How to sex a chicken is a valuable skill to learn 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.
If you, like most people, cannot vent sex the chicks, you are left wondering how to sex a chicken.
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.
Here are the methods we use for how to sex a chicken:
Crowing or Egg Laying
OK, this is really a no brainer. When your chicken gets old enough, 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. Do you need a rooster to get eggs?
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.
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If you don’t want to wait so long to tell by crowing versus egg laying.
Here are more ways to on how to sex a chicken earlier:
A second 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 a hens.
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.
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 two chicks of the same age and they are several weeks old, often times your boys legs will look a lot bigger than the hens legs.
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.
Wing Sexing or more broadly feather sexing
Wing sexing is the practice of looking at the feathers of a day or two old chick. This is only applicable for certain breeds. But in those breeds females feather faster than males initially so the length of primary feathers will differ.
More broad feather sexing can also be applicable to certain breeds where males may have a dot on their head at hatch. Or in other breeds, where males hatch only one color and females hatch another color.
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 the chickens vent to see if they have male or female parts.
Here is a video showing how to sex a chicken
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