Even though I thought I had a flock of only hens, I could clearly hear a crowing that sounded like a “cock-a-doodle-doo.” Did I accidentally get a rooster in my run of chicks? I started researching and observing my hens to figure out what was happening.
Do Hens Crow Like Roosters?
In rare circumstances, a hen can start crowing like a rooster. This usually happens when a hen is at the top of the pecking order and there is no rooster in the flock. The top hen will crow to establish both dominance and act as a protector to the other hens. This usually occurs in more dominant chicken breeds such as the Leghorn or Rhode Island Red breeds.
Hens may also start crowing like a rooster if they experience disease or damage to their left ovary. In very rare instances, hens have also been known to fully change genders and become roosters.
Additionally, a rare breed, the Longcrower, produces hens that crow like roosters. In breeders, this trait is greatly admired and sought after.
But, perhaps your hen is laying eggs and crowing. There are a few more reasons this is happening. Let’s take a look at the 4 reasons why your hen may be crowing like a rooster.
1. Verify Your Hen Is Not a Rooster
It may seem obvious, but you may want to verify that you didn’t accidentally get a rooster. Hatcheries can misidentify a chick as a hen instead of a cock. Sexing mistakes occur because the three main methods to sex a chic are not 100% accurate. Cockerels usually start crowing when they are about 2-3 months old. If your “hen” is crowing and still fairly young, you probably have a mislabeled rooster.
2. Longcrowers: A Rare Breed of Crowing Chickens
The Longcrower is a rare breed of chickens that originated in ancient China under the T’ang dynasty. There are several variations of Longcrowers which vary in coloring and temperament. Longcrowers were only recently introduced to the United States and do not enjoy an official breed recognition. They are recognized in Asia and Europe.
3. A Pecking Order Without A Rooster
In a natural flock, roosters live at the top of the pecking order. Studies have shown that roosters crow to assert territory and dominance. In a flock without a rooster, a hen may crow like a rooster. When a hen crows, she is establishing her place at the top of the flock.
A hen’s crowing usually isn’t as loud as a rooster’s. It may also sound strangulated. Usually crowing hens will continue to lay eggs and the crowing is simply part of retaining dominance in the flock.
4. Hen Crowing Occurs From Age, Hormonal Imbalances or Disease
Hens who are experiencing aging may also crow. Hen crowing occurs from a hormonal imbalance. Hens have two ovaries. Only the left one produces eggs. The right ovary usually remains undeveloped throughout a hen’s life.
But, if the left ovary becomes damaged from an injury or disease, the hen’s body might start to develop the right ovary. The left ovary is the only place in a hen’s body that produces estrogen (the female hormone for chickens). The right ovary is made of testicular tissue and when it develops, pushes male hormones into the hen. These hormones can overwhelm a hen’s body and cause her to behave as a rooster.
Ovarian injury can occur not only from an external injury but also from internal disease. It’s estimated that one-third of all hens develop ovarian cancer by the time they are 2.5 years old. Age is considered a factor of hen crowing, but more likely it’s cancer and other diseases that develop in a hen’s left ovary over time.
5. Hens Crowing Caused by Dietary Issues
Chickens who don’t get a good diet and suffer from malnutrition can have premature damage to their ovaries. When a hen doesn’t get enough calcium, the eggshell is brittle and thin. The internal pressure of creating an egg can cause the egg to internally break, causing internal damage to the hen’s reproductive system. When the damage affects the left ovary, a hen’s body can push the right ovary into production.
This change in the left and right ovaries functions may not cause a hen to change to a rooster, but it can. It can also cause a hen to start crowing like a rooster, while still laying eggs. In other rare cases, the left ovary may take over the egg production (but there aren’t a lot of studies to back this up.)
6. Your Hen Changes Sex to a Rooster
It might surprise you, but your hen can transform into a rooster. It’s called spontaneous sex reversal and it causes the hen to change both physically and hormonally to acquire rooster features. Some of the features you might notice include male plumage and wattles, growth of a larger comb, and egg production stopping or slowing.
Sometimes, hens will undergo a sex change when their ovary gets damaged. This will trigger the hormones to change. The result will be a rise in the level of testosterone. Gonad, which was initially non-functional, starts to function, giving rise to male organs.
This phenomenon is more prevalent than you might have thought. An estimated 1 in 10,000 hens will change their gender. Since the total number of chickens in the world is approximated at 22.85 billion, an estimated 2285 hens may have acquired male hormones.
Four Steps to Stop a Hen from Crowing
Knowing the reasons why your hen is crowing isn’t enough. You must take the necessary steps required to stop it from crowing. There are various methods and home remedies that you can employ in such a case.
1. Introduce a Rooster
As we have highlighted above, one of the reasons your hen is crowing is that there is no rooster around. The solution, therefore, is to add a rooster into your flock. The rooster will change the dynamic by taking over crowing duties.
However, a rooster won’t be effective if you want to stop crowing because of the noise..
2. Introduce New Hens
Try introducing new hens to your flock. This will reorder the pecking order and may cause enough of an upset to stop your crowing hen. If you want your hen to be pushed lower in the pecking order, introduce chickens from a more dominant breed such as Rhode Island Red, Leghorn, or Wyandotte.
3. Use the No-Crow Collar
No-Crow collars are small bands that you put around the rooster’s neck to make their crowing quieter. This is a more effective and sure way, especially if you are looking for immediate results.
The collar works by restricting the amount of hair the hen can draw in and, in the process, preventing them from producing loud crows. No crow collars don’t cause discomfort or hurt hens. A hen will still go around their normal business. The only difference this time is that the crowing will be quieter.
4. Provide Clean Living Conditions
Clean living conditions won’t usually stop a hen from crowing, but it can help with preventative care. When a hen has all the minerals and nutrients she needs to create strong eggs, her body stays stronger. When a hen is lacking in essential nutrition, her body will deplete needed nutrients from her own internal organs and bones to create the eggs.
This pillaging of nutrients leaves hens more vulnerable to disease, injury, and bacteria. Check out these other signs of hen disease in this article on why hens lay rotten eggs. Additionally, providing a coop that has perching options that aren’t too high can also help a hen to avoid injury when leaving the perch.
Crowing hens can cause noise issues for their owners, especially in populated areas. Crowing is often a sign of distress or imbalance in a hen. If your hen is as much a pet to you as an egg provider, then often the best you can do is to continue to provide the best care you can for her. If you don’t have that flexibility and must keep a quieter flock, hopefully, some of these other solutions will be helpful. If you do have to rehome or cull her, the odds of getting a second crowing hen are very low.