Roosters and hens have behavioural differences that tell them apart; however, the easiest way to tell the difference between a hen and rooster is in their physical appearance. Differences exist in the comb, tail and neck feathers, wattle, overall body size and feet. In some breeds, the differences in the physical characteristics are minor, but they do exist. In all breeds, the behaviour is always different. However, the characteristic that everyone most often thinks of to tell the difference between a hen and rooster is that hens lay eggs, and roosters do not.
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The biggest difference in the behaviour of roosters and hens is that roosters crow, and hens do not. Chicks may start crowing well before the physical characteristics develop enough to tell the sex of the young. In addition, roosters are aggressive and animated; whereas, the hen is reserved, less active and shy. The rooster also tends to be friendlier with humans than the hen.
The rooster is taller and slimmer than the hen, which has a more squat, short appearance. The size and strut of a rooster not only determines the dominant male of the flock but also plays an important part during mating. Hens choose the larger males with the most impressive strut and colouring.
Comb and Wattle
Roosters show off their combs and wattles during courtship, so these features are larger with brighter colouring than those of the hen. A dominant rooster also has a larger comb than other roosters in the flock, and a hen with a larger comb than other hens is usually the dominant hen as well as a better egg producer.
As with many species, the male develops brilliant colours that are used for attracting females during courtship. The roosters have long flowing tails that they lift and spread while strutting for the female, while the females' tails are much shorter and dull in colour. The overall body colours of the rooster are brilliant and vibrant compared to the hen, which tends to have dull, pale-coloured plumage. A hen and rooster differ in the size and shape of their neck feathers as well. The rooster has thin neck feathers with pointed tips, and the hen's are rounded and wider.
Not only are a rooster's feet larger than a hen's, but roosters also have a spur located on the insides of their legs that is missing from the legs of a hen. This spur is a bony cone-like projection that continually grows, much like the human toenail. Roosters use this spur as a weapon during a fight. Many breeders of domestic chickens have these spurs removed to protect the flock and themselves from getting hurt.
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