Chicken keepers occasionally come across hen-roosters or hermaphrodite birds in their flocks. These birds have both male and female traits. Some may look and cluck like hens, but they also have larger combs and wattles. Sometimes, a bird that is born a hen may injure an ovary or develop a cyst. This could result in the production of more male hormones and rooster-like traits. It may even crow and try to mate with hens!
The question most chicken keepers have on their minds is – can these hermaphrodite chickens lay eggs?
Let us find out.
Do Hermaphrodite Chickens Lay Eggs?
In most cases, hermaphrodite chickens cannot lay eggs. If a chicken is born a hen but develops a health issue such as an ovarian cyst or adrenal gland disease, its left ovary could shrink.
The right ovary will then take on the dominant role. However, such a chicken cannot lay eggs due to the non-functioning left ovary. Furthermore, she might also start developing more masculine traits, such as a larger comb and wattle.
Mostly, henroosters or hermaphrodite chickens cannot lay eggs. Only a hermaphrodite chicken that is born with both sexes and has retained its female organs- especially the left ovary- will be able to lay eggs.
Check out the case of this rooster. It could lay eggs because it was born a hen and had retained both ovaries and fallopian tubes.
What Does a Hermaphrodite Chicken Look Like?
Occasionally, a chicken flock may have a bird that has both male and female characteristics. Usually, the condition occurs when the left ovary ceases to remain functional. This may occur due to an injury, a tumor, or an adrenal disease. In chickens, the left ovary is responsible for laying eggs.
Such hermaphrodite chickens can have the following traits:
Larger, Brighter Combs And Wattles
The hen might start exhibiting traits commonly associated with roosters, such as larger and brighter combs and wattles. These might grow more prominent due to hormonal changes.
Development of Sickle Feathers
In some cases, hermaphrodite chickens might develop showy, long, and curved sickle feathers, similar to those seen in roosters. These feathers could appear due to the altered hormonal levels in the bird.
Display of Rooster-Like Behavior
Hens that have a non-functioning left ovary may also stop clucking and might start crowing like roosters. They may assert dominance or start displaying protective behavior towards the flock. They generally become more masculine and may even try to mate with the hens.
They Stop Laying Eggs
Hens with injured or damaged left ovaries could cease laying eggs completely since the left ovary is the one responsible for egg laying. Such hermaphrodite chickens slowly turn into roosters and develop dominant male traits.
Can Male Chickens Turn Into Hens and Can a Female Chicken Turn Into a Rooster?
A female chicken, due to conditions like tumors or ovarian diseases, could develop characteristics similar to those of a rooster.
This happens when the left ovary shrinks while the right one develops into an ovotestis. The chicken may then exhibit traits typically associated with male chickens or roosters, such as crowing, developing larger combs, or even growing sickle feathers. Such a bird is genetically still a hen but has developed secondary characteristics similar to those of a rooster.
However, the reverse isn’t possible for male chickens. A male chicken cannot change into a hen because their reproductive system doesn’t allow such transformations. They don’t possess the necessary organs or the biological mechanism to develop into a female. The chromosomes that determine male and female characteristics are also fixed at the time of fertilization. So, to date, there have been no reports of roosters turning into hens.
Can a Hermaphrodite Chicken Fertilize Eggs?
A hermaphrodite chicken cannot fertilize eggs. For a chicken to fertilize eggs, she needs a rooster. Sure, a hen can lay eggs without needing a male chicken or a rooster. But for a hen to lay a fertilized egg, she needs a rooster who supplies the sperm in the hen’s oviduct.
In the case of hermaphrodite birds, there is usually no egg laying since the left ovary is non-functioning. While hermaphrodite chickens might have both male and female parts, often those parts don’t work properly together.
If a hermaphrodite chicken has ovaries (female parts) and testes (male parts), these parts may not function properly. Fertilization can only occur if the sperm from the testes meets the egg from the ovaries. Since, in most cases, the left (egg-laying) ovary is non-functional, fertilization and egg-laying cannot occur.
Can Chickens Be Both Sexes? Can a Chicken be a Hen and a Rooster?
Yes, in rare cases, a chicken could be born with both sexes. Scientists have termed this phenomenon gynandromorphism. It occurs when two sperm fertilize a single egg.
Gynandromorphism in chickens is very rare – it is seen in one in 10,000 birds. In chickens, gynandromorphism can be of two types – bilateral and mosaic. Bilateral gynandromorphism causes one-half side of the bird to display masculine traits, while the other half shows feminine traits. Mosaic gynandromorphism, on the other hand, results in male and female traits all over the body.
Such birds of questionable sex often display some unique characteristics. They may develop larger combs and wattles. Sometimes, their tails and necks tilt more on one side since the bones on one side are larger.
Some hermaphrodite birds have tail feathers on one side that are rounded and look rather like the tail feathers of a pullet. However, the bird may have rooster-like sickle feathers on the other side. Some of these birds could lay eggs and may show an interest in mating with other hens.
Key Takeaways – Do Hermaphrodite Chickens Lay Eggs?
Some chickens are born hens but may become more rooster-like due to a diseased/injured ovary or tumor. Some chickens are born half hens and half roosters. Such birds – hermaphrodites – usually cannot lay eggs.
In rare cases, if the bird has retained its left ovary and fallopian tubes, then it could lay eggs. However, most hermaphrodite birds display dominant male traits like larger wattles and combs and an inability to lay eggs. They may even crow like roosters. If a bird has become a rooster due to a disease or tumor, it usually cannot lay eggs due to a shrunken and non-functioning left ovary.