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Learning how to sex a chicken is a valuable skill to have as a chicken farmer. We have all battled the straight run battle. You either buy chicks straight run (unsexed) or hatch your own chicks and aren't sure if they are males or females.
You may live in an area where you can only have hens, or perhaps you already have too many roosters. Whatever your reasons, you will probably want to know the sex of your chickens as soon as possible.
How to Sex a Chicken
Vent sexing, wing sexing, behavior, growth and color as well as DNA testins are all accurate ways you can learn how to sex a chicken. The success rate of each of these methods of determining chicken sex depends on the age, breed and your own skill level.
One of the most common questions we get is from people wanting to know if they have male or female chicks. The fact is, there are a variety of different methods that can be used to determine this, however, not all methods work on all chicken breeds or at all ages.
Crowing or Egg Laying
OK, this is really a no brainer, but is one of the most obvious and clear ways to tell for sure what sex your chicken is so we felt it was important to include.
When your chicken gets old enough (this varies by breed, but on average between 4 -5 months), it will either crow or lay an egg.
Hens lay eggs; Roosters crow. This is a pretty straight forward way to tell if your chicken is a hen or roo.
Obviously, laying eggs and crowing are not good ways of sexing chicks. Neither male chicks nor female chicks exhibit those behaviors at such an early age. So you can only use this method once your chickens reach maturity.
Laying eggs can happen as early as 16 weeks in some breeds, but other breeds take longer.
Crowing usually happens around the same timeframe as egg laying will. It is pretty easy to see that a hen is getting ready to lay eggs and some of those signs of laying maturity also help tell if you have a girl or a boy, such as squatting behavior.
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Now, if you don't want to wait so long to tell by waiting to see who crows and who lays eggs, there are several other visual and non visual methods to use.
There are four main, non-visual methods that can be used to determine the sex of your chickens. These are vent sexing, DNA testing, wing sexing and Autosexing breeds.
Vent sexing is done by most hatcheries and should only be done by a trained expert otherwise you can injure your chick. It is the process of checking a baby chicks vent to see if they have male or female parts.
Essentially, vent sexing will have a trained sexer squeeze the vent area until they can either see the male chicks' or female chicks' reproductive parts inside. While it is not always 100% accurate, the accuracy is usually well over 90%.
Again, vent sexing can be dangerous and seriously injure your baby chicks if not done correctly. A much safer alternative is checking your baby chicks wing feathers or buying baby chicks that are autosexing or feather sexing.
Wing sexing only works on certain breeds where male chicks feathers grow more slowly than the female chicks wing feathers. However, this is only true for the first 1 - 3 days after hatch and only in certain breeds.
You may wonder why this is included in the non-visual methods section. That is because, while you are visually looking at wing feathers, the feather growth is related to sex linked genes. So, this rate of growth is actually a genetic trait.
Auto sexing Breeds (Feather sexing)
Another example of sexlink chicks is auto sexing breeds. This characteristic, similar to wing growth rate, is linked to sex linked genes and is only applicable to certain auto sexing breeds. In some breeds, like the Sapphire Gem, they may have male chicks that hatch only in one color and female chicks in another color or they may have male chicks that hatch with a lighter colored dot on their head. These traits will also stay the same whether they have standard feathering or frizzle feathering.
Some examples are any barred or cuckoo colored breeds, Rhode Island Reds and Buckeyes.
If you're willing to put out a little money and you either really want or need to know if you have males or females, then DNA testing may be the way to go. This can be done at virtually any age, so you don't have to wait long.
Animal genetics offers DNA Testing on blood, eggshell and feathers. You can choose any of the three to send in a sample of and figure out what your baby chicks sex is.
Need some help keeping your chickens health and care taken care of? Check out the Organized Chicken Keeper for an easy to follow system.
Although some breeds take WAY longer to be able to sex visually (for us, Silkies are still a guess until they are about 6 months old), you can make some educated guesses if you arm yourself with a little knowledge.
Most chicken breeds, especially those with single combs have signs that can help you tell if you have a hen or rooster by about 8 weeks of age.
One way to tell if you have a hen or a roo is by looking at your chickens comb and wattles.
Roosters will develop larger comb and wattles. Roosters comb and wattles will also develop sooner and become darker red color faster than female chicks.
In most breeds that are single combed, you can start to tell if you have a hen or rooster by looking at their comb and wattles as early as 8 weeks of age.
It becomes pretty easy if you are familiar with the breed and/or if you have several at the same age - those roosters combs and wattles will really stand out compared to the girls!
In breeds that are not single combed, it can be much more difficult to tell at a young age. For example, Silkies have Walnut combs and though when they are fully matured, it is clear the difference between a hen and a rooster, sometimes that can be hard to see until they are several months old.
Saddle feathers are the feathers that lay on the chickens back/rear area (the place you might put a saddle). Roosters will develop brightly colored, long and pointy saddle feathers.
Hens will have duller colored, short, round saddle feathers. Female chicks will not have these right away.
This can be helpful in breeds, like Easter Eggers, who don't have a single comb (but rather a pea comb) and it is much more difficult to tell which is a hen or rooster by their comb.
Typically, before the combs are totally obvious, the roosters will start looking much prettier and flashier than the girls.
Roosters will usually have thicker, stockier looking legs than hens. This is always one of the signs that is hard, at least for me.
However, if you have both male chicks and female chicks of the same age and they are several weeks old, often times the male chicks will have legs that look a lot bigger than the female chicks.
In crested breeds (like Silkies & Polish) Roosters Crests tend to be "crazier" due to having streamers in them while hens will take a more "tame" and rounded appearance.
If you take some time to watch your chicks, you may notice that some of them behave differently than others. This isn't 100% accurate, but roosters do tend to be a bit more dominant and aggressive than hens.
So, if certain chicks tend to do more picking on others or always push their way into the food and water first the aggressors may be male chicks while their targets are likely female chicks.
If you need more help with taking care of your chickens, check out The Organized Chicken Keeper for a complete system for managing their health through keeping their supplies stocked and coop clean.
Ruth Maison says
Here is what I was told to tell if a baby chick is a hen or a rooster. Pinch a little skin on the back of the chickens neck and lift him or her up. If the legs hang straight down, it is a rooster. If it lifts his legs or folds them up, it is a hen. Try it, it works....
All the suggestions here are for older birds. The comment made abkut holding a chick up is a good way but I think those who just hatched shouldn't be handled this way. I was told several ways and use them as tests for male or female and since not all are 100% I figure out which is bigger list when done...distance between tail bump and cloackela...short distance female...larger distance male, development of waddles early on (in first two to three weeks..present male...not or very small compared to others of same age/size/breed..female, also by presence of shorter feathers in between longer ones on outside wing feathers at a few days old...male...only same length ones female.
MrAnimal Farm says
Hi Kate, Yes these aren't meant to be used on day olds. Most standard breeds you can start applying them by 4 weeks old though, sometimes earlier once you get to know the breed. Some breeds are more difficult - like those with pea combs and Silkies 🙂
You mentioned wing sexing - that can be a good way to tell sex on day olds for breeds that it works with, good point!
I think your wing sexing is reversed.
I've found that week old chicks if wings touch there butt there hens and if there short wings there roosters this works pretty accurate but get tricked every now and then if you have bantam chicks
Also if you spray your eggs with mixture of half water and half peroxide you will get more hens if incubating I have had success at this with way more hens I just had 18 out of 24 eggs hatch and 14 look like hens and 4 look like roosters
I needed help to know about fighters (Aseel) chicken chicks
MrAnimal Farm says
Unfortunately, we don't have any specific experience with that breed. However, they should follow the same general principles as we have detailed 🙂
Bigger, thicker legs... and roosters will have pointy saddle feathers almost always with ours
Here is the best way to tell sex of any chick at any age- send in a couple drops of blood for a dna gender test. Takes a few days, costs 12 bucks. 99.99% accurate. IQ labs . Miami.Fla.
Hundred Worries.Com says
There are old wives tales on how to determine if your chick is a male or female, hen or rooster. This methods are not scientific and do not work. Egg Candling If the egg is fertile, you cannot determine the sex of the chicken. Egg candling lets you determine only if the egg is fertile. The egg water test also will not determine the gender.
Mindy Travers says
I am a first time chicken owner.. I have 2 sapphire olive Eggers and 2 giant Jerseys. Giwctobi sex them? They are 4wks old.
Unless I have a professional chicken sexer on hand, I never count my roosters before they crow. If I try to sex a breed that I am not as familiar with, I will most likely make a mistake when sexing until I am more familiar with how the breed develops. It takes time to become familiar with the differences from breed to breed. Some rooster combs, at a young age, may look similar to a hen’s comb from a different breed.
I am starting to raise Sillies and have incubated a few. Gosh! These little chicks are really making me guess their sex. Any sure proof way to do this? I have customers wanting babies, but requesting a certain sex. Help!
MrAnimal Farm says
Unfortunately, silkies are a wait and see 🙁
I have Dark Bramahs that are 2 weeks old. Still o not know their sex
Lu Ann says
I bought 12 female chicks from a hatchery. I sure hope they sexed them all right and I have 12 egg layers. No matter how many times I look at them, I can't tell what they are.
I bought ten sexed day-old pullets from a hatchery that had a 90 percent sexing accuracy guarantee. They claimed to have the most qualified sexers in the nation. I ended up with ten roos and had to rehome them and start over. The new chicks are only six weeks old. I did get a full refund after I sent them pictures.