I counted forward from the date we got the chickens and realized last week that we're close to the magic number -- 18 weeks -- when our hens will be old enough to begin laying eggs.
Of course, we do still have our fingers crossed that they're hens. Their voices are changing, like adolescent boys. Mathilda and Wilma now make clucking noises, and Wilma occasionally lets loose a loud honk.
One of my colleagues whose chickens are about the same age recently discovered that one is a rooster. Tell-tale sign: early-morning crowing. Additional evidence: a bossy manner and a curling plume of a tail. I think he has decided to slaughter it, following the philosophy of Michael Pollan the author.
All of our chickens have straight, short tail feathers, and Mathilda, who has almost no comb or wattles at all and the very shortest tail feathers, is the bossiest.
I just couldn't slaughter my own chicken, even if one does turn out to be a rooster. I'm a coward. I don't even like squashing bugs, and my daughter forces upon me a moral dilemma every time she finds a moth in her room, since she's terrified of moths (go figure) and they cannot be easily caught bare-handed without damaging the wings. I try to catch and release, but it's time-consuming and it doesn't help to know that the moth will probably be dead in a week anyway.