Copyright Lynda Altman 2014. All rights reserved.

Our first ever little Cornish Cross chicks.

Back in April, I purchased 24 chicks from Tractor Supply. The salesperson swore up and down that the chicks were pullets even though one of the price tags said straight run. FYI – pullets are baby hens, cockerels are baby roosters, and straight run chicks are supposed to be a 50/50 mix of pullets to cockerels. Based on the information from the salesperson, I purchased 24 chicks: 8 Australorp, 8 Barred Rock, and 8 Ameraucana. One chick died within a day—things happen—leaving me with 23 chicks that were supposed to be all female. So imagine my surprise when some of the ladies started developing crowns and wattles.

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Black Australorp Cockerel. Copyright Lynda Altman 2014. All rights reserved.

Dude is not a lady

Barred Rocks and Australorp roosters and hens both have combs and wattles, the roos have larger ones, but I am new to this chicken thing. Giving the salesperson the benefit of the doubt, I figured that maybe the few that were lacking were just slower to develop. WRONG! Last week, the first of the ladies started to crow. Dude is definitely not a lady. This morning, there was a cacophony of crowing. No only am I worried about neighbors complaining, but roosters are not allowed inside city limits. It is only a matter of time before zoning or animal control shows up at my door. So the boys have got to go—ASAP.

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Barred rock and Ameraucana cockerels–young roosters. Copyright Lynda Altman 2014. All rights reserved.

Tough Choices

In my naiveté I assumed it would be fairly simple to sell off the roosters. Once again, I am wrong. Everyone wants hens. My cockerels are not as marketable as I had assumed. They are beautiful, constantly looking for trouble, and loud. They are also big enough to dress out as meat birds. My research has given me the option of driving an hour and a half each way to the livestock auction in Marble, Ark. or to use the cockerels as meat birds. The boys will not bring enough at auction to warrant an entire day in Marble. While it is a wonderful little town, there is very little to do while waiting hours for the auction to begin. I have made the decision to process them when I process my broilers.

Tractor Supply’s helpful sales force

I understand that everyone makes mistakes. But I asked more than once for clarification about the gender of the chicks before I bought them. I was assured that they were pullets. Being naïve about chicks and chickens, I assumed if the salesperson was wrong, I would be able to process the roosters before they became sexually mature enough to make noise. Again, inexperience got the best of me. Apparently, roosters mature faster than hens. The Hens won’t start to lay before 20 weeks. Our boys are about eight weeks old.


The hen to rooster count to date is as follows:

12 roosters, 7 hens, and four undetermined. If the four undetermined turn out to be roos, as I suspect (based on coloration) then my ratio is 70/30, roosters to hens. If the four remaining surprise me, then I end up better than expected.

Lessons learned

Unless I am buying Cornish Cross broilers, buying straight run chicks is not an option for me. I have learned not to rely on the inexperience of store clerks. If I am unsure of a chick’s gender, I will pass on the purchase. Next time, it is either livestock auctions or buying direct from the hatchery. An incubator purchase is in my future. Hatching eggs are the most cost effective way to raise poultry. Stay tuned to see how this all works out.