Thursday, 19 August 2010

The continuing story of Nellie.......

Nora and Nellie, aged 6 weeks.
Back in May of this year we bought Nellie and Nora two gorgeous New Hampshire Red chickens. Sisters that went everywhere together. I told their sad story here a few weeks ago. Nora died suddenly of no obvious cause, leaving behind a wonky legged and ungainly Nellie to live her life on the periphery of two flocks.

Living her new lonely life in July.

Well, now.....where do I start.....?
On Monday morning this week I went out to open the henhouses at the usual time. Caldwell was starting his dawn chorus of 'cock a doodle doos', and then suddenly from henhouse number one the resounding crowing of another cockerel answering firmly! Now I stood upright and listened must be hearing things, it must have been a Welsummer imitating. I carried on letting Caldwell and his wives out and replenishing their food, and suddenly there it was again, another cockerel crowing SO loudly and deeply, (don't forget I am used to Bantam crowing not full sized Rooster crowing). I walked over to the henhouse full of incredulty, what was going on?
I opened the door and out strutted...a definite strut...Nellie, closely followed by three very admiring White Stars who were showing lots of interest in their formerly ignored sister. One more, very loud 'cock a doodle do' followed and then Nellie strutted to the feeding tray and got stuck in before going to her usual place and plonking herself down to start the day. (I will continue to use 'she' and 'her' for now.)

A difference in feathers starting to appear, but still a small comb and wattles.

To say I was amazed and confounded would be an understatement. At first I thought we had mis-sexed her, but then I remembered we had bought her from someone who had raised loads of chickens and sexed her before sale, I looked back over old photos of Nellie and Nora together, although Nellie was little bit bigger they were identical in every way. I looked at photos of Nellie developing and until recently she was just getting bigger.Then I thought I needed some more expert opinions so I got stuck in to some internet research. This week... feathers fully grown, including impressive tail feathers, now much longer and darker.
The most logical research articles point to the fact that injury or illness can trigger a hens working ovary to suddenly stop working and when this happens there is a huge surge of testosterone, which begins the changeover. Now some sites state catergorically that this can't happen, and others are convinced it can. I am now falling into the latter category as I have it in front of me. Nellie has always had health problems, most obviously with her hips. She waddles from side to side, most pronounced when she runs, now she seems to be in no pain so we have always let her just get on with life. Now this, added to her age leads me to think that instead of continuing to develop as a female, she has just switched mid-development.

This picture kindly lent to me from a farm in America that specialises in New Hampshire Reds, shows both a cockerel and a hen. Thank you for your help.

What ever has happened she is now definitely a cockerel. She has developed over the last week a much more defined comb and wattles, and on her legs there are the begininnings of spurs. She is still a loner but the other birds are now showing her a new reverence, very wise when the new guy on the block is twice the size of any of you!!

Norman (apologies to Uncle Norman, although you are just as lovely!!)

Maybe she was wrongly sexed and she was always a cockerel, or maybe she really has changed, either way the lovely Nellie is now to be known as Norman and from now on will be referred to as 'he', or 'him'!

And I now know how much twaddle there is on the internet from so called 'experts' about chickens. Things I know can happen and do on a regular basis are 'poo pooed' and some statements are obviously figments of peoples imagination, I think the only reliable information is that which you gather yourself over time. If you are looking something up for yourself, trawl far and wide and decide for yourself which you feel is nearest to what you are experiencing. Never just take the first 'answer' you find.
Sue xx


  1. Very handsome Norman! Some chickens are definately late developers.

  2. My goodness Sue! I bet that was a surprise! But a happy one? Norman looks very handsome, but I wonder what 'Nellie' thinks of the change...
    I look forward to seeing if you get any chicks..

  3. It CAN happen ! I saw it on Jamie wotsit's programme about chickens... damaged ovaries can make them change sex but it takes ages to take on the role of cockrel !
    How amazing - your face must have been a picture !
    As for cats taking over blogs - yes as they are so pretty. I blog about the cats when I have nothing else to say !

  4. Wow, what a turn around, I bet that was a huge suprise for you. I hope Norman is very happy as a Cockrel xx

  5. I had heard old wives tales of this happening but this is the first time I've actually "met" someone who it has happened to. The other possibility is something that I read about where some young cockerels just don't "come out" so to speak for a very long time. Fascinating stuff.

  6. Is wonky Nellie's leg OK now that she is a Norman?!!!

  7. hilarious! well done norman!

  8. Ha ha! Animals really are amazing! I had a gender confused cat once, poor thing was a hermaphrodite, and bloody evil! lol. I want to thank you for the beautiful things you sent for the pay it forward. I had completely forgotten about it! They really are beautiful, i will be blogging and showing them off soon! I got good news today, so i've that to blog too. Thanks again, the scent of lavender really helped when i was waiting for the doctors call today.

    Sal. X

  9. Oh my goodness what a development. I believe anything is possible, the world moves in mysterious ways. I only wish I could change sex every now and then, then maybe my shelves might get put up! You learn something new every day, good old Nellie Norman.
    Bertie x

  10. How strange! What a great story!!! I hope Norman enjoys his new life!
    Love Kathy xxx


Sorry ... but due to the ridiculous amount of spam comments arriving daily all comments for this blog have now been turned off.