Don’t be sur­prised if your hen be­comes a cock­erel

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QCan a hen turn into a cock­erel? One of my hens has be­gun be­hav­ing strangely. She is mak­ing a weird noise that sounds as if she is try­ing to crow and some­times she jumps on the other hens. She has also stopped lay­ing. Could she be ill? She looks healthy, but I’ve never seen be­hav­iour like this be­fore.

AMichelle Dunn says: Weirdly enough, the an­swer to this is yes: a hen can turn into a cock­erel. This can hap­pen in one of two ways. The first is just a be­havioural change. The boss hen in a flock with no cock­erel may be­gin be­hav­ing like a cock­erel, right down to try­ing to crow and at­tempt­ing to mate with the other hens. No phys­i­cal change is in­volved, though, and if a true cock­erel is in­tro­duced she will soon re­turn to her nor­mal hen be­hav­iour. The sec­ond way is far stranger and in­volves an ac­tual phys­i­cal change in the hen. Hens only have one func­tion­ing ovary and if this be­comes dam­aged then the sec­ond, non-func­tion­ing ovary can start to pro­duce male as well as fe­male hor­mones. Phys­i­cally, the hen be­comes a male. She crows, she de­vel­ops spurs, she stops lay­ing and she grows a big­ger comb and wat­tles. Ge­net­i­cally she is still a fe­male and can­not fer­tilise eggs, but to look at she ap­pears to be (and be­haves like) a cock­erel. The change is ir­re­versible. This con­di­tion is very rare, but it has hap­pened once in my flock. The hen/ cock­erel lived for sev­eral years and seemed per­fectly happy. The only prob­lem will be if your neigh­bours don’t ap­pre­ci­ate the crow­ing.

A hen can turn into a cock­erel. This can be as a be­havioural change or, more un­usu­ally, as an ac­tual phys­i­cal change

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