Sunday, December 13, 2009

Question Two: Any Crowing Yet?

It's very gratifying when my friends and associates get as "in" to my chickens as I do. My friend Kristin, in particular, has been a big chicken supporter.  Her favorite question, one that she asks with regularity is, "Any crowing yet?"

For those of you who are new to the blog, I'll add some color to explain the urgency of that question. You see, crowing may indicate the presence of boys in my flock...and boys end up in the pot.  If you've gotten attached to a particular bird, say, the one with the big white poof on her head, the prospect of beheading her, I mean, him, can be onerous, no matter how committed one might be to omnivory.  (Which Kristin is not, by the way.  An omnivore, I mean. Keep up, people!)

You see, chicken sexing is an imperfect science, and it's very breed-specific.  Here's my flock's breakdown.

  • Yubaba is what's called a sex-link; females are one color, and males another. Yubaba's black and gold feathers make her not only a tidy, attractive chicken, but also undeniably female. So we are 100% sure, at this point that she'll be a layer, not a crower.  
  • Yakul and Calcifer are Easter eggers. They were "sexed" by professional chicken sexers at the hatchery.  When they were a day old, a probe was shoved into their vent to look for the bump that would indicate a male.  (Fun job, eh?)  Anyway, neither Yakul, nor Calci had the bump, so we're 95% sure that they are of the female persuasion.  
  • So that leaves our smaller breeds: Kiki, the Mille Fleur (shown above), Lady Yupa, the Polish (shown below) and Totoro, the Silkie.  In reality, for these three, the only way to really know if they are male or female is to wait for eggs. (Crowing isn't even foolproof, as occasionally a dominant female, in the absence of a roo, will take it upon herself to keep her flock in line...crowing all the way.) With that said, a couple of months before laying, males and females tend to feather in differently. Feather sexing is uncertain at best, but it does seem 80-95% accurate, depending on the breed.  

I am not an expert. But I've been studying up. For example, I know that a female polish's poof will stay round, whereas a male will get "streamers", longer feathers that break the illusion of a powderpuff. The female silkie will have an upright pompadour, whereas the male will have a "blown back" look. Given these nuggets, as well as others, I  had formed the unspoken assumption that my flock looked all-female. But as I indicated, I am in no way an expert.

Thanks to the internet, I do, however, have access to experts. 50,000 of them, to be exact. is an online forum for chickenphiles around the world.  They have an entire board dedicated exclusively to helping people feather sex their flocks. Post your pictures, and within minutes, dozens of opinions will be posted about whether you have cockerels or pullets.  Two weeks ago, I finally got the gumption up to post photos of my "girls." The response of the experts? ALL GIRLS. And now, I'm sure, I have officially jinxed every single one of them!

It's too early to celebrate. I could still have a girly roo in the coop. (Particularly Totoro, as silkies are notoriously difficult to feather sex, and don't reach sexual maturity till 9 months of age anyway. All the others will be laying months before we know for sure on her.) So let's just say that I am "cautiously optimistic" at this point.

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