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crowing hen

How to stop crowing

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Alpha hens and cross-dressing chooks? JESSAMY MILLER investigates gender politics in the poultry yard.

Crowing Hens

It can be quite a surprise when one of your hens starts crowing. The neighbours usually aren’t too impressed either. Before you try to explain the gender politics of the poultry yard to them, here are some possible solutions.

The crowing is most likely to be behavioural. It commonly occurs in flocks without a rooster and the culprit will be the dominant hen in a stable pecking order. As well as being bossy, this top chook will start giving a rudimentary crow, and engaging in rooster-like food-finding behaviour like titbitting – calling the flock over for food titbits.

How to Stop Crowing

To cure the crowing, you need to reshuffle the pecking order. Moving the hen out of top spot should bring an end to her dominant behaviour. How to do this? If your circumstances permit, buy or borrow a rooster to introduce to the flock.

If you are in town, cause a shake-up by introducing some new chooks, swapping the hen out to a friend’s henhouse for a holiday, or placing her in a pen by herself for a few weeks. When she’s reintroduced, she’ll start at the bottom.

It might help to give the hen a teaspoon of kelp sprinkled on food for a few days to naturally balance her hormonal system. 

You may like to overnight the hen in a pet carrier in the garage so she is not audible and she can’t stretch her neck to crow. A carton of eggs should smooth the ruffled feathers of any irate neighbours.

As a last resort, try leaving an axe at the henhouse door, otherwise a trip to the farm may be in order.   

Sex Reversal

In very rare cases, disease or damage to a hen’s ovary can cause her to stop laying and undergo a spontaneous sex reversal, crowing, and growing spurs, pointed hackle feathers and even testicles. These symptoms would indicate a visit to the vet.

Anything Goes

Hens aren’t the only ones who enjoy a little cross-dressing. Turkey toms have been known to get clucky and sit on eggs, guinea fowl males and females are virtually indistinguishable, and as for male ducks, they aren’t fussy about gender, it’s any port in a storm. There’s really no ‘normal’ in the poultry yard.