Docile hen turns into tough little rooster

By Pauline Carney -
Kay Eagle with Ginger, the crowing hen which is developing spurs and behaving like a rooster.
Kay Eagle with Ginger, the crowing hen which is developing spurs and behaving like a rooster.

The quiet settlement of Maketu has been rocked by a one-in-10,000 occurrence - a hen changing into a rooster.

Kay Eagle has only two chooks after a third was killed by an intruder dog, so she keeps close tabs on them.

What were her untamed little chicks are now 18 months old but one, called Ginger because of the underlying colour around the neck, has been changing from a docile chook that lays an egg a day, into an aggressive, crowing creature.

"My mother's horrified, when I told her what's happening to Ginger,'' said Kay, who grew up with bantams for pets as a child.

"Ginger's become so bossy towards Little Puk [the other chicken] that I have to keep them apart.''

One stays in the coop while the other has a few hours wandering around Kay's garden and section, pecking away at any pests.

"I recommend a few hens to every gardener. They have cleaned up the earwigs and oxalis that were rife in this organic patch,'' Kay says.

The pair of hens are fed on mash and grain, and have free range around the section.
Ginger has her own half-hidden nest, where she has been laying an egg a day for the past few months.

But late last week, Kay heard crowing about 7.30am and dashed out to check where it had come from.

"It was Ginger, crowing. She is pretty tame, so I've picked her up to check her out and I see the beginning of spurs growing on her legs.

"I'm a trained English teacher but work packing avocados. I told my workmates about the changes happening to Ginger. They reckon 'Why can't you have transgender poultry, just like you have transgender humans?'

"I've Googled 'hen to rooster' and read its happens to one in 10,000 hens.''

Kay intends to keep Ginger and note the changes. She is keen to hear from anyone with similar experiences.

Barkes Corner vet Martin Earles had never heard of such a transformation before some quick research confirmed to him it was possible.

A 2000 report published by the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences said sex reversals, from female to male, occur infrequently in the bird word.

Dr Earles related that hens have one functional ovary and one dormant gonad undefined as an ovary, testes or both.

Ovarian cysts, tumours or a diseased adrenal gland can cause a hen's ovary to regress, leading to the possibility of the dormant sex organ beginning to grow.

In that instance, a hen would begin to take on male characteristics without the ability to breed or lay eggs.

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