I mentioned a while back that I thought one of my six hens was crowing, but I wasn't sure. With roosters, there is never a question of whether or not they are crowing. Roosters crow at the drop of a hat, and not just at sunrise. And they crow especially whenever anybody goes near the hen yard, so you can easily see who is doing it. He stands as tall as possible,flaps his wings, fluffs up his tail, stretches his neck way up and back, opens his beak and lets fly. If you stand next to a crowing rooster, your ears will actually hurt.
For a couple of months this summer the hens were living out in the field, inside their portable fence, so I couldn't hear whether there was crowing in the morning, but now that they are back in the chicken shed, I can hear every word. And one of those words is a perfectly clear, if subdued, cock-a-doodle-doo. I hear it between six and seven a.m., as I'm getting ready to go to the chicken house to serve breakfast. But I only hear it once or twice, and the crowing never happens when I'm with the flock.
So I cannot figure out which of my hens is doing this. I'm sure it's one of the three Buff Orpingtons, because I remember hearing the sound before we got the three new hens. But which one is it? I have scanned them for signs of masculinization--the floppy comb, the spurs on the legs, and the long tail feathers which are the poultry equivalent of a mustache. But the three B.O.s continue to look as matronly as ever, with their short legs, rounded figures, and girly little combs. Nor--though it's hard for me to tell, since they are as alike as three peas in a pod--is one of the three more dominant than the others.
Of course it may be that the crowing hen is not crowing to assert dominance. It may be that she's just crowing to communicate information: "sun's up, let's go lay an egg!" Or it may be that the crow is her way of calling for breakfast, and that she continues to do it because it works, every time.