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CHICKEN HEALTH / CHICKENS

Chick Sexing Techniques

Posted on April 19, 2012 by HEATHER NICHOLSON 20 Comments

(h p://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AAmeraucana_chicks.jpg)

Most hatcheries sell sexed chicks: You can buy all pullets (female) for the highest price per chick, all
cockerels (male) for the lowest price, or “straight run” – a luck-of-the-draw mix of male and female as
hatched – for a medium price. Some breeds are feather sexed while most are vent sexed. “Dirty Jobs”
did half of an episode about chick sexing at McMurray Hatchery which can be seen on YouTube (part 1
(h p://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4g_WCmznW4&feature=related), part 2
(h p://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Cx2m3stGKk&feature=relmfu)).

Feather sexing of 1 to 3 day old chicks is possible in crossbred chicks bred for that purpose. Chickens
have a gene that determines how fast feathers grow in. A chicken can be slow-feathering (a dominant
trait, K) or rapid-feathering (recessive, k). The trait is sex-linked because males carry two alleles for the trait
and females carry one which they can give only to their sons. (If you are confused, do not despair.
Check out the Sex Linkage article (h ps://scratchcradle.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/gms6-sex-linkage/) in
my Genetics Mini-Series.) If you cross a slow-feathering breed female (K/-) with a rapid-feathering

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breed male (k/k), then the resulting females will be rapid-feathering (k/-) and males will be slow-
feathering (K/k). Because of their rapid feathering, female chicks will have primary wing feathers that
are longer than the covert feathers, and males will have short primaries the same length as their coverts.

(h ps://scratchcradle.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/wing-diagram1.jpg)

For more information, see Missouri Animal Science


(h p://animalsciences.missouri.edu/reprod/ReproTech/Feathersex/index.htm), Feathersite
(h p://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/CGP/Sex-links/BRKFeathSex.html), this YouTube video
(h p://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGYP3dUaVrQ) showing feather sexing, or part 1 of the “Dirty
Jobs” show linked above. Down color can also be used to create sex-linked chicks, using the same
procedure as above but with barred/nonbarred and silver/gold breeds. Some breeds are auto-sexing.

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(h ps://scratchcradle.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/feather-sexing.jpg)
Feather sexing

Vent sexing is an old Japanese technique also demonstrated in the “Dirty Jobs” video (best not to
Google this one – there are some tough videos to sort through). Basically, the sexer scoops up a newly-
hatched chick, squeezes the poop out of the vent, and spreads the vent with his thumbs to look inside. If
he sees a shiny bump, or “eminence,” it is a likely male. If he sees an non-shiny flat area or very small bump,
it is a likely female. There are many shapes, and vent sexers often have at least two years of training.

Several of my local poultry acquaintances have been keeping chickens for more than 50 years. They all
say they are able to just look at a chick and make a very accurate guess as to whether it is male or
female. They showed me their techniques on some of the chicks I was selling. The pullets, they said,
had grown both primary and secondary feathers while the cockerels had less developed secondaries.
The pullets had longer wings relative to their body length; the males wings were smaller and held
tighter and higher on their body. They said they could tell the sex of a chick at any age – from a day old
through maturity.

I had much less ease when I tried to apply their technique to my chicks at home. I think I might have
these two Basques correctly sexed. I’ll let you know if I was right! (Update: Yes, I was!)

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(h ps://scratchcradle.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/wing-feather-sexing.jpg)

Another of the old-time poultry keepers said he could tell by their chirp. The males had a deeper, more
gu ural-sounding chirp while the females had a clearer, headier-sounding chirp. There are other old-
fashioned techniques that rely on male chicks being more assertive and female chicks being more
passive. You can read about and see pictures of these techniques in this article by Don Schrider
(h p://www.backyardpoultrymag.com/issues/6/6-3/determining_sex_in_chicks.html) over on Backyard
Poultry Magazine.

Chick-Sexing Resources:

Article by Mother Earth News (h p://www.motherearthnews.com/sustainable-farming/sexing-day-


old-chicks-zmaz74zhol.aspx)
Poultrysite (h p://www.thepoultrysite.com/articles/95/sexing-chicks-in-the-backyard-flock) article
Two Minds (h p://scienceblogs.com/twominds/2008/04/how_to_sex_a_chick.php) Scienceblog article
(includes pictures of 4 vents)
Ithica article (h p://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/sexingchicks.html) – Sexing after a few
weeks

Shared with:

(h p://beingfrugalbychoice.blogspot.com/2013/01/homemade-mondays-week-11.html/)

(h p://www.naturallivingmamma.com) (h p://www.the-chicken-

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chick.com/2013/01/clever-chicks-blog-hop-17-and-secret.html)

(h p://farmlifeatitsbest.blogspot.com) (h p://www.theprairiehomestead.com/)

(h p://www.simplejoyfulliving.com/2013/01/backyard-farming-connection-hop-15.html)

(h p://www.likeamustardseed.com/category/living-green-link-up/)

(h p://www.tillysnest.com/2013/01/down-home-blog-hopnumber-20-and-suet.html)
(h p://www.poorandglutenfree.blogspot.com/2013/01/waste-not-want-not-wednesday-13.html)

(h p://www.woodwifesjournal.com/2013/01/wildcrafting-wednesday-71.html)
Tags: cockerel, feather sexing, pullet, sexing chicks, vent sexing. Bookmark the permalink.

20 thoughts on “Chick Sexing Techniques”

SHORELINECLUSTERPOETS says:
April 19, 2012 at 9:27 pm
Great information! Thanks for sharing. I’ll keep posted for more discussion on the genetics, which I
find pre y interesting. I plan to do some hatching down the line, and I’d like to be able to give a good
guess at the sex of the hatchlings.

Reply
GAIAVISIONARY says:
May 19, 2012 at 7:32 pm
VERY useful information! Thanks a lot!

Reply
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THERESA says:
September 13, 2012 at 8:10 pm
I agree, VERY helpful! Thanks!!

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Reply
CHICKENSONTHEMOON says:
October 18, 2012 at 5:13 pm
This will be very useful throughout the next years! Thanks so much for linking up with Farm Fun
Friday!

Reply
SCRATCHCRADLE says:
October 21, 2012 at 7:03 am
Thank you! Nothing’s a 100%, but we can’t help guessing!

Reply
TAYET says:
October 18, 2012 at 9:48 pm
I loved that episode of Dirty Jobs! Thanks for the cool info and linking up with Farm Fun Friday.

Tay

Reply
SCRATCHCRADLE says:
October 21, 2012 at 7:04 am
It was really good information! Can you imagine studying chick vents for two years? It’s quite a
narrow specialization, but an amazing level of expertise!

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GARDENOFLISA says:
January 16, 2013 at 8:32 pm
Good to know I would love to have you join The HomeAcre Hop at:
h p://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/01/1213.html

Reply
GARDENOFLISA says:
January 17, 2013 at 6:16 pm
I love posts about chicks They always make me smile! Thanks for sharing on Wildcrafting
Wednesdays! I would love to have you link up to The HomeAcre Hop too!
h p://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/01/1213.html

Reply
SUSAN says:
January 17, 2013 at 9:30 pm
So, were you correct on your ‘sexing’?

Reply
SCRATCHCRADLE says:
January 18, 2013 at 5:40 pm
Yes, actually, I was! Thanks for asking! I never did give an update, did I?

Reply
KATIE STANLEY says:
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January 20, 2013 at 6:45 pm


Pinned to my chicken page. Thanks for sharing with Natural Living Monday!

Reply
SCRATCHCRADLE says:
January 20, 2013 at 6:52 pm
Thank you, Katie!

Reply
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CLAUDIA says:
May 11, 2015 at 6:15 pm
I have to four day old chicks it looks like their both pullets

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