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10+ Ways to Figure out if Chicks will be Hens or Roosters

There are a few ways to try to figure out if you have male or female chicks, but are they old wives tales or accurate as to determining if you will end up with hens or roosters?

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

I usually wouldn't even try to guess until the chick is at least 8 or 10 weeks old, and even then that's all I would really be doing is guessing. 

There's really only one way to know for sure short of vent sexing (which is usually best left to the pros). I always say just wait - they're either going to start crowing or start laying eggs - and then you'll know for sure! 

Of course you can always make your best educated guess. I mean, look at it this way: you've got a 50/50 chance at getting it right.  And it's fun to try to figure it out.


Vent Sexing Chicks | Leave it to the Professionals

As I mentioned, the most accurate way to figure out if chicks will be hens or roosters is to vent sex them (or stick to breeds that are color-sexed, meaning that male chicks hatch out a different color than female chicks) 

All the chick 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 realistically do.

You can easily injure a chick if you don't know what you are doing, so vent sexing is really 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" inside.  Males have bumps, females don't.

The rest of us mere mortals are left to try and make an educated guess based on a baby chick's appearance, demeanor or attitude ... and a lot of luck. 

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 that it is possible to sex chicks using some of these old-timers' methods. 

Old wives tales or actual fool-proof methods? You be the judge.

10+ Ways to Figure out if Chicks will be Hens or Roosters

Here are some of the more popular ways I've read to try to determine the sex of your chicks along with some commentary from me about whether or not they really work. 

Using Egg Shape to Figure out if Chicks will be Hens or Roosters

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. I mean, what have you got to lose right? It's worth a try.

However, I would have to venture a guess that this isn't an accurate way to figure out if chicks will be hens or roosters. 

Otherwise, the hatcheries would all just incubate the rounded eggs and not end up with so many little roosters that no one wants.

Accurate way to sex chicks? NO.


Using Incubator Temperature to Try to Hatch more Hens than Roosters

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. 

While this method doesn't actually change the sex of the chick inside the egg, what it will do is prevent the male eggs from hatching. 

So your incubation success rate will likely be lower overall, but your percentage of of female chicks will be higher.

Not sure if it really works, but it's worth a try.

Accurate way to sex chicks? MAYBE.


Using Wing Sexing to Figure out if Chicks will be Hens or Roosters

One method that does work on some breeds is wing sexing. But it's a very time-sensitive method of sexing chicks. Wing sexing can only be done within the first 48 hours after the chick hatches. 

Hens' wing feathers are two different lengths while roosters' are the same length. 

So in the photos above, the chick on the left is a female, while the chick on the right is a male. This method is very accurate with some breeds, but doesn't work with all breeds.

Accurate way to sex chicks? YES.


Using Comb Size + Color to Figure out if Chicks will be Hens or Roosters

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

Remember thought that different breeds do have different size combs - the hens of some breeds actually have fairly large combs. 

So comparing two chicks of the same age and breed will give you the most accurate results with this method.

Accurate way to sex chicks? YES.

Using Leg Thickness + the Appearance of Leg Spurs to Figure out if Chicks will be Hens or Roosters

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.

The chick on the far right is a male, the other two are females. This comparison will work better on chicks of the same age and same breed also. 

Accurate way to sex chicks? YES.


Using The Hat Trick to Figure out if Chicks will Be Hens or Roosters

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

This method intuitively makes sense because the males should have built into their DNA to be brave and protect their flock.

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

Accurate way to sex chicks? PROBABLY NOT.



Using The Penny Toss to Figure out if Chicks will be Hens or Roosters

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 on the same chick, so I don't put too much stock in this method. 

And worse, the chicks just kept trying to eat the penny. Which would have been very bad and likely resulted in a bad case of hardware disease. So I'm not going to recommend this method.

Accurate way to sex chicks? NO.


Using the Water Taste Test to Figure out if Chicks will be Hens or Roosters

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 method.  They all went for the vinegar water.  So much for that test.

Accurate way to sex chicks? PROBABLY NOT.


Using the Gold Ring Test to Determine if Chicks will be Hens or Roosters

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.

The ring will start to swing in a circle if its a hen and in a straight line back and forth if its a rooster. I do believe this works.  I think the same thing is said to work on pregnant women.

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. 

Update: This actually turned out to be accurate. Go figure! 

Accurate way to sex chicks? SURPRISINGLY.... YES!


Using the Hackle + Saddle Feathers to Figure out if Chicks will be Hens or Roosters

By around 8 to 10 weeks old, chicks will start getting pronounced hackle feathers ( the feathers at the base of the neck) and saddle feathers (where the back meets the tail). 

A hen's hackle and saddle feathers will be rounded, while a rooster's hackle and saddle feathers will be long and pointy. This is usually my first pretty accurate guess as to whether I have boys or girls.

In the photo above, you can see the pointy feathers on the roosters hackle and saddle. Roosters will start to grow long tail feathers as well around the same time.

This is a very accurate way to tell the sex of your chickens, but it does require waiting until they're almost 3 months old.

Accurate way to sex chicks? YES.

Holding a Chick to Figure out if it will be a Hen or Roosters

I've  heard that if you hold a chick up in the air with your fingers grasping the chick 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.

Accurate way to sex chicks? PROBABLY NOT.

Holding a Chick Part II

A variation of the above method 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. 

I haven't found this method to be too accurate, but it's worth a try. I mean, you have nothing to lose.

Accurate way to sex chicks? MAYBE.

Other Ways to Figure out if Chicks will be Hens or Roosters

  • General behavior is also often an indicator. Roosters will seem to "strut their stuff", even at a young age, bump chests and just "look" more masculine.  They will often like to jump up and stand on things. They might be more attentive and cautious. 
  • Hens are usually daintier and have feminine features. 
  • However, chick size generally isn't a good indicator of sex. Male chicks are often the smaller chicks. They will grow slower and they will feather out more slowly, but their feathers might be more colorful depending on the breed. 

And there you have it: a couple of ways to attempt to sex your chicks.

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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