Delinquent guinea fowl and the ultimate chick-raising question: telling little roosters from little hens

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I’m typing this to the *blissful* sound of our guinea fowls’ alarm calls on the back veranda.  Kidding, of course.  Our new guinea fowl are loud.  Really really loud!  We were lulled into a false sense of security by the quiet nature of the few wild guinea fowl who were living on the farm when we moved in.  The new guinea fowl are much less placid creatures, arcing up at any potential threat – real or imaginary.  Perhaps the problem was I raised them like pets on the back veranda?  Now, even though they’ve grown up, they seem to feel they’d prefer living on the back veranda rather than the grass, and eating grain while ignoring the insects they were supposed to eat.  Which would all be fine – if they happened to be a  just a smidge quieter.  I do love them…but, like some relationships, a little distance might be useful to enhance those warm fuzzy feelings.  Meanwhile hubby keeps muttering something about guinea fowl, camp ovens and roasting 😉

Besides the noise factor, the back veranda is really not ideal as guinea fowl living quarters as it’s the place I raise our seedlings.  At least, it used to be the place I raised our seedlings:

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The carnage (photo opportunity courtesy of guinea fowl)

Turns out, while guinea fowl don’t actually want to eat the plants themselves, they’ll destroy potted seedlings while in search of bugs.  Hm.  New spot required for seedlings.

 The Chicks Grow Up .  The Great Question: Rooster or Hen?

Our little chicks are not so little any more.  It’s been exciting watch their feathers, colours and personalities develop.  Black, white, brown, grey and everything in between, they’re a motley crew.  As you can see from the photo below, our little chicks are, as we suspected, not the same pure breed chicken:

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(from left: Minty, Maggie and Sophie at the back).  So identical I can hardly tell them apart 😉

 

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Maggie and Minty with the other members of the flock: Pam (above) and Sunshine (far right)

Since they were tiny chicks, we’ve had bets going on which chicks would be hens and which roosters.  As newbies, we consulted the oracle (YouTube) on ways of telling the boys from the girls.  This is what we found:

Signs of a Rooster (when comparing chicks of same age and same breed):

  • Have thicker and longer leg bones
  • Develop tail feathers later (around two weeks old the girls will have little ‘pin’ tail feathers and the boys almost nothing)
  • Are more aggressive and dominant
  • Will develop combs and wattles more quickly
  • Early attempts to crow!

Signs of a Hen (when comparing chicks of same age and same breed)

  • Finer, shorter leg bones
  • Develop tail feathers sooner (look around two weeks of age for ‘pin’ tail feathers)
  • Are more sedate and peaceful, don’t bother other chicks to same extent as boys
  • Develop combs and wattles more slowly
  • No attempts to crow at dawn

Given our observations of the chicks, I was 99% certain Maggie was a boy.  He was always the leader of the pack, aggressive towards the other chicks, had no tail feathers at a young age, had powerful legs and developed a comb and wattle extremely early.  Then a few weeks ago he began making a funny strangled noise as the sun came up, which quickly turned into a little crow.  So cute!

Sophie, on the other hand, has always had all the hallmarks of a hen.  Sweet, placid and peaceful, early tail feathers and fine legs.  However many weeks later and no signs of crowing or a comb.

The other chicks are a little more difficult.  Sunshine is about a week younger than the others so hard to compare.  Even so, Sunshine’s demeanour, powerful legs and late tail feathers always made me peg him as a rooster.   No crows yet so time will tell.

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Minty (around 2 weeks) in front – look at the distinct tail feathers.  Sunshine behind – just fluff, no tail feathers

 

Minty is a conundrum.  Her wattle and comb developed early but she’s a completely different breed to the others, so that may not have much significance.  Her legs are fine, but I rather suspect she’s a small breed or bantam so again that’s no guarantee.  She got her tail feathers early and has always had a rather cuddly little personality – which suggests hen.  But then again she’s constantly stood up for herself against pecking from the others.  Still, I’ve got my money on Minty being a hen.

Pam is another tricky case.  I’ve always leant towards hen for her but she/he is difficult to determine.  The tail feathers were not early or late.  The legs are neither fine nor powerful.  The wattle and comb have some development but aren’t fully developed.  Personality wise Pam can be aggressive at times and placid at others.  As a side note, a few times in the morning I could’ve sworn some crowing came from his/her vicinity rather than Maggie’s….and what are the chances of four hens from five chicks??  Surely one of the other chicks has to be a rooster.  I’m betting Sunshine, but Pam is an outside possibility.

Feel free to make your predictions below – hen or rooster?  I’ll let you know in a few weeks when all the laying and crowing begins.

Happy almost-weekend 🙂

Julie

P.S. Post on making English muffins from scratch coming soon.

P.P.S. Oops.  Forgot to tell you about the chicken up the tree.  Will add that into the next post 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “Delinquent guinea fowl and the ultimate chick-raising question: telling little roosters from little hens

  1. Ooh, it is so hard to tell with young chickens sometimes! You might have to post more photos. 😉 I will say, Sunshine has legs like a dinosaur. Feeling sorry for the loss of your seedlings. Those guinea fowl are walking a a fine line aren’t they?
    -Twiglet

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  2. Yep a few more pics would help, sorry – so hard to get a clear photo with the toddler chasing after them for a ‘cuddle!’ Poor chickens. I think you’re onto something with Sunshine’s legs. At least his/her name is fairly unisex. Have been trying to talk the kids into renaming Maggie something less feminine but they’ll have none of it. Think our very blokey Maggie the rooster will continue with his very girly name 🙂

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  3. I have found that saddle feathers are the easiest way to know with our mixed breed chickens. Right around 9-10 weeks of age they start to show. They are the skinny pointy feathers that roosters have on their lower back before their tail (where the back of the saddle would be if you were to put one on them). If they have them – boy, if not – girl. Also, right around 9 weeks the boys combs and wattles are redder than the girls, but then the color evens out after 9 weeks or so.
    So we can usually tell with 100% accuracy right at 9 weeks when we put the comb/wattle color together with the presence or absence of saddle feathers. Its hard to tell with your pics but I think I see saddle feathers on Maggie.

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    1. Thank you! So great to have insider info from someone who’s had a lot of experience with all this. I was just trying to calculate how old the chicks are. I think they’re about eleven weeks old, with Minty maybe a few days older and Sunshine a few days younger. Unfortunately we’ve missed the wattle/comb colour test by the sounds of it (though I do remember Minty’s comb being very red when the others’ weren’t a few weeks back). but I’ll go and check the saddle feathers. Now that you mention the feather shapes I remember something about the neck feathers being pointed in roosters but I’ve never heard about the saddle ones before – this is what happens when most of my info comes from Youtube and Google, lol! I’ll let you know how I go 🙂

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      1. Had a look – I’m terrible at this! All I can say is Sophie’s are definitely rounded whereas the others all have some pointed feathers around the saddle – Maggie has the most, Pam next. We could have four roosters….

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