A rooster is a male chicken, and a hen is a female chicken. While it is often difficult to tell them apart when they are young, some basic physical characteristics distinguish roosters from hens.
The process of identifying the gender of chickens is called sexing. It can be difficult to determine the sex of chicks, which are baby chickens. Sexing chicks becomes easier as they grow older.
There are many different breeds of chicken, but terminology tends to remain standard across types and breeds. For example, a young female chicken that is not of breeding age is called a pullet while a young male chicken of similar age is called a cockerel. Adult females are called hens, and adult males are called roosters. Gender distinctions begin at the pullet and cockerel stage for many breeds.
A few general characteristics aid in the visual identification of chickens by gender:
- Both roosters and hens have combs and waddles, but those on the male are more prominent
- Rooster tail feathers are often longer, fuller and pointed
- Hen tail feathers are rounded
- Both roosters and hens have spurs, but those on the male are more prominent
In certain breeds, roosters are also larger than hens. Additionally, roosters crow, while hens do not.