Rhode Island Red Hen vs Rooster – How to Tell the Difference?

One of the most successful chicken breeds worldwide is the Rhode Island Red. The breed was started in 1854 when a sea captain bought a Malay rooster and mated it with his chickens.

He noted the offspring created more eggs. He then enlisted a friend’s help to earnestly crossbreed the birds to make superior breeds. Some of the breeds used to refine the desired hen include Java, Light Brahma, Brown Leghorns, Plymouth Rocks, and Chinese Cochin.

The Rhode Island Red produces 5-6 medium to large light brown eggs weekly. This accumulates to about 200-300 eggs annually, a lucrative number for any poultry farmer focused on the highest profits. Nonetheless, for you to actualize the highest profits, you should sex your chicken to know how best to care for it.

Though hard to tell the difference between a Rhode Island Red hen and a rooster, here are a few guidelines to help you differentiate your chicken.

At what age can you sex Rhode Island Red chicks?

You can sex a Rhode Island Red chick at hatching using its wing color. Male chicks will often have a white spot over their wing web on the down, while females do not have this spot. This spot will be lost when your bird sheds it down to replace it with feathers.

Unfortunately, the size of the white spot will vary considerably, so this method of sexing is not infallible. You can also sex your Rhode Island Red chick through vent sexing on the first or second day after hatching before a distending digestive system blocks the rudimentary sex organ.

Differences Between Baby Rhode Island Red Hen and Rooster

After hatching, your chicks will undergo several changes that might indicate their sex before maturity. Below are a few differences between chick roosters and hens at different stages.

0-6 weeks

At 0-6 weeks, you will notice that the wings of your chickens are different. The wing feathers of a hen have two different lengths, whereas a rooster’s are the same length. At 0-6 weeks, you will also notice that a rooster’s comb will be pinker and larger than the hen’s. Moreover, a rooster’s legs are thicker than the hen’s to support its larger body frame.

6-8 weeks old

Your Rhode Island Red is considered a teenager at 4-17 weeks. The female at this time is called a pullet, while the male is known as a cockerel. Unlike a pullet, a cockerel’s wattles and comb will usually develop early and be larger. Pullets are also generally smaller than cockerels.

The flight feathers on your female chick’s wings are usually longer than the male’s, but the male has bigger developing tail feathers. At this time, male chicks will also try crowing, unlike females.

12+ weeks old

At 12 weeks old, you can tell a pullet from a cockerel by its saddle and hackle feathers. The saddle feathers on a cockerel just in front of its tail are narrow, pointy, and elongated. They fall on the sides in a waterfall shape. Pullets have no saddle feathers. The feathers found around the neck are called hackle feathers.

In a cockerel, they are pointy and elongated, whereas they are rounded at the tips in a pullet. An obvious clue of a 12-week-old cockerel is its long, arched tail feathers, known as sickle feathers. These are absent in females.

Difference Between adult Rhode Island Red Hen and a Rooster

A Rhode Island Red is considered an adult at 16 weeks old. An adult rooster will have large wattles and a comb which are firm and a little waxy with deep colors. The shoulder and neck are adorned with hackles flowing down the back.

The body of a rooster is more muscular and larger than a hen’s, with its chest as broad as the shoulders. The feathers of Rhode Island Red hens have more subdued colors than the roosters’. This gives them a natural camouflage that allows them to sit peacefully on their eggs.

A Rhode Island Red rooster is your flock’s leader and keeps it in line and safe from predators. He will be watchful among hens and rarely eat until the hens are done. Sometimes, a rooster does a little dance for the hen to squat for him to mate. Rhode Island Red hens raise their chicks and nest. They are generally more subdued and quieter than their male counterparts.

When will Rhode Island Red Roosters Start Crowing?

A Rhode Island Red rooster will start crowing at around 16 weeks old. Oddly enough, crowing does not guarantee that your bird is male. Some hens imitate roosters and might start crowing at this point. When raising roosters, read your neighborhood’s law thoroughly.

In places where keeping chickens is not allowed, you might begin to deal with noise complaints at this time. If your bird is crowing very loudly or too early, you might have to get him an anti-crow collar.

When do Rhode Island Red Hens Start Laying Eggs?

Rhode Island Red hens will often start laying eggs at 18-20 weeks though a few will begin at 16 weeks old. They will continue playing until their fourth or fifth years. The original Rhode Island Reds were dual-purpose birds but were refined to produce more eggs in the 1940s. One does not need a male Rhode Island Red for the hen to lay eggs. She can lay eggs by herself.


Chickens are like growing children, so each grows at its pace. The above information is only a general guide on what to expect at different ages for females and males. If your birds seemingly mature late or early, this should not overly concern you.

Nonetheless, do not hesitate to get a veterinarian’s input if you feel something is off with your flock. The Rhode Island Red is your best choice when you want a chicken breed with lots of personalities, the ability to thrive in adversity, low maintenance, and exceptional egg production.

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

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