Most people cannot tell the difference between a cockerel and a rooster. The two terms are so confusing that some chicken owners find it difficult to apply them appropriately. For others, these terminologies don’t mean anything to them as long as their chickens are doing well.
But if you’re looking to raise chickens in the future, you should know the names used in poultry farming and what each stands for. So, what is the difference between a cockerel and a rooster?
To begin with, a cockerel is a name used in reference to a male chicken that is less than a year old. Beyond one year, the male chicken takes up the name of a rooster. Basically, this is the first significant difference that you should note at the back of your mind.
When chicks are newly hatched, it’s tough to tell whether they are male or female. These little birds look similar during the first few days of their existence.
But as time goes by, they start showing their physical differences, which can help you tell their respective gender. At least, you will be in a better position to know females from males based on their looks.
After a few weeks, you will quickly point out pullets and cockerels without making even a slight mistake and later differentiate between cockerels and roosters. Let’s learn a few differences between a cockerel and a rooster so you may not get confused about the two.
How to tell whether Your Chick is Male or Female
There are many different ways of telling whether your chick will grow into a cockerel/rooster or pullet.
Chicken sexing is a technique that encompasses sexing methods such as checking the vent, looking at the combs and wattles, checking the growth of feathers, looking at the color of feathers, examining behavior, and listening for crowing.
Even though these methods are not 100 percent accurate (except vent sexing), you may combine a few of them to find more reliable results.
How Soon Can You Tell the Sex of a Chicken?
It is always tricky for an inexperienced person to determine whether young chicks are male or female. Even experienced chicken owners still find it challenging to decide whether or not they’ve pullets or cockerels until their chicks are 2 to 3 months old or even longer, depending on individual chicken breeds.
Differences Between a Cockerel and a Rooster
Determining the differences between cockerels and roosters can be challenging, especially if you have no experience in chicken keeping. However, there are a few factors to consider when drawing the differences between the two.
This is because as chickens grow, regardless of gender, they display quite a lot of visibly noticeable changes. In most cases, these changes are either physical or behavioral. By comparing their differences based on these two factors, you can easily tell if your male chicken is a cockerel or a rooster.
Physical Differences Between a Cockerel and a Rooster
As your little chicks grow, you will start seeing a gradual change not only in body size but structure and gender. With time, they will display different physical characteristics that will help determine their gender (whether male or female).
That’s when you should start paying more attention to male chickens in order to draw physical differences between cockerels and roosters.
A male chicken is considered a cockerel when he is less than one year old from the time he was hatched. After one year, the cockerel becomes a rooster. But you will see some differences in the combs and wattles.
For cockerels, the comb or wattle is smaller and a little bright red. Roosters, on the other hand, will display larger, more vivid red and more prominent combs or wattles than cockerels.
Normally the comb grows larger and brighter (sometimes darker) as the chickens mature. The same case is true with wattles, and that is why your rooster will have larger and brighter wattles compared to the cockerels.
When it comes to the feet and legs, you will also see the differences. Roosters usually have larger, longer, and thicker legs than cockerels.
Also, their feet are bigger and more developed than those belonging to cockerels. These differences help define the growth characteristics of the two male chickens in their respective phases of growth and development.
Another physical difference comes from the appearance of feathers on these male chickens. A grown chicken is described best using its saddle feathers, hackle feathers, and tail feathers. So, the appearance of these feathers will give you a rough idea about the age of your cock.
More often than not, your roosters will display saddle feathers that are more pointed in shape (not rounded) than those displayed by cockerels. Saddle feathers develop over the back and near the tail of any chicken, regardless of gender.
Hackle feathers ( they grow around the neck) start developing as early as 4 to 6 months during the growing period of chickens. The feathers on cockerels are shorter and round. Roosters they’re elongated and more pointy.
Naturally, male chickens grow tail feathers or sickle feathers. In roosters, these feathers are longer and more curvy than what you will see in cockerels.
Both the cockerels and roosters will grow spurs, but this depends on individual breeds. Given that roosters are a little bigger than cockerels, it is evident that their spurs will look longer and more developed than the cockerels.
The spur is a bony structure that grows inside the legs of male chickens. This feature is usually used by cocks for defense and can turn out to be a threat to other birds if no drastic measures are put in place. The good news is that you can safely remove spurs and render your roosters harmless to other chickens.
Behavioral Differences Between a Cockerel and a Rooster
A cockerel or rooster will most likely display their traits and help you determine their differences without studying them for too long. Even though these traits may not be 100 percent accurate, it is important to note them.
Male chickens are associated with crowing more than females, and this is one of the things you will always notice when observing your chickens. But not all male chickens crow in the same way as you would expect.
Cockerels start crowing when they are 10 to 12 weeks. Others have started this behavior as early as two weeks old. Their crowing is somehow not so much refined as that of roosters because they are still young. Roosters crow loudly and at a specific time of the day or night.
If you look closely at different male birds, you will realize that there’s a big difference in their postures. For instance, roosters will assume an upright and more confident or cocky stance than what you will see in cockerels.
When it comes to attitude, you will draw a line between cockerels and roosters. As usual, the more dominant and mature birds will display their aggression in a show of dominance. Most likely, the roosters will emerge to be more aggressive and territorial than their younger counterparts, the cockerels.
Even though cockerels will try to behave in the same way, it’s more likely that roosters will carry the day by displaying their assertiveness from time to time. This explains why roosters have been used for different functions the world over.
Some are used in competitions (cockfighting tournaments), while others find their way in many religious practices in different parts of the world.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should you keep roosters and cockerels?
As a chicken keeper, you need roosters to be part of your flock for several reasons. Key among these reasons is to fertilize the eggs and ensure that there’s a continuation of a species. Other benefits of raising roosters include protection of your flock against any threats and a good source of fresh chicken meat.
How do you prevent aggressive behavior among your roosters?
The most effective way of preventing roosters from becoming too aggressive is to start when they are still young(as cockerels). Apart from that, it would be best if you learned how to handle them even when they are fully grown. So, you should be calm when approaching them, never make threatening movements, and find ways to tame them if necessary. All these steps will help you in containing aggression among your chickens, particularly your roosters.
What is the difference between a rooster and a cockerel?
A rooster is an adult male chicken, while a cockerel is a young male chicken. The difference between them lies in their age and physical characteristics. Cockerels are smaller in size than adult roosters and have shorter combs and wattles. They also have less developed feathers compared to adult roosters.
Is a rooster the same as a chicken?
No, a rooster is not the same as a chicken. A rooster is a male chicken, while a chicken can refer to both male and female chickens.
How can you tell a rooster from a hen at different ages?
At a young age, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a rooster and a hen. However, as they mature, roosters will develop larger combs and wattles, longer tail feathers, and more prominent spurs. They will also start to crow. Hens, on the other hand, will have smaller combs and wattles, shorter tail feathers, and will not develop spurs. They will lay eggs instead of crowing.
Why is a rooster also called a cock?
The term “cock” is a shortened form of the word “cockbird,” which was used to refer to a male bird. Over time, the word “cockbird” was shortened to simply “cock,” which is now commonly used to refer to a rooster.
What is the female counterpart of a rooster?
The female counterpart of a rooster is a hen.
Can chickens lay eggs without a cockerel?
Yes, chickens can lay eggs without a cockerel. Hens will lay eggs regardless of whether or not a rooster is present. However, without a rooster, the eggs will not be fertilized and will not hatch into chicks.
If you are raising chickens, you will always be anxious to find out if your chicks are males or females. But you may not be able to guess correctly until they are of a certain age (let’s say 12 to 30 weeks utmost) that will you quickly tell them apart. From there, you will go further to tell the difference between cockerels and pullets and later distinguish between cockerels and roosters.