My grandmother born October 1928, grew up on her grandparent’s farm in Craigsville, West Virginia. One of eight children, life was not always easy. Her childhood began alongside The Great Depression. As one of the middle children, her responsibilities were many around the farm. Some of her earliest memories are of the animals on the farm, especially the chickens. My grandmother has loved chickens from an early age, she raised her own on numerous occasions throughout her life. When I received my first chicks, she was so excited to pass her knowledge and amazing stories. I decided to write about one of my favorites. To be totally honest I thought it to be more of a fable, but after some research, I realized just how wrong I was.
As a young girl, grandma had many hens to tend to. One stood out above the rest, Penny the hen slowly began to change, unlike the others. Thus, Penny went from a docile little hen to a mysteriously bizarre hen. One day Penny began to crow, taken off guard my grandma simply dismissed the action. She believed she must have been hearing things. Over time Penny began to take on a very different look. Long tail feathers and saddle feathers began to grow. Her comb enlarged, her body thickened and grew. Spurs were slowly growing longer and longer as days turned into weeks. This was no young spry chick, but a full-grown laying hen, who had been laying for some time now. So how was it possible for Penny to change so much so rapidly? A crowing hen? Is it even possible? The answer is not a simple yes or no, there’s so much more to it than that.
You must first understand the chickens reproductive make up. All chickens are born with a left ovary and a gonad on the right of their reproductive tract. So, with that being said in very rare cases the ovary becomes damaged and the estrogen levels begin to drop. In return, the testosterone levels begin to rise and it triggers the dormant gonad to begin working. Therefore the dormant gonad is activated, thus developing into the male sex organ called a ovotestis. Testosterone begins to fill the body replacing the estrogen. The hen begins to take on a roosters physical traits as well their personality traits. Transitioning during Henopause is also a possibility. With the same theory in place, estrogen levels lower and testosterone begins to rise. Even more rare, cases of roosters becoming hens. Either way, spontaneous sex reversal is extremely rare. I could find no evidence whether or not reproduction is possible after sex reversal takes place.
So, fable or truth? With documented cases being so hard to come by, I suppose we may never know for sure. My grandmother was awarded an amazing opportunity to witness such a phenomenon. Maybe just maybe, that poor hen thought if she turned into a rooster she could help populate their flock. Thus helping to fight starvation of the little girl who took such exceptional care of her. The Great Depression produced a whole generation of forward thinkers. Penny may just have been one of them. As for my grandma, now eighty-nine years old she still stands by her story. And I for one tend to believe every word. So, a crowing hen? I’m inclined to say yes. Plus, how can anyone not believe my amazing grandma.