“A Whistling Girl And A Crowing Hen Always Come To No Good End” – Old country saying.

Most city regulations prohibit roosters within city limits. This is understandable considering that the majority of roosters I have encountered just don’t know when to stop greeting the sun even if the day is more than half-way gone. A rooster will crow at the sky, the clouds, the dog barking down the street, the cars passing, or just to hear himself tell himself he’s the greatest rooster in the whole wide world. I personally love the sound of a rooster crowing but neighbors might not feel the same and city officials, although accepting of the neighbors’ yippy yappy dog, don’t give the same lenience to roosters.

But what do you do when your hen crows? Yes, crows. A rusty-door hinge, old man wheezing sort of crow but a crow just the same. Clementine, our dominant “grandma” hen who outlived her original coop companions celebrates her new-found authority over the younger batch of hens by playing the rooster. She thrusts her chest out, springs to her tippytoes (or whatever the chicken equivalent is), stretches her neck to the sky, and…. “A-roo-gah!” releases the most pathetic excuse of a crow as opposed to your textbook “cock-a-doodle-do.” It sounds like a poorly done sound effect for an old model-t automobile.

She blinks and coughs at the end but seems quite proud of herself and the other hens appear dutifully impressed at the display. But between you and me, I believe the other hens are only affording Clementine the politeness one gives an aspiring actress socialite who can’t act to save her life but everyone applauds anyway. Seriously, look closer, and you might even see a couple of the bantams snicker and roll their eyes.

So what happens if you live in a city where only hens are legal (because roosters crow) and now your hens are crowing? It’s not too common, so don’t panic yet with your young hens and start tying pink bows on their heads to remind them of their gender. But if it does happen to you, talk with your neighbors to explain the situation. Clementine only crows occasionally, probably no more than a half dozen times a year. I don’t exactly know what causes the urge to crow in her and what the situation is to bring out her male-side, but it doesn’t last long and is a rare occurrence.

If nothing else, you can tell your neighbors it’s only a temporary phase and the crowing hen will most likely give up after awhile.

Sometimes a crowing hen is usually caused by a hormonal imbalance set off by some environmental factor or a cyst/tumor on the ovaries, but mostly it’s just a dominance thing that happens when a hen tries to step in the rooster’s position or just act as if she’s badder than the rest of the hens. For instance, it’s understandable that Clementine will crow because she is dominant, but sometimes, the younger and smaller hens will try the crowin’ thing for a bit as well…. a sort of challenge to the queen-of-the-flock. Clementine, of course, usually accepts none of the vocal revolution to her monarchy and soon quiets the discord among the peasants.

Crowing hens usually continue to lay eggs and do all hen-type things and may not change their appearance. But some completely accept the role of the male and stop laying eggs. Their appearances will also change – some slightly and others more drastically. Comb and wattles will get larger, more red; and in more rare cases, she may start to grow more rooster looking feathers. The other hens will start to act as though she is a rooster. She will start to behave as a rooster as well. This is also not unheard of in waterfowl and some lone hens can also develop these tendencies even without a flock hierarchy.

If your hen is very persistent in her crowing and your neighbor wants none of it and you can’t convince the neighbor that it’s a phase, you may have to find her a new home. Although, I haven’t (yet) heard of any severe hen-crowing cases that warranted these drastic measures. But if you live in the country get a rooster and the balance may get back in order, provided he’s very masculine and won’t stand for any hen pecking……

I seriously, seriously doubt that a duck or a chicken can COMPLETELY become the opposite sex, but there have been some very surprising stories. In “Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks” by Dave Holderread, the author tells the story of “Tiny Tina.” Tiny Tina was his favorite duck and for 6 years she laid a nest full of eggs and hatched them. The 7th year, she laid abnormally small eggs and showed no interested in incubating them. Her voice started to change to a hoarser tone and that summer, when she molted, her coloring turned to that of a male duck — completely with partially curled drake feathers. Go figure!

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Jordanne grew up as a farm girl living in the most unlikely of places -- the concrete jungle sprawl of Los Angeles. She lives on the Urban Homestead where she shares her life with a wacky and always entertaining menagerie of goats, ducks, chickens, cats, bees, and stray animals that land up on her porch. Her passions are the natural and sustainable care of animals and her knowledge lies in successfully integrating "farm" animals into the city lifestyle. Jordanne also contributes to her family's blog called Little Homestead in the City -- chronicling this bizarre, beautiful, and often hilarious journey they're on.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Our across the street neighbors have MANY many chickens and they do crow. We love it! A few years back we also had neighborhood roosters but they sadly moved. I would visit the rooster all the time just to hear his lovely crow and I don’t know any neighbors who he bothered because we were all so pleased to enjoy his sound in the heart of the city.
    Now we are so blessed to awaken and start the day with the crazy neighborhood chickens walking along the 6′ fence line staking out their territory, and their crows, crackles and cackles. It’s even more fun when they escape to join me in the garden!

  2. Thank you, thank you for posting this. I thought I was losing it when I saw one of my hens start to crow. She’s the most prolific layer I have but she announces each egg with a very distinct crow.

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