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Mikelle Roeder, Ph. Backyard Poultry.
Multi-Species Nutritionist. One of the most popular questions flock raisers have when raising baby chicks: Is my chick a pullet or cockerel? To help answer this question, several methods of sexing baby chicks exist, including sexing chicks by wing feathers, vent sexing and breeding sex link chickens. But how can you tell the gender of your new birds?
The first step is understanding the terminology of your new chicks.
Female chicks are known as pullets, while male chicks are called cockerels. As they mature, pullets grow into hens and cockerels grow into roosters. Or how can you determine the sex of your hatchlings? Unlike mammals, the sex of the newborn chick is not inherently obvious. The reproductive organs of both the cockerel and pullet are internal, so at hatching it is difficult to tell who is a girl and who is a boy.
Following are a few commonly used methods to make the determination. Vent sexing baby chicks Vent sexing — or manually examining the reproductive organs - is one way to determine the gender of your new chicks.
Vent sexing is not easy and requires a trained eye. The training for vent sexing is lengthy and difficult; therefore, it is a practice most often only performed by large commercial hatcheries. Done improperly, vent sexing can cause disembowelment of the chick, so the process should not be attempted without professional training. Trained professionals follow this process for vent sexing: the chick is turned upside down, fecal material is expelled, and the vent area is turned outward in the process.
The observer looks for the presence or absence of a rudimentary male sex organ to determine if the chick is male or female. Feather sexing baby chicks Another way to determine the gender of your birds is by their feathers. In some breeds, there are some notable differences between the feathers of male and female birds. The catch is that some of the differences are specific to certain genetic traits. Many breeds do not have such traits, and feathers can appear the same in pullets and cockerels. Because of these genetic differences, feather sexing is easier in some breeds than in others.
For example, male Rhode Island Reds and New Hampshire breeds are hatched with a white spot on the down over the wing web. This spot is lost as the down is replaced with feathers. There is a lot of variation in the size of the spot, so this method is not always accurate. Similarly, Barred Plymouth Rock breeds are born with a white spot on top of their he. The spot is typically smaller and narrower in females versus males, but again the variation makes it an unreliable sexing tool.
Sex link chickens With no definitive way to tell the gender of chicks from day one, some breeds have been bred to further show the gender from day one. These breeds are known as sex-linked crosses. In sex-linked crosses, like the Black Sex-Linkgenetics help tell the gender by both the color and the growth rate of feathers.
The traits for color and growth rate, called alleles, are carried on the same chromosomes that determine the sex of the chicken. If the traits of the mother and father are known, the traits and therefore the sex of the hatchling can be deduced based on the appearance of color and feather growth. Unfortunately, sex-linked adults do not breed true, so Chicks in Reading for sex continue to produce sex-linked chicks one must maintain a flock of each of the parent breeds.
Chick-sexing myths There are several myths about how to determine the sex of a baby chick. Here are the facts. Holding a weight on a string over the developing egg and watching it swing in a circle female or back. One cannot candle an egg and determine if the embryo is male or female.
The best tried and true method is to watch the chick grow. Cockerels will develop larger combs and wattles, as well as longer tail feathers.
They are typically larger in body size and will begin to crow or try to a few weeks after hatching. Make sure to have a plan in case you accidentally end up with a rooster and cannot keep him. Some town or city ordinances do not allow roosters in suburban areas. Working with your local farm store, you may be able to network and find other farms or backyard enthusiasts more than willing to raise roosters.
Want more next-level FlockStrong tips? Related Education Content. Is Your Chick a Pullet or Cockerel? Frequently Asked Teenage Chicken Questions. View All Backyard Poultry Education. Related Products.
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How to Sex Chickens: Male or Female, Hen or Rooster?