The first week of May is cool and rainy. The chicks spend most of the week in their box under the brooder light. It feels like I am changing their water and refilling their food bowl constantly. On Friday, the sun finally makes an appearance, and I tote the chicks’ box out to the yard. They have grown considerably. They’re scruffier, with balding spots on the backs of their necks where feathers are sprouting. Their wings are almost entirely feathered. They look even more reptilian – like baby dinosaurs huddling together on the grass. One of them pecks the ground and eats a grass stalk. The others follow suit.
In the gleaming morning light, I notice something strange. Three of the four chicks have combs. Yes, there are definite yellow ridges sprouting from their foreheads. I have a sinking feeling. I’ve heard that you usually end up with at least one rooster when you buy sexed pullets, but did we get seventy-five percent males? That seems like bad luck. But wait a minute, maybe hens have combs too?
But wait a minute, maybe hens have combs too? After I return the chicks to the guest room, I do a little research. In the pictures, hens do have combs, albeit smaller than roosters’. This would settle my mind, except that one of our black chicks does not have a comb. I click through an online forum hoping to get a definitive answer as to what we have. The more I read, the more I realize that sexing chicks is anything but straightforward. It might help if I knew the breeds, of course.
Later in the day, I ask my hen-keeping neighbor what she thinks, and she assures me that you just can’t tell for eight weeks – “until they start to crow.” She laughs. “Oh and sometimes hens crow a little too.” Hmmn. Well, I guess we’ll wait and see. But, just in case, does anyone want a pet rooster?
New to the Hen Diaries? Read Week One.