by Daisy

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Of the three Buff Orpingtons in our flock, two of them look like this:


But here’s the third one:


They are 19 weeks old and supposed to be all hens. No eggs yet so I can’t tell from that. The rooster-y one is the same size as the other “hens,” doesn’t seem particularly dominant, and we haven’t heard any crowing. Its legs are no bigger than the others’ and the neck feathers are just as round-tipped as the others’.  No sign of spurs. Just an early developer?

Well, what do you think? I know time will tell.  That comb seems to be getting bigger and bigger! Any chicken veterans want to weigh in on this?

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Heidi November 30, 2009 at 9:56 am

Too bad my great-granddad isn’t around–he raised fighting roosters and could probably tell you in 2 seconds what you had there. Good luck!

whit November 30, 2009 at 10:10 am

well, i wouldn’t call myself a “chicken farmer from way back” as we’ve only had ours for a year now, however we started off with Buffs like yours and i have to say, it was hard to tell the roosters from the hens before they started crowing. One thing i do remember is that the chickens that turned out to be roosters did develop the comb faster–and more jagged like you have there. and i never could identify the spurs on either roo we had…not like i can on our Ameraucanas anyway.

just think, if it is a roo, you’ll be able to have free chicks next Spring! :o)

maureen November 30, 2009 at 11:34 am

We had a similar issue with our Ameraucana ‘girls’ and thought ‘she’ was just an early bloomer….and a bit dominant….and kind of pushy….and then the crowing started….sigh. We are in town so ‘she/he’ had to go. Luckily, we had bought 8 chicks in case one died, so we have our 7 girls left.

Been lurking here for awhile….love your blog!

Cathy November 30, 2009 at 11:39 am

Not a “veteran” here yet, but do the tail feathers seem any different yet? That’s where I can tell first. Some of our Buffs (all girls) developed their combs faster than others so I can’t go by that.

ranch101 November 30, 2009 at 12:51 pm

The crows of a beginner rooster are hilarious. I do hope you don’t have a rooster, as you’d have to get rid of him for noise regulations where you are, I’m sure. It’s possible the comb growth is just a hen with slightly different genetics. It’s also possible that it’s a rooster coming into his own. I would think that by 5 months (you’re pretty close) you’d know. I seem to remember ours starting to crow between 3 & 4 months.

Once I had a hen who grew the rooster tail feathers and hackles when she got old. I always thought of it as “henopause”. Her name was Cinderella and we had her for a long time before then and a few years after.

Lindsay November 30, 2009 at 2:43 pm

That’s what my male buffs looked like. They seemed to develop a little later than my other roosters have. My buffs didn’t really start crowing until they were about 5-6 months old ( something in the air here, all my chx have been late developers, haven’t figured that one out yet). But, it could be a dominant hen too. Chickens are funny like that.

Stephen Del Vecchio November 30, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Here is a good how to on sexing a chicken.

Kathy November 30, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Just wait. Our hens have HUGE combs. Keep an eye out for the spurs though.

Lenore November 30, 2009 at 3:19 pm

check the feet for spurs. One of our Buffs developed a huge comb after brooding chicks– I don’t always think the comb is a good indicator. (she’s one of our best layers)

Sometimes you can tell depending on their reaction to being startled from above- mature hens will crouch submissively yet roosters will stand tall aggressively. Even so- some females assume a dominant role in an all-female-flock.

Time will tell…

Portia McCracken November 30, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Can’t help you with sexing them, but they sure are purty!

Phyllis November 30, 2009 at 8:44 pm

Henopause!!!!!!! I’ve got a new name for MY phase!

nelie November 30, 2009 at 9:50 pm

This is precisely why I love this blog. What a great post.

Emily November 30, 2009 at 10:52 pm

It’s probably just a hen getting ready to lay her first egg. I know my girls all got really big combs that turned really really red right before they started to lay. There was one that my kids insisted had turned into a hen that ended up consistently giving us double (once even a triple) yolkers. So keep crossing those fingers. I would guess a hen from my limited experience of 11 buff orps, one a rooster that I could tell almost right away that little one was all boy.

Corey December 1, 2009 at 12:47 am

I LOVE the “learning to crow” phase! They sound like tired-out squeak toys! 🙂

Tomato Lady December 1, 2009 at 1:42 am

Thanks for all the advice and input. Part of me agrees that it would be good to have a roo around for flock perpetuation, but you’re right, too, that the possibility of having the neighbors in a snot would put me in an awkward spot. Want to keep everybody happy! You’ve reinforced my leanings that this is a hen after all. Here’s hoping.

Jean December 1, 2009 at 8:19 am

A rooster would be crowing by now! And herding the other gals around.

Breezy December 1, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Ok, I’m only on year 4 with chickens, but every spring we get some new chicks, and every year, at least one of the ‘pullets’ turns out to be a roo. I would say that by 19 weeks a rooster would be crowing! I usually only brood mine for about a month or month and a half, and by the time they’re ready to go outside, if they’re roosters, we know it! Course, I’ve never had a buff orp, but the australorps were quite vocal very early! Right now I’ve got a mutt hen, beautiful thing, you would SWEAR she was a roo. But she’s several months old, and no crowing or spurs, so…

Diane D. December 2, 2009 at 1:07 pm

I would agree that it’s probably just getting ready to lay… they’re definitely about the right age. I had two roos who masqueraded as hens last summer, but they both started crowing around 8-10 weeks old… I just deluded myself into thinking they were “butch.” Anyway, I think if it was a rooster it would already be crowing, and probably trying to get it on with the ladies by now. Keep us posted!

JavaLady December 3, 2009 at 10:12 pm

Ha.. I’ve been there. I bought 5 hens but only 4 of them lay eggs, the other one, well, HE crows at day break and at twilight. LOL It is easy to tell the hens… almost all breeds get very fat, fluffy-fluffy, bottom sides when they are mature enough to start laying. The rooster one still has a thin, scrawny bottom side. You watch — you’ll see. LOL

Ericka Eubanks September 29, 2010 at 9:12 am

I am new at this chicken farming, too. I went to get 10 more chickens a few weeks ago. I told the seller that I wanted laying hens. I got 5 red stars, which were easy to sex, and 5 Buff Orpingtons that weren’t so easy to sex.
3 of my Buff Orpingtons have much bigger feet, longer legs, they have their comb and their woddle but aren’t dark red, yet. They looked like chickens to me until a friend came over and told me they were roosters. I don’t know. They are much friendlier than the other buffs. They’re about 5 months old rihgt now. I didn’t know what to look for, but I trusted the guy to give me laying hens. I might be stuck with 3 extra roosters.

Tomato Lady September 29, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Ericka–My “rooster” turned out to be a lovely laying lady, so you may be okay, too. Here’s hoping.

kathy February 8, 2011 at 2:46 pm

we bought 2 buff chickens at the sale 3 weeks ago and they look like hens no spurs on them when do they get spurs if they are roosters they are not laying just eating alot how do you tell if they are roosters are hens i nee feed back

Tomato Lady February 9, 2011 at 8:39 am

Kathy–The first link replies specifically to the spur question. The other two (one is a video) discuss in general how to tell a hen from a roo. Most hens aren’t laying much this time of the year anyway, btw.

Hope this helps!

Shawna April 27, 2011 at 7:55 pm

I personaly think she is just a dominant hen. Alot of time’s in small flocks of all hens, you will have 1 or 2 who will take on a rooster-like role if they have no big brave man;-) They will grow bigger cones and fill out a bit more than others to take on a roostery apperance. Usualt they dont do this untill in full feather, but grow at thhe same rate when younger. Hope this helps. No guarntees though. LOL

Andrea Schmidt November 7, 2011 at 7:37 pm

I am going to pick out my hens in a few days, they are 6 months old and this is real helpful for me picking a hen from a rooster hopefully, we live in the city limits and we can’t have any roosters.

Chicklady April 24, 2012 at 11:21 pm

We got 5 buff chicks and now their about 3 months. We was told they were all pullets. Now I have 4 with a small pink comb and 1 with a bigger red comb with different taller tail feathers.

Tomato Lady April 25, 2012 at 6:17 am

Chicklady–Hm. Sounds . . . suspicious. Time will tell, I guess. Fingers crossed.

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