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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  1. 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!

  2. 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)

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

  8. 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…

  9. 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.

  10. I LOVE the “learning to crow” phase! They sound like tired-out squeak toys! :)

  11. 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.

  12. 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…

  13. 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!

  14. 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

  15. 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.

  16. 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

  17. 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!

  18. 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

  19. 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.

  20. 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.