OK, so you know about the horrible chicken massacre that happened on our farm a few weeks ago. A raccoon (we’re guessing, due to the carnage left behind) took out 7 of my mature hens and my little bantam rooster. A sad day for all, and I have to say, not only am I bummed about having to once again buy store-bought eggs, but I also miss hearing the sweet, pint-sized cock-a-doodle-doo of my little Mr. Noodles. And apparently I’m not the only one in the barnyard who misses his crow.
The other morning, I was out feeding the goats and chickens as usual, when I heard a rooster crow. Now I wasn’t completely surprised by this as we have a whole chicken yard full of young pullets and as any experienced chicken owner can tell you, just because they came from the pullet bin, it doesn’t mean they’re all girls. In fact, there’s a roughly 10% error rate in the sexing of young chicks, which means that approximately 1 in 10 pullets will actually turn out to be cockerels, aka roosters. I already have my suspicions about a couple of the “girls” and I’m guessing one or two will start crowing any day now.
But the odd thing about the crowing I heard the other morning was that it seemed to be coming from the chicken yard where my 5 survivors of the chicken massacre are living, all of whom are mature hens. At first I thought maybe one of the young chickens was crowing and the sound was echoing off the metal wall of the hay barn making it sound like it was coming from the back yard. So, I watched and waited and within a few minutes, there it was again. Only this time, I could see the source of the sound and by golly, it was coming right out of the throat of my 2 year old Sicilian Buttercup HEN! Yes, I said hen, as in girl. And I know she’s a hen because as recently as a month ago, she was laying eggs in the dog house we use as a shelter in the young chickens’ yard and being that she’s a flyer, I know she’s the only mature laying hen that had access to the dog house at that time.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I saw her throw back her head and let out what was clearly, although maybe not completely full-throated, a cock-a-doodle doo. I have to tell ya, I about jumped out of my skin! All kinds of things went through my head in rapid succession: Am I that dense that I haven’t realized for 2 years that she was a he and not a she? Did my neighbor’s rooster sneak into my hen yard and it just happens to look just like my old hen? Is it possible to have a trans-gender chicken?
So, I told my tale to a number of people and had an interesting conversation with my 15 year old daughter about Chaz Bono and his gender re-assignment, and then once my curiosity got the best of me (and my schedule freed up to allow me the time to), I did what I often do when I have a question... I “Googled” it. I typed in the words, “can a hen become a rooster?” and voila, I had my answer!
“Not a fully functioning, sexually active, egg fertilizing rooster, but they can assume the characteristics of a rooster when the flock has no male to take on the duties of guarding the flock. The Alpha hen can guard, protect and crow (almost) just like a rooster under some circumstances.”
Well, I’ll be darned, I do believe Miss
just misses Mr. Noodles as much as I do. Sicily
Life Lesson: We all grieve and compensate in different ways.