How to Tell Your Chickens Apart
If you’re new to raising backyard chickens, you may think I’m a bit crazy. However, if you’ve been doing this for a while, you will completely understand me! Haha! I currently have 47 chickens and I know each one by name.
That’s right! All of my chickens are named, and I know them all apart. I have multiple different breeds, but most breeds I have at least 2 chickens. Chickens are incredibly fun! And what most people don’t know is that chickens have different dispositions and personalities just like we do. I have happy chickens, crabby chickens, shy chickens, silly chickens and loud chickens. Each one is special to me. But the biggest way to tell each of them apart is by spending time with them.
I love to sit out in the coop (thanks to Coop Recuperate!), and just watch them. They can be kind to each other, and they can also fight their way through the pecking order. It just depends on the day. So, how do I tell 47 chickens apart? Today I’m going to give you a few tips and tricks so you can tell your flock apart too!
When I receive new chicks, I allow them to get acclimated to their new home. They stay warm and safe in their brooder, and I don’t handle them much at all the first day or two. After a couple of days, I start interacting with the chicks. I hold them, observe them and take notes on their different markings. This is a bit harder because as they grow, chicks lose their soft chick feathers and trade them for their new feathers. As they grow and I can start noticing personalities, I like to name them.
I really have no rhyme or reason on how I name my chickens. Sometimes I have a list, sometimes I let my family name them and sometimes I let the internet name them!
Once they’re named, I use little, tiny hair rubber bands of different colors. I put a different color around each chick's leg and keep a running list of who is wearing what color. This is obviously not necessary if you have only one chicken of all different breeds. However, when I started, I had 4 Barred Rocks. They were almost impossible to tell apart right away without the leg bands. Now, it’s easy for me! Which leads me to the next tip…combs!
The comb of a chicken is the usually bright red flap on top of their head. There are many different shaped combs, and each chicken breed is consistent with their comb type. For example, my Barred Rocks have a single (straight) comb while my Brahmas have a pea comb. Within these breeds however, the combs vary slightly from chicken to chicken. This makes it pretty easy to spot your different chickens at first glance. My favorite chicken, (shhh…don’t tell the others! haha!) Happy, has a very nice straight comb. Below her is LouLou and LouLou’s comb is just a bit bigger and slightly different shaped than Happy’s comb. They’re both super sweet and love the extra attention.
Another way to tell chickens apart is by their markings. Markings can include feather markings, feet or leg markings or the size of the bird. Notice the different markings in these two boys below?
Reba and Barbara Jean (below) are the exact same breed from the same group of chicks, but they’re just slightly different colors. Can you see the lighter flecks in Reba?
Annie, did you just say “voice”? I sure did! Chickens all have their own sounds they make. I can spot Happy’s voice from a mile away. I always know when Tango laid her egg, and I can never say no to Reba’s sweet requests to be held. I’m not kidding!
Spending time with your flock will allow you to hear their sweet noises and you will know them just by their sounds. A really great resource on this is How to Speak Chicken by Melissa Caughey. It’s a quick and really fun read!
Knowing your chickens by name makes backyard chickens that much more fun! Telling them apart isn’t that hard if you put a little time and effort into it. If you have any other ways you tell your flock apart, I’d love to hear them!
Until next time,
–The Wing Lady