What's the Difference Between a Chicken and Rooster?

Posted by Christy Caplan

How do you tell the difference between a rooster and a hen? Once you live with chickens and roosters this will come easily!

Some key differences are combs and wattles, and there are differences in their features and overall behavior. We included a list of differences here so you can easily tell whether you're dealing with a female or male chicken.

I have two roosters that I absolutely love to pieces. They protect their flocks and are wonderful companions to the ladies. Don't let anyone tell you every rooster is "mean" as that's not always the case!

Chickens vs. Roosters: Can they live together?

Yes! I would argue that if you are free-ranging your birds it's nice having a rooster to protect them. Yet one rooster per flock, please. The rule of thumb is 8-10 chickens and one rooster.

Do chickens and roosters get along?

Not always! Most roosters are not aggressive with their hens, but sometimes they have their favorites. Always watch the rooster to make sure he's not too rough with the hens.

Roosters keep balance in the flock and will intervene if two hens are fighting.

What are the main differences between a chicken and a rooster?

Here are the major differences:

  • Combs and wattles: Rooster combs are generally very large and red.
  • Hackle feathers and saddle feathers: Roosters tend to be more vibrantly colored, in general, than hens.
  • Tail feathers: These are by far the easiest way to tell it's a rooster as their tail feathers are always impressive.
  • Behavior: Hens tend to be more timid, but if you have a head, then all bets are off. Roosters are always more assertive. Plus, they crow!
  • Egg-laying: Your chickens will lay eggs at about six months and your rooster should be crowing by then.
  • There are some chicken breeds that are more difficult to sex as chicks. Some rooster breeds have very small combs but this is not the norm.
  • Silkies are a very difficult breed to sex so refer to a breeder or hatcheries if you have questions about these bantams.
  • Different breeds have varying tail feathers: Roosters always have pointy tail feathers so look at example photos of your chicken breed to see what these look like in just a few months. Our Barred Rock has very pronounced tail feathers.
  • Pecking order: Roosters tend to be bossy even when they're a young rooster.

Sexing chicks can be difficult, but knowing the difference between a pullet and cockerel is important if you cannot have rooster where you live. Always remember that your roosters crow and this is the biggest difference. The larger comb is a dead give-away too.

Do you know all of the benefits of owning a rooster?

There are benefits to having a rooster in your backyard flock.

  1. With a rooster you will have fertile eggs which means that you will be able to hatch your own chicks.
  2. With a rooster you'll have a naturally protective guardian of the flock.
  3.  You'll have a natural alarm clock.
  4. You'll probably also hear a crow any time a rooster spots something out of the ordinary. A rooster is sort of like a natural property alarm system!

Know someone who would like to add chickens? Tell us in the comments below! 

WATCH: What is the most effective and natural tick control in your yard? 


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What's the Difference Between a Chicken and Rooster?