This is a free service available for customers who have purchased their chicks from Bollith Poultry.
However, for me to provide you with accurate information I need clear photos showing:
Examples of Hens and Roosters, and what to look for.
Points of an Adult Rooster
(Australorp is this particular case)
Now, for comparison is the same breed (Blue Australorp) Adult Hen.
WATTLES/COMB/FACE: Notice the red comb, wattles and face. This is normal for an adult hen who is currently LAYING. A hen who has not reached maturity will not be bright red in the face, nor have such large comb and wattles. However, note these are still significantly smaller than the rooster, above.
HACKLE FEATHERS: The feathers around her neck (Hackle Feathers) aren't shiny, thin and super long. If you were to look closely the would also be rounded at the tip, and not 'sharp' or pointy like the roosters'. In fact, they should resemble the feathers on the rest of her body - just maybe smaller.
SADDLE FEATHERS: None. Again, feathers all over her body should be a consistent size and shape (regardless of colouring). This includes her hackle feathers, chest feathers, saddle feathers and wing feathers (expect her flight feathers). Try to look past any patterns/colouring and look at the shape of the feathers.
TAIL: Tail feathers can vary depending on breed. In this photo they are quite similar shape to the rest of her body, albeit maybe a little larger. Some hens can grow longer tail feathers than this hen, however they won't be as long as the rooster of the same breed.
LEGS/SPURS: As mentioned above, hens may grow spurs however it's not common. Hens usually have more slender legs, but size and length can vary depending on breed.
Bantam Belgian D'Uccle - around 5 weeks old
Bantam Belgian D'Uccle - around 5 weeks old
Exchequer Leghorn - around 8 weeks old
Exchequer Leghorn - around 8 weeks old
Cockerel - very fast maturing for this age
Silver Laced Wyandottes - 4-5 weeks old.
LEFT: Pullet. Comb is relatively smooth and narrow - no wider than her beak.
RIGHT: Cockerel. Comb is quite bumpy and much wider in comparison. Although you can't see it here it is getting pinker and wattles are beginning to develop.
Same Silver Laced Wyandotte, as above. Cockerel.
In quite a few large breeds (but definitely not all!), boy put all of their energy in getting BIG. That includes big legs, big comb (often red/pink tinged), big wattles, big feet and legs (some breeds can be hard to tell at this age). They get to around 5 weeks old and are indeed BIG, but are somewhat naked too ;) ;)
The skin around their face may soon become red-coloured and their eyes can look 'wild' - but this is only my interpretation of these mini-dinosaurs!
Same Silver Laced Wyandotte, as above. Pullet.
Girls are different. Size isn't as important. But BEAUTY is. They put all their energy in to looking pretty so they feather up first. They are usually smaller than their brothers and have a smaller comb and almost no wattles at all. Any combs/wattles which have grown will be pale or skin coloured.
Face is still feminine and pale.
Plymouth Rock - Approx 6 weeks old. Cockerel
The Barred Plymouth rocks are pretty easy to sex as soon as their 'big kid feathers' begin to develop. The Cockerels usually look a lot 'whiter' due to a double barring gene. The comb and wattles were also significantly developed on this boy too at this age.
Plymouth Rock - Approx 6 weeks old. Pullet.
Pullet Plymouth Rocks appear a lot darker in colour, although still have typical barring pattern (stripes).
Buff Sussex - Cockerels
Approx 5-6 months.
Feathering looks 'messy'. The saddle feathers are developing well, along with the hackle feathers which are growing around the front of his chest as he matures. Although a little hard to see in this photo his tail is slowly growing 'up' which will develop nicely. Strong legs. Both the Buff Sussex in this photo are boys, and you can see the well developed wattles and growing comb.
The body looks a little dis-proportioned, maybe a little 'top heavy' or a bit awkward in general. This is typical of a young rooster (we call them Mini Dinosaurs at this stage) while they're still growing in to their body.