Rooster vs Chicken: What’s the Difference?

Written by August Croft
Published: February 18, 2022
© Alicia Cooper/Shutterstock.com
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While it can be difficult to know the difference between a rooster vs chicken at first, there are many key differences between these two birds. For example, while all roosters are technically chickens, not all chickens are roosters. But what makes these two different, and how can you learn their differences so that you can tell them apart?

In this article, we will address the primary differences between roosters and chickens, including their physical differences. This way, you can rest assured knowing how to tell these two barnyard birds apart. Let’s get started and talk more about them now.

Comparing Rooster vs Chicken

rooster vs chicken
While all roosters are technically chickens, not all chickens are roosters.

©A-Z-Animals.com

10,449 People Couldn't Ace This Quiz

Think You Can?
RoosterChicken
SpeciesPhasianidaePhasianidae
GenderMales onlyMale or female
AppearanceLarge combs atop head, larger than female chickens; talons on feetCan look similar to rooster, but likely has smaller body and combs
PurposeProtects flock, fertilizes eggs, mates with hens or female chickensCan protect flock, but primarily lays eggs; can refer to male or female chickens
Lays Eggs?NeverSometimes, depending on gender

The Main Differences Between Rooster vs Chicken

It is important to note that there aren’t very many differences between roosters vs chickens given that they are essentially the same animal. However, a rooster is a male chicken only, while a chicken refers to a bird of either gender. They are both members of the Phasianidae family, given that they are the same animal. However, there are some physical differences between roosters and chickens of other genders.

Let’s talk about these differences in more detail now.

rooster vs chicken
Roosters have more defined combs and wattles than chickens do, which means that the red crown atop their head will be larger.

©iStock.com/-101PHOTO-

Rooster vs Chicken: Gender

The primary difference between a rooster vs chicken is their gender differences. Roosters are exclusively male chickens while “chicken” is a phrase that can refer to either gender. While this may seem like a strange distinction, it is a necessary one when it comes to how you refer to the genders of this particular bird.

For example, calling a male chicken a chicken is technically correct, but calling a female chicken a rooster is not correct. This is important to distinguish, especially if you are looking to purchase any of these barnyard birds for your farm or backyard. The phrase chicken often refers to male chickens that aren’t strong enough to become the primary rooster in charge, but all male chickens are often still called roosters regardless of their flock status.

Rooster vs Chicken: Appearance

rooster vs chicken
A rooster has a larger and broader body when compared to chickens, especially certain breeds of chicken.

©Jennifer de Graaf/Shutterstock.com

Another key difference between roosters and chickens lies in their appearance. Roosters have more defined combs and wattles than chickens do, which means that the red crown atop their head will be larger. The red wattles beneath their beaks will also be larger than that of a female chicken as well.

A rooster also has a larger and broader body when compared to chickens, especially certain breeds of chicken. Roosters have distinctive tail feathers as well when compared to female chickens. These feathers arc upward and droop downward, often longer and more colorful than a chicken’s tail. Roosters also have hackle feathers on their neck, and they are much longer and more defined than a chicken’s hackle feathers.

Finally, roosters have much more defined feet when compared to a chicken’s feet. The male rooster will often have spurs on their legs that grow in the opposite direction from the rest of their toes, while most female chickens do not have this. Rooster legs and feet are stronger and thicker than chicken feet.

Rooster vs Chicken: Purpose and Ability to Lay Eggs

rooster vs chicken
Roosters are in charge of their flock of hens, while chickens are either needed for laying eggs or taking care of their flock.

©HollyHarry/Shutterstock.com

Another key difference between a rooster vs chicken is their flock purpose and ability to lay eggs. Roosters are in charge of their flock of hens, while chickens are either needed for laying eggs or taking care of their flock. There is only ever one alpha rooster per flock of chickens, and he defends his flock without fear, often challenging other male chickens.

Since chickens can be either male or female, their roles differ. However, female chickens are responsible for laying eggs and taking care of their young, while roosters are responsible for taking care of the rest of the chickens. Roosters are also responsible for mating with many chickens in order to fertilize eggs and grow their flock.

Rooster vs Chicken: Vocalizations

rooster vs chicken
Roosters have hackle feathers on their neck, and they are much longer and more defined than a chicken’s hackle feathers.

©Pavle Pejic/Shutterstock.com

A final difference between roosters vs chickens is their vocalizations and calls. Roosters have a trademark barnyard call that they utilize throughout the day, while chickens are quieter birds. This is due to the fact that roosters are responsible for protecting their flock from any predators and threats, so communication is a must.

Roosters have a wide variety of calls and sounds that they make to warn their flock or talk to them. While chickens also speak their own language, they are typically more soft spoken when compared to the alpha rooster. Chickens communicate to their rooster if they need help or find themselves in danger, but the rooster is usually the loudest of them all.


The Featured Image

rooster vs chicken
© Alicia Cooper/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.

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