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Cock-A-Doodle....Roo? 11 Ways to Sex your Chicks


One question I get asked fairly often is 'Is this a hen or a rooster?' with an accompanying photo of a baby chick. Generally, that's not an easy question to answer. 


Of course you can always just guess. You've got a 50/50 chance at getting it right. Hatcheries have professional chick vent sexers who get it right more than 90% of the time, but for us backyard enthusiasts, chick vent sexing just isn't something we can do.

You can easily injure a chick if you don't know what you are doing, so that's best left to the professionals. Vent sexing involves squeezing the feces out of the chick, which opens up the chick's vent and lets the sexer see if the chick has a small "bump".  

Males have bumps, females don't. I personally don't feel confident that I've guessed correctly until I either hear a crow (starting at around 10-12 weeks usually) or see an egg (starting at around 18+ weeks), but there are some who claim its possible to sex chicks using old-timers' methods. Here are some of the more popular ways: 

  1) EGG SHAPE 


Some say that rounded eggs are hens and pointy, football-shaped eggs are roosters. I don't know that this has been scientifically proven, but if you have a choice and want hens, I say pick out the round eggs to hatch. 

 
2) INCUBATOR TEMPERATURE



It is said that setting your incubator temperature half a degree lower will result in hatching hens, while setting it half a degree higher will result in more roosters.

3) WING SEXING    


Wing sexing can only be done within the first 48 hours of when the chick hatches. Hens' wing feathers are two different lengths while roosters' are the same length. This method is very accurate with some breeds.

4) COMB COLOR/SIZE

-girl on left, boy on right-
-girl on left, boy on right-

Fairly early on, little roosters' combs will be larger and pinker than hens'. Even at six weeks old, in both photos you can clearly see the hen's comb (on the left) is much smaller and paler than her brother's (on the right).
   5) LEG THICKNESS/SPURS 

-little boy on the far right-
Roosters' legs will begin to thicken fairly early on. Some breeds will even begin to grow tiny spurs on the back of each leg to help you identify your little roosters.


 6) HAT TRICK 


Conventional wisdom says if you wave a hat above the chicks and then drop it, the hens will squat or run and hide while the roosters will stand alert and even look up at the sky. 

My results were inconclusive with this test. One future roo did approach the hat, but the test was mostly met with indifference by the rest.

 7) PENNY TOSS   


It is said that if you rub a penny along the back of a chick and then toss it, if it comes up heads, that means you have a rooster, tails you have a hen. I did this test a few times on each chick and it came up randomly heads and tails, so I don't put too much stock in this method. Besides, the chicks just kept trying to eat the penny.
8) WATER TASTE TEST  


I have read that if you set down two bowls, one filled with 8 ounces of plain water and one filled with 8 ounces of water and a teaspoon of white vinegar, the roosters will go for the plain water, and the pullets will choose the vinegar/water mix.  I tried this. They all went for the vinegar water.  So much for that test.

 9)  GOLD RING TEST 

 

I had been told by more than a few people that if you put a gold ring on a string or a sewing needle on a thread and hold it above a chick, it will start to move on its own accord - in a circle if its a hen and in a straight line back and forth if its a roo. I do believe this works.  

The ring definitely circled over some of my chicks and moved in a straight line over others.  At that point I wasn't sure which were pullet and which were roosters, but the ring definitely made its choice. Note: This actually turned out to be accurate.

 10) SADDLE FEATHERS 


 
~two pullets (hens) with rounded saddle feathers~

~two roosters with long, pointed saddle feathers~

By around 8 to 10 weeks old, chicks will start getting pronounced saddle feathers (saddle feathers are where the back meets the tail). Hens' saddle feathers will be rounded while roosters' saddle feathers will be long and pointy. This is usually my first pretty accurate guess as to whether I have boys or girls.






11) HOLD THAT CHICK 


I've  heard that if you hold a chick up in the air just above its wings, and it moves around and pulls its legs up towards its body its a little rooster, and if it lets its legs hang or sticks them straight out and barely moves, its a girl. I've also read the exact opposite - that the girls will pull their legs up and roosters will straighten them out.

A variation of that is if you turn the chick onto its back and hold it in your palm and it struggles to right itself ifs a male, if it lays still, its a female.

And there you have it - some ways to attempt to sex your chicks.


General behavior is also often an indicator. Roosters just seem to 'strut their stuff', even at a young age, bump chests and just 'look' more masculine. They often feather out more slowly but their feathers are more colorful, and often little roosters are actually the smallest chicks. Hens are usually daintier tho and have feminine features.

I hope these methods of trying to figure out if you've got roosters or hens will help you with your next batch of chicks. If nothing else, they're fun to try.

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