Can a hawk tell a hen from a rooster?


12 Years
Oct 6, 2010
Bay Area, CA
I know people have roosters to protect their flocks. I can't have a rooster where I live so that is not an option.

For the most part, I keep my 7 hens inside a predator protected run and let them out into the big garden for about an hour every afternoon. I know we have Coopers Hawks in the area and I know a Coopers will go after a chicken. After all, they are called "chicken hawks".

Anyway, the girls were out yesterday and I stepped into the garage to wash my hands and I heard my alpha hen, a 7.5 lb Jersey Giant, start to bawgawk. Not really loud or aggressively. I thought maybe there was a squirrel on the fence. They hate squirrels. Anyway, I dried my hands and went outside and HOLY $#@$ there's a Coopers Hawk on the telephone line right above them looking down at them. The three BO's and three Andalusians sought cover under a dense tree but my Jersey Girl was out in the open. She was standing really tall and making direct eye contact w/ the hawk like, I see you and I don't like you.

It took every bone in my body to resist yelling or running out there so I stood still in the doorway to watch what would happen. The hawk watched them for about two minutes all the while my JG keep making her bawgawk sound and looking at the hawk and then the hawk flew off.

My BO's are pretty big so they might be too big for a Coopers Hawk. But the Andalusians are just 12 weeks old and still quite small. And one is white and you can spot her from space she's so bright.

So it got me thinking, that was some rather aggressive posturing from my JG. Perhaps the hawk thought she was a rooster?

She got a handful of meal worms for bring such a good girls. I love her to pieces.


Okay, here's a better photo of my Jersey Girl. A little blurry. But you can see, she's a big girl. And she stands quite tall when she wants too.

To those with chickens, you can tell she's clearly a hen, no saddle feathers, no spurs, regular sized comb and wattles. But I don't think a hawk can necessarily tell those features.
Nice pic!! I don't think the hawk cares boy or girl it just goes for it. I have not lost one yet,but I think hens will squat down when a hawk jumps them,perhaps thinking it is the roo.I hope not!
What a good hen defending her flock mates!
The hawk was probably unsure about a chicken bluntly showing itself and eyeing it back! Any chicken that is offensively showing itself to a hawk probably doesn't look like a good idea of a meal to a hawk. Hawks probably cannot tell the difference between a hen or rooster; a hen is a chicken, a rooster is a chicken to them.
I don't think the hawk was thinking gender. I would guess it was thinking something like "that's some big, gutsy bird, and I don't think I could get one of them smaller ones without a major hassle. Off I go..."
What a beautiful Hen,, what a good girl! I am so glad that it turned out ok..

Remember what everyone on here warns... the hawk will be back, especially if it was eyeing the little ones. I am sure it figured out that your wonderful Alpha hen was too big to carry off, but those little ones sure looked tempting!

Do you have a dog? I find just mine sittting out with them works wonders.

Good Luck!
I think the hawk's concern about chicken gender is related to what chicken does when hawk attacks. Based on what I have seen, both genders run when hawk is above but adult roosters will often turn and fight once hawk is on ground (as will a hen with chicks). After a few such encounters the hawk will learn to associate type of response with appearance and certainly voice of chicken. Problem for most hawks is that chickens probably are not regular quarry making such lessons difficult.
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