I bought some young chicks that were meant to be girls. Did I get ripped off? 

I would use the term ‘ripped off’ with caution… there are some unscrupulous sellers out there who do try to make money from naive buyers, but I prefer to believe that most poultry sellers work with honesty and integrity. It is possible to sex a chick but the window for accuracy is very small. Within 24 hours of hatching is the optimum time for accurate sexing, by a trained chicken sexer. And to our knowledge, there are only two people in Victoria who can do this as a paid service (and that I would trust to work with). Chicken sexing is not an exact science and there is a margin for error, which should be known to the buyer.

There is also differences in accuracy depending on the ‘strains’ – Seller A’s strain of Silver Laced Wyandottes are different and may be considerably harder to sex accurately than Seller B (for example). Any poultry seller worth their salt will tell you what the accuracy rate is of their chicken sexer’s so be aware if it is an out and out gamble or if you have any ability to return the chicken for a return or refund if it does turn into a rooster (which is obviously what you don’t want in Suburban Melbourne).

Unsexed chicks are not guaranteed for any gender, whereas sexed chicks are sold as guaranteed girls. HOWEVER, the accuracy rate of the chicken sexer is 90% so that means that 1 out of every 10 chicks we sell (approximately) will turn out to be a rooster. This is not an exact science and it might be you that has a rooster from a sexed chick.

I can see spurs on my chicken and I thought it was a hen. Is it really a rooster?

Both hens and roosters can have spurs but they are more commonly seen on older hens. In both genders they start as buds but often are a lot slower growing in hens than roosters. Seeing spurs is not a sure indicator of gender, crowing and laying eggs will always be more accurate in showing the gender of your chickens (and happen a lot sooner than seeing spurs) 🙂

I bought some young chicks / got some from a kinder hatching program. I think I might have a rooster…. how can I be sure?

Chicks that are bought as young little bundles of fluff are incredibly cute, but very quickly your little bundles of cuteness will grow into larger pooing machines. Cockerals (young male roosters younger than a year old) have a surge of hormones between 5-8 weeks of age, which is when you might be suspicious of your little boy. The differences you might note which are different to their suspected female flock mates are:

* they are larger in size,
* they stand more upright in their stature,
* they have larger/thicker legs,
* they have larger fleshy, points of dark pink/red above their beak (‘comb’),
* they have larger fleshy, dangly areas of dark pink/red skin under their beak (‘wattles’),
* they are starting to attack you or other family members,
* they are attempting to make amateur rooster-lovin’ on their flockmates,
* their feathers are a different shape and are sitting differently on their body than the others,
* they are making scratchy, choking noises that kind of sound like a crow but isn’t.

Young cockerals take time to perfect their crow, and at first it can come out sounding like, what we call, a ‘croak-a-doodle-doo’. It is basically the young rooster version of a chickens’ voice breaking 🙂 It can be quiet and be more of a ‘chortling’ noise but given time, practice and more growth this will mature into a full on, unmistakable crow. And you will have your suspicions confirmed for sure at that point…
There are girl chickens that crow though, although this tends to happen later in life. This strange phenomenon is discussed more here.

I have been told (or read somewhere) that you can tell a rooster from a hen by the feather shape. What am I looking for?

Roosters grow different shaped feathers around their neck (hackle feathers) and just above their tail (saddle feathers) than hens do. Around 12 weeks of age the saddle feathers will start to come through, and are more pointed in shape than a hens. This image from M. Birchell in Victoria (Australia) shows how the two feather shapes look like when compared…

Hen-Rooster feather shape

You will need to hold the rooster quite firmly and look for the new feather growth coming through. Here is a pic of a young Araucana cockeral just growing his saddle feathers. Note the v-shape of the feathers…

Pointy rooster feathers

Do all roosters crow? Or are there some breeds that don’t crow? 

We have been contacted by and heard of chicken keepers who ask this question more often than you might think… Most roosters do crow unfortunately and there are no blanket breeds that produce non-crowing roosters. Roosters also have no limitation to crowing at dawn and/or dusk. A majority of roosters crow all day, every day… even at night. The ‘noise pollution’ is why roosters are not allowed in most Melbourne municipalities. Disappointing, given that roosters are by far more beautiful than girls in most breeds 🙁

There are some roosters that don’t crow but they are far and few between. If you suspect or know you have a rooster and are hoping to keep them in Suburban Melbourne there are ways that you can prolong keeping your lovely boy, but honestly view crowing as an eventuality. If you are really dedicated you can research the varieties of ‘rooster boxes’ or ‘night boxes’ that people have made that have prolonged their roosters stay. Links for

Then if it doesn’t happen, you can view it as a pleasant surprise than have your hopes dashed and have to then consider how to rehome them.

We have a rooster and can’t keep him. Can you help?

Suburban Chooks are unable to assist with taking or assisting in rooster rehoming since we are on a suburban block also. If you happen to be active on Facebook there are a number of poultry pages where you might be able to have luck rehoming them, with my first suggestions being:
– Backyard Poultry Sales and Wanted
– Chicken Lovers and Hobby Farmers Wanted and Sales

Purebreed  poultry have a better chance of finding a new home, filled with girlfriends and green grass than crossbred ‘mongrels’. If not, advertising them on Gumtree as ‘Free to home (or pot)’ should do the trick…

What happens to the cockerals (young roosters) that are hatched out by Suburban Chooks, other businesses, hobby farmers and commercial hatcheries?

An unfortunate and very upsetting side to the poultry world are the fate of millions of excess cockerals which are produced Australia-wide, every year. In general, the term used by breeders in relation to cockerals is ‘Culling’. Culling refers to the removal of the genetic material from the breeding pool, although not always by killing (although this is often the reality).

If you find yourself with an unwanted cockeral/rooster, the fastest way to ‘rehome’ it to fate beyond your control is to advertise it on Gumtree. Free to any home works best in your advert as it is just not possible to guarantee a happy ever after for ever rooster ever hatched. Other options for a happier ending is to join of the Facebook groups started for poultry loving and advertising there. At least then they will have the best chance at a home, but again the chances aren’t good. There is also more of a demand for purebreed roosters that commercial crossbreeds (for example, ISA Brown roosters) or your garden variety crossbred ‘mutt’.

Commercially, cockerals are manufactured into usable commodities such as pet food, blood and bone and… hold onto your stomach’s peoples… the meat meal in chicken food. This last point has only been something we have become aware of, and why our preference is to give our chickens a vegetarian formula food. I have no issue with chickens eating insects, bugs and other creepy crawlies – that’s nature. But we (Arthur and myself) have decided to make a conscious decision not to let our chickens pick over left over chicken bones (despite reports from other chicken keepers that they love it) as it doesn’t ‘sit’ well with us psychologically. And this has been extended to meat meal in chicken food.

In no way do we suggest, expect or push our customers to do as we do… I am simply telling you our thought process in relation to this matter.

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