The Craigslist Hermaphrodite Chicken

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Juniperwak, Jul 28, 2011.

  1. Juniperwak

    Juniperwak New Egg

    Jun 30, 2011
    Hey all, I wrote a short post on my blog about this chicken I found, and I thought BYC would find it fascinating. It's a bit reproductive biology heavy so try to work though the terminology if you don't quite understand all of it.

    Animal Science: The Craigslist Hermaphrodite Chicken

    That caught your attention, didn’t it? I’ve been watching Craigslist every day because I want to add two more chickens to my flock and if anyone puts them on there for free you’ve got to nab them quick. I haven’t had much luck since spring ended on nabbing free layers (roosters are a dime a dozen), but I came across this posting that made my jaw drop. Here’s the text for when the post is taken down.

    Ameraucana chicken (albany)

    Date: 2011-06-20, 5:54PM PDT
    Reply to: [email protected] [Errors when replying to ads?]

    True hermaphrodite chicken
    Bought at the state fair last year as the first place lavender ameraucana pullet

    later laid a too large egg that damaged an ovary.. which became a testical…1 in 1000 chance
    began to grow cox comb and spur buds.
    still lays a nice greenish blue egg now and then but thinks she is a rooster which she now is also.(can fertilize other hens but not itself)
    A chicken no one else you know will have! Beautiful coloring, again she won first in her class at state fair last summer.

    Nice and my kids will miss very much but our primary rooster wins out. though they get along great and s/he’s a great conversation piece I can’t afford an extra chicken that doesn’t pull the weight it was meant for.

    Bought for more but will sell for $20
    email if interested
    pic from when brought home from fair last sept. also the only chicken not afraid of dogs. will just peck at their noses till they back off

    Location: albany
    it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests


    Yeah. I figured this guy was off his rocker. But, as I don’t really know all that much about chickens, I shot an email to my reproduction professor from last term, Dr. Fred Menino.

    “Hi Dr. Menino,

    I came across this craigslist ad that seems…like questionable information. I can’t see how any hermaphrodidic chicken would actually be a result of a “damaged ovary” and spontaneously become a fertile testicle. Espicially considering the other ovary is essentially non existant and he claims it still lays eggs. Are any of the claims made here possible in any way? Or is this guy completely off his rocker? I’d appreciate the insight or hopefully give you a laugh.”

    He got back to me very quickly, and kind of blew me away.

    “HA!!! Hi Austin!!! Good to hear from you!!!

    This is like something you would read in the National Enquirer….BUT, believe it or not, there is a physiologic basis for some of the things this poultry entrepreneur is talking about!!! There is a phenomenon known as the “ambisexual versatility of the bird”…..I attached a link. I used to talk about it in ANS 316 but the poultry classes pick this up (I think?!) so I dropped it from my class.

    Anyway, birds are weird………if you do certain manipulations to a hen (genetically female), you can alter her phenotype: 1) if you remove the left ovary before 20 days of age, the right ovary will develop into a functional testis and produce androgens and sperm. The hen develops rooster-like qualities but there’s no male ductwork leading to the cloaca!!! 2) if you remove the left ovary between 20 days of age and sexual maturity (18-20 weeks of age), the right ovary will develop into an “ovatestis”, an organ which has both follicles and seminiferous tubules!! 3) lastly, if you remove the left ovary after sexual maturity (18-20 weeks of age), the right ovary will develop into a functional ovary, however, it will lack the oviduct to connect to the cloaca.

    The question with this guy’s chicken is: if the damage to the left ovary occurred before sexual maturity and an ovatestis developed, could sperm and/or eggs, as he suggests, be shed into the rudimentary oviduct that would be present?? I guess anything’s possible….maybe I should buy it and do a necropsy to see what the heck is going on??!!!!

    Take care,


    I had half a mind to take him up on that offer and buy the bird just to study it and assist in that necropsy. I wonder how the poster would feel about that, maybe I would leave that part out. This bird is just weird, super cool, but weird. The very idea of a sexual genotype producing a viable opposite phenotype is remarkable, and kind of breaks a lot of rules biologically. Though I’m sure there are dozens of similar or stranger things like this in the animal kingdom, but outside of weird marine life, I’ve never heard of anything like this before.

    Here’s a wild sci-fi thought though, what if we could someday manipulate this so that we could breed chickens that are self-fertilizing, and would only produce gametes with XX so that we could create a self-cloning layer breed. Then we wouldn’t have to destroy all the useless males produced in our industry layer breeds! There would be a dangerous loss of genetic diversity within the stock, and they would be extra susceptible to being wiped out by disease or anything tailored to them, but the idea is exciting. No doubt they’ve tried it somewhere along the line. The real marketing question though, is that while animal rights groups would be (hopefully) satiated with no longer having to destroy male layer chicks, would the public accept and purchase eggs from genetically manipulated hermaphroditic birds?

    I mostly write about cattle, but if you'd be interested in my other discussions in animal science research, published articles, and other things, you can check out my blog at and maybe digg this article. [​IMG]
  2. txreddirtgirl

    txreddirtgirl Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 28, 2011
    Decatur, Tx
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
  3. mikensara

    mikensara Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 16, 2011
    New York
    [​IMG] would probably explain alot if i could understand it
  4. Jeevesrules

    Jeevesrules Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 5, 2011
    Otley, Leeds, England
    BUY IT!!!! [​IMG] that would be such a cool chicken to have
  5. leadwolf1

    leadwolf1 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 1, 2011
    Buy it!!!

    But, in the name of science, and really getting a good understanding of what actually is happening, do not kill it!!! Keep it for a while, watch closely. See if she/he can truly inseminate hens and if so, are the resulting eggs able to be incubated into viable young. After that has been determined, put her with a rooster and see if the flip side is true. Can she herself produce fertilized, viable eggs? Fascinating stuff.

    Then, and only then, do the necropsy...if you can bring yourself to do it at this point...because this is a truly fascinating bird!!! No way would I cull and necropsy until I could find out all of the above first. It is too good an opportunity to pass up the possibility of a chicken that would be able to not only reproduce but produce viable offspring!!!!

    Keep us posted! But, in the meantime, in the name of science, get your hands on that bird!!!
  6. sheila3935

    sheila3935 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 10, 2010
    Stonington, illinois
    That is so cool and logically makes sense. I couldnt buy a chicken just to kill it and necropsy it, but thats just me. There are alot of things we dont know and understand about nature. I fear messing with nature it always has a way of coming back to bite you in the butt, but a chicken that would only hatch females would be cool and who could fertilize herself awsome but then again I love roosters and would be sad to see them gone. You really give lots of things to think about.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2011
  7. Bridgemoof

    Bridgemoof Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 11, 2011
    I think you should get the chicken...why not? That's one of a kind, that's for sure![​IMG]
  8. Rustywreck

    Rustywreck Chillin' With My Peeps

    I can see where this might go: males would become unnecessary and the women would inherit the earth
  9. txreddirtgirl

    txreddirtgirl Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 28, 2011
    Decatur, Tx
  10. ReikiStar

    ReikiStar Chillin' With My Peeps

    I'd buy the chicken and let it live it's funky life out. Once the chicken decided its had enough of its topsy-turvey lifestyle, then you could necropsy the body. You can learn so much more from the chicken if you watch how it lives than treating it like a pile of unusual guts.

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