Sex Change in Poultry

In a normal female bird only the left ovary is active. Due to infections or other problems, this ovary may cease to function. In that case the right overy becomes active, but for some reason produces more testosterone and causes the bird to develop male plumage and secondary sex characteristics, although it will never become fully male. Hens may begin to crow and usually stop laying.

Some examples are found below.

This Golden Pheasant hen was 3 years old in the left picture and the right was taken 3 months later. As a two-year-old she had normal female plumage and laid eggs. After the plumage change she no longer laid.
Photos courtesy of Joe Langly

This is an 18-year-old peahen. She had female plumage and laid eggs until she was about 14, when she grew the male feathers after a molt. She never fans her train.
Photo courtesy of Carolyn Dunn

"Kristina Kwacz" -- this utility Buff Runner has undergone a sex change -- note the drake feather. She was a '98 hatched bird and developed the male plumage and stopped laying in about 2001

The first shot is of a Black-shouldered peahen in 1992; in 2006 she started changing colors. Here are two pictues of her in 2007
Photos courtesy of Lucky Newton

This is a female Red Golden that started to change to male plumage after a couple years of laying. At this point (around 6) she is still laying. First signs, 3 years ago, were her crest turning orange (not gold like the male) and she got a long male-patterned tail. Each year since she's gotten more male plumage, tho' not quite the normal coloring. The male she is with still courts her.
Photos courtesy of Jan Peterka

Sex change Links:

An article on a Wyandotte bantam, now a rooster

back to Poultry Page

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